Recent events have shown that preparedness is crucial for surviving a natural disaster. The most recent super storm that ripped along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States left death and destruction in its wake. Experts stated it was a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Citizens, local governments and the federal government alike were not prepared for the devastation because they used history as a template for future events. Therefore, the “once in a lifetime occurrence” can happen again because you cannot use history as an indication of future events. The storm has also shown that politics and bureaucracy played a role in the reaction time and recovery efforts of the government. The take away from all this is that you as a citizen may very well be on your own for days, weeks or even longer in the event of a natural disaster.
The 72-Hour Recommendation
The mantra leading up to a natural disaster, from local authorities and even from many experts is to stock up on candles, food, water and batteries and have enough for at least three days. The reason they assume you only need three days worth is that the manual for disaster recovery states that recovery/rescue efforts commence at or around the 72-hour mark. In other words, the government assumes they will have boots on the ground within three days of a disaster. This of course is no longer true and has been proven such from recent and not so recent events. It is recommended you have enough supplies to last you at least 14 days.
The manual has not been updated to account for an antiquated infrastructure and power grids and it does not consider the financial conditions of cities and the country as a whole. Many cities and communities are struggling financially and this plays a role in recovery efforts.
Emergency shelters are not stocked with food, water or other essentials while large generators sit idle due to maintenance problems. The ad hoc repairs always seem to be just enough to get a city or community to the next disaster. The super storm was not categorized as a hurricane because it was not considered hurricane strength. Imagine the destruction if it was.
There is currently a debate in Washington DC as to whether or not to allocate funds for the cities and citizens affected by super storm sandy, this is months after the storm.
The following is a list of recommended supplies, tools and materials and it is not a comprehensive list. The number of items you might possibly need would fill several garages so you have to prioritize and realize that if you currently live in an apartment or house you will already have many of the essentials needed. The list will leave off items that would be in a typical home. The items are not disaster specific because you will need most of the supplies, tools and materials during any crisis.
- Drinking water for 14 days and calculate the amount based on one gallon per day per individual and if you use certain foods that require water for preparation add to your supply, up to as much as three gallons per person daily
- Food for 14 days and carefully consider preparation methods when choosing foods because you may have limited means to prepare foods and you will have a lack of refrigeration
- Tools and materials to make emergency repairs to your home such as plywood sheets and waterproof tarps
- Insect netting and/or repellent if applicable
- Portable cooking stoves
- Illumination, and candles are now considered a fire hazard so it is recommended you use oil or propane fueled lanterns
- Emergency thermal blankets for each member
- Personal hygiene items for each person to include hand sanitizer, bath wipes to conserve water and oral hygiene care items
- Rain gear for each individual
- First aid kit and it is recommended that each person has their own kit ( always use the kit of the injured person first to ensure you as the one administering first aid will have the supplies needed for your injuries)
- Portable radio and/or Citizens Band (CB)/ham radio/two-way radios (Walkie-Talkies)
- Work gloves, dust masks and safety goggles for clean up
- Brooms, shovels, sledgehammer and an axe, used for clean up and possible self- extraction from a damaged structure or for rescue efforts
- Heavy nylon rope 100 feet
- Cash and change
- Fuel storage containers and if you have a generator make sure you have ample fuel
Store and operate your generator where it is protected from rising waters, rain, snow and other damaging conditions. Obviously if your area is susceptible to a storm surge or heavy flooding it is assumed you will evacuate but otherwise rivers and streams may cause a few inches or feet of water to be present and equipment must be above the floodwaters.
Never operate a generator in an enclosed area to include crawlspaces, garages, and carports or near any openings into the home. Use the proper gauge extension cords and if you have a standby automatic generator make sure, the local power company is aware you have one. Surges from automatic generators can injure utility workers.
It is recommended you have a generator capable of handling up to 7,000 watts of surge to ensure you can operate a refrigerator, heater or water pump at the same time.
Have all-important documentation concerning your house or apartment packed protecting them from water and other damage and where they can be can be carried with you even if you have to evacuate to a shelter. You will need documentation to apply for local or federal disaster relief assistance.
Know where all emergency shelters are located in your area and know the evacuation routes out of your area. Make sure more than one member of the family knows the locations. Ask about your children schools emergency disaster plans. You may very well be at work when disaster strikes and you need to know where your children will be located and how to pick them up.
Follow all mandatory evacuation orders because if you fail to leave you may be trapped and emergency responders may not be able to reach you. Remember that law enforcement will be stretched thin and response times will be prolonged so consider home defense when preparing for an emergency.
For more information about your state or local preparedness, plans please visit http://www.fema.gov/regional-operations/state-offices-and-agencies-emergency-management