Emergency Preparedness for Beginners – Part 2

Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau

Part 2: Bugging out – what it means and what you need

In Part 1 of this series, we looked at ways in which you could help yourself and those around you in a disaster scenario. Let’s image now that you’ve handled the immediate dangers and are ready for your next task. You have a decision to make at this point. Do you stay where you are and continue to help any victims in that area or do you try to get home or to some other safe location? “Bugging out” is what you do when you leave your current location and go somewhere else. You could also call it “bugging in” if you are going home.

Depending upon the nature of the disaster, you may or may not be able to drive or take public transportation to go home. What you will need to get there on foot will depend upon how far you have to travel, the weather conditions at the time, and the nature of the disaster. If the disaster involves some sort of civil unrest, looting, riots, and that sort of thing, there will be additional obstacles to overcome in getting home. You will need to be prepared for a variety of scenarios, and you will need knowledge, skills, tools and supplies that will help you get where you want to go.

One of the most important things you will need is a body that is up to the task. You will need to be physically fit enough to carry your tools and supplies the distance you need to travel. If you are not fit enough to walk home, you will have to stay where you are. Even if you do that, you will need to have achieved some level of fitness to be able to survive wherever you are. Start training for that now. Walk. Walk a little each day; and then a little more. Build up your strength and endurance so that you are an asset in an emergency and not just another victim. Do whatever it takes to get yourself healthy. If that means losing weight, exercising, and changing your diet, then get started on that right away.

Not long ago, I had Type II Diabetes. I was dependent upon prescription medications to keep my blood sugar levels in a normal range so as to prevent neuropathy, blindness and other damage from that disease. I decided that being dependent upon those drugs was not a good thing in a disaster situation where the pharmacies might be closed down for a while. So, I did what I had to do to get off those drugs. I changed my diet and lost a lot of weight. I got myself off of all prescription medications. Do what you can to make yourself independent of doctors and medications. Some conditions can’t be handled just by changing your diet and increasing your exercise level, but you’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel if you get yourself fit and ready to handle whatever comes your way. You’ll not only feel better physically, but mentally as well. Preparedness is a lifestyle. When you are prepared, a great many things which you are worried about now will cease to concern you.

The equipment, skill and knowledge that you will need to get home will be an expanded version of your EDC (every day carry), plus a few extra items that will aid you in the journey. If circumstances are in your favor, you’ll simply be able to get in your car and drive home. However, if things go wrong and you have to walk home, you’re going to need some things to help you get there. What you need will depend upon several factors: distance to be traveled, current and future weather conditions, the nature of the disaster, and the current state of mind of the other people you are likely to encounter on your journey. In other words, if you have a long way to go in bad weather after a major disaster where the civilian population has run amok, you will need gear, skills and knowledge to solve those specific problems you will encounter along the way. On the other hand, if you are just a few miles away from home when a disaster of lesser magnitude occurs in moderate weather where people are scared, but not panicked, then you will likely have an easier time getting home and be less dependent upon your equipment and such and will rely more on your level of physical fitness and your knowledge of alternate routes to your destination. Plan for the former and hope for the latter and you will be as prepared as you can be.

The kit you assemble to get you home from wherever you are when the disaster happens is called a “Bug-Out Bag.” What you put in that bag will depend upon the factors mentioned above. At the very least, you will need water, food, a first aid kit, a map, a compass, and some decent hiking boots or shoes. Beyond those basics, you can add fire starting tools, camping gear, cooking gear, communications equipment, binoculars, paracord, personal hygiene gear and whatever else you think you might need to get you home, plus a supply of whatever prescription medications you will need.

You’ll notice that I mentioned water first. After air, water is what your body will need most. Carry as much water as you can. You’ll be drinking it, perhaps cooking with it, and possibly cleaning wounds with it. Carry something with which to purify water so that you can create some potable water when you use up what you are carrying. Water purification can be done with tablets or filters or both. You can use coffee filters to do the initial clean-up of dirty water and then add tablets or run it through your filter system. Again, your need to clean up dirty water will depend upon the nature of the disaster and the distance you have to travel to get home where you have the majority of your supplies cached. Your supply cache at home is a subject which I will address in greater detail in the next article in this series. For the moment, think about what you might need to have at home if the power is out and the water is off for several days. Start putting a few things aside in case you need them, especially water.

To create a bug-out bag, place all the things you think you’ll need to get home in a back pack. Keep that back pack close at hand wherever you are. If you’re out shopping, it should be in the trunk of your car. If you work in an office, you might consider having one under your desk and another one in the trunk of your car. What if you can’t get to your car? Do you use public transportation to go back and forth to work? What if a disaster occurs on your ride? Think about what you would need if you’re a long way from home and the bus or train can’t get you there. Do you know the route and how you would get home if you are stranded at any point along the way? Make a map and carry a compass. If it would take you more than one day to walk home, you will need to create a bug-out bag to accommodate your needs for that sort of journey. You will also, possibly, need to adjust your gear for the season of the year, depending upon where you live. Each person in your family will need to have his/her own pack tailored to their skills and stature. Include carrying your pack in your exercise regimen, or another pack of the same weight. Make sure it is comfortable to carry. If it is too heavy, figure out ways to make it lighter without sacrificing too much in the way of equipment.

The most important things that you will need are knowledge and skills. Learn how to read a map and guide yourself with a compass. Map out your routes home and have alternate routes should your regular ones be blocked. Learn about situational awareness and practice it when you are walking and getting in shape. Find out what plants are edible in your region and learn how to identify and prepare them. Learn a number of ways to start a fire and practice them. Learn to cook over a fire, or a camp stove. Learn how to stay warm and dry outdoors. Learn first aid including CPR. Get C.E.R.T. trained. Learn how to tie useful and effective knots in ropes and cords. Learn how to build a temporary shelter. Learn how to free someone trapped by a heavy object. Learn how to travel through an urban environment safely and quickly. Learn to defend yourself and your family by whatever means you are comfortable with. There are a wide variety of books available on outdoor skills, and a nearly unlimited number of videos available online demonstrating everything you will need to know. Educate yourself, learn the necessary skills and practice them. In a disaster scenario, you won’t have time to look up anything in a book. Read the books now; understand and apply what you learn. If you do, when you are confronted with an emergency situation, you will have the ability to act rather than panic, help instead hinder, and survive instead of become a victim. If you can survive, and you have taught and encouraged your family, friends and neighbors to learn the same skills you have, you will have a relatively safe place to go to when you Bug Out. Once you get home, you can reassess your situation and figure out what to do next; and that will be the subject of Part 3 of this series.


Emergency Preparedness for Beginners – Part 1

Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau

Part 1: Introduction, some basic concepts and EDC

You are at the grocery store doing the weekly shopping for your family when a 7.5 magnitude earthquake occurs. You are lucky. The building doesn’t collapse on you and you are not one of the many people injured by items falling from the shelves. What do you do next? The answer to that question depends upon how prepared you are. Disasters, if they happen, happen where you are, at the office, at the store, in the car, on your evening stroll, even at home. Preparedness is what gives you the ability to help not only yourself in a disaster, but also those around you.

You might have seen an ad on TV or online about the need to be prepared for the next earthquake. Many people have the idea that if you have a couple of cases of bottled water and a few cans of food stashed away in a closet that they are prepared. There is more to preparedness than a closet full of supplies. Your ability to survive a disaster depends more upon your knowledge and skill than it does upon your food supplies, first aid kit and pocket knife. You can carry all the fancy gear around with you that money can buy, but if you don’t know what to do with it, you are just another victim, waiting for someone to help you.

Your ability to help also depends upon your knowledge and skills. If you know how to stop bleeding, how to move an injured person, how to put out a fire, how to build a fire or an emergency shelter, how to tie a secure knot in a piece of rope, how to determine if a building is safe to enter, how to read a map, how to splint a broken leg, how to search a building, even how to take command of a disaster site, then you can help. With knowledge and skill you can use the gear you are carrying, or you can improvise using whatever you can find on the scene. With knowledge and skills you will be able to act to restore some order to the area and offer aid to yourself and those around you, instead of panic. You can take charge of the disaster site until the more qualified, better equipped and more highly trained professional first responders arrive. And if they don’t arrive, you can direct the able-bodied survivors in tasks that they can do to help the victims.

If you have tools and the knowledge and skills to make the best use of them, then you will be even more valuable in whatever disaster you might encounter. So, the first level of preparedness is knowledge and you can get that from a variety of sources including books, internet videos, first aid courses from the Red Cross, and C.E.R.T. training. The Red Cross and C.E.R.T. training is good because you practice and learn the required skills at the same time that you gain the knowledge of what will be needed in an emergency.

Skills are the second level of preparedness. You will need to practice and apply what you learn so that you can use your tools and supplies or improvise with what you have available to you. Some valuable skills you might wish to learn include CPR, first aid, triage, search and rescue, how to put out a fire, how to make a fire, radio communications, and organization and management of resources.

The third level of preparedness would be tools and supplies. Included in this level would be water, food, wound dressings and bandages, stoves, cooking utensils, camping equipment, sanitation equipment and supplies, personal hygiene supplies, radios both AM/FM and HAM types, and nearly anything else you can think of that would make survival possible in a disaster.

Don’t get overwhelmed at this point by how much there is to learn. Start very simply and realize that the first thing you will need to do in a disaster is survive. You need to help yourself first so that you can then help those around you or get home and help your family. So, let’s look at what you can carry on your person that will help you survive.

The equipment that you carry with you so that you are prepared to deal with an emergency, no matter where it happens, is usually called EDC, or Every Day Carry. What you carry, to some degree, will depend upon what you know and what you can use. At a minimum, you should carry a flashlight, a whistle and some sort of first aid kit. Even if you don’t know much about first aid yet, someone around you might and they can use your first aid kit to help you, if you are injured. I carry a very bright flashlight that will not only allow me to see in the dark, but could also be used to blind an attacker if necessary. I carry an extra set of batteries for that flashlight. I also carry a multi-tool; mine is made by Gerber, but there are a variety of others on the market. In addition I usually carry a first aid kit that includes several gauze pads, a Mylar blanket, a triangular bandage, alcohol wipes, and non-latex gloves. Plus, I have a small, but accurate, compass on my watch band , a para-cord bracelet on the other wrist, notebook and pen, a folding knife and that whistle I mentioned on my keychain. The whistle is for signaling your own location in the event that you are trapped inside a building or under some debris. You’ll lose your voice quickly if you are yelling, but a whistle will let you make a lot of noise with a minimum amount of effort. I usually have my cell phone with me as well, but I don’t count on it in a major disaster, or a minor one for that matter. The ability of a cell phone to get and keep a signal depends upon how many people in any given area are trying to access the cell tower at the same time. In an emergency, cell phone service will be undependable at best, since everyone will be trying to call out all at the same time.

With the small amount of equipment in my EDC kit, I feel confident that I could be of some immediate assistance , but that’s because I have some knowledge of what I will be dealing with and some skill at using the tools I carry. What you decide to carry should be tailored to your own knowledge, skills and abilities. The first thing you will be doing when a disaster strikes is trying to survive. The next thing you will do is decide whether you will stay on the scene and help those around you, head home or head for the hills. To accomplish any of these, you will need a bit more knowledge, skill and equipment. The equipment and its container is often called a “Bug-out” bag. When you decide it’s time to leave where you are and go somewhere else, that is called “bugging out.” The gear that will help you get there is what makes up a Bug-Out Bag. We’ll talk about that in Part 2 of this series.