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  • Mike L

How Do We Get There?

Updated: Apr 13




The media, in sundry flavors, offers a plethora of confections overloaded with saccharine, high-fructose corn syrup and sodium chloride.  Without a doubt, they’re tasty and satisfying; however, a steady diet of sweet treats does more than destroy waistlines.


There’s no shortage of things over which to be anxious or angry. The upcoming presidential election; the New York earthquake; immigration; the war in Ukraine; the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East; the posturing and threats from international rivals as well as the culture wars and the economy inspire neither confidence nor optimism in the immediate future. If these truly are the end times, our troubles will soon be over. But, on the off chance that this is the new normal, it makes sense to have a plan and to get prepared.


First off, if you’re new to the site or the topic, I’m going point you to some previous posts that will get you up to speed as well as lay the foundation for a path to preparedness. How I Got Ready, Getting Started, The ABCs, and Community Building. Don’t forget to download the Checklists.  


As a normal adult, I consume news from various sources but in small doses. I’m genuinely not a fan of social media and I rarely ‘like’ topics or follow people. There’s enough discord and conflict without me adding to it besides, I refuse to allow that foolishness to live rent-free in my head. What strikes me is that given the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events and other natural disasters, there’s very little mention made of people being better prepared for the inevitable which is happening now.


If you’re in the crowd who feel you’re better off doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions, have at it. Be sure to ask the right questions and don’t ignore what the data tells you. Also, don’t rely on talking points, flawed logic and uninformed opinions. Dawdling and taking too much time to decide on a course of action have the same risk. Perform your own needs analysis and critically examine your situation as well as that of your immediate family. Be willing to change your position if you find that it’s not supported by the data, by what you’re seeing. You may end up saving a life other than your own.


Predictably, the retailers who sell emergency equipment and other supplies aren’t beneath fearmongering or pandering. For that matter, plenty of Preppers are just as alarmist. Ignore the marketing and fear campaigns but don’t put off getting the supplies you need.  


We tend to base our actions on the belief that we can handle whatever comes up as well as our assessment of the relative risk and probability of certain events. This is normal and usually it works, even though we’ve often never experienced the event we’re hell-bent upon riding out. The other component to this unhealthy delusion is that extreme weather events are far more powerful than they were a few years ago. Even street crime has seen a frightening increase in both violence and scale. The science of weather forecasting is imprecise, and projections are often wrong. The hype before the storm is often worse than the event itself. Emergency management personnel and meteorologists are often viewed with open suspicion when a storm fails to live up to the predictions. They become reluctant to sound the alarm, and more troublingly, their warnings are often ignored. There’s also political fallout from the perceived false alarm and business losses.


Our past experiences and grit can only do so much. In a hurricane, a ten-foot storm surge is terrifying in its ferocity and unstoppable. Natural events are beyond human avarice and rage until their energy is expended. Usually this is within a few minutes, but the damage to property is catastrophic, lives disrupted and sometimes lost.  


The importance of prior planning can’t be overstated. In a crisis, acting decisively is paramount. No one wants to act prematurely, but waiting around to see how things play out is dangerous and a lousy plan. If you’re the type who waits until Christmas Eve to start shopping, this approach to emergency planning is certain to ensure a horrible and completely avoidable outcome. Store shelves will be empty, and it may even be impossible to safely venture out depending upon the severity of the crisis.


Below, I outline three types of plans that you must have and offer guidance on some of the basic points.


Evacuation Plan


I recommend that you use a flash drive and a notebook to record your important information: emergency contacts; phone numbers; medications; accounts and account numbers and so on.

The notebook should also contain your evacuation plan, in which you map your path for getting out of the area via several different routes if the main evacuation routes and highways are impassable. This could be as simple as getting to higher ground or an emergency shelter in a neighboring county. Again, don’t assume that you’ll have the presence of mind to recall all the shortcuts and quiet backroads. Others will have the same idea so no one will be going anywhere. Either way, this will require prior planning as some roads may be closed or impassable. You can download some maps for use offline but it’s just as easy to use a street map or road atlas.


Transportation


If you live in an urban environment and lack personal transportation, you should err on the side of caution and act quickly. I’m not suggesting that you grab your Go Bag, hop on your bike and head for the hills. But…. One of the significant mitigating factors in Hurricane Katrina is that so many of the inhabitants of the lower Ninth Ward lacked transportation. Even if they wanted to leave- most did- they had no means of doing so. Planning early allows you to explore options and to identify deficiencies in your plans. At best, you’re merely inconvenienced, at worst, well, you get the idea.


School bus fleets, private coaches as well as public transportation are regularly pressed into service in times of disaster. Depending upon your resources, competence and location, canoes and boats are also viable options. The Cajun Navy is legit! Of course, motorcycles and bicycles don’t have the capacity as cars and SUVs, but they have maneuverability on their side. Bicycles also allow you to travel quietly.

   

Putting all of this in writing ensures that you’ll know what to do when the time comes. There’s the added benefit of not having to remember it because it’s written down. Planning is only half of it. Testing and reviewing your plans are critical to identifying obvious gaps in planning and recognizing elements that might not work.


Communications Plan


Central to your emergency plan should be connecting with your people- your family and network. Most likely, you’ll be in different parts of the area, so you’ll need to communicate with them to determine whether everyone is okay and get a baseline of their location and situation. You will also hash out when, where and how you will meet up.


As a family, discuss in advance what you’re going to do and determine what your ‘triggers’ are. Your triggers determine under what circumstances: medical emergency, actual disaster, civil unrest, or extreme weather event prompts you to activate your plan or certain parts of the plan. This works especially well given that parents and children are often in different parts of the city while at work and school during the day. You might also consider using a relative out of the area as a point of contact. This person can relay messages and information to others as well as give you updates on the situation if you're presently in the dark.


The other top consideration of communication is messaging. The stress on the electrical and communications infrastructure in times of disaster is significant- if they're still functioning- so to the extent that you're able to minimize your use at such critical times, you should. It goes without saying that emotions will be high. However, shutting down or collapsing in tears is a luxury you don't have during and immediately following a disaster. We draw comfort and strength from talking to our loved ones. Even without speaking the words, the tone and pitch of our voice often tells the story of how we're doing. Be mindful of this and as best you can, try to convey optimism and confidence. Again, this should be obvious, don't lie or say hurtful things when they're least needed and will do the most harm.


When it comes to messaging, shorter is better. You can come up with a system of codes such as “Big Chair” which means that everyone is fine or “Red Alert” which indicates a medical emergency. The code for I love you could be "February 14." Of course, you can always use fire/police/ems Ten Codes or even adapt military jargon for your purposes. Be creative and as a family or group, come up with your own coded messages to save time and to communicate vital information.


Communications Equipment


Cell service may be disrupted and while calls aren’t possible, texting might be viable. Handheld radios can be bought off the shelf at any electronics retailer or online. They don’t require a license and have a range of a few miles which makes them a solid option in an emergency.


Amateur/ Ham Radio Operators require a license and come with the benefit of having long ranges. General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS, like Ham Radios requires a license and is another solid option for anyone who wants to be well-equipped for emergencies.


Citizens Band, CB Radios are primarily used by truckers across the country. They have a range of ten to twenty miles and there are no license requirements. Anyone can use one and they’re a solid addition to your equipment list, especially in rural areas.


Global Positioning System, GPS is the backbone of so much of our society. Everything from phones to cars to trains and airplanes rely on GPS. Granted, earth-based disasters don’t usually impact GPS functionality, but the ability to access the Internet and various services is often impaired during events such as hurricanes and tornados.


There you have it. Planning can’t be overlooked and it’s not a static process. Plans must be regularly reviewed and updated as your needs and situation change. Of course, if they’re inadequate they’re of no value. As always, get after it.    

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1 Comment


thewaytopeace
Apr 10

Another well thought out post! I really like your points in Communications Plan and Communications Equipment. I'm going to look into a CB Radio and getting a Ham Operator License. Very good information.

Wish me luck!

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