#1. Prep for the disasters that are most likely for your region FIRST
Different climates require different methods to survive. For instance, in the New Orleans area it would be prudent to prepare for hurricanes. In the San Francisco area, it’s wise to prepare for earthquakes.
Take your local weather into account. Level five hurricanes, like Katrina, require fleeing before impact. For earthquakes and hurricanes, it is more logical to designate a safe room such as a basement or any ground level space with limited exposure. Safe rooms should only be used as a last resort. Planning ahead can often avoid danger.
Of course, some situations are identical despite occurring in different climates. A governmental breakdown will be similar in all areas because human nature is universal. However, to keep your family safe, have a plan for possible natural disasters as well.
#2. Create simple, easy to follow steps
You should make instructions so simple a six year could easily follow along. In the middle of extreme stress, this will make it much easier for family members and children to act logically.
An example would be, “If everyone is home meet outside the house. If not, meet at the church.” The meeting place outside the house could be anything that is close to the home such as a school, a park, a playground, or anything your family will immediately recognize and can easily travel to by foot.
Periodically quiz your family on these simple steps. Make sure they are memorized. In a sense, preparing for a disaster is like studying for an exam. The more you drill, the more successful you will be when the situation is at hand. (Check out tips on how to practice further down in this article.)
#3. Designate an Out-of-State Contact Person
If a family member gets lost or stranded in a disaster situation, the local communication tools may be broken or unpredictable. To get around this, designate an out of state person for any lost individual to contact. Make sure the man or woman is a family member or a close family friend to ease communication within the whole group.
The contact person can figure out where the person is and if they are healthy and safe. Eventually, this information may be able to be transferred to the larger group. Moreover, being able to talk to someone they know will keep the isolated family member more positive and hopeful.
#4. Routinely Practice Your Escape Plans
Practice is key to survival. It is important to have an evacuation plan for multiple, plausible scenarios and drill them repeatedly. Fire drills may have been annoying at school, but now you understand they served a purpose.
When your family understands the procedures for each escape plan, quiz them on the steps at least once every six months. This will keep it fresh in their minds. When chaos hits, panic sets in, and thinking is more difficult. Practice will hone instinct and that will kick in automatically.
Of note, over-drilling is possible. Don’t make your family hate the procedure. Eventually, this will cause negative results. Try to make it fun and give children rewards for remembering steps.
Part of practicing is making sure equipment is suitable for a survival scenario. Fire extinguishers should be tested for usability every six months. The same goes for water in evacuation kits, smoke detectors, bug out bags, get home bags, and EDC kits. Malfunctioning equipment will immediately make any plan difficult to follow for your family.
The greatest benefit doing drills will give you in a survival scenario is the ability to remain calm. Panic will only causes problems and stops things from moving at a nice, speedy pace. You want your family to act on instinct without having to think. If a disaster almost feels like just another drill, you’ve done your job.
#5. Make a Folder with Important Identification Information
People are often forced to leave governmental documents in a disaster situation. It takes too much to gather all of them before fleeing. To get around this, either print a Microsoft Word document or hand-write a note with all the necessary information. An alternate option would be to copy important documents and keep them together in an easy to grab folder.
Good things to have on this list are driver’s license numbers, insurance policy numbers, prescription drug information, blood type, emergency contact number, and your doctor’s name and number. It is also good practice to write down other forms of identification like your license plate number.
Print pictures of your family members. If they become separated from the group, you can hand them out to strangers and gather info on their location. A simple plan like this one could be the difference between life and death.
Before disaster strikes, make copies of important papers: birth certificates, passports, and social security cards. Getting this done will increase the item’s chance of survival when you are possibly able to reenter your home.
#6. Teach Your Kids How to Shut Off Utilities
It is extremely easy to forget to shut off utilities in the middle of hurriedly leaving your home. Make sure you and your family know where the main water valve is and how to turn it off. Practice this skill with them. The gas valve may also need to be turned off and will likely need a wrench to do so. Plan on having tools near the valve
Turning off the gas, though, is only necessary in case of a leak. This is common in many types of disasters. Make the assessment quickly and act according to you sense of sight and smell.
#7. Draw a Floor Plan
An easy way to get family members to know what to do is to get a map of the house and draw out different escape routes for different scenarios. This will give them something to study when you are not in the middle of a drill and help them visualize the escape.
Make sure to draw arrows to escape routes. Don’t place furniture in front of these exits and make sure to adjust maps for any changes to the house layout.
Also, the map will make it much easier on people who may be in the house when an unexpected disaster strikes who are not familiar with your house. Just make sure they understand the paths and what to do, and they can use the floor plan to guide them to safety. It is prudent to also draw a map to a nearby, safe location if the area around the house becomes unsafe.
#8. Learn First Aid/CPR
There are many inexpensive First Aid and CPR classes often taught by former fireman or nurses and occur at gathering places such as the YMCA or a hotel. Learning these skills is simple, easy, and could be the difference between a family member surviving or dying.
Usually, water safety skills are taught at the same class for slightly more money. These could also be extremely valuable if you live near a large body of water.
#9. Have Multiple Areas to Escape To
This one only applies if you are at the house when the emergency happens. Otherwise, the multiple places will be too confusing for a group of people to easily follow.
Different disasters require different actions. If your main safe area gets destroyed or becomes dangerous, you will need alternate places bring your family. This could be a basement, a well-grounded shed, or a close and stalwart public building like a library. Figure out sturdy places to escape to in the north, south, east, and west and the fastest possible way to get to them.
#10. Have Alternate Forms of Communication
In a disaster, cell phone coverage is often limited or non-existent because most of the population will be on calling and texting simultaneously. To prevent this, prepare for each family member to have a walkie-talkie. This will allow you communicate if cell phones fail.
Of course, the range will be limited which is why having an out-of-state contact person (discussed above) is a great idea. It will make it so walkie-talkies are not the only option.
Another way to communicate is to designate an area to leave notes for each other if you are separated. This makes the survival outcome a bit up to the elements, but it is a good idea for another layer of protection from leaving a member isolated. Make sure your family knows to keep these notes short and to the point. Simple messages like “I am safe. I am located at the school” work best. There is no need for a poem.
#11. Learn How Your Children’s School Plans to Act
If a disaster happens while your children are in school, knowing how the institution plans to act will be the easiest way to get in contact with them. They will likely have a safe place either inside the school or outside for retrieval.
Worst case, the weather will make it unsafe to travel there. The best thing to do is make sure the school has a proper plan before a disaster strikes. They should be more than willing to go over their steps with parents. If anything feels weakly thought out, let the institution know and coordinate with other parents to make a change.
#12. In Case of a Government Round Up, Prepare to Bug Out
In the worst-case scenario, the society at large will not be your friend. Avoid government camps at all costs. This will likely mean a large amount of movement over a widespread area. Make sure to have plenty of non-perishable food and figure out where to find clean water.
Being in good shape will also help. You will not be able to transition from being a couch potato to surviving in the wilderness and neither will your family. Make family time spent in the woods, whether it be hunting or camping. Don’t ignore fitness as part of planning.
Any prepper, no matter how rugged, will fail without a plan. Make sure your family is on the same page. Make sure you have steps for multiple scenarios. Have that and follow the tips above, and you’ll be so much more prepared than any family that hasn’t been practicing.