- Can I breathe? Can I continue to breathe life-supporting oxygen? While this may seem an obvious choice to start our immediate card, if there is a potential of gaseous clouds in the area, such as methane, or carbon monoxide, seek fresh air. This may also include fire embers or volcanic ash. Again, we need to be sure that continuing to breathe doesn't create more damage.
- Am I injured? Have I become immobile? This will be our next immediate assessment as item #1 may force us to move to fresh air, we have to evaluate whether that's possible or not. We also need to consider those in our care. Maybe the elderly or infants within the home may have mobility issues that we will need to solve immediately.
- Am I warm enough, or cool enough? Will it stay that way? Once the immediate (items 1 & 2) are covered, we will need to consider whether we can stay where we are, or if we need to evacuate. After the oxygen and health concerns are addressed, we will need to be sure we get to where we will be safe. If item #2 forces us to seek immediate medical attention, we may need to consider traveling to medical services or getting medical services en route to us.
- Are we together? How long until we are? Because disasters never strike when they are convenient, we need to evaluate where our teammates (family members) are, and how to get them to their rendezvous points. Focus on getting them together quickly, but safely. Remember the roads are going to be filled with emergency vehicles and utility vehicles attempting to repair the damage. Road beds may be damaged and/or have running water over them, this may become quite the challenge.
- Am I safe and secure? Will it stay that way? In the modern-day societies we live in, all too often we find "opportunistic criminals" who take advantage of these situations to acquire goods for themselves. We need to be sure that doors and windows can remain secure, and/or you have a defensive strategy that you can put in place quickly. In addition, we need to evaluate our building structure to determine if it will be problematic to remain contained within.
(*) By stating "I" in the above statements, you need to consider your teammates (or family) for their successful navigation of these items as well. If, for example, you have someone in your home that uses an oxygen production device to sustain their quality of life. Do they have a generator or battery backup for their device that will continue to provide this commodity?
After the "immediates" are addressed and a solution is put in place, we can begin to evaluate the remaining necessities for recovery.
- Can we communicate? -most hard lines will be down or congested, have we considered other means of communications?
- Do we have a light? -natural or man-made lighting is sufficient.
- Do we have a safe temperature control source? -with this, evaluate whether we have a safe source.
- Do we have provisions? -this includes the water and food resources that you've staged. When discussing provisions, do we have the means by which to use the provisions we have? While having canned goods is great, they are not so great without a can opener. Some foodstuffs may need to be cooked, did we remember the propane for the outdoor grill?
At this point, we can begin to move around our home to determine if the structural integrity remains intact. During our residential inspection, we need to be cognizant of anything that may seem out of place. If we spot something that seems odd, we need to contact the appropriate authority to ensure the safety
There may become a point where evacuation is necessary to sustain life, in this case, we need a clearly developed plan to ensure our safety along the way.
- Do we have our evacuation plan? -whether it be from the house in the case of a fire or structural damage, or from the community in the case of a large-scale disaster.
- Do we have any "recon" of the route? -sometimes listening to the emergency radio, we can gain knowledge as to if our route is clear to travel on.
- Do we have the route clearly laid out? -using a paper map with the route (with alternates) drawn out is a great way to ensure safety on the way out.
- Do we have the resources for the trip? -many have had only half a tank of gas and wound up leaving the vehicle (and their supplies) halfway through their evacuation.
- Do we have cash and documentation? -depending on how close you are to the event when you need to buy something, the point-of-sale (POS) systems and/or Automated Teller Machines (ATM) may be inoperable, therefore it is good to carry cash when evacuating from your home. In addition, you'll want to be sure you have other documentation:
- Copies of Birth Certificates.
- Vaccinations, prescriptions.
- Proof of Residency.
- Any reservations (motel, rental car, motorhome) you may have made.
- Have we considered our pets, and their needs? -many people forget about their pets, however, they are going to be under the same amount of stress.
These are the thought processes that should be rattling around in our minds as we prepare our team to evacuate.