Published on April 7th, 2021
Natural disasters throughout this nation. Almost every other news broadcast, we hear about natural disasters wreaking havoc in communities across the globe, spawning months of recovery efforts. But more importantly, we find those who were ill-prepared find themselves even further behind the curve, rather than those who were ready. Now, I’m not taken anything away from the brave families throughout the world who have endured a natural disaster, please don’t think for a minute. I also realize that mother nature’s destructive forces can be quite overwhelming, sometimes even the best prepared can be caught off guard. Ultimately, my message to you is to work at creating a personal network of people to keep aware of your situations, in an almost rebellion against the modern technology that has isolated us. Reach out. There’s the first step in preparedness, let others know your situation. Just as important is to have a written, reviewable plan that can be copied easily, and accessed easily in the case of an event. This is your emergency plan. Your emergency should include phone numbers to call, and what to do, in a step-by-step guide all the way through to returning to normal life. Many people tell me that they thought “knowing” their plan was enough, however found out differently when push came to shove.
Greetings to all my friends, both old and new, to my family, my fellow Alaskans, and fellow Americans wherever you are, and welcome to the Alaska Outlaw podcast. I am the Alaska Outlaw, and today I’d like to revisit a subject that comes to me all the time in your emails. Quotes like, “I’m really broke right now, how can I prepare”, or “there is so much to know, where do I start?” Well, today I’d like to put some rubber on the road when it comes to being prepared. I would like to tell you upfront, there shouldn’t be any new investments until you get to the point where, like everything else, we want to start upgrading pieces of the prep. But ultimately, being prepared has nothing to do with gear, it has everything to do with making the right choices before, during, and after a catastrophe.
In this modern-day world that we (as humans) have desecrated to the point of it being unrecognized, how do we actually define a natural disaster. It easy actually, humans didn’t have an immediate hand in creating. So, flooding, tornados, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, forest fires, and plenty others are for all intents and purposes what we use as our definition. Being prepared for natural disasters does not have to cost a fortune, or require a Costco shopping trip for supplies we more than likely won’t use. Deploy a little common sense and use what you have to keep everyone safe and secure until relief shows up.
Now, in our definitions here, what becomes a little more challenging are the human incited disasters, which we will call man-made disasters. These include terroristic attacks, riots, civil unrest, even arson, anything that humans had an immediate hand in creating. These are a little more challenging to prepare for because you can’t anticipate the ignition source. The critical key here is to ensure that one’s safety and security are covered, including the protection of one’s personal property.
Starting today, I would like you to start thinking a little differently about being prepared for the next natural, or man-made, disaster. While urban areas have a special set of necessary skills necessary for survival, rural areas are not without their collection of necessities. Being prepared can be as simplistic as using the things you have located throughout your home, to ensure success, and obtaining the necessary knowledge as to how one could overcome an equipment difference. When starting from nothing, one needs to break down the absolute necessities of survival into the common elements. Think about the “rule of three” or the “fab-five” as I like to call them, in order of what you will need to survive:
- Fresh air to breathe. Being prepared to breathe should come pretty naturally, however just in case we haven’t considered all the facts, let’s just touch on it here. Being able to breathe may sound fairly simplistic, but there is a lot we should consider. Being able to intake in an appropriate oxygen content capable of supporting life. Many different animal species rely on oxygen to survive. Within the earth’s atmosphere, which contains 78% nitrogen, and 20% oxygen is the air we breathe every day, we need to obtain a minimum to maintain consciousness. However, being cognizant of what other particles could be floating within the air we’re breathing, potentially robbing us of the oxygen we need to survive. Throughout the last year, we’ve combatted against a microscopic virus that was capable of living in outside air, floating on microscopic water droplets. Every year we see an impact of additional virus contenders as the influenza virus lands locally. Included in this discussion are the ash and smoke of fires or volcanic eruptions. Smoke from these things burning could also potentially carry other chemical compounds that cause more problems with the airways of the victims. There’s a lot of things to ponder there. Primarily, ensuring that you have the proper respiration protection is going to be critical to your success.
- Protection from the elements. So, we’ve got clean air to breathe, however, it’s getting kind of chilly out here. Yep, next on our list is having some protection from the elements. Again, deploying a little common sense, ensuring that we are not securing up our cellar in a flood zone, or the attic in tornado alley. We need to think about immediacy to our securing this shelter, as we have only three hours before an amount of damage will be sustained by the human body. Whether it’s heatstroke in the desert, frostbite in the subarctic, with an additional concern for any children or the elderly, need to take priority. This really comes down to being able to get warm if it’s cold, and cool if it’s hot. While this may seem pretty obvious, it can be a tad more challenging when everything one owns is under a pile of rubble that used to be the home.
- Clean water to drink. While this may seem obvious, maybe even including the idea of potable water for survival needs, but the basic hygiene necessities become far more cumbersome than otherwise. Thinking about drinkable water, one has to consider the size of the community around them, added to any environmental condition that way interfere with obtaining water for the entire family. So, we need to consider that our health books tell us that we need to 3 quarts of water per day, however, I know that I’ve lived with much less and lived another day, but, there is certainly a price to pay for cheating death.
- Enough calories to power survival. This one can be a little tricky in that having enough calories is typically good, having sustainable energy by including the right foods to ensure healthy processing is a critical key to success. I’ve been on many survival training where many chose to include MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), or prepackaged meals in their survival diet, but yet had no regular food, or more dangerously, no natural foods. The impact of brutally changing one’s diet during a stressful situation is the effect it has on digestion. By brutally changing one’s diet while heavily stressed, one can actually wind up creating a bigger issue than one had originally. By including foods we eat every day into our preparedness kits, we decrease the impact on the body. If we also include natural fruits and vegetables in our diet both before and during an event, we enhance our chances of success.
- Protective elements to stay healthy. Our final section in our fab five is the inclusion of protective equipment. By ensuring that we are protected, we can focus more of our concentration on the other four items in this list. This one is a big one.
Many will try to convince you to invest thousands of dollars in special goods, and supplies you really don’t need. The key to survival is to “keep it simple”. By adding layers of complexity to your basic steps to survival, you introduce possible points of failure, which will undermine the possibility of success.
While in short supply in modern America nowadays, your strongest skill that can increase your success probability, is common sense. Being prepared for a tornado here in Alaska is damn-near useless, whereas an extended heavy winter-weather event is fairly probable, and should be what you are preparing for. I’m not saying impossible, I’m saying highly unlikely, so concentrate your efforts on preparing for the probable. Man-made disasters are likely to happen anywhere, so those should always be a part of your preparedness plan.
So, with all that said, let’s make the plan. The first step, write it down. No, don’t just make oral agreements, don’t bank on remembering anything during a disaster.
- Is everyone in your family safe, or can their injuries be controlled?
- Is the environment safe, or is it still dynamically changing?
This whole thing should be on a laminated card that you might have on your person. Having it posted where the whole party knows where it is. With a little preliminary evaluation complete, let’s move into the actual emergency plan. Today I’d like to cover two different plans. The first will be the short trip plan, or “outing plan (OP)”. The OP is for anytime you are not at your home. So, depending on how detailed you want to be, short drives to the gym should have a plan, what happens if your car dies, and it’s 15 below zero? The OP can be as in-depth as you think it needs to be, however below are some basic ideas, and again, write it down. As an example, I will include excerpts throughout of my written plan here for comparison purposes.
Where are you coming from, and where are you going to? What route are you taking, and how long do you think it will take? Will you have check-in points? Are you supplied? Do you have an extra gear in case you’re stranded? What are you going to be wearing, and possibly a current photo as well as details about your source of travel (type of car, license plate, etc)? Finally, and pretty importantly, what channels of communications do you have? Have you considered cellular reception interruptions? Are you aware of any other communications channels to use?
With the OP, you’ll want to make sure you leave a copy of it with a trusted friend or family member who is not going with you, as this is the information the search teams can start with. You’ll also want to make sure you keep it as current as possible before each trip.
All right, with the OP covered, secondly is our Permanent residence plan or PRP, and it is a plan for when you’re at home and disaster strikes. Again, planning for the possibilities, don’t stress those things that aren’t likely. Really consider the possibilities when planning this one. So, we’ve covered our “pre-plan” points, now it’s time to think about the big stuff. Again, our written PRP is based on the “rule of three”, or “fab five” that we talked about before.
Plan step one. Can you breathe? Think of the potential, and stage possible needs to where they will be used. I have a roll of thin vinyl and duct tape near the windows. How will you ensure you will continue to breathe. Don’t tell me, write it down, telling yourself where it is, and what you’re looking for.
1b. Place vinyl over windows and use duct tape to create seals around the windows and doors. [NOTE] Vinyl is located in a small trunk next to a front northern bay window, they are labeled as to which window, or door.
1c. Ensure that proper level masks are distributed to all family members. Levels 1 & 2 masks are stored in a small outgoing mailbox behind the front door. Blue is level 1, black is level 2. If necessary, gas masks are located in the living room closet in the gray box on the floor.
Plan step two. Are you safe? Are you able to moderate your temperature? Again, think of the possibilities. If you were exposed to the outside weather, or if you’re outside, can you get to safety? This is where we start the discussion about evaluating your structure for any structural damage. We’re going to make sure that the residence or lodging is safe to reside in (if only temporarily), and that we can have a level of temperature control. In addition, with structural damage, temperature control, we should also consider what is going to be necessary for the security of those areas. We all know that there will be opportunistic criminals who take advantage of an event of a substantial magnitude.
As an example, my emergency plan is five volumes, with each having a cue card that steps me through the necessary steps to take to recovery.
Speaking to those of you who have commented that “you don’t have the money to be prepared”, or “I just can’t afford all of this”, I disagree.
1. Fresh air to Breathe doesn’t mean that you have to go out and but hundred-dollar gas masks, as bandannas, even cotton shirts across the mouth and nose will provide limited protection against many of the things that would cause concern. Having multiple layers of masking provides even greater protection. Having recently been through a major, worldwide pandemic, we should have plenty of masks laying around anyway. Setting aside a couple in the “go-bag” is an inexpensive way to ensure that this section is not an issue.
2. Protection from the elements does not mean you need to have a complete set of construction tools available to “rebuild” your house. Now, in my case, it starts with ensuring that my home meets the building codes for earthquake protection. As the threat of an earthquake is a major consideration for me, I need to make sure the structure I am in is going to have some level of protection. For those of you that may have a high potential of flooding, what are the protections necessary for that scenario? Study those and learn where your structures may experience systemic failures, and shore those up. Having an ax, and shovel in a convenient location to assist in removing debris caused by the event. An entrenching tool (or E-tool) is an inexpensive tool to have in the toolbox, just in case.
3. Clean water to drink is a straight-forward necessity, however, it does not mean that we have to go out and buy a fancy water purification system, or 50 gallons of bottled water. Simple water purification systems can be constructed using gravel, sand, and charcoal. The internet is packed with ideas for these types of systems. I personally recommend getting the purification system, in-lieu of the bottled water solution due to immediate costs, and storage considerations. So, starting today, go out to the internet and research low-cost water purification systems, which may include boiling water, so import over from the element protection section about temperature control by deploying a heat source to boil the water.
4. Enough calories to power survival is essential and this is really where you should focus any “investment”, however, we’ll deploy a little common sense here. While many may tell you that the emergency food buckets at Costco or Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) are the best option here, I would disagree. If you pick up an extra can of chili or soup every time you go to the market, the slow build of emergency supplies will become substantial. Here is where you will want to do this piece at a time. Look for sales, or special buys, to help your family obtain enough resources to be “off the grid” for days at a time, then weeks, then months… Eventually, you will have enough to be safe and healthy. The key with this is to start immediately, that way you have got a little built-up when that next disaster hits.
5. Protective elements to stay healthy includes everything from keeping shoes handy, to ensuring that all the members of your family have jackets/coats to stay protected from those things that would cause damage. As an example, I keep my CROCS on all the time when at home. Now, these have been washed and are never worn outside, however, should we be hit with a sizable quake that throws plates and/or glasses to the floor shattering across the floor, these could cause a substantial amount of damage to the barefoot, therefore I call them my protective equipment. In-lieu of CROCS, maybe a pair of inexpensive flip-flops? In my case, I always keep a set of Mechanics gloves convenient, which would allow me a little more protection for my hands during the aftermath of a large event. Having multiple locations is good here too, by keeping an older coat in your car/truck gives you some options should you experience structural damage rendering your favorite coat buried under a pile of rubble.
Ultimately, the best action we can do to ensure the best chance of success through these disasters is to WRITE IT DOWN! I can’t express how many “preppers” fail when the event happens because they have completely underestimated the psychological impact these events can have on, even the most prepared. Clear concise instructions in a step-by-step method that gives our biological brain the time it needs to shed the adrenaline and get rational thought back. That needs time to happen, while there are some who can fight their way through this, most can’t. Being prepared means having the instructions right there that will get you and your family to safety, when the world may be crashing in around you. Making the right steps toward safety and security until the fog of the “adrenaline rush” wears off and you can consciously think about what steps are necessary to continue your success.
As always I am humbled and honored that you have chosen to spend this time with us here at the Alaska Outlaw podcast. I am hopeful that you all remain safe, healthy, and secure in your lives wherever you are. Remember, stay safe, keep your head on a swivel, and know that your greatest tool to use for survival is your noodle…. Peace.