If you read my column regularly, you know the importance of an emergency plan as an integral component of your overall urban survival skills. Yes, it’s great if you keep a first aid kit, MRE and water on-hand, but unless you’ve mapped out how you plan to use your supplies, you’ll be a lot less effective in helping yourself, your family or your neighbors to get through a natural disaster or civil emergency. An emergency plan is vital, and testing that plan is equally critical.
When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast last week, we were within the projected path, giving us a chance to really test our emergency plan. We went through all the details that I’ve mentioned to you in previous blogs, and guess what? We found holes in our own emergency plan! Thankfully, we didn’t get hit by the storm directly, and this valuable experience has helped us identify the changes that needed to be made.
How concerned should you be about an emergency plan run-through? I’ll give you some examples of situations that people have found themselves in, and let you be the judge:
- During a power outage, the homeowner retrieves a flashlights, only to discover that the batteries, which were stored inside the flashlight, have gone dead. (Tip: To keep batteries from discharging, don’t insert them into your flashlight until you need them.)
- Emergency supplies were stored in different areas of the house, making it difficult to find them during a power outage, slowing evacuation.
- The backup generator has been stored for years without being used, causing the fuel inside to spoil and making it impossible to start.
- Critical emergency supplies were storied in the basement and were flooded before they could be used.
Testing your emergency plan doesn’t require you to wait for a massive storm. Simply set up scenarios that you could likely face in a real emergency. I’ll give you three possible drills you could test against your emergency plan, and think about others that match situations you could
- High winds snap a tree branches, plunging your town into darkness. You need to be able to find your generator in the dark, get it started and run the appropriate extension cords to critical appliances.
- A tanker truck crashes on a nearby road, emitting a toxic cloud. You need to have your go-bag (including food water, spare clothes, insurance papers, ID, prescriptions and any other items) and your family in the car within five minutes, ready to evacuate.
- You’re alerted to a surprise snowstorm while at work. You need to plan out an effective route home, both by your normal route and by a secondary route in case the roads are clogged. You also need to contact all family members, arrange transportation home, and ensure that there’s enough food in the house to endure multiple days stuck inside.
If you have kids, you certainly don’t want to scare them with doomsday scenarios, but teaching them age-appropriate preparedness skills will make them better equipped to face the realities of life. Many stories have been told of children who saved the family from harm by knowing what to do in an emergency. And instilling your family members with the idea that you’re all a responsible for each other’s well-being is never a bad thing.
Be safe and stay alert,
By Thomas Sciacca