Fives Ways to Better Prepare your family for a Crisis
Families today are accustomed to power outages and a few hours of the power being out is generally not a problem it is simply an inconvenience and any tasks needed to be done can wait. However, once services such as electricity, water and gas have been disrupted for several days it becomes not an inconvenience but a problem.
Families in some cases tend to overlook the fact that tasks and responsibility do not cease because their municipal services have been disrupted. Meals still have to be prepared, baths given to children, laundry needs to be done, your home needs to be kept clean, and your family protected all without the benefit of electricity, gas or running water.
1.) Survival Without Electricity
The problem is the world’s dependency on electricity. The simplest task like toasting bread without electricity requires planning and resources you might not have. How do you toast bread without a toaster or an oven? Some might say this is not a problem but combine this with the fact you may not be able to brew coffee, squeeze orange juice or poach an egg, and you start to see how difficult life can be during a disaster if you have not properly prepared.
- Become aware of the threats, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wild fires and terrorists attacks. Typically, you would know if you live in an area prone to seasonal natural disasters, earthquakes and wild fires. However, disasters such as tornadoes have been reported in every area of the world except the Antarctica. Tornadoes can occur anytime there is a thunderstorm and can happen anytime of the year, so regardless of where you live they are a possibility albeit a remote possibility in certain areas.
- Generally, emergency supplies are not disaster specific, in other words you will always need certain essentials regardless of the calamity. In some cases however, special precautions, may be needed such as in the event of a terrorist attack if they unleash chemical or biological weapons. If this is the case, evacuation is probably the only course of action you can take to save your family’s life along with certain protective gear for short periods of exposure. Part of preparing your home and family for any situation includes preparing for evacuation and knowing when to evacuate and where to find a safer location.
- Additional threats could include a collapse of the monetary system that would result in hyperinflation and cause civil unrest such as rioting and violent demonstrations. Destruction of the power grid by hackers is a real threat and attempts are made daily against the security systems in place. Water treatment plants would also be affected by hackers, computers viruses and sabotage at the plant level.
2.) Create a “To Do” List
List all of the tasks you have to accomplish during the course of a typical day and decide what tasks will still need to be accomplished during a crisis. The only way you can settle on a solution is to determine the problem. If you have children, they will need to be entertained, bathed, fed regular meals, have their clothes washed, given medications and comforted. Establishing a sense of normalcy by doing, the things that you normally do will help control stress and panic in children as well as adults.
- It is important that you approach every problem by assuming the worst. You cannot use history as a template. What happened last time the power went out cannot be used to determine what might happen the next time. Super storm sandy along the Eastern Seaboard is an example of families and local authorities using history to dictate their actions today. It was not even classified as hurricane strength and yet the levels of destruction far exceeded that of even more severe storms in the past and most people prepared based on what had happened in the past.
- Areas are more built up, infrastructure is in places it never had been before and much of it has been weakened by past events and ad hoc repairs because of financial problems over the years only adds to the problem. There are more people and structures in the path of storms today now more than at any time in history. The storms simply have more to destroy.
- Once you have identified what needs to be done you have to set about gathering what is needed. Water is important and practically speaking you cannot have too much stockpiled. You will need a storage system in place however, gallon jugs on the shelf is not adequate for extended periods. You will need water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and general sanitation around the home and for laundry.
- You will need a system in place to do laundry and give baths, so this means you need a way to heat water in large volumes. Your ancestors washed cloths in a tub using a scrub board and sticks, the water was drawn from a well or river and heated over an open fire outside the backdoor.
- You are preparing to live without the benefit of electricity and you must have the tools and systems in place that allow you to accomplish your tasks without public utilities. You will have to learn to do many things during the day to conserve on candles, oil and propane used for lanterns. You will literally begin to adapt as humans did years ago to the natural cycles of nature. You will get up with the sun and go to bed when it goes down.
3.) Plan For Proper Sanitation
Proper sanitation procedures are important and possibly even more so during a disaster to prevent the spread of illnesses and bacteria. Some people fail to realize that once the power is out for an extended period the sewage system in place in your community will not work. The system will certainly not work if there is not any running water for an extended period.
- Waste treatment plants need electricity to process the waste. When the plant shuts down, they will close off the system at various control points to prevent waste from building up at the plant. This means the waste from your home cannot enter the sewer system and will backup in to your home if you flush toilets or run water down the drains.
- This is critical and not having a means to control and remove waste can cause severe illnesses and create insects and rodent infestations. This is a serious safety issue for families that is not given enough attention when it comes to disaster preparedness. For years, in centuries past, citizens living in European countries simply dumped their waste in the streets. Rains washed the waste into the local water systems where the people drew their water causing untold numbers of death from cholera, typhoid fever and other diseases.
- According to UNICIF over 1.8 million people worldwide, mostly children, die each year from unsanitary living conditions. Four thousand children die everyday world wide from unsanitary conditions that caused their drinking water supply to become contaminated (UNICEF, n.d.).
- Have a plan in place such as portable chemical toilets and/or waste disposable bags designed for human waste. Another option is a latrine outside. Dig a small trench, screen with tarps, and provide illumination for nighttime use. Have a bag of agricultural lime on hand to control bacteria and odor. Dig the trench at least two feet deep by two feet wide and pile the excavated soil nearby to toss in along with some lime after each use. Do not allow small children to handle the lime or to use the latrine unsupervised. Do not use the latrine to dispose of spoiled foods or other household waste, dig a separate pit for other garbage generated.
4.) Defend The Home
Home defense is important and it must be a consideration when planning. Looters and other criminals will take advantage of any crisis. Law enforcement will be stretched to their limits and you may find in some cases they will not respond at all unless it is a life or death situation. It will be up to you to see that your home and family is protected. Have enough plywood sheets on hand to cover all glass openings so if the crisis causes riots or demonstrations you can cover your openings to deter criminals and to help prevent extensive damage. Once they see you have taken precautions, they may move on to an easier target. Criminals in many cases during a crisis are opportunist, if they find open doors and windows, they may decide to slip in and grab and go or even confront you.
- Home defense weapons are an option but they must be with you at all times during a disaster. This prevents children from gaining access to them and they are with you when they are needed. Experts always recommend that you keep weapons locked up but during a crisis, they must be visible to act as a deterrent when others come around and they need to be in a position for use if something happens.
5.) Food & Water
Food stockpiles must be carefully planned and knowing how to store your foods properly is critical to ensure your family eats well and receives the proper nutrition during a disaster.
- You will likely need more calories daily during a crisis because your physical activity level will increase if the disaster extends for any period. Remember you will be doing many tasks and chores during the crisis without the benefit of appliances and tools powered by electricity.
- Only purchase foods everyone will eat. A pallet of canned spinach may be a bargain but it will not look that way when the lights are out and everyone is looking for a hot meal. Ensure you know how to prepare the foods you have purchased. If you do not have the means or knowledge to cook rice then learn how to cook it and gather the cookware or do not use it. During a crisis is not the time to experiment.
- Eating food from a can or package is acceptable for a few days but soon everyone will want a hot meal. The process of preparing a meal and getting everyone involved can reduce stress. Give everyone a task to perform so everyone has a role and are contributing to everyone’s well being. This means you must have what is needed to heat and prepare foods such as propane camp stoves or outdoor charcoal/gas grills.
- Ensure you know the expiration dates of all foods and do an inspection every 30 or 60 days so foods can be removed and put into use before the expiration date. Replace any foods pulled from the stockpile. Families tend to use emergency foods and not replace them because of complacency. Nothing happens for months or even years so soon everyone begins to believe nothing will ever happen.
Ensuring the safety of your family is your number one priority in any situation. Everyone must have a clean and safe environment in which to live. A disaster is no reason to forego common sense practices such as personal hygiene and house cleaning. Dirty clothes and bodies will harbor bacteria. You will have closer physical contact during a crisis, diseases can spread easily, and until the cycle is broken, they will remain a threat.
Contaminated drinking water kills people and it does not just happen in other countries. Out of the dozens of drinking water, associated outbreaks every year that sicken thousands and cause deaths the majority of illnesses are caused by bacteria in the water. A lower percentage 13.9 percent is caused by viruses while slightly over eight percent are caused by parasites in the water. Close to three percent of the outbreaks reported both bacteria and parasites present in the drinking water. Other contaminates found in drinking water include chemicals/toxins such as pesticides and herbicides. (CDC, n.d.).
In the United States alone there are close to 30,000 cases of waterborne dysentery each year, while worldwide there are 140 million cases reported with 600,000 deaths cause by dysentery worldwide.
When people think of safety for their families during a crisis, many times the focus is on the crisis itself. The fact is the days after can be if not more devastating that the crisis. Clean drinking water, proper nutrition and protection from physical hazards is what will keep your family safe.
Begin now preparing yourself and your family to survive without electricity because at some point maybe even in your lifetime electricity will be a luxury that few will be able to afford if it is available at all.