Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Every emergency response organization in the world, whether it be military, police, fire departments or the Red Cross, has written contingency plans that detail what to do when everything goes wrong. There’s a good reason for that; it’s because our brains tend to stop functioning at that time, as adrenalin floods our bloodstream as part of the “fight or flight” response.
That’s how we end up with people running out of a burning building, rescuing their parakeet, while forgetting their child or hiding their wallet in their boat that’s sinking. They’re just not thinking.
A written plan is different. That plan can be written out when there is time to think things through calmly and thoroughly. We can go back, taking a look at something over again, to make sure we didn’t miss it. We have the luxury of time to weigh the pros and cons of different options, ultimately deciding what will work best for us in pour particular situation.
Each type of disaster will have its own peculiarities, requiring specific actions. Our plans need to cover those things as well. But there are some actions that are an important part of any disaster response, regardless of what has caused it. For those disasters, I present the list below as an outline for you to create your own action plan.
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1. Assess the Situation
Before doing anything, we need to understand what’s going on and whether it is something we need to react to. In reality, this should be an ongoing process, where we are constantly looking at our information sources to try and discern danger before it is widely reported. That’s not only important for bugging out before anyone else does, but also for any last minute preparations to face a disaster at home.
Don’t think just because you’ve assessed the situation that you can relax; situations change and they can change very quickly. There have been two times in the last two years when there was a hurricane heading right for my city; situations serious enough that my wife was called in to work in the emergency operations center (she works for the city).
Yet in both cases, the hurricane turned away and hit some other city instead. Anyone who thought they were home free in those cities was in for a very rude awakening when those hurricanes hit.
2. Make the Bug in/Bug out Decision
There are two basic things that need to be decided, based upon the assessment of the situation. The first of these is whether the situation is serious enough to warrant putting your family’s survival plan into effect. The second is whether the situation warrants bugging out, rather than bugging in.
Our default on the second of those questions is that it is best to bug in, rather than bug out. But we should never be so wedded to that position that we won’t bug out when we need to. There are situations which warrant bugging out, even for those who don’t have a bug out plan. As always, the decision boils down to whether bugging in or bugging out gives our family the greatest chance of survival.
If the situation is one where there is no need to bug out, then we have to ask ourselves if it is serious enough to put our survival plan into effect. Do we finish out the day at work and allow our children to finish out their day at school or are things serious enough that we don’t have time for that? We can’t afford to lose time in an emergency; but at the same time, we don’t want to cry wolf, calling it an emergency if it really isn’t one.
3. Contact Nuclear Family and Survival Team
With those decisions out of the way, it’s time to share that information. That means contacting your nuclear family and survival team, telling them to put your survival plan into effect. They should already know what that means, specifically that it’s time to leave their work or school and get home. In the case of kids who go to school too far away to walk home, they should know where to meet whichever parent is going to pick them up.
Make sure you have multiple means of communication available to you, if possible. While we all depend on our smartphones, we have to assume that they’ll be out of service. If that’s the case, how do you contact your kids? Text might work, even if voice doesn’t, but the only way of contacting them might be in person.
4. Gather the Family
The first real action step is getting everyone home. That might sound simple; but be extremely difficult in application, depending on how far everyone is from home. Those who drive to work or school should have a get home plan, which includes a get home bag that contains everything they’ll need to get home, even if they have to abandon their vehicle and go it on foot. Keep in mind things like rivers, which might be difficult to cross.
Things might actually be trickier for children who don’t drive. The first hurdle is getting out of school. Our public schools have put a lot of effort into keeping our kids inside, where they are under the teachers’ control. So you’ll need to work with them on an escape plan, as well as assuring your kids that you’ll back them up if they escape for a true emergency.
Ideally one of the adults in the family will be able to pick the children up; but don’t tell them to just wait in the curb. If they do, the truant officer is likely to find them. Besides, the parent who is on the way to get them might be delayed. It’s better if they start walking home, on a pre-determined route, with the parent picking them up wherever they find them.
5. Load Up & Bug Out (if necessary)
With everyone home, it’s either time to load up to bug out or put your home survival plan into effect. By now, you should have decided which it will be. But once again, don’t become wedded to that decision. The situation might change, making it more logical to bug out. I surely wouldn’t want to stay home in the face of a wildfire or flood.
Bugging out is one of those things your family should have practiced, doing dry runs so that everyone knows how to load up and get ready in the least amount of time possible. If you don’t get out quick, you might get caught in traffic, so getting out quick is important.
6. Gather Last Minute Supplies
If your decision is to bug in, then you need to take the time to gather any last-minute supplies that your family is going to need. Granted, you’ve already got a stockpile of food and other critical supplies. But as we all know, there’s no such thing as having enough. There are always other things that we can use or even more of the common things that we have.
- Gas – It’s always a good idea to top off the gas tanks. This will be a full-time task for one driver in the family, as the gas stations will probably have long lines. It might be easy to top off the first tank, but everything after that will be a challenge. Take empty gas cans along that first trip to fill them up too, even if you have to dump the fuel into another car’s tank to empty the cans. Don’t forget propane either, for the barbecue grille or heaters.
- Food – Fresh food may become scarce, so it’s a good idea to grab while the grabbing is good. Just make sure that you don’t grab more than you can use if the power goes out. Your fridge will keep that meat cold for about 24 hours, but after that it will need to be preserved in some way. Grab some pet food while you’re at it. This will keep another driver busy.
- Water – Fill up every water container that you can find in the house. If you have one of those bladders that goes in the bathtub, fill it too. This could be a great job for the kids, as it doesn’t require driving.
- Others Supplies – There may be other things you were thinking about buying for your family’s survival, but just hadn’t gotten to yet. This is the time to buy those things, especially if they are something you’re going to need to have for the coming disaster.
7. Contact Extended Family
While you’re running around making those last-minute purchases it’s a good time to call extended family members, letting them know that you’re okay and that you’re ready for the disaster that’s about to come. Your phone service may go out, and the more you can reassure them before that happens, the better.
8. Secure Your Home
With everyone back home from supply runs, it’s time to secure your home. This can mean different things, depending on the disaster you’re preparing for. Home defense is part of it, but only a part.
Securing your home may include boarding up windows and moving cars into the backyard. The idea is to do everything possible to make sure that your home is ready for whatever is about to come; that means to weather the storm and to weather any attack.
At the same time, it’s also time to take your guns out of storage and load them. From here on out, I’d recommend keeping a loaded sidearm on you and a long gun nearby. That goes for every shooter in your family, not just you.
9. Go into Survival Mode
With everything ready, it’s time to batten down the hatches and go into survival mode. Whatever survival plan you have needs to be put into effect, including rationing of food and water. If things don’t turn out to be that bad, you can just call it a “rehearsal.” But if you’ve gotten this far, chances are that something is going to happen. Glad you’re ready for it.
10. Maintain OPSEC
Finally, make sure that you maintain your OPSEC (operational security) through all this and beyond. As people come to grips with the danger of the situation, they’re going to be looking for help.
They’ll probably try the government first, but when the government lets them down, they’ll be looking wherever they can. If they remember that you have food and other supplies, you can be sure they’ll come to get their “fair share.” Best if they don’t know what you have.
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