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Disaster preparedness is the set of actions and measures an individual, family, household, group or an organization takes in order to prevent and mitigate a disaster or an emergency. Disasters can be classified according to their cause:
- Natural disasters and emergencies. These are caused by natural events. Natural disasters are defined and differ from natural events by how it affects humans. For example, a forest fire is a natural event and an environmental hazard, but it becomes a disaster through how it affects human beings. Examples include: hurricanes, volcanoes, landslides etc.
- Man-made disasters and emergencies. Examples include oil spills, war, mas shooting, nuclear meltdown, etc.
How to prepare for disasters
The actual steps that need to be taken depend on a lot of factors, such as the actual disaster one is preparing for, climate, geographic location, whether it's an urban, suburban or wilderness setting, number of people involved and many more.
However, it's well-worth pointing out that many disasters can cause other disasters, just like falling domino pieces. For example, hurricanes can bring floods and tornadoes, while an economic collapse could bring with it food shortages, lack of medical and hygiene supplies, which could lead to pandemics.
Depending on the size and severity of the disaster or emergency, one could be dealing with:
A) Personal emergencies (that can affect you, your family members or your household. Examples include a house fire, a burglary and a car crash.
B) Emergencies and disasters that affect your neighborhood (such as a gas pipe exploding in an apartment building or a mass shooting)
C) Emergencies and disasters that can affect cities or regions (lots of examples here: volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks which result in a state of emergency being declared, landslides, floods, tornadoes).
D) Emergencies and disasters that affect entire nations or even the planet
Regardless of the magnitude, there are things each of us can do on a personal level to protect ourselves and our families. And the first thing is to have a survival plan that starts on paper. Before you consider what gear to buy, you first have to worry about things like:
- securing your home
- having a basic supply of food that would last you at least 72 hours (preferably a week or more)
- having an evacuation plan in case your home becomes uninhabitable
- establishing rally points in case you can't get in touch with your loved ones
- improving your awareness, to be more aware of your surroundings
- improving your fitness levels to be able to get out of dodge fast
- having one or several bug out locations, meaning places to evacuate to when your home isn't safe anymore
- ...and more.
The next thing you should worry about is getting basic survival equipment. You'll need:
- Communications equipment, such as walkie-talkies, a CB radio and even a HAM radio
- Foods that store well, such a beans, pasta, white rice, honey, salt, sugar, canned foods and freeze-dried foods
- Water. Store it inside your home, your bug out bag, your car and your bug out location
- Devices for attracting attention: Alarm, flare, torches...
- Batteries, connections to let them run essential equipment and for recharging essentials for mobile phones, flashlights, lanterns - for communication
- First aid. It's best if you assembled your own first aid kit, not just to save money but to familiarize yourself with what you're getting.
- Personal medication
- A well-equipped emergency backpack, also known as a bug out bag.
- A well-equipped car, that will help you escape your town or city. This means having food, water, blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit, as well as vehicle-specific gear: jumping cables, a small shovel, an ice scraper, a seat-belt cutter, a window breaker and even an extra canister or fuel.
There's one thing that's more important than gear and that's skill. You need to learn a variety of survival skills, starting with the ones that are critical (different ways to start a fire, first aid) and moving on to more complex ones (making shelter out of natural materials, crossing a river, outdoor cooking).
Disaster preparedness isn't something you're done with. Your food stockpile, your tools, your gear and your skills can and should be improved as time goes by.
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