Facing an Emergency
Natural Disasters or Man Made Disasters can result in situations when one’s life, health or property is at stake. A Disaster can cause severe problems for transportation, electricity, electronic communications, the access to gas, heating and other systems that most people rely on an everyday basis and take for granted. Most modern appliances like phones, computers, lights, heating, refrigeration, air condition and even water pumps can cease to function in this type of scenarios. Bugging In refers to the tactic of minimizing the impact that such an event may have for you. Many situations do not have to result in a life or death situation if you simply have a plan and the means to deal with them.
A disaster rarely disrupts all functions in a society even if this is a possibility. Functions are often brought back relatively fast after a disaster, power companies can often be able to make repairs relatively quick etc. But some natural disasters like the 2006 Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, The Haiti Earthquake and the recent Japanese Tsunami are event that have affected and will continue to affect entire regions for long periods of time. Disasters can also have a long lasting impact on local areas. In most crisis and survival situations life may completely or partly keep on going as normal – school, work and other activities may continue even if massive damage has been dealt to a community. The magnitude of disasters is not only total devastation or normality; therefore I suggest that you try to have a sliding scale approach in your Bug In Plan.
During your everyday life you can often get Early Warnings for potential disasters like hurricanes by following the news and your local weather prognosis. How much time you should spend on following the events around the world is a matter of personal preferences; you can just make a quick check every morning and having a weather application for your Smartphone or computer; or you can spend basically an unlimited amount of time checking multiple international, regional and local news media. Another potential important source of information is your local or national crisis management agency like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
[ ] Check the Weather Forecast and News Every Morning
Some types of disasters like storms, Hurricanes and Blizzards may be foreseen before they actually take place. In these cases an Early Warning may be given by authorities or other sources that may allow for Preparations to be made. In these types of situations it is however very common that people ignore or downplay the threat; it’s hard for people to really perceive a hurricane as a threat if the warning is given several days before it hits when the sun is shining and the weather is great.
[ ] Follow the Development of the Situation
[ ] Make a timeline for what information that you have received, at what time and from what source.
[ ] Inform Friends and Family about the ongoing Situation
[ ] What you know about this type of Situation or Threat? Make some basic research to learn more about how this type of situation and what you can do to minimize the potential impact.
[ ] Check if there are any plans made by local, regional or national crisis management agencies for how to deal with this type of situation.
At some situations it can become clear that a situation will become a real problem and that it will affect you. In this case you should make all the preparations that you can to minimize the impact.
[ ] Continue to Follow the Development
[ ] Continue to make a timeline for the ongoing development
[ ] Check in with friends and family. How are they are planning to deal with the situation? Do they require any help or is there anything they can do to help you?
[ ] Make Preparations to minimize the potential Consequences
[ ] Check Supplies and your Inventory. Is there and field where you should increase your capability?
A few types of scenarios may make it necessary to stay indoors in the Home. A catastrophic pandemic, massive civil unrest, a blizzard or a chemical or radioactive release may make require this approach for short or long periods of time. This represents the most extreme action required; most situations are not likely to require such drastic actions.
Part 1: The Risk Assessment
I suggest that as the first part of your Bug In Plan should be your Risk Assessment. A Risk Assessment is an attempt to find and classify Risks in a systematical manner by trying to judge the potential Consequences and how Likely a certain risk is.
This Assessment will give you an idea of potential threats that you may face, how likely they are and what consequences they might have. From this perspective you can start to action in order to minimize the potential impact of the Risks and acquire knowledge, skills and equipment that may allow you to cope with them in a better way. There are always Risks that may not be possible to foresee, but making an Assessment can help you to avoid some of the threats that you may face. Your setting will affect your vulnerability to these Risks; your type of housing, how high your Home is located above sea level, insulation etc. Dependencies on gas or district heating are other examples of factors that can make you vulnerable to certain types of Risks.
After you have made you’re Risk Assessment its time that you ask yourself what kind of capacity that you want to have in order to deal with different kind of emergencies or disasters. Some questions that can be relevant:
• How long do you think that you may have to be able to cope without external assistance?
• What kind of Skills and Knowledge may help you to overcome these events?
• What type of Equipment and Gear can be useful to deal with these threats?
• What kind of solutions is most effective for your specific setting and situation?
• How much of your time and income are you willing to invest in being prepared?
Part 2: The Group
In the second part of the Plan I suggest that you gather information about the members of your household, friends and other people that are important to you. This information can help you to get in contact with them and make you aware of potential medical needs they may have during an emergency or how you should contact if anything would happen to them.
• Home Phone Number and Fax Number
• Home Address and Type of Housing
• Mobile Phone Number
• E-mail Address
• Work Address and Occupation
• Work Phone Number
• Date of Birth
• Special Medical Needs
• Blood Group
• Known allergies
• Physical Description; Length, Weight, Hair, Eyes etc, a photograph can also be useful.
• Skills and Education
• Access to Specific Equipment
• What type of driver licenses does the person have and what vehicles can they operate?
• How should you contact if anything would happen to them? Write down the name of the persons and contact information like Phone Number, E-mail and Address.
Part 3: Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
How will you maintain your every day needs like Water, Food, Cooking, Trash Disposal, Hygiene and Sanitation, Light, Communications, Emergency Power during the types of Risks that you have identified? I suggest that you create Standard Operating Procedures, or in other words standardized solutions for how to deal with different types of needs. Here you can include predures for anything from where and how you can gather and purify water, how you will prepare food without electricity or gather information about an ongoing event.
Examples of SOP:s for a Bug In Plan
• Monitoring an ongoing Crisis
Create a Timeline: What has Happened? When Did You receive This Information? From what Source did you receive This Information? Multiple sources: The Media, Radio, TV, FEMA, Local Crisis Management Agencies etc.
• Communications with Friends and Family
Cell Phone, Social Networks, CB or HAM Radio, Landline etc
• CBRN Management and Preparedness
Closing Ventilation, Closing Doors and Windows. Using towels and or tape to seal cracks around doors or windows.
• Collecting and Purifying Water
Extra Water Containers, Water BOB, Water Purification Filter, Water Purification Tablets, How much bleach to use in order to disinfect water etc
• Emergency Toilets and Hygiene – Routines
Same people using the same toilets, where to put waste, hand sanitation, routines for how often to clean facilities etc.
• Loss of Electrical Power
Eat food that need refrigeration first, Light Sources, How to receive news (Battery powered radio or other alternative solutions) etc
• Fire Safety
Fire Escapes / Fire Drills / Evacuation, Fire Alarms, Where can extinguishers be founds etc
• Staying Warm
Heaters, Warm Clothing, Extra Blankets, Sleeping Bags etc
Part 4: Getting Home
Disasters may strike at any time; most people spend much of their time either at work, school or some other type of daytime activity. If disaster strikes and you are far away from home it can be good to make preparations that may help you to get back home. This Plan should not only be for you but also for other family members. If you have children, elderly or disabled members in the household how where will they be picked up and how can they be transported? I also suggest that you make some meeting points, one primary and one secondary.
Communications is another critical aspect. How would you communicate? Phones or Cell phones is normally the easiest way of communications since most people often carry their Cell Phones with them at all times. Social Networks, E-Mail, CB-Radio or Ham-Radio could be other alternatives forms of communication.
Get Home Bag
A Get Home Bag (GHB) is a tool designed to provide you with the tools you may need to deal with everyday problems, emergencies and situation when you have to make back home during a disaster. A Get Home Bag may be the bag that you carry with you at all times with some additional equipment to cope with an emergency or a specific bag that you keep at your work place on in your vehicle. Having a GHB can be a great resource, but in a worst case scenario you may have to make do with the items that you carry on your person; this is equipment is often referred to as and Every Day Carry (EDC).
Distance from Home
If you and your family members live close to your work place, school or other types of day activities getting everyone back home do not have to be a very complicated process. But if you work a long distance from Home, or possibly work in another area or town during the weeks this may be a more difficult process. How much efforts you must put into this type of preparedness depends on your own situation.
Transportation and The Routes Back Home
Getting back home during an ongoing Crisis Situation can be a very easy matter if you work very close to your home, but there are also people how commute long distances and may find them far away from home if disaster would strike. Your Every Day Life must govern your own plans and efforts. I suggest that you take the following steps when you make your plan for getting back home after an emergency.
• Start with marking potential routes on Maps from your work place back to you Home; using markers with different colors can make the routes easy to view and follow. Online tools like Google Maps can also be used to establish routes.
• Try to have both a Primary means of transportation like Vehicles available and a plan for a secondary means of transport like using public transports, bikes or walking.
• Add information about the Route. Where can you find potential shelters, access to water, gas stations, hospitals, hotels, motels, hostels, hazards, repair shops, do you have any stashes on the way etc.
• Try to identify Potential Choke Points like bridges, tunnels etc and potential ways around them.
• Identify key infrastructure on the routes that can possibly be affected by events. Bridges could possibly be damaged or collapse from an Earthquake and Tunnels or roads be flood by a dam break etc
Part 5: Budget
Having an Emergency is also a vital part of your Bug In Plan. A Disaster can cause direct economical los to your Home and other belongings; it may result in injury, destroy businesses and put people out of work. All these type of events require that you have some forms of emergency funds that can be used to cover expenses like rent, fuel, food, medical bills etc. Having the proper form of medical Insurances, Insurances for your Home that cover Natural Disasters etc may also be critical.
Reducing your Loans and Debt are also actions that give you a more solid financial situation if you have to deal with an emergency. This budget may also be of great use for other situations like a job loss, unexpected expenses or home repairs.
I also suggest that you try to keep a medium amount of cash at hand so that you can pay for your needs if you are dependent on a credit or debit card in case of black out. Make sure that you have a safe place to store your cash, other valuables and important documents to prevent theft or the loss of these from hazards like fire. A safe can be a good alternative if you can afford it, a Bank safety deposit box can be another alternative or complement.
Part 6: Inventory
Having an Inventory of your supplies makes it easy to know what you have available during a Crisis Situation and this can also help you to plan and organize your preparedness efforts. There are many ways of organizing your inventory; one way can be to organize it into different categories like:
[ ] Water and Food
[ ] Cooking
[ ] Warmth – Blankets, Sleeping Bags, Warm Clothing
[ ] Alternative form of Heating source: Wood Stove, Heat-Pal, Kerosene Heater, Candles,
[ ] Medical Supplies and First Aid
[ ] Light
[ ] Equipment to Start a Fire
[ ] Fire Safety
[ ] Cash, Important Documents, Family Photos etc
[ ] Tools
[ ] Equipment for Repairs
[ ] Emergency Sanitation and Hygiene
[ ] Energy – Generator, Extension Cords, Spare Parts and Fuel, Solar Chargers for batteries etc
For more suggestion on what kind of supplies that can be useful to have during an Emergency check out the article: Equipment for Your Home – Checklist.
Part 7: The Transportation and Logistics Plan
A Disaster can temporarily disrupt the access to fuel and other types of transportation so it can be vital to have a Plan for how to deal with your day to day transportation needs and if there would be a need to transport a wounded friend or family member to a hospital.
I suggest that you both have a Primary and Secondary means of transportations in your Bug In Plan, a primary mean can be vehicles or trucks; examples of secondary means can be motor cycles, bikes, walking or public transport. Also make sure that you know what types of public means of transport that is available in your area like subways, trains, buses, airports and make sure that you have phone numbers and contact information to these companies.
• Primary means of Transportation – Cars, Truck etc
• Secondary Means of Transportation – Public Transport, Bikes, Motorcycles, Walking etc
Fuel is one of the things that often becomes scares after a disaster and is used as fuel for vehicles, generators and heating. I suggest that you try to keep at least the equivalent of full tank of gas for your Vehicle Available. Fuel is flammable and must be stored safely; make sure to check your local recommendations and rules for storage. Fuel and Gasoline must also be rotated on a regular basis, since it deteriorates over time, even stabilizers can increase the shelf life of fuel. Diesel generally has a longer shelf life than gasoline and a lower flammability. Having some Spare Parts and Tools for Repairs available can also be a good idea.
Part 8: Appendix
In the appendix of the Plan you can gather important information like
• Map – City Maps, Road Map, Topographical Maps, Sea Charts etc.
• Telephone numbers and addresses to hospitals, your house doctor, Police Department, Fire Departments, CERT, The Red Cross, FEMA, local Non Governmental Organizations (NGO:s), The Red Cross, Insurance Companies, Power Companies, Gas Companies etc.
• Contact Information to Alternative Forms of transportation; Airports, Trains, Boats, Subways etc. Phone Numbers, Websites and Addresses to companies.
• Phone Numbers and Contact Information to friends, people at work, contacts etc. Write down information like phone numbers, e-mail address, birthday, home address and what they do for a living and if they have any specific type of skills.
• Articles, Books and other type of reference materials.
Many people can have special needs like a Wheelchair for getting around, Glasses, Insulin for diabetes, Heart medication or hearing aids. Make sure that your plan Include this specific needs