Disaster Preparedness

Wherein many things related to safety and well-being during “an interesting time” are discussed. The key is to consider all this stuff ahead of time, and then make your planning part of your life.

The most important thing is to not wait until the roof is falling in (or your power is out for three days), but rather think through your applicable scenarios and hazards and decide how you will react ahead of time. I can’t emphasize this enough: think about disasters ahead of time! That is why it’s called disaster preparedness, not disaster panic. 🙂

(This is under construction. check back to see the progress!)

My approach: Hazards and Scenarios

Instead of the usual “buy this earthquake kit and 10 gallons of water” or “you need a years supply of everything to survive”, I’ll be structuring this around three scenarios for you to consider against the usual hazards of your area. Unsurprisingly, your answers will drive your approach and your solution sets directly, and will also help you prioritize your preparedness tasks.

Disclaimer: I’m just this guy. I don’t have formal training or certificates, but I do have a lot of experience living through “interesting times”: floods of 82 & 83, 89 Loma Prieta 7.1 earthquake, various fierce storms, a few area fires, and a tsunami or two.
Also, I’m a Software Engineer, an electronics hobbyist, and have rebuilt and maintained three houses.
So… My advice is based on 50 yr’s of experience, but it’s also worth exactly what you’re paying for it; thusly my liability ends there too.

I’ll also offer advice on things like generators, electronics and battery devices, and some specifics on different types of preparedness.

NOTE: I won’t be covering end of days type survivalist scenarios, like weapons stockpiling, hunting for food, building a fallout shelter, etc. My assumption is society is still functional, it just took a hit. If you want to play survivalist or prepare for the mythical zombie apocalypse, there are other resources out there for you.

List Your Hazards

List your main hazards. These are typically the big weather events, but may include societal issues, like planned power outages or a gang war in your front yard.

For example, I live in northern coastal California. My main hazards are earthquakes, fire & the resultant poor air quality, extended power outages (a new one!) and tsunamis. Flooding, hurricanes, tornadoes, and lightning strikes are atypical hazards here, so not a part of my key planning.

Consider your Hazards against these Key Scenarios

  1. You have 5 minutes to flee your home. What will you take?
  2. You have 30 minutes to evacuate your home. What will you take?
  3. A big event occurred (earthquake, big wind, electricity out, etc.) What have you done to be safe and comfortable sheltering at your home?

Key Scenario 1: Flee!

This is the first one to consider, and choices here will be used as a fallback for the other scenarios too.

So what would cause this scenario? Examples are a mudslide barreling down the mountain, a fire coming straight at your house, a tsunami or a flood, etc.

In my area, the most likely reason to flee my home would be a fire. (A quake might knock it down, but not force me to flee, as I live in a 1 story ranch house.)

Next, what are the absolute most crucial things to flee with? To help winnow it down, consider it must all fit in pockets and a small shoulder bag, leaving your hands free. (You’ll need your hands to carry your pets, help others, etc.)

My flee items would be our pets, my wallet (cash and credit cards), keys, passport, a small powerful rechargeable flashlight & charger, cell phone and charger, our very small notebook computers, a dust mask, and bottle of water. (I currently don’t have any required meds, but those would be crucial too.) And if you’re a parent, you’ll need to plan for your children too.

Since I always leave my wallet and keys in shorts or trousers at night, if something happens I just grab those. The rest of this stuff lives in a bag with a shoulder strap; I can wear it and have my hands free.

If we’re jumping in the car to flee (again, the most likely flee scenario for us), then add items, like the firesafe, and pet care items (food, litter box), and season appropriate clothing. Extra water, your first aid kit, and some blankets and sleeping bags are a good idea too.

A lesson learned from the California Paradise fire disaster is *NOT* assume you can/will stay in your car. Those folks got stuck in a traffic jam and had to run for their lives. Unfortunately, they had assumed they had their whole car to use as a suitcase and their single flee bag wasn’t readily available. (!)

Key Scenario 2: Evacuate

The Evacuate scenario builds on the prior Flee scenario, but now you have time to get your precious items too. This might include photos and jewelry, more clothing, favorite toys for pets and children, and anything else precious i.e. hard to replace.

Don’t confuse expensive/valuable with precious, your insurance will buy you a new 96 inch flat panel TV, it can’t buy photos of your family. (Although consider scanning them in and putting them in a safe place too.)

In this scenario, we might also choose to drive both cars away. That means my evacuate list would be prioritized for a one car and a second pass for a two car getaway.

Example: My wife’s business is on computers, a file-server and some drives. If we brought those, her business could resume almost immediately from another location. (And yes, I have a plan for that too, including a NAT router and some cabling ready to go.)

A brief pause…

So, are you getting the idea? It’s all about the scenarios and hazards, and then having a pre-thought out, prioritized set of lists and some ready to go items.

Sounds simple, no? No. 🙂 Deciding what to grab and what to leave can be very difficult, and then maintaining your list and go bags requires diligence and time.
I set an appointments in my calendar to remind me to check readiness.


Note to self: Discuss power scenarios and sizing: UPS’s, power stations, Generators (fuel types), etc.

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