Sunday, March 13, 2011

Disaster Ponderings

Life is tenuous... society and civilization too. The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear problem in Japan this past week remind me, once again, of the fragile nature of our existence on this planet. The natural history of the earth is one of long periods of relative calm interrupted by short bursts of chaos and upheaval which are dramatic... often life-threatening if not life-extinguishing. Natural disasters are a normal part of the life-cycle of the planet: earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, meteor or asteroid impacts, solar flares, and more. To these we should probably add man-made disasters to the mix as well.  And the only thing we can do about it all, in our built-in drive to survive, is to take reasonable measures to NOT become victims in the event things come un-glued and life as we know it falls apart for some period of time.

Waiting for water. Sendai, Japan
 Being lulled into a sense of complacency and dependency during the calm periods is a sure way to insure you'll be a victim if, and when, law and order collapses during times of chaos. What happens during these times of stress?... Just start with store shelves that are cleaned bare either by legal buyers and hoarders, or by illegal looters... in either case, food and supplies evaporate quickly. Electricity... the power grid... goes dark and simple things like gassing up the car, charging your cell phone, getting clean potable water, or switching on lights at night become impossible. Public safety becomes dubious as the police and fire protection capabilities that are sufficient during peaceful orderly times are quickly overwhelmed during disasters.

So what's a person to do? I'm certainly not an expert on this subject, but it seems that a common-sense approach to solutions could be a good starting point. Here's a short list of what I came up with while pondering the subject:

1) Attitude: Be flexible and have a pro-active and self-reliant mindset. Be ready to do something rather than waiting around for someone to help. Often, during disasters, people are their own worst enemy... frozen in inaction, unable to know what to do or make a decision to do it, and thinking help will be coming soon. Assume help won't be coming.

2) Transportation: Keep the fuel tank of your car, truck, or RV as full as possible. Consider the top half of your tank the fuel you use on a day to day basis, and the bottom half of the tank your emergency supply. With fuel you have a chance to escape the problem in your personal vehicle.

3) Warmth & Shelter: Extra clothing, tarps, tents, para-cord, rain gear, etc. may be critical depending on the situation. Have it available, know how it works, and know where it is. For warmth and cooking, have a means to start a fire and to make the wood to keep it going.

4) Fresh Potable Water:  Have water purification tablets, bleach, water filtration systems, etc. available and know how to use them. Clean water is the most critical item a body needs every day and is always in short supply or non-existent during disasters.

5) Food: Have enough high-calorie and energy-dense food available for the survival period so you don't have to put yourself at risk trying to procure food you, and everybody else, needs. It should be canned so it has a long shelf life and doesn't require refrigeration. Besides keeping your energy and strength level up, it'll keep you away from crowds of desperate people at the store.

6) Bug-Out-Bag:  Consider having a B.O.B. that contains key elements from the list above and some other tools, etc., that may come in handy. These could also include a basic first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries, GPS, Leatherman tool, Swiss Army knife, compact saw, hatchet, handgun, radio, two-way radios, cell phone, a supply of cash... You get the idea.

I'm sure this isn't a complete list and uber-survivalists would have a lot to criticize or add. But it's a start. The key to this thinking is to take responsibility for yourself and to NOT leave your survival up to someone else. Like a good first aid kit, you hope you never need to use it. But if you do it's really important to have.

It could make you a survivor.