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I did Red Cross Disaster Services for ten years and saw an awful lot of emergencies and disasters. This was an article I had written previously about preparing for an emergency. Thought some of you might find it helpful if you have been a little overwhelmed wondering where to start your planning.

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It is critical that you think about what "realistically" could happen where you live. I live in the suburbs of a major metro area. We have had tornadoes in this area. We have also had flooding (though fortunately it was reasonably far away from me, but it did impact some of the travel in the area). We recently had a blizzard that dumped 2 feet of snow on us in one day. We have one of the world's largest airports, an extensive train system and a large city.

In addition to my experience with Disaster Services / First Aid & CPR training, I also previously worked for a forensic engineering firm (the guys who investigate disasters), so I am definitely more aware of what "can happen" than the average person.

Realistically, I plan for these general broad categories:

1) Incidents where I am forced to stay home - tornadoes, flooding outside the home, blizzard, hazmat, etc. (sufficient food, water, medication, heat source, ability to cook without power, for example)

2) Incidents where I am forced to leave home with little notice – house fire (biggest risk in my opinion for anyone); wildfire; hazmat situation, etc. I assume I have little or NO time to pack. (sufficient money, identification, medication, car gassed, clothing, toiletries, etc.)

3) Incidents where I am forced to leave home with some notice – Family medical emergency, hurricane, etc. I assume I have leisurely time to pack of a day's notice or so. (general packing)

4) Incidents where I am already away from home when something happens and I can't get back - natural disaster, car breakdown, etc. (being prepared with car supplies for instance, fully charged cell phone - extra cell phone battery, laptop with wireless access, family plan for contacting each other, contact information for neighbors, etc.)

5) Incidents where I can never return home - home completely destroyed (fire, tornado, natural gas explosion, etc.) (identification stored offsite, copies of all insurance policies, contact information, money, computer backup stored offsite, family plan for contacting each other, etc.)

6) Any of the above with a scenario of injuries.

If you think in terms of these broad categories instead of the specific "what is or is not likely to happen" plans, you can realistically plan for most emergencies. I don't think anyone should be paranoid about what could happen, but I do think there are some relatively simple steps that everyone can take that would make ANY disaster a lot easier to cope with.
 

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Very interesting. Thank you for sharing your article.
 

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That's interesting. My February project was to set up a "bug out" bag, and your article reflects what I ended up realizing: that I needed different "bags" for different situations. I ended up with five: a collection of supplies for using if I get stuck in my house; a bag for each vehicle, with the truck being set up with the anticipation that I could take some of my animals with me; a bag for my office, with the anticipation that I would have my work car with me (that also has a bag in it), but no animals; and finally, a grab bag to snag on the way out of the house, if I were at home, but had to evacuate quickly. Where I live, the only real danger is wild land fire, and every summer, there is one close enough to make me sit up and take notice. I've been lucky, in that the closest one still wasn't close enough to merit evacuation, but I want to be ready if I have to go. I also got snowed in, one winter, when a really severe winter storm dumped so much snow on my property, even my 4WD vehicle couldn't handle it. I was literally stuck on my property for several days. Happily, I had enough supplies to get by, but I want to make sure, if it happens again, I don't have to rely on LUCK to be prepared! :)
 

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Good information. I would add one category:

Incidents where infrastructure is damaged or destroyed over a wide area (for example: major earthquake). My house may be damaged or destroyed, but there is nowhere reasonable to go to, and perhaps no way of getting there. Preparation would include resources for "roughing it" self-sufficiently in place for at least 72 hours, more in some places.

Where I live, the threat is "The Big One", a 9.0 on the Cascadia subduction zone. Not only would houses be down and roads impassable, but the ferry docks would be out of action for weeks until divers could be brought in to inspect them. And even if we could get across the water, things would likely be worse over there.
 
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