Are you Prepared?
Flight or Fight
In a time of crisis, extreme
emergency or pending disaster
the majority of individuals have an inbuilt ‘survival chip’, this where the
chemical in our body kicks in to inject a dose of adrenalin. The reactive
condition is commonly known as ‘fight or flight’, whether to stay and combat
the situation, or to use a little common sense and retreat or back off to fight
In extreme and sudden examples
this is demonstrated by sheer
individual strength to overcome a life threatening situation, such as a mother
lifting a vehicle off a trapped child, or developing a sudden ‘super power’
speed to overcome an animal attack and so on.
However, in our scenario we
are dealing with a more
longer-term situation, and up to a point the reactive conditioning will be
similar, but coming in waves and troughs over a prolonged period and at a much
This reaction then may also
be related to a situation of a
communal or local disaster. When disaster strikes either, whether of natural or
man-made origin, one has to decide remain in the home location or to evacuate
to somewhere ‘safer’.
This decision will be one,
if not THE, biggest decision you
will ever make, and it comes with many caveats and complexities, The one
standing major issue is that this life changing decision will be your (and your
family’s) choice, and once taken will have be followed through with all its
consequences. This is a decision not to be taken lightly, and depends on many
circumstances and issues of preparedness that we will now go through.
One of the most common questions
I have been asked in the
many years I have been involved in this area are as follows;…’where is the
safest location?’, where is the most dangerous situation in the event of a
global disaster?’, ‘should I stay at home, or should I move to a safe
The first, and major, point
is that I cannot answer any of
those questions with 100 per-cent reliability, but I do always offer a number
of alternatives and preparedness guidelines. The whole point being, it depends
on your general circumstances, your family nucleus and situation and the type
of disaster or event For example, if the event involves a chemical or nuclear
accident then obviously if you have warning you will need to organise an
evacuation, whether temporarily or permanent. However, if you have warning of a
near-future disaster then the ominous decision will have to be made, and with
it whatever that brings.
Many of the issues raised below
will be dealt in more detail
with under the relative sections and chapters in the rest of the on-line book’ In
this chapter I merely offer an overview of the many challenges and points you
must consider prior to deciding whether you should remain where you are or
evacuate to your safe location.
What are the circumstances
present to stay in my location?
This again will be the 64 million
buck question however we
can go through a series of ‘tick boxes’ that may help you decide.
Can I state at the very start,
all this depends on your
personal circumstances and your experience of preparedness I cannot make this
decision for you. If you are contented in your home, have ample facilities and
stores, your family are together and you have discussed the pros and cons, then
the decision to stay will be yours and yours alone.
Let us go through the list
of required procedures and
circumstances that may help you with your decision.
In favour of staying
put in your home or ‘safe house’.
So, you have decided that you
think that you and your family
are able to cope with a disaster while remaining in your home situation. You
now have to bear in mind the following considerations and issues:
There may be two completely
different scenarios here; either
you will be located in a city or suburb area, or your location may be more
rural or even a backwoods type of location. In either case you will have to
‘tick the boxes’ to ensure you have the ability, supplies and the right
circumstances to stay in your location.
There has been a major disaster
or event that propels you
into a survival situation and you have decided that the best plan for you and
your family is to stay put and to prepare for both the short and long term.
What are the circumstances
and options that would have made
you decide to stay in your home location during this disaster?
First – we have to evaluate
the type of disaster event,
whether it is a natural or man-made one. Bear in mind that when the crunch
comes, do not rely on emergency services or the authorities to bail you out or
come screaming to your door like the 7th cavalry to your assistance. The
authorities will be busy elsewhere dealing with all manner of emergency
situations, and it may be many days, even weeks before they get around to
helping people, if at all.
A case in point was the Gloucester
floods in UK
in July 2007, where they experienced the worst floods in history. Many people
were cut off for days and it was some time, up to a week in some circumstances,
before aid and fresh water was organised for the people. Even now, 3 years on
many people are living in temporary housing as their houses have not been
rebuilt due to complications with their home insurance companies.
Katrina was also another major
disaster that opened the eyes
of many to the fact that help would not come in time.
In the case of a localised
chemical leak or nuclear
disaster, then staying put would not be an option one would have to evacuate
the premises. In this case it would be important to have already decided and
predetermined your safe evacuation route and alternate temporary location. Bear
in mind that thousands of other people would be attempting to evacuate the area
also. We will discuss in detail more of this scenario under the heading of ‘so
you have decided to evacuate and head to your safe location’.
you have adequate food and water provision, and have you stocked up on
general provisions, such as tools and building materials for running
repairs caused by disaster damage?
you allowed for medical provisions for your family, such as stocks of
prescribed medications, especially for the very old or very young?
you thought of the physical safety of your home and personal defence
of domestic utilities, such as electrical and gas supplies. These may have
to be turned off and it is essential when turning back on, especially the
gas supply, you obtain professional advice
have you sufficient food, water and housing to keep your pets safe and
You must ensure you will have
adequate food and water for
you and your family for at least 14 days, and have arranged an alternate means
of providing for your family for a further extended period if required. This
can be in the form of a shared supply stock with trusted friends or extended
family, or even in extreme cases, consideration of preparing your own vegetable
With regard to water provisions
on a longer term basis,
check out the location of any clean fresh water supplies, such as wells, lakes
or rivers etc. It may also be a good idea, indeed essential, to invest in a
stand alone water filtering system, such as a Birkey (see notes for further details).
Bear in mind that you will
require water not only for
drinking but for toilet and washing facilities. It is recommended you allow a
minimum of two gallons (10 litres) a day per person.
With regard to toilet facilities,
if you are in an urban
location, not many people will have been prepared for a disaster, and therefore
you may witness the dumping of raw sewage out of apartments and houses onto the
streets. In the case of multi-floor apartments, people may just throw sewage
out of the windows, so be aware of this. This is a nightmare scenario and one
which will bring many health and hygiene problems on top of an already unstable
It is important to realise
you will have to make alternate
methods for the eradication of waste material. If you are lucky to be living in
a rural or ‘backwoods’ situation, there would be a number of options open to
you, such as constructing an ‘out house’ or ‘privvy’ for toilet facilities, or
merely digging a deep hole (away from any water supplies to avoid
contamination) to deposit the waste.
If you are in a more suburban
location, you will have to
arrange to have a few 5 gallon buckets with a supply of lime powder to treat
the waste material.
Methods on water storage, treatment
and waste disposal will
be discussed in a separate chapter.
Prior to, during and post disaster
you will need building
supplies and tools in order to ensure you have made your home safe and for
running repairs. Ensure you have sufficient quantities of screws, nails, timber
sheeting, tarpaulins and duct tape for temporary repairs. In addition, the
right tools for the job must be on hand, such as hammers, drills, screwdrivers
and so on. It is advisable to also have alternate hand tools in case of power
outages over a longer period.
This will be discussed in more
detail, including organising
your own alternate power supply on the chapter dealing with the longer term
survival and your ‘survival retreat’.
Apart from the basic first
aid kits, ensure you have
sufficient stocks of any prescribed medications for your family, especially for
the elderly and very young. When the crunch comes, it will be these supplies
that will dwindle rapidly, and remember, if there is no power, anything
requiring refrigeration for storage will have to be stored via alternate means.
Don’t forget your supplies
of vitamins and minerals, which
will be useful especially if your diet will be changing due to lack of certain
basic dietary requirements
It is also a good idea to arrange
some basic first aid
training, attend a few sessions with the Ref Cross or other similar local
community organisation, the experience you will gain may save your life and/or
members of your family.
It is important to bear in
mind that if the disaster is a
major event, affecting many locations, there will not only be a run on chemists
and drug suppliers, but as the situation worsens, there will be anarchy. This
will be realised in physical assaults on drug stores, armed hold ups and
violence. If you or your family members have an underlying medical condition,
such as diabetes, which requires regular medication, it is essential that you
have adequate supplies of the relative medication.
Physical safety of your home
This issue will be of the utmost
importance when the time
comes, and will apply to both your current home and your ‘safe retreat’
In the preface of this book,
I wrote the following paragraph
relating to a ‘formulaic’ outcome in the event of a major disaster:
Major event > a break down of communications >
confusion > lack of supplies (fresh water, food and basic commodities) >
power utility outages (gas and electric) > civil unrest >civil disorder
> breakdown in law and order > loss of trust in local authority >
crime = utter confusion leading to a survival “fight or flee” situation.
anarchy sets there will be a number of groups or individuals looking out for
‘easy pickings’. These are people who would not have bothered to prepare for
such and event and taking the easy option of preying on others who have
issue is a very sensitive area, and can be quite complex, and possibly at the
outset perhaps the best option to those prepared would be a preventative
option, rather than ‘cure’. By that I mean try to avoid any possible
confrontation. This may not be easy, but it may save lives in the long run
those of you who are experienced in dealing with confrontation and have the
training in the use of arms and weaponry, then further options may be open to
you, but remember, you have your family to think of and protect at the same
time. This important issue we will discuss in a separate section.
counter any possible attack on your home is to ensure that you have completely
battened down and sealed all entry points, and to try and not advertise your
presence at your location too much. So, no loud parties and drinking orgies!
have a pathway, drive or front/back garden that leads to your home, it is a
good idea to make the access as difficult as possible. This can be in the form
of barriers, wires and ‘floor traps (holes dug on the surface and covered over
with thin material that will immediately break when stepping on).
the entry surface with material that makes a noise when stepped upon by
approaching intruders is also a good idea and is especially useful at night.
are confronted, demonstrate that you are much worse off than your ‘aggressors’
and do not make any menacing threats, this may end in tragedy for your family.
if the situation worsens and you have no other option and you feel that you
have the experience in this field, then positive action may be a last resort.
By this I mean the use of weaponry such as firearms, knives, cross and
emphasise at this point, the use of such weaponry should only be utilised when
all other options have run out and that you are comfortable, confident and
experienced in handling such weaponry. There is nothing more dangerous, to both
parties, than a weapon in the hands of the inexperienced
think that you may be involved in such a scenario, it is a good idea to obtain
professional training in the use of small firearms and personal protection from
an accredited source.
we are discussing safety and protection, we arrive at another issue, that of
individual and communal collectives. By this I mean, the situation of safety
may be a more positive one if you have a tight knit and trusted community of
family and friends, bonded together in a small location. There is safety in
numbers, up to a point!
final point before we leave this area, although it will be dealt with in detail
under the Long-term survival section, and that is the safety and security of
your vehicle. Depending on the type of disaster event, there will be many
looking for transport and go to any means and lengths to appropriate such
transport. If it has been a EMP type event and you have an older vehicle, one
that has no computerised electronic components, then yours may be one of the
few on the road and quite a rarity and will stick out like a sore thumb.
your vehicle by hiding it under cover and lock and key, take out the
carburettor and leads if the vehicle is of the older type, and if a newer model
try and disable it – take off a wheel or two, people looking for transport will
be looking for easy pickings, anything that requires too much work to get the
vehicle roadworthy, they will pass on to the next one.
- Safety of domestic utilities – electric
and gas supplies:
normal practice, and indeed central to safety, that in the event of a major
disaster you switch off your domestic utilities, unless of course the actual
event has already cut your supplies.
the disaster is finally passed, you will need to check all wiring and gas
plumbing in the home. The last thing you need is a loose wire sparking in or
around a wet area or near a gas leak, a recipe for a major secondary disaster!
the gas supplies, in normal circumstances, it is essential to obtain the
professional services of a gas engineer who will check the plumbing prior to
switching back on the supply. However, in major disaster events, this may not
be possible and in any event, gas supplies may have been already cut off at the
point of origin. Bear in mind that gas escaping is tantamount to a major
secondary event with serious and tragic consequences.
are in your safe location, no doubt you will have arranged alternate means of
power, heating and lighting.
- Domestic pets
an issue that many people often neglect to think about. Pets are members of
your family and bring much joy to the individuals in that family, and as such
they should be treated with respect, care and attention when a disaster
that you have adequately stocked up on food, water and housing in order to
maintain a healthy lifestyle for your pets. Do not forget to obtain a supply of
veterinary medications if needed. If your circumstances dictate that you cannot
cope with looking after your pets, such as illness or you are too frail or
elderly, then consider giving your pets to other members of the extended
family, friends or even, if possible to an animal shelter.
well being and safety of your pets is of the utmost and they should not be
‘forgotten’ or abandoned in their time of need also.
The time for evacuation to your
retreat or ‘safe location’:
have weighed up the odds and you have decided to evacuate to your safe retreat,
this is yet another major and life changing decision.
there are a considerable number of issues and arguments for this scenario, and
below we will go through these issues to help you decide what is right for you,
but again, I stress it depends wholly on your circumstances and the ultimate
decision is yours alone.
for ‘Them Thar Hills’, or ‘Get Out Of Dodge’ (G.O.D)
like the 1934 movie ‘Them Thar Hills’ with Laurel and Hardy who decide to move
to a trailer in the hills, you are thinking on the same lines, get out of Dodge
while you can.
the above issues and ‘challenges’ mentioned in the previous section of staying
in your permanent home during a disaster are just as important and relevant to
your ‘safe retreat’. Whether you make your retreat a temporary or permanent one
depends on the length of the disaster and your circumstances.
assuming in this example you have found a place of haven prior to any disaster
event, such as a regularly visited camp site or family weekend/holiday cabin.
The situation in emergencies where you have to evacuate and have not prepared a
safe location beforehand is dealt with in detail in the longer-tern survival
section of this book.
matter then what your circumstances are, the vital and important point being
that you should select a site that you know well, have visited often, know the
terrain and how to get there via different routes and by various means of
the crunch comes and a disaster is imminent, bear in mind that thousands of
other people will be wanting to evacuate at the same time. Roads will be extremely
busy, if not blocked completely by traffic, there even may be police controlled
barriers and diversions. In addition, depending upon the type of disaster,
there may be serious hazards on the exit routes, such as floods and fallen
trees or debris This scenario was witnessed with Hurricane Katrina, resulting
in chaos and panic.
know your evacuation route/s well in advance, and plan alternate routes and
meeting points to your destination. This can be practiced by organising weekend
camping trips with friends and families, making it a productive and
experiential event. In carrying out this preparation, when the time comes, you
and your family will be able to quickly and efficiently and with the minimum of
panic/stress go into ‘evac mode’ with safety and confidence.
scenario I am covering two types of commonly used transport; Vehicular (car,
truck motor bike etc) and human powered, such as bicycle or on foot.
of vehicles for evacuation;
the majority of people will be using their vehicles to evacuate to their safe
location, it can all depend on what the disaster event consists of. If it is a
sudden event with limited warning involving mass major flooding for example,
the use of vehicle ‘retreat’ may be impossible. I will be assuming here that
you will have had adequate warning and are ready to evacuate prior to any major
physical events (flooding etc) and mass evacuation.