Many people spend quite a bit of time preparing to survive SHTF scenarios, but unfortunately, most probably allocate too much attention to unlikely eventualities, rather than those which are more likely to occur. It is true that things like a military invasion, sabotaged electrical grid or currency collapse will cause serious, long-term problems; however, these types of issues are not as likely to confront your family as natural disasters are.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires and floods occur every single year, and they often leave thousands of people stranded and suffering in their wake. Accordingly, wise survivalists should take care to prepare themselves for these types of challenges.
While these types of emergencies take several different forms, and every situation will present different challenges, there are a few things that will help prepare you for just about any natural disaster that comes your way.
1. Research the Likely Natural Disasters for Your Area
Fortunately, few geographic areas are at risk of every major type of natural disaster. Earthquakes, for example, are quite rare along the east coast, while hurricanes aren’t a problem for those living in the Great Plains. This means that you probably don’t have to prepare for every type of natural disaster possible – you only need to plan for those likely to occur in your area.
For example, those living along the west coast should primarily prepare for earthquakes and wildfires, while those living in the southeast should plan for hurricanes and tornadoes. Floods can occur in just about any region of the country, but they’re obviously most threatening to those who live in river valleys and floodplains. Tsunamis, on the other hand, are only a real concern for those living in coastal regions.
It will only take you a few minutes to research the historical trends of your area, so be sure to do your homework before you are faced with a natural disaster.
2. Prepare a Mobile Supply Box
If you are a regular Survival Dispatch reader, you’ve likely already put together a bug out bag with the help of our step-by-step guide. But, those who’ve yet to make a bug out bag will need to assemble a supply box that contains the equipment and supplies necessary to survive and remain reasonably comfortable during a natural disaster.
Your mobile supply box should contain basic things like food, water and any essential medications you require, but you’ll also want to make sure it includes things like a change of clothes for all members of your family and a simple tool kit for making repairs.
It is also wise to store any necessary paperwork (such as the deed to your house and insurance policies) in a place that is easy to locate on your way out of Dodge. Additionally, you should always make sure that you have some cash on hand, as emergencies and natural disasters may shut down banking services for some time. Be sure that you have some small denominations, so you don’t end up spending $100 on a loaf of bread because the vendor can’t make change.
3. Stock Your Home with Important Supplies
In some cases, a natural disaster may trap you in your home for an extended period of time. So, it is important to ensure you have enough food, water and other essential supplies to keep your family healthy and safe until the conditions improve.
The CDC recommends having at least three days’ worth of water and food on hand, but there’s nothing wrong with exceeding this recommendation. Floods, for example, often trap people in their homes (or cut off supply routes) for a week or more, and you’ll be glad you planned for more than three days if you find yourself in such a situation.
Be aware that you’ll likely lose power during many natural disasters, so you’ll either want to obtain a gas-powered generator (and keep fuel on hand) to keep the lights on and refrigerator cold. It is also wise to stock up on batteries and candles, which may help you conserve fuel and keep your generator running.
4. Familiarize Yourself with Your Home’s Utility Cutoff Locations
You may need to cut off the water, gas or electricity to your home in an emergency situation, so be sure to locate the appropriate shut-off points. For example, if your home suffers from serious structural damage, live wires may be exposed, or pipes may burst, thereby necessitating immediate action.
Be sure that you can find these access points in the dark, and that you know the proper method for turning them off. If you are unclear about the proper method for interrupting your utilities, contact your provider and solicit their advice.
5. Establish a Safe Refuge
You’ll always want to identify a place to which your family can flee in the case of a natural disaster. Ideally, this should be a friend or relative’s home, but you could also identify a campsite or hotel if need be. Make sure that all of the members of your family are familiar with the location and know how to get themselves to the refuge if need be.
Because many natural disasters occur over a wide geographic area, you’ll want to select a place distant enough that it is unlikely to suffer from the same disaster that befalls your home. For example, if you live in a flood-prone region, you should identify a refuge at a higher elevation. Or, if you are in a region that experiences regular wildfires, identify a refuge located on the other side of some natural feature (such as a canyon, river or mountain range) that is unlikely to lie in the fire’s path.
6. Plan to Be Separated from Your Family
Some natural disasters occur suddenly, which can deprive you of the chance to assemble your family before hunkering down or leaving the area. Earthquakes, for example, typically strike out-of-the-blue. Accordingly, you’ll want to ensure that all of the members of your family understand what they should do in the case of an emergency.
This isn’t terribly difficult to do for spouses and other adult members of your family. Develop a plan for the various scenarios you may encounter and be sure that they are prepared to reach the designated location. For example, you may plan to meet at the house in case of a hurricane, or travel to Uncle Joe’s property in the event of a fire. Be sure that everyone is clear on the responsibilities they will have too, such as picking the kids up from school or grabbing your mobile supply box.
Younger children and family members present a bigger challenge, as they’ll rarely be able to travel well on their own. This means that you will have to make several plans to account for various contingencies. For example, you may want to plan for a relative to pick your children up from school in the event that you cannot, or you may want to teach older children the most direct route by which they could walk home.
Keep in mind that you’ll often be unable to communicate in the case of a natural disaster, as your phone and internet connection may not work. This further illustrates the importance of planning ahead and preparing your loved ones to act appropriately in the case of a disaster.
7. Plan for Your Pets
Most pet-lovers consider their four-footed-friends to be family members, so it is important that you plan for their needs, as well as the two-legged members of your family. This means storing enough food and water to keep them healthy while riding out the situation, as well as thinking through the various ways they’ll impact your decisions and plan.
If, for example, you must flee a flood-ravaged area and stay in a hotel for a week or two, you’ll need to find one that accepts pets. You’ll also have to develop a plan for obtaining veterinary care, should the need arise. It is also a good idea to fit your pets with GPS tracking units, in case they escape during the initial chaos of the disaster.
8. Make Sure Your Car Is in Good Working Order
Many natural disasters will force you to flee your home, so it is imperative that you keep your vehicle in good working order. You don’t want to find that your starter motor needs replacing when you are trying to outrun a rapidly approaching wildfire.
Major problems can be avoided through regular inspection and maintenance, but small problems, such as dead batteries and flat tires, can be mitigated with a few simple tools and supplies. Be sure that you have jumper cables and a battery charger in your trunk or garage, and a small air compressor is helpful for inflating flat tires. A can or two of Fix-a-Flat is also a good idea, and you should always be sure that your spare tire is ready to go.
Also, because fuel is often in short supply during natural disasters, it is wise to keep your tank at least half-full at all times. However, if you note that a hurricane or winter storm is approaching, you’ll want to go ahead and top off your tank, so that you’ll be able to get where you need to go without worrying about lines at the local gas station.
As with any other emergency or SHTF situation, natural disasters can present a variety of difficult and unforeseen challenges, so it is always important to mentally prepare yourself for the situation. But, by assembling the supplies and equipment you’ll likely need and developing a plan of attack beforehand, you’ll greatly increase your chances of survival.
We’d love to hear your natural disaster stories. What type of disaster did you and your family face? What types of unexpected challenges occurred? What, if anything, would you have done differently if faced with the same situation? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.