Basic Survival Skills Anyone Should Have
Hurricane Sandy has changed the way I think about taking care of my house in case of an emergency.
We decided to stay, and I went through the process of trying to get ready. I bought food, water, and flashlights. I even got one of those hand-cranked radio dealies. (I got made of for that one, but more about that later). We filled up the car with gas and then we waited.
So, we were all set, and Sandy came. It was terrifying. I promised myself if I was ever in the path of another storm, there is no way I would stay.
Although the storm was bad, the time afterward was much harder.
We were very lucky in that there was no serious damage to our home, but neighbors and friends were not as lucky. We had people who lost their homes or had bad damage. One couple ended up with a tree through the middle of their living room. And I know that wasn’t the worst of it.
Sandy happened at the end of October, it was freezing cold outside. There wasn’t any electricity for more than a week. We had two toddlers and the only thing that saved us was our gas heater. We spent the entire week in the attic to stay warm and invited other neighbors without power.
We ended up spending a lot of time at a local church as they had generators where we could charge our phones. It was like camping for a week. I learned a lot of lessons. We did get to spend a lot of time together as a family.
No matter what emergency or natural disaster you find yourself in, there are a few basic survival skills anyone should have. Read through the list, mark off what you have mastered and if needed have supplies for and then work on the rest. Acquiring these few basic skills will come in handy throughout your lifetime.
Finding and Purifying Water
One of your first tasks should you find yourself in an emergency situation is to find a clean source of water. It’s surprising how often this becomes an issue with large storms, power outages and the likes.
If you know a natural disaster is heading your way, store at least one gallon of drinking water per person for a minimum of 3 days. It is also a good idea to invest in a small water purifier and learn how to use it. Be aware of natural sources of water you can tap into around your home, should running water stop working.
Make A Fire
Another great skill to have is being able to build a fire. Fire can provide warmth, light, and you can cook over it. Think back on your scouting days, or watch a YouTube video and start practicing. Making a fire isn’t hard, but it is a skill that should be learned.
From there you can expand and experiment with different ways to generate a flame without a match or lighter, or get good at making even wet wood burn.
Building A Shelter
Hopefully you won’t run into a situation where you have to build shelter because you are out in the woods, or because your home was destroyed. Just in case it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with a few different ways to build a shelter using materials that are common in your area. Start with simple shelters using string and a tarp, and then move into more involved skills that use only materials found in nature like sticks, branches, trees, leaves and the likes.
Learn First Aid
If severe weather hits your area, chances are high that you or a loved one will get hurt by flying debris. Learn the basics of first aid acquire a good first aid kit and learn how to use each item in your kit. This will help you care for yourself and your family until medical help arrives.
Finding and Preparing Food
Having basic food supplies on hand before a storm or other natural disaster hits is always a good idea. Stock up on plenty of ready to eat foods and make sure you have the means to open cans, scoop out food, and if possible, heat and cook things as needed.
Next, you may want to familiarize yourself with the edible foods in your area and where to find them. Chances you’ll need to rely on your foraging skills for survival are slim, but it’s a fun exercise and it will give you and your family something to do while you wait or help to arrive.
Signaling for Help
Speaking of help… make sure you know how to signal for help without your cell phone and have some basic supplies. At the very least you want a flashlight and a mirror. Markers, tape and other things you can use to spell out messages say on the roof of your home can also come in handy.
Acquire and practice these skills and you’ll be well on your way to surviving when disaster strikes. Of course, most of these skills will also come in handy on your next camping trip.
Dealing with Long Power Outages
During Hurricane Sandy, we were out of power for over a week. It’s amazing how much we rely on electricity for everything.
One of the big problems in this day and age during a natural disaster is prolonged power outages. No matter where you live, or what kinds of emergencies you should expect to deal with, it’s a good idea to think about and plan for long periods of times when you have to function without power.
Alternative Sources of Power
If you can prepare for the power outage, start by making sure your phone and all mobile devices are fully charged. Now is also a good time to stock up on batteries, invest in a small battery-operated power bank, and consider buying a generator.
There are even solar-powered cell phone chargers available. These are not quite as powerful as the battery-operated chargers, but they work well in case of an emergency.
Candles and wood burning stoves or fire places are another great alternative power source that will provide light, warmth, and in the case of a fire place or stove a way to warm up and even cook food.
Having several flashlights and spare batteries is always a good idea. You should also keep a small, battery powered radio on hand to keep up with news and weather forecasts throughout the power outage.
If you have a generator make sure you know how to use, have plenty of fuel for the generator and always – ALWAYS – run it outside.
Keeping and Preparing Food Without Electricity
If you are dealing with a power outage of only a few hours, simply keep your fridge closed and you should be fine. If it lasts longer than that, start eating perishable foods in the fridge first. Cook what you can on a grill or camping stove and toss the rest.
Keep your freezer completely closed and if possible insulate it further by throwing large blankets or comforters over the freezer. Start thawing, cooking, and consuming food from the freezer once you’re running out of fresh food options. Open the freezer as little as possible to keep cold air trapped inside and the food fresh for longer.
You can cook and grill outside with your charcoal or gas grill. If you have camping gear, get out the propane stove and cook on it. If neither one of those are an option, cooking over a small fire is always an option. Do all of your cooking outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning or causing an indoor fire.
Staying Warm or Cool Without Power
Keeping warm or cool without power can be a major concern in long power outages. Insulating your home ahead of time can make a big difference. Close shutters and curtains to trap in heat or cool air for as long as possible. Take advantage of sunshine and outside temperatures during the day or night to regulate the temperature inside. Dress appropriately by either snuggling up under several warm layers and a big blanket, or wearing as little as possible. Keeping a breeze going can help during hot weather. In either case make sure you get plenty of fluids (either warm or as cool as you can get it), and aim for plenty of calories in your food if you’re in the cold.
Hurricane Emergency Preparedness Tips
If you live on the coast in an area that is prone to hurricanes it’s important to be prepared and to keep an eye on the weather forecast, particularly during hurricane season. If you’re new to the area, or if a rare hurricane is heading your way, here are some important tips to help you prepare and stay safe.
Know When A Storm Is Approaching
It’s impossible to be prepared if you don’t know what’s coming and when. In this day and age it is easy to stay alert to any severe weather threats including hurricanes. Hurricanes have the added benefit of being one of the very few natural disasters that we can see coming from a long way off. Set up severe weather alerts on your phone, watch the news, or keep up with the National Hurricane Center website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/
Secure Your Property
Hurricanes bring a lot of rain and strong winds with them. Use the time you have before the storm reaches you to secure your property. Bring in things like patio furniture or grills that should be thrown around and possibly into a window by the storms.
Before hurricane season starts, it may also be a good idea to evaluate any trees on your property and have them cut back or cut down if needed. If you’re prone to flooding having a few sandbags around to keep water from entering your home may also be a good idea.
Prepare to Ride It Out
If you plan on riding out the storm at home and have not been asked to evacuate, make sure you are prepared to lose power and be stuck at home for several days. Make sure you have plenty of clean drinking water and food stored. It helps to have food that’s ready to eat if the power goes out and you can’t cook outside because of the weather. In other words, stock up on some canned good and things like crackers, peanut butter and bread. Keep a battery-operated weather radio handy so you can continue to monitor the situation. I also recommend these crank operated radios and flashlights that came in super handy during Sandy. They turned out to be the most used things we had during the storm.
Evacuate If Needed – The Earlier the Better
If you are asked to evacuate, don’t hesitate to pack up and head out. I know I wish I had. Things can be replaced, people can’t. The earlier you leave the better. You don’t want to be stuck in a lot of traffic with a huge storm at your back.
Make sure you know your evacuation routes well ahead of time and have alternate routes planned as well. Head to a shelter if you must. These places quickly get crowded though, so if you have alternative options like staying with a family member or friend, take advantage of them.
Have Emergency Contact Information Handy
Create emergency contact information including numbers for the local police department and emergency services, your insurance company, doctors and of course all family members. Having these numbers with you will come in handy when you have to leave at the spur of the moment. Don’t rely on electronic devices. Power may be out and a good old-fashioned index card with important numbers on it will come in handy.
Tornado Emergency Preparedness Tips
Tornados are some of the hardest natural disasters to prepare for because they often strike fairly unexpectedly and very quickly. Unlike hurricanes and snow storms you don’t see them coming with several days of warning. Because of this it is very important that you are prepared at all times if you live in an area that’s prone to tornadoes.
Makes Sure You Are Prepared Ahead of Time
Things will move fast when a tornado hits. You won’t have a lot of time to plan and prepare. The more you can get done well ahead of time, the better. Start by determining the safest place in your home to get though the storm. Stay away from windows, doors, and outside walls. Basements are ideal, otherwise, stay on the lowest floor possible and put as many walls as possible between you and the outside.
Once you’ve figured out your safe room, prepare a small emergency kit that includes things like a flashlight, weather radio, a whistle and some bottled water and food. A first aid kit is also a good addition. Keep this kit in your safe room.
Now is also a good time to create an emergency contact plan. Make sure you have phone numbers for your children’s schools on hand at all times, and have the kids memorize your mobile phone numbers. Talk about what could happen and what you want them to do should they be at school or a friend’s house when a tornado strikes.
Pay Attention When Weather Conditions Are Favorable for Tornadoes
Pay close attention to the news, emergency services, warning sirens and the likes when weather conditions are favorable for tornadoes. During a tornado watch tornadoes are possible. If a tornado warning is issued, a tornado has been observed either in person or via radar. Take shelter immediately until the danger passes.
If you are outside, you’ll notice a very dark sky with almost greenish undertones. Tornadoes often come along with dark, low clouds and large hail. If you hear a loud noise that sounds like an incoming train or if you see a spinning cloud formation heading your way, take shelter immediately. The same holds true if you hear tornado sirens.
Find A Safe Place to Wait It Out
If you are at home, head to your designated safe spot. If you are in a different building, find the safest spot you can using the same criteria as mentioned above. If you are outside, seek shelter if possible. Avoid bridges and overpasses. If you can’t find a sturdy building to get into, find a low spot and cover your head with your arms and anything else you have like a blanket or jacket.
Snow Storm Emergency Preparedness Tips
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow during the winter months, you know how important it is to prepare for big snow storms ahead of time. You may find yourself stuck at home, or worse in your car for long periods of time during a snow storm. The heavy snow can cause trees or large branches to fall and cut power lines. Here’s what you should do to make sure you’re not caught unaware by a blizzard.
Winterize Your Home and Car
At the beginning of the cold season make sure both your home and your car are ready for winter. Put on winter tires, fill up the antifreeze and stock your car with a shovel, sand, snow tires, a warm blanket and a bit of water and food. Make sure your home is well insulated, your heating is in good working order, and you have an ample supply of heating fuel.
Keeping some emergency water and food rations along with a battery-operated weather radio and plenty of ways to stay warm is also a good idea. If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, stock up on fire wood as well.
Pay Attention to Weather Forecasts
The good thing about winter storms these days is that meteorologists have gotten pretty good at predicting them well in advance. This gives you plenty of time to stock up on some supplies, get home safely and hunker down to wait out the storm. Watch weather forecasts regularly throughout the colder months and set up storm alerts on your phone to give you plenty of time to prepare.
If you know a storm is coming, avoid traveling, particularly on the road. Waiting out a blizzard in your car is not a lot of fun and you may be stuck and trapped for hours if not days. Cancel travel plans and do what you can to get home before conditions get too bad.
If you do have to travel during a storm, make sure you gas tank is full and your car is well stocked with winter emergency supplies. Check on road conditions before you head out and pull over if things get too bad. You should also have a charged phone with you to call for help if you get stuck in a storm drift. A backup power supply or one that runs from the lighter slot is also nice to have.
Stock Up on Food, Water and Heating Fuel
When there’s a lot of snow or an ice storm in the forecast, stock up on food, drinking water, and heating fuel. Have a plan for heating and preparing food if the power goes out. Having plenty of flashlights and candles is also a good idea. Wait out the storm and don’t be tempted to head out to clear off the roof. Should you fall and get hurt, emergency services may have no way of reaching you.