Emergency Preparedness Part 1 (2021)
Emergency preparedness is something that is not talked about nearly enough; this is just a short article on the topic without going too much into depth. As a martial artist, much of my training is for worst case scenarios. As such, preparedness is something that has always interested me. Experience in this field is therefore an extension of my training as a precautionary measure.
The term ‘prepping’ has many connotations, such as those who are overly paranoid who are preparing for an apocalypse or doomsday-like event, whilst being armed to the teeth. However, emergency preparedness should be something that everyone incorporates into their lives, not just in the event of an emergency, but more so for a level of independence and self sufficiency. You probably already prepare to a certain degree, for instance, keeping a coat in the car in case the weather changes; the contents discussed in this article is therefore to take it further in the event of more severe occurrences. This is therefore something to take seriously, especially if it’s done with an objective approach that is not fuelled by paranoia.
Sweden is a country that encourages its people to prepare for emergencies in the event of cyber attacks, terrorism, climate change or any other occurrences that could cause food shortages. Sweden isn't the only country either; the German government have advised its people to stockpile food, water, medicine as well as cash. Homes in Switzerland have panic rooms also; the whole country has shelters to house its population in the event of a nuclear fallout. Of course, different countries will have different forms of preparedness, for instance many US ‘preppers’ also stock up on firearms and ammunition, which is less common in the UK. The country you live in may have a plan in place for disaster preparedness, such as Japan, however in a time of crisis where the authorities may be overrun, self sufficiency for yourself and your loved ones is key.
SHTF (Sh*t Hits The Fan) is a term that is used by preppers, therefore, the preparedness element is to survive such an occurrence. The examples below can be regarded to be an SHTF scenario (in no particular order):
Cyber attack (zero day exploits)
Failure of electrical grid and critical infrastructure
Personal hardships (job loss, deaths)
OR a combination of the above
These scenarios are not unrealistic or farfetched, so having precautionary measures in place is rational and necessary. It’s important to have conversations about this with your family or those you live with; such conversations should be with regards to preparations of food, water, medical supplies, sanitation, power, communications and general mental and physical preparedness. Given what the world has been through regarding Covid-19, anything could happen and such a conversation is not out of fear, but from a place of care in the event that something else happens. In light of recent events, your family will hopefully be more receptive to discussing this. However, do not be too surprised if you are met with ridicule or dismissal. It is therefore important to consider how you would bring this up; I would always advise acknowledging the benefits in a calm and objective manner. It's important to be able to objectively assess the situation, plan accordingly, take variables into account and adjusting those plans when the conditions change.
The first things to do during an emergency situation is to establish communications with family and safe contacts. If communications are unavailable for any reason, it is so important to have had a conversation with them to discuss and plan for such an event. It'll be a good idea to have supplies in a get home bag, which is essentially a basic survival kit for when you're not at home. A get home bag will equip you with tools to help you get back home and is different to a bug out bag, which is usually a larger version to last for a few days. Your get home bag shouldn't be huge or crazy as this is impractical, however, it should have items such as water, energy bars/MREs, spare clothing, first aid, a multi-tool and some cash. If there is a power outage and you need to pick up supplies on your way home, you may not be able to pay with your card, which is why it's important to keep some cash on you. Remember, the purpose of this bag is solely to get you home or a secure location, in the event of a disaster or worse. Ideally, you will have prepared to the point where you can go straight home in the event of an emergency without having to deal with the crowds of people who may act out of desperation. Depending on the nature of the emergency, people may not yet be desperate on the first day.
Once assembled, whether it be back at home or at a safe location, assess the situation and decide on the next steps. Many people have the thought or fantasy of having to go into the wilderness to bug out, however where possible, it is always more advisable to bug in at home. Going out into the wilderness is far more challenging than it looks in films and is a skillset that needs practicing.
Generally survival is comprised of 3 main components; food, water and secure shelter. You'll probably have all 3 in your home for now, though how long would your food and water last? If you are going to stay home and bug in, then it is absolutely essential that you have supplies to cater for this. If the power goes out, you would have to eat the perishable food first. Having a supply of canned and non perishable foods are good to have at home in addition to supplements and vitamins to compensate for the changes in diet in a post collapse scenario. If you or any of your family members have a medical condition, in the case of an emergency, the last thing you want to do is go to the store or pharmacy, which is why it’s important to have spare medication where possible. Slowly and gradually stocking up on is sensible so that you will not need to deal with the crowds of people who did not prepare. Further to this, having a means of communication will be advisable to be able to stay informed of widescale as well as local ongoings, for instance, if there are break ins happening in your area, you'll want to be in the know. However, if the power goes out, you'll need to consider other forms of communication, such as CB radios and satellite phones.
So in addition to the 3 main components of survival of food, water and secure shelter, it's probably wise to add medicine and communications into the mix.
Having a supply of clean water as you can imagine is paramount. Having bottled water is a good idea but also means to collect water but also practice methods to effectively filter water when the bottled water runs out. There are multiple contaminants in water, which is something you would need to keep in mind also. Many of you will have water filter jugs, which will only filter out things such as suspended solids. It's advisable to look into more methods to filter out elements such as bacteria, viruses, metal ions, herbicides and pesticides. Distillation is an option as well as gravity fed water filters.
In the event of an emergency, a shortage may be imminent, so collecting tap water first could be advisable, (with a way to filter it) before it becomes unavailable, especially as we won't know how long an emergency will last for. Rain water can also be collected, stored and left for 2 days for the minerals to dissipate. Contaminants may still be present, so distillation may be advisable. The recommended amount for allocation is 1 gallon of water per day per person. Of course, it’s not just for drinking, but also washing and cooking. For power, rechargeable batteries, LED lights, a means to create fire as well as solar generators are useful. A radio would also be beneficial in such an event also should the phones and TV be unavailable.
You will more than likely recall the panic buying that ensued where items such as pasta and toilet paper were sold out. Supermarkets even placed limits on how much you could buy. Generally, the best places to avoid are ones that would attract many people, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and perhaps petrol stations. High density areas may also attract unprepared people who are desperate. There may also be limited escape routes, which is something else to consider. In the event that you have to go to the store on the way home, a term that is advised is the ‘Gray Man’. This is where you keep to yourself and don't draw too much attention. Ideally, you want to be mobile, blended in and therefore, less of a target. You will want to avoid creating a visual stimulus, so your clothing and appearance is of the status quo; nothing that stands out. It is also advisable to reduce overall engagement with other people. In short, be like everyone else; being different creates an impression, even making eye contact can do this. Following on from this, it is always important to implement OpSec (Operational Security); the fewer people who know you prepare, the better. If others know you have supplies, you may be the first they reach out to. This is why you should be conscious of what others see and perceive of you and your home. Head down, eyes up.
Keep in mind that survival hate is a real thing; desperation will more than likely bring people to you and perhaps with force. Nobody outside of your close network needs to know what you do. This is why you should practice situational awareness; being aware of who is around, who is listening and who may be following you. Confidentiality is therefore security; keep your preparations to a need-to-know basis. After all, ‘loose lips sink ships’. If however, you do come onto this topic, it's imperative that you don't let others know the full extent of your preparations.
When dealing with those who are not prepared, you may have to make difficult decisions; be aware that if you help one person, you may open yourself up to having to help others where you may deplete your supplies when caring for others. You may end up questioning your own moral compass. Remember that you are only civil because you have a full stomach and have resources.
I would also recommend watching an episode of The Twilight Zone called The Shelter (S3E3, 1961)