The New Survivalist
Disaster Preparedness and Self-Reliance

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Chapter 1:
Disaster Management Preparedness Introduction

A Lesson from Katrina

On August 29, 2005, the Gulf Coast states were struck by the worst hurricane in U.S. history. Hurricane Katrina, a category 5 storm, devastated Southern Mississippi and Louisiana leaving over 1,800 people dead. Another 1,800 were reported missing. Storm surges breached the levees of New Orleans resulting in massive flooding. Thousands of people were driven from their homes and many were stranded by rising waters. The impact of the disaster was enormous in both human and economic terms. The Bush Administration initially asked Congress for $105 billion for reparations, but the full economic impact of the disaster would eventually prove to be even greater, due to its effects on the region's industries and to massive environmental damage.

To the residents who were caught in the aftermath of the storm, Katrina was a lesson in the inadequacy of local, state and federal governments, who failed to respond in a timely manner during their time of desperate need. While thousands of residents were stranded without food or water, overwhelmed law enforcement officials were forced to turn their attention from rescue efforts to mob control. Looting was widespread throughout New Orleans and gunfire was reported in many parts of the city. Eye witnesses reported incidents of murder, rape and robbery occurring in the streets, even during daylight hours. There were also reports of abuse and looting on the part of some law enforcement officials.

Hurricane victims in Mississippi did not experience crime and violence to the extent of that felt in New Orleans, but they did experience the same frustrations as far as rescue and relief efforts were concerned. In the weeks and months that followed the disaster, government officials and agencies would be harshly criticized for the inadequacies that came to light during this emergency.

"Trust Yourself, Not the Government" —Ron Paul Farewell address to Congress, Nov. 14, 2012 (Read)

For those of us interested in disaster preparedness, a lot can be learned from Katrina. Perhaps the most important lesson is:

Don't rely on the government! Each individual must take responsibility for his or her own emergency preparedness!

For days after Katrina, people were stranded on their rooftops with no food or drinking water, as toxic flood waters surrounded and engulfed their homes. How much better off would those individuals have been if they had made a few simple preparations in advance? What if, as they had been forced to leave their homes, they had grabbed their "bug out" bags stashed with food, water and other emergency supplies, such as signaling devices or flashlights? How many lives would have been saved if each individual had simply made adequate provisions for emergency drinking water?

As devastating as the storm was, Katrina was a disaster that affected only one area of the nation. Over 95% of the country was not directly touched by the storm, and many people would eventually be able to lend a helping hand to its victims. But what would we do in the event of a nationwide disaster? In such a catastrophe we might not be able to rely on help from our friends in neighboring states, for they might be as bad off as we are. Instead of taking days to respond, we might not see emergency relief for weeks or even months! In such an emergency there could be a complete breakdown in law enforcement and governmental infrastructure.

The reader may think that such a nationwide emergency is unlikely in a modern society such as ours. But as you will see in the chapters that follow, not only is it possible, but some experts believe that such a disaster could be imminent, perhaps even within the next decade. Furthermore, in the current economic environment in which nations are dependent upon trade with other nations, a far-reaching disaster will probably not be limited by national borders. A national emergency could easily become a global one!

After a disaster the local police are usually overwhelmed, so the National Guard is often dispatched to help. But during a national emergency even the National Guard may be overwhelmed. (All photographs are by the author unless otherwise acknowledged.)

Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management

The premise of this web site is that every able individual should take responsibility for his or her disaster preparedness, rather than rely on others, such as the local, state or federal government, to do it for them. No one will ever have more interest in your welfare than you. If you are prepared when a disaster strikes, you will not only be better able to help yourself, you will also be able to lend a helping hand to others, and the authorities will be better able to concentrate their efforts where it is needed most, on search and rescue efforts for example.

The steps you will take to meet your preparedness goals will depend on the types of emergencies or disasters that you think are possible for your area. You might perceive an earthquake to be one of your greatest threats, while my fears might include a dirty nuclear bomb set off by terrorists. Although much of our preparedness efforts will be same—we will both need to stash food and water for example—I might also want to build a fallout shelter in my basement and stow away a Geiger counter. You will probably perceive these as unnecessary steps, preferring instead to earthquake-proof your home.

In addition to the types of emergency items that we will choose to store, the quantity that we will want to stash will depend on how long we think our emergencies could last. It will therefore be beneficial at this time to explore the various kinds of emergencies or disasters that we might see as threats to our survival.

Types of Disasters

We can divide disasters into two broad categories:

  1. Disasters resulting from human activities, and
  2. Natural disasters

We can further divide these into the following:

  • Local Disasters
  • Regional Disasters
  • National Disasters
  • Global Disasters

Disasters Resulting from Human Activities

These can include:
  1. Acts of terrorism
  2. Acts of war
  3. Civil disturbances, riots and mobs
  4. Accidents involving toxic or otherwise dangerous substances
  5. Water pollution
  6. Misallocation or shortages of essential resources
  7. Failure of government to provide needed services due to political unrest or coup d'etat
  8. Governmental action taken against you or your group
  9. Economic collapse or severe economic blows such as a great depression or hyperinflation
  10. Environmental disasters caused by human actions such as Genetically Modified Organisms or foods (GMO's.)
  11. Other human-caused disasters not listed above. (Can you think of any?)

Natural Disasters

  1. Epidemics
  2. Hurricanes, tornados and other storms
  3. Earthquakes
  4. Floods
  5. Droughts
  6. Crop failures
  7. Volcanoes
  8. Forest fires
  9. Asteroids
  10. Unexpected climate changes
  11. Other natural disasters not listed above. (Can you think of any?)

Of course combinations from the above lists can occur. For example, after Hurricane Katrina (a natural disaster), there were incidents of civil disturbance and looting (human activities) as well as accidents involving toxic substances, water pollution and even misallocation of resources and failure of governments to provid needed services.

Action Step 1: Your Action Planner

Before proceeding further, I suggest that you acquire a notebook and begin taking notes. You will be using this notebook for the remainder of this web site and it will be an essential part of organizing and completing your preparedness plans. We will call this notebook your Action Planner.

On the first page of your Action Planner write "Disasters or Emergencies that Concern Me:"

Under the heading, make a list of both the human-caused and natural disasters that you would like to be prepared for, leaving two or three blank lines below each one for the next exercise. You can use the lists above to help you, but don't hesitate to add others that are not included on my lists. Write down all of the disasters or emergencies that you perceive as possible threats to your survival. This will help you at a later stage, when you will be compiling your preparedness checklists.

Magnitude of Disasters

Whether a result of human activities or natural, disasters can be further divided into the following categories depending on the scope or area affected:

Local Disasters are limited to your property and/or local community. Examples would include tornados, which could level or otherwise severely damage your home and/or the homes of your neighbors. Another example would be the derailment of a freight train resulting in the release of toxic gases from a tanker car into your neighborhood and surrounding area. Other examples would include floods and forest fires.

Regional Disasters effect a larger area but are limited to one region of the country. Hurricane Katrina was an example of a regional disaster. Other examples would include earthquakes, droughts and crop failures.

National Disasters as the name implies would affect the entire nation. A war would be an example. Other examples would include an economic depression, severe stock market crash or collapse of the currency.

Global Disasters affect the entire planet. In today's global economy it would be easy for a national disaster to quickly escalate to a global one. An economic depression in the US, for example, would affect our trading partners as well. With the US dollar acting as the major reserve currency for most of the world, a collapse of the currency would be disastrous for nearly every nation, including those as far off as China and Japan. In fact, never before in history has the potential for a human-caused disaster of global proportions been more possible. In our highly-mobile society it is also very possible for a natural disaster, such as an epidemic, to quickly spread around the globe becoming a pandemic. Furthermore, according to many scientists, human activities, such as pollution, radioactive contamination, chemtrails, and genetically-modified organisms (GMO) to name just a few, are threatening the delicate ecological balance that has existed on the Earth for millions of years.

As we have seen, the amount of provisions that you will want to store will depend on how long you anticipate an emergency could last, which in turn will depend on the magnitude or scope of the disasters that you consider possible for your area. If a hurricane hits your community, a one-week supply of food and water will probably be sufficient, for certainly help will arrive within a week. But a collapse of the currency, resulting in a global disaster, might require that you store enough supplies to last for months.

Action Step 2: Scope and Duration

A. In your Action Planner, under the heading "Disasters or Emergencies that Concern Me:" you should have a list, which you made in Action Step 1, of both the human-caused and natural disasters that you would like to be prepared for with a few lines of space between each one. Now consider each item on your list and write in the space below it what you would anticipate the magnitude or scope of the emergency would be, whether local, regional, national or global. If you find the item in a gray area between two categories, move up to the category involving the larger scope. For example, if you have "earthquake" on your list and are not sure whether it will be a local disaster or a regional one, go ahead and put it down as a regional disaster. If you are prepared for a major earthquake which might knock out local services, such as water and electricity, for one month, then you should find a smaller earthquake that would result in a loss of services for two or three days to be easy to handle. But if you are only prepared for two or three days, then you are going to be very uncomfortable if your services are not restored until a full month after the event! It is far better to be over-prepared than under. In fact, you could probably never be over-prepared for any emergency.

B. In your Action Planner, for each item that you wrote in step A, write down what you would anticipate the most likely duration would be for that disaster or emergency. Keep in mind that the duration will depend on the scope or magnitude of the emergency. A local disaster, such as a tornado, might result in the loss of services for a few days. A regional disaster, such as an earthquake (or a hurricane like Katrina) might result in the loss of services for a few weeks or even a month or two. A national or global disaster might result in a loss of services for many months.

You now have a list of the disasters or emergencies that you perceive to be your greatest threats, and an idea of the magnitude and duration that those disasters are likely to involve. You will use this information to help you decide on how long a siege you will want to be prepared for and how many provisions you will want to store. Congratulations! You have accomplished an important first step toward your preparedness goals. You are already far ahead of the crowd! You are now ready to continue to the next chapter, where we will explore the importance of having a plan, and help you accomplish the next important step toward your preparedness goals.

Continue to Chapter 2: The Basics

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Continue to Chapter 2: The Basics

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