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Being Prepared

Often you will hear that you need to be prepared for when bad things happen. This is common sense, but then again you need to consider what Ben Franklin said about common sense being common.

Often people will get things together in order to be prepared, but will not update it. It is a good idea to keep emergency food and water in your vehicle, but this needs to cycled since it will go bad, especially during the summer. You also need to consider what you will need in different situations, as well as for different time frames. What do you need if you can't make it home at night? What if it is several days? What is there is no power? Those who go camping have an advantage since they have stoves, lanterns and other equipment to deal with the normal home appliances not being available. This includes tents and sleeping bags.

Quite often things are not thought of, depending on who is telling you to be prepared, they will focus on the things that they have considered, ignoring many other things. Even in warm climates, you need to have warm clothes in your vehicle and protection against the elements. When you travel you need to be prepared to spend the night in your vehicle, due to breakdowns, weather conditions, roads being blocked, etc. Having some trash bags in your vehicle is a good idea, especially clear bags which can be used for collecting water in a survival situation (you can put the bag around a tree limb, with a rock in the bottom corner to collect the water). Trash bags can be used to keep warm, as a vapor barrier, can be used as protection against rain, can be used to put on the ground to work on your vehicle, as well used to put trash in. How often do you see people suggesting maps as an item that you should have? It is critical when having to leave an area or get to an area. I heard that in the recent hurricane Rita that while the main highways were packed, many of the side roads were not and were easy to travel. If you had the knowledge and the map, you could bypass crowded areas. Another example is that typically there are roads going along the powerlines. When a road is closed, few even consider such an option. When people need to leave their homes due to an evacuation, typically they are only familar with the normal roads that they take, yet there are typically many other routes that can be taken. One reason to know these other routes is that when one road is closed, the other common roads tend to backup quickly. While another route might be a bit further, it could be a lot quicker and use less fuel since you will not be parked on the road. How many ways out of your town do you know of? How many other ways do you think that there are? This is especially important if you live in an area in which there are terrain aspects which limit the travel routes, such as rivers, mountains, swamps, forests, etc.

Perhaps they don't want to say this, but part of being prepared is to be in the best shape that you can be, within reason, of course. If there is a major problem, you might not be able drive, so it would be good if you can walk a long distance. Knowing which shoes are best for walking is part of that too. Being in good shape prepares you for whatever may happen and is good for you too.

One thing that is typically forgotten is something that is critical to being prepared is knowledge. Having items are a good idea, but if you don't have the knowledge in how to deal with situations then you will be lost. Survival skills are such an example. There are books and classes available to educate yourself on these topics. Often people think that such skills are not needed, even groups like the Sierra Club's WTC which have expressed an arrogant attitude in that respect, including stating that they teach the skills so you won't need survival skills. Numerous people have laughed at those statements. You never know what is going to happen and when. I once asked a person in the Sierra Club about survival skills, an interest I have, with respect to backpacking. The response back was quite humorous, especially when I found out what was happening at the same time frame I asked. The response was that you don't need survival skills when backpacking because you always have your backpack. At the same time a friend was out on a backpack, left with the leader to go to a peak and the leader left him behind, lost in the wilderness. He was fortunate that he happened to have matches in a pocket, but typically people don't bring items with them. Some other friends said that they were backpacking and stopped for a break, but one of their packs slid down the canyon. Later they recovered it, but it took more than a day to get it and they had to deal with not having it.

There is one area in which I think that it is intentional that they don't talk about it, which is personal security. It is typically said that in a major problem you could be on your own for 3 days or more. This means that if you have a fire, you might have to deal with it, especially if the phones are not working. It also means that you may not be able to call the police or even if you can, they might not be able to come. It is also the case that the police have no duty or obligation to protect you, as an individual. This means that even if you contact them, if they fail to come and protect you, you can not do anything about it. The bottom line is that you are personally responsible for your own life and safety. In the case of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake I heard on my scanner that looting had started within 10 minutes of the the earthquake. This means that you will need to protect your friends and family, as well as your property unless you want to lose them. The criminals know that in those types of situations that you will not be able to call on the police for help or that if you can, response times will be delayed. So, you need to consider what you need to do in order to be prepared.

One such example is getting a firearm. A shotgun is a good example of a home defense weapon. But just getting a firearm is not enough. You need to know how to operate it, clean it and most importantly use it. You need to have the proper ammunition too. Birdshot is only good at short range and will not always stop an attacker. A slug is good for longer ranges, but you need to be more accurate and is not good in apartment building or when the bullet can travel and harm someone other than the attacker. Between birdshot and slugs there is a large range of rounds which can be used. I personally like #1 shot as it is a good compromise, in my opinion, between the number of pellets and the size of each pellet. Your choice will vary depending on where you live and what you need. You can also use a variety of rounds with more powerful rounds following less powerful rounds. You also need to ensure that you have enough and that you practice.

It is also a good idea to have hearing protection. Some hearing protection have microphones which allow you to hear, but cut off when there is a loud sound (which is also good when using power tools and lawn equipment). If you don't think that you are able to protect yourself, then you should not get a firearm since it could be more of a danger to you than not having it. As said in the movies, "A man has to know his limitations". It is also true that women need to know their limitations, including considering how they might feel with being raped or killed vs. harming another person. Women can be especially protective when her children are involved. When the criminal comes calling, it is too late to go to buy protection. You can also consider pepper spray, less than lethal rounds (which may be hard to purchase), or even water hoses since criminals are people too and don't like to be cold and wet, but realize that it might annoy them and so you might have to use more force to resist them. It is also important to be prepared to deal with the aftermath. It is a hard thing to kill someone and live with it. Even the police have a hard to dealing with it. My view is that the criminal, no you, made the choice in what ends up happening. If they did not attack, then nothing would have happened. Perhaps this concept will help you or perhaps not, but you need to think about this and be prepared for criminals too.

How many of the places which tell you to be prepared tell you to not let your gas tank get less than 1/4 tank? This is good for many reasons, including not letting the debris get sucking into the fuel system. The main thing is that when things go bad, typically it is quick and you may not have time or be able to go to the gas station to fill up. It is a mixed bag to decide if you are going to keep spare gas in cans in your house. First, it can be dangerous and you need to use the proper containers. Second, you need to cycle through the gas to keep it from going bad. Yes, gas does go bad. If you need to evacuate you will not get far if you have no fuel to operate your vehicle. Being prepared is an on-going process, not a one time or limited thing. This can also include fuel for you and keeping can goods and also rotating those too. Just be sure to have a can opener which is manually operated since if the power goes out you won't be able to eat unless you can get into the can.

I took a survival class with Ron Hood which was very educational. One thing that he mentions is to have a small kit with you at all times. You should never go anywhere without it. This is something which most places which suggest that you be prepared don't even consider. I have seen some examples of this being important. On a backpack, a woman left the group to use the "facilities", just a short distance from the group, but she got lost. She was not prepared and did not have a whistle with her. Yelling does not carry far, especially in a forest, and is hard to do for a long time. She also did not let people know what or where she was going and since the group was spread out, it could have been a long time before it was discovered that she was missing. Another thing which she failed to do was to look behind her to see where she had come from. When you turn around, things don't look familiar and you could miss a side trail which is not obvious when you were going the other direction. In this case she got lucky because I was talking with a friend and heard something, so we were quiet and heard a faint yelling, even though she was not all that far away. Had we been with the rest of the group, most likely there would have been too much constant noise (people talking for example) to have heard her at all. We spread out and quickly found her. She said that she did not think that she needed to bring much with her since she was close to camp and was not going to be gone long. Often people will go for a short walk and not bring water with them, which is a mistake since they might be gone longer than they think and you don't want to get dehydraded as you lose most of your capability. It is often during those times when you don't think that you will need emergency supplies that you need them.

Having a duffle bag in your car is a good idea, but how does that prepare you when you are not in your vehicle? Imagine going to a movie. You don't need much since it is a building and your vehicle is outside, or perhaps you got a ride from a friend. What happens if the power goes out or an earthquake, or anything else which causes the lights to go out completely. The room could be damaged in the case of an earthquake or tornado, with debris all over the place. Now you are in an unfamiliar room with many people and things in the room and no way to get out safely. Yes, perhaps someone will come with a flashlight, but that could take a long time. You think that you were prepared, but you did not have a flashlight with you. There are many flashlights, especially the LED flashlights, which are small and last a long time. You can either carry it with you or put it on your keychain. I happened to go to a movie one time and there were no lights on in the theater due to a timer problem. I was prepared and had a flashlight with me, so I could deal with it. I also used to take a train which went through a long tunnel. If something happened and the train got stuck in the tunnel, it would be extremely difficult to get out without a flashlight, even in the middle of the day. At night, it would be far worse. You should consider some small items like this which you can carry with you all the time which will help you when you have problems. This includes information, such as any medications you are taking. A paper copy is a good idea as a backup since electronic devices can be damaged or have the batteries fail. There is other information which you might need, such a medical conditions. It is far easier to show help a paper than to explain everything yourself, especially if you can not talk due to injury or other issues.

Hi-tech is a nice thing, but unfortuntely people tend to count on it more than they should. I teach map and compass navigation and often the question comes up about GPS. A GPS is a really nice device, but you certainly don't want to bet your life on it. The batteries can die, the unit be dropped and cause it to break, etc. What happens when that occurs? You might die. If you also have a map and compass and have the knowledge to use them, then you have a good backup. Also, if you lose either the map or compass, you still have the other which you can use to navigate. It is also important to know that you should never put down your map or compass (or any navigation device for than matter). I have seen people be leading a provisional trip (getting check out) and stop and take a break, they have put their map and compass next to them and then forget about it when they get up, which results in an interesting situation a short time later. A map can easily blow away and a compass can fall between rocks. These are critical items which are important to survival and should be treated as such.

One aspect that I find interesting is that when things go wrong, one of the feelings that people have is a loss of control. This brings up an issue which I find interesting. Often people think that they have far more control than they really do. When you drive down the street you don't want to feel that you are not in control, but that is the reality of it. You are giving suggestions to your vehicle, which may or may not be followed. Poor weather condition, going too far for conditions, sand or oil on the road, and many other things can result in things not going your way. It does not take much to spin a vehicle and there are many other vehicles on the road which can assist in that. It can also happen so fast that you don't know what occurred. This also applies to living on this planet. The forces of nature are far stronger than anyone can control. The wind, rain, earthquakes, lightning, volcanos, waves, tornados and everything can suddenly change your world. Now, you don't want to get freaked out by a lack of control, but if you realize that you are not in control of many things, perhaps that will help when things really go out of control. What you can do is to preprare for those problems and deal with it in the best way that you can.

As you go through your day, including weekends, consider what could happen and what you would do and what you would need. Then get the things that would help you in those situations. Don't ruin your life by worrying about what could happen, but focus on the positive of being prepared to deal with situations.



Index for Insanity, Inc.

Written: 21-Oct-2005

Updated: 22-Oct-2005

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