Creating a Disaster Plan

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    An ‘Oldie but Goodie’ rescued from my APN files:

    Creating disaster plans

    Hat Tip to [i]IceFire[/i] @ the old American Preppers Network

    Here is a short paper that I wrote for my Natural Hazards class that might be helpful in creating a disaster plan. I realize that this is ONLY a beginning…the lists of “preps” are FAR short of what most of us here would do…it was intended to “ease” a TOTAL non-prepper into starting to become prepared. OK, it won’t allow me to upload a word file or pdf, so here it is in long form:

    [b]Disaster Plans and Evacuation Kits[/b]

    For every type of natural disaster, government agencies at all levels recommend creating and implementing a disaster plan and having household, vehicle, and individual kits. (Emergency Management) One might ask how to create such a plan, what type of events to plan for, and what should go into a household or individual emergency kit. This paper will go through the steps involved in creating a family or individual level disaster plan, and discuss elements for both household and individual kits.

    [b]Disaster Plans[/b]

    Making a disaster plan is not terribly complicated, but might take a little time and require a small amount of research on an individual’s part. There are many websites devoted to educating people on how to make plans for surviving a disaster situation. One such website is Captain Dave’s Survival Center. This website outlines steps for creating a disaster plan. The first step is mostly a paper and pencil exercise undertaken to identify the natural hazards that one is most likely to encounter in the area where one is living. (For example, a person living in the San Francisco Bay Area should place earthquakes on their list, but leave blizzards off, as blizzards are highly unlikely to occur there.)

    [b]To get started, [/b]divide a piece of paper into three unequal columns, with the first column being the smallest. Down the first column, list the natural hazards that are most likely to occur in one’s area (thunderstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc), leaving a few lines between each event. You will need this extra space in the other two columns. In the second column, for each hazard list the likely consequences (i.e. for hurricane, you might put extended damages from high winds, downed trees, power outages, flooding, etc.) In the third column, list ways that you can deal with the problems in the second column. Here is where your research comes in. Do you know how to minimize the damage that could be caused? If you have to evacuate, do you have more than one route of escape in case the main route is impassible? Do you have the tools and/or supplies that you would need to survive the event? Once you have determined the likely hazards for your area, the consequences that would arise from those hazards, and the steps that should be taken to deal with them, the first part of your disaster plan is complete..

    [b]The second part of disaster planning is to ensure that you have any tools or supplies that would be needed to deal with potential hazards.[/b] For example, a person living in an area subject to frequent/prolonged power outages, should probably consider purchasing a portable 3,000 watt or greater generator, and have enough fuel to keep it running for the length of the anticipated electrical outage. While generators are not inexpensive, the price is still less than what it would cost to replace the spoiled food in the refrigerator and/or freezer. For people who live in cold climates, an alternative heating/cooking source should also be considered. Many people falsely believe that they do not need an alternate heating source if their furnace is not electric. What they often fail to consider, however, is that without electricity, the thermostat that controls the furnace will not work. Neither will the fans that blow the heat through the ducts in a forced air system. Without electricity, most homes will also be without heat; therefore some additional heat source should be available. A wood-burning stove would provide both an alternate heat source as well as an alternative for cooking if one’s primary stove is inoperable.

    [b]Another element of disaster planning is to prepare disaster/evacuation kits.[/b] Each member of the family should have his or her own kit. In addition to the individual kits, prepare a permanent survival kit for each vehicle, and a household disaster kit that can contains the necessities to survive in your home if evacuation is not feasible or desirable. People with prior military experience (as well as ‘survivalist’-types) often refer to the individual kits as “Bug-out” bags. When preparing bug-out bags for the family, don’t forget to prepare a kit for any pets as well. While pets have fewer needs than do people, a kit containing leashes, food, water, and feeding dishes should be prepared for them, too.
    Make sure that you have at least a three-day supply of foods that can be consumed without cooking on hand. A three day supply is minimal at best, as even though an event may be over within three days, it may be several days to weeks before transportation and distribution networks are functioning again, and store shelves can be re-stocked. A food reserve that can last several weeks or more is preferable. Canned foods that are purchased at the grocery store are excellent for this purpose. Some people may also keep emergency food ration bars or military Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) on hand, as they are fully cooked and can be eaten cold right out of the pouch–although they taste better heated. MREs and food ration bars are also easily packed into emergency evacuation kits.

    [b]The next phase of disaster planning is to consider where one would go in case of an evacuation.[/b] Do not leave this until a disaster strikes. In case of an evacuation, temporary lodging will be difficult to find, and while government and/or relief agencies may attempt to supply temporary shelter facilities, one has only to look at the poor conditions in the New Orleans Superdome during and after Hurricane Katrina to realize that this is a poor alternative at best. The optimal choice in case of an evacuation is to either have a vacation home in another region, or to make prior reciprocal arrangements for temporary shelter with a friend or relative who lives outside of one’s own area. Ideally, they should be about 100-150 miles away-far enough that whatever disaster threatens you should not affect them, and vice versa; yet close enough that you should be able to reach them on ½ a tank of gas. In order to ensure that your vehicle is able to reach your intended destination, never let your gas tank get below ½ full, as in a situation that would warrant evacuation, it is unlikely that gas stations will be operating. With such prior arrangements, if an evacuation is ordered or your home is destroyed, you already know where you are going, are assured of a place to stay, and don’t have to worry about the character of your fellow evacuees. Some people call this temporary shelter their “Bug-Out Location” (BOL).

    [b]The final phase of disaster planning is to practice what to do in case of an actual event. [/b]Make sure everyone in the family knows what to do if a disaster strikes. Some good “practice runs” can include:

    [list][*]Practice an ‘electricity-free’ weekend. Shut off the main power on Friday evening, and try living in your house without electricity for the entire weekend. In order to protect the contents of your refrigerator/freezer, another way is to ‘pretend’ that power is unavailable, but this way comes with the temptation of cheating. One way to avoid cheating is to set penalties for using electricity. Don’t forget to unplug the phones for this practice. In a real power outage, most phones probably won’t be working.
    [*]Have an evacuation “dry- run”. Give everyone in the family 15 minutes to pack and be underway to your designated bug-out location. (If your BOL is with a friend or relative, coordinate this with them first!) This trial run will give you an idea of how long it actually takes to get everyone moving and get to your place of safety. Once you arrive at your destination, make a list of everything that was forgotten, and then add those items to the “bug-out” bags.
    [*]A variation of the above exercise is to go for a drive in the fall or early spring, stop in a remote location, and spend the night with only the supplies on hand in your vehicle. This is a good way to find out if there is anything you need to add to your vehicle kit before you actually get stranded somewhere!
    [*]Try eating nothing but your survival foods for a weekend (or week). Not only is this a good way to rotate out food stocks, but it is also helpful to evaluate your food choices, and their effects on your digestive system. This practice will let you find out what foods work best in a survival situation before you actually have to depend on them. You will also be able to discover which foods you really can’t stand to eat for an extended period, and eliminate them from your stockpile.[/list]

    [b]Vehicle Kits[/b]

    Permanent kits that are left in vehicles should include items to keep your vehicle operational, such as tools, including jack and spare tire; extra light bulbs, fuses, hoses and fan belts, “spare tire in a can”; jumper cables, and tow straps; fluids such as oil, antifreeze/coolant, brake and transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid; flares; maps; water; emergency food supplies; a first aid kit that is a duplicate of the household first aid kit; gloves; folding shovel; hand crank flashlight; blanket; emergency poncho or other raingear; spare pair of shoes or boots; chemical hand/body heat packets; fire starting materials; and a metal cup or mess kit for cooking/boiling water/melting snow. In winter, an ice scraper, extra blanket or sleeping bag, heavy socks, coat or snow suit, and old boots should be included. In summer, extra water and engine coolant should be carried.

    [b]By always having at least a half full gas tank, you should be able to get at least 100 to 150 miles away without stopping if an emergency evacuation becomes necessary. If mass evacuations are underway, it is highly unlikely that gas stations along the evacuation route will remain open, as their owners/operators will be evacuating along with everyone else. Also, make sure that your vehicle remains in good mechanical condition. Nothing stops an evacuation faster than a breakdown en route. A mechanical failure threatens the safety not only the vehicle owner, but also of all the other people on the road behind who are trapped behind a disabled vehicle.

    [b]Disaster Kits, Household and Individual (AKA Bug-Out Bags)[/b]

    People familiar with military life have long been familiar with the concept of a Bug-Out Bag (BOB). A Bug-Out Bag is a portable kit containing all of the items one would require to survive for seventy two hours after surviving or evacuating from a disaster. It is also known as a 72 hour kit, Ready kit, emergency kit and disaster supplies kit. The focus on evacuation, rather than survival, distinguishes the bug-out bag from a survival kit. The primary purpose of a (BOB) is to allow one to evacuate quickly if a disaster should strike. It is therefore prudent to gather all of the materials and supplies that might be required to do this into a single place, such as a bag or a few storage containers. As each member of the family has their own specific needs, each person should have their own bag or kit, tailored to their unique needs; such as any medications that one is dependent on, diapers and formula for infants, etc. A sturdy backpack, duffel bag, or large gym back is a good option, as all are large enough to contain the contents of the kit, yet are easily carried in case of evacuation. During the Cold War, military dependents in Europe, particularly those in southern Germany, were required to have a BOB for each member of the family, and when annual evacuation drills were held, we were required to assemble at the designated evacuation point for the community, where each person’s bag was checked to make sure that each bag was complete.

    In addition to allowing one to survive a disaster evacuation, a BOB may also be utilized when sheltering in place as a response to emergencies such as house fires, blackouts, or tornadoes and other severe weather. Storage containers are good choices for holding the contents of a household kit for those remaining in their homes, but they are cumbersome and not easy to carry if evacuations must be made without one’s own vehicle, or if evacuating to a location where space is limited. The recommendation that a BOB should contain enough supplies for seventy two hours arises from advice from organizations responsible for disaster relief and management that it may take them up to seventy two hours to reach people affected by a disaster and offer help. They therefore suggest that a BOB should contain enough supplies to allow those reliant on it to survive for this length of time. This seventy two hour figure is a minimum, however. In case of a prolonged evacuation, supplies for seventy-two hours will be insufficient. Many survival manuals and websites recommend that a kit be able to support a person for four days to a week. ( The longer tame frame is to allow your kit to be able to sustain you through a recovery period after the emergency is over, but before essential services are restored.

    So, exactly what does go in a disaster/evacuation kit? Ask a hundred different people, and you will get as many different answers [b]The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) suggests that a very basic 3-day kit should be able to provide the basics of food, water, first aid supplies, clothing/bedding, sanitation supplies, tools, important family documents, and special items, based on individual needs [/b]such as medications, contact lenses and solutions, spare eyeglasses, diapers, formula, bottles, etc. for infants, cash and coins, and small items for entertainment.

    For a household kit, FEMA recommends storing a three day supply of water, allowing for a gallon of water per person, per day. Because this weight of water is impractical to carry in a backpack (each gallon of water weighs 8 pounds) many people choose to carry canteens or other refillable containers and portable water filters and/or water purification tablets.

    Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little or no water and that are compact and lightweight, and avoiding foods that will make you thirsty. Salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals, and canned foods with high liquid content are good choices. FEMA also suggests packing a can of Sterno or similar fuel gel if you must heat food, and be sure to include a manual can opener. These are the foods that FEMA suggests storing:

    [list][*]Ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables
    [*]Canned juices, milk, soup (if powdered, store extra water)
    [*]Staples–sugar, salt, pepper
    [*]High energy foods–peanut butter, jelly, crackers, granola bars, trail mix
    [*]Foods for infants, elderly persons or persons with special dietary needs
    [*]Comfort/stress foods–cookies, hard candy, sweetened cereals, lollipops, instant coffee, tea bags[/list]
    For an individual kit that is meant to be carried, lightweight, compact foods such as MREs and/or emergency food ration bars are a good choice.

    [b]First Aid[/b]
    The home disaster kit and each vehicle should have a first aid kit. For each kit, FEMA suggests including:

    [list][*]Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
    [*]2-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
    [*]4-inch sterile gauze pads (4-6)
    [*]Hypoallergenic adhesive tape
    [*]Triangular bandages (3)
    [*]2-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
    [*]3-inch sterile roller bandages (3 rolls)
    [*]Moistened towelettes
    [*]Tongue blades (2)
    [*]Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
    [*]Assorted sizes of safety pins
    [*]Cleansing agent/soap
    [*]Latex gloves (2 pair) Sunscreen
    [*]Aspirin or nonaspirin pain reliever
    [*]Anti-diarrhea medication
    [*]Antacid (for stomach upset)
    [*]Syrup of Ipecac (use to induce vomiting if advised by the Poison Control Center)
    [*]Activated charcoal (use if advised by the Poison Control Center)[/list]
    In addition, each household should have a basic first aid manual. First aid manuals can be obtained from the local chapter of the American Red Cross.

    A smaller first aid kit containing, as a bare minimum, adhesive bandages, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, pain reliever, antacid, and personal medications should be included in each personal kit.

    [b]Clothing and Bedding[/b]
    Each person’s kit should include a complete change of clothing and footwear. In case of power outages, it is likely that people could be without warmth for extended periods. Wearing clothing that becomes wet can lead to hypothermia, which may be fatal. Avoid cotton garments, as cotton loses its insulating ability once it becomes wet. Blankets or a warm sleeping bag should be kept with each kit in cold weather. Clothing items for people living in cold climates should include:
    [list][*]Jacket or coat
    [*]Long pants
    [*]Long sleeve shirt
    [*]Sturdy shoes or work boots
    [*]Hat, gloves and scarf
    [*]Rain gear
    [*]Thermal underwear
    For people living in warmer climates, clothing that can be worn in layers and added or removed as needed should be kept in the kit.

    For the household kit, sanitation supplies should include:
    [list][*]Plastic bucket with tight lid
    [*]Plastic garbage bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
    [*]Toilet paper
    [*]Soap, liquid detergent
    [*]Feminine supplies
    [*]Personal hygiene items
    [*]Household chlorine bleach[/list]

    The plastic bucket (with garbage bags as liners and disinfectant poured in) can serve as an expedient toilet. When stored in the household kit, the other supplies can be kept in the bucket so everything stays together.

    For individual kits, the small “trial and travel size” soap, personal hygiene items, and toilet paper take up minimal room, while being of sufficient quantity to last the few days expected of a 72 hour kit..

    The tools that FEMA suggests keeping in a household emergency kit are:
    [list][*]Emergency preparedness manual
    [*]Portable, battery-operated radio or television and extra batteries
    [*]Flashlight and extra batteries
    [*]Cash or traveler’s checks, change
    [*]Manual can opener, utility knife
    [*]Fire extinguisher: small canister, ABC type
    [*]Tube tent
    [*]Matches in a waterproof container
    [*]Aluminum foil
    [*]Mess kits, or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils
    [*]Plastic storage containers
    [*]Signal flare
    [*]Paper, pencil
    [*]Needles, thread
    [*]Medicine dropper
    [*]Shut-off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
    [*]Plastic sheeting
    [*]Map of the area (for locating shelters)[/list]

    [b]For an individual evacuation kit,[/b] where size and weight can be an issue, not all of the above items would useful/desirable. For a “bug-out” kit, my recommendations of the above category of items are:
    [list][*]Flashlight and extra batteries-use a AAA size flashlight to cut down on size and weight
    [*]Cash or traveler’s checks, change-about $200 to $500. If evacuating, you will need money for gas, food, lodging, etc
    [*]Manual can opener-a small opener such as a military P-38 opener takes up minimal room and weighs next to nothing. It also has a hole so that it can be worn on a chain or string around the neck. (It was designed to be worn on the same chain as the military “dog tags”.)
    [*]utility knife
    [*]Tube tent-a heavy-duty 55 gallon garbage bag can be used as a substitute, or tarp
    [*]Whistle, compass, and matches in a waterproof container-to save space, there are emergency whistles that combine all of these elements. They also have a mirror that can be used for signaling on the inside of the compass/match case lid. I use the “strike anywhere” matches in this. I also include a couple of the trick birthday candles that re-light to help as “fire starters” in windy conditions.
    [*]Mess kits, or paper cups, plates and plastic utensils-I recommend using mess kits, as they are washable/reusable, and the paper cups and plates are not. Also, a metal mess kit can be used as a cooking utensil, whereas the paper plates can not.
    [*]Aluminum foil-can be stored in the mess kit to save space
    [*]Needles, thread-I also include a few buttons and snaps of various sizes
    [*]Map of the area-mark evacuation routes on the map in advance
    [*]Signal flare-doesn’t take up too much room, and can help others locate you.
    [*]I also include one of those Mylar emergency blankets, and an emergency poncho
    [*]Not included in the FEMA list, but helpful for digging an expedient latrine or digging oneself out of a snowbank, is a small folding shovel.[/list]

    [b]Special Items[/b]

    Special items include items needed by infants, prescription medications that family members may be dependent on, prescription eyewear, entertainment items such as puzzles and games, and important documents such as family records (marriage, birth, and death certificates), vehicle titles and registration papers, property deeds, insurance policies, household inventory lists, bank account and credit card numbers, and photocopies of credit and identification cards. Keep the important papers in a waterproof container, such as a gallon-size Ziploc-type bag. Each family member should have copies of their identification cards or papers in their own kit, as well as identification of other family members. A small photo of the family group in each person’s kit can be helpful for helping authorities identify and reunite families in case family members become separated.


    While government agencies and charitable organizations such as the Red Cross try to assist after natural disasters, their efforts are frequently overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the task. Temporary shelters become scenes of bedlam and chaos, as frightened, bored people take out their frustrations on each other and those who are trying to help. It is far better to prepare for dealing with emergency situations in advance, plan an evacuation location and route should evacuation become necessary, and have the means to ensure the health and safety of oneself and one’s family. Ultimately, each individual is responsible for his or her own well-being, and that of the family members in their care; and being prepared to deal with emergencies is but one aspect of taking such responsibility.

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by ReadyMom.
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