Sunday, March 23, 2008

5 Simple Steps to Surviving a Disaster

Today we will look at the five basic steps that can help you survive a disaster. Note that these step are equally applicable to an immediate disaster such as a earthquake or a house fire, or a longer term disaster such as a pandemic flu or an economic depression/recession.
#1. Prepare ahead of time, practice what you will do, become as educated as possible about disaster scenarios, and drill, drill, drill! That's basically what this blog and the CNI site are about. You need to know what disasters may happen, do the research to find out what to expect, what steps to take to survive, how others have survived similar situations, and what skills/equipment/supplies you will need to survive. Most importantly, you need to practice and drill as much as possible. This includes fire drills, earthquake drills, tornado drills, financial disaster drills, my home was just carried away in the storm drills, etc.
#2. Don't panic! Whether the disaster strikes in the middle of the night (a house fire) or is looming on the horizon (a recession), don't panic. Most people panic because the event was unexpected, they have no clue what to do, they feel like they have lost all control, and their mind starts racing with all of the worst case scenarios they have ever seen on TV. Next, they flap around like a chicken accomplishing absolutely nothing that will help them, their family, or the situation. Panicked people make poor decisions, poor estimations of the situation, and sometimes create worse outcomes than if they had just crawled under the table in a fetal position.
#3. Take necessary immediate action! If the house is on fire, get out. If someone is bleeding to death, apply a compress. If the house starts shaking, get in a safe location. If someone is shooting thorough your windows, hit the ground. If the nightly news reports that the economy is on life support, do nothing (this is not a case where there is a necessary immediate action to take. You could run down to your local ATM but then you would have to brawl with the other thousand people all wanting to withdraw their money from the bank which would be a poor decision on your part). This is where drills come in. If you drill and drill and drill a variety of scenarios, then in an actual disaster, your body knows exactly what to do even if your mind is still trying to catch up with what is going on. This is why the military, police, first responders, firemen--basically anyone on the front lines, drills over and over again. They don't have time to consider a reaction, they need to react immediately.
#4. Acquire information, make educated decisions, and in many instances, resist the urge to follow the crowd. After any necessary immediate action is taken, you need to take a minute (depending on the disaster, you may have two minutes, two hours, two days, two weeks, or two months) and acquire all of the information you can about the situation. Consider the source of your information and the validity of the information (is it from a trusted source, rumor, someone else's uneducated guess?). You will then need to make educated decisions about your next steps. For example, your family has escaped your burning home and the Fire Chief says it looks to be a total loss. Your next steps will be getting the family to a safe place such as a hotel or grandma's house, then follow up the next morning with your insurance company (but since you were so prepared this will be have your BOBs, plenty of cash, and all of your insurance info including a recently updated household inventory on your backup jump drive at the office). Larger incidents will require more evaluation and possibly a variety of responses. For example, the economy is teetering on a recession, everyone is panicking and selling (homes at half price, stocks, gold), so you sit down and take a look at your situation. After careful evaluation you come to the conclusion that your home is easily affordable (and you can cover six months of house payments from your emergency fund if necessary) but you have a few outstanding bills (you decide to take a second job for six months to knock off these debts). The stocks you own may have taken a nose dive but they are pretty solid companies so you determine that you will hold the stock instead of selling at a huge loss like apparently everyone else is. Food prices are rising but you have a small garden so you decide to double the size of the garden and have the whole family pitch in to help. You heard on the news that the economy will improve if everyone will just go shopping but looking at your finances, you decide this is not the time to follow the crowd and spend money frivolously. Get the idea?
#5. Do what you can do and make corrections as you go. You can only do what you can do. If you didn't have enough money to cover six months of house payments in an emergency fund, you lose your job, you end up in foreclosure, and lose your home, then you do what you can do. You find another place to live and you determine that finding a job and building up an emergency fund will be the next most important steps you can take. If a pandemic strikes and you have made as many preparations as possible and a family member gets sick, then you do whatever you can do to take care of the sick person. If your house burns down and your BOBs were in the living room and you only have the clothes on your back, you do what you can do (receive shelter from the Red Cross, acquire the basic necessities such as food, toiletries and clothing, get back to work, and rebuild your life). If your home was flooded for the fifth time, consider moving to higher ground.

Finally, look on the bright side--people have been known to travel the world carrying only what will fit in their pockets. Job loses often lead to a job that is an even better fit than the job that elevated your blood pressure every time you entered your cubicle, The bottom line is that if you have survived the disaster and are still alive, then there are always options that will move you forward, it may not be the direction you thought you would go, however that is what life is--learning from your experiences, making adjustments, and continuing on.


  1. Good post that needs to be hammered home: preps and attitude are key.

    As you first mention, look at "how others have survived similar situations". This info is golden. Also, carefully examine mistakes too as they are a great learning tool not to be taken lightly.

    "The bottom line is that if you have survived the disaster and are still alive, then there are always options that will move you forward".

    An excellent point. In fact, after a disaster while others are bemoaning their fate you with the right mindset will see great opportunity. There will be rebuilding and much to be done; this is where the true survivor will excel as compared to others.

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