Sunday, November 15, 2009

Surviving Disaster: Pandemic

Last Tuesday's episode of Surviving Disaster focused on two related disasters, a nerve gas attack and a pandemic outbreak. You can catch this episode on the Surviving Disaster website, and I highly recommend that you actually watch the show instead of just reading my notes as there is so much covered that I'm sure I did not get all of the small details. Here's the high points of the episode:

Chemical Attack
  • The US government says that a biological/chemical attack in the US is highly likely within the next four years. Something along the lines of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 is what they see as a very likely possibility.
  • Schools, football stadiums, amusement parks, and other places where a large number of people gather are likely targets for such an attack.
  • Often times these are suicide attacks where a person takes a canister of nerve gas into a crowded area and opens the container. You can't see or smell most nerve gas agents and a droplet of the poison can kill a person in minutes.
  • A nerve agent affects any part of your body that relies on muscle control such as the heart and lungs. With your nerves paralyzed, your heart and lungs will stop working.
  • In the scenario, the people on the subway noticed a problem when people on the subway car in front of them began keeling over.
  • When the subway stops (in this scenario the nerve gas killed the conductor and the subway stopped), pull the emergency release lever to open the doors and escape.
  • Walk in the direction that the train was traveling even though the infected car is in front of you. With the gas, there is a good chance that the nerve gas has left a trail of the vaporized agent behind the train so you don't want to be walking through this.
  • Hold your breath as you walk along the escape route out of the subway tunnel and pass by the car where the gas was released.
  • Take off your outer layer of clothing, this will remove about 90% of the toxins that you have been exposed to. Remember not to pull your shirt over your head or this will get the toxin into your mouth, nose, and eyes. Leave your bags and anything else you were carrying behind as well.
  • Look for an exit sign or a blue light so that you can escape from the tunnel. Both the subway stopping and the alarm from opening the exit door will alert the central subway office that there is a problem. They will also be able to monitor the tunnels which have video surveillance equipment.
  • Get outside into the air as quickly as possible as this will diffuse much the toxins that are on you.
  • Tell someone to call 911 and also tell them to alert responders that there was a nerve gas attack and where specifically the incident occurred. You don't want responders walking into this type of deadly situation without warning.
  • While waiting for help, take all of your clothes off and wash down with soap and water. In this scenario, the people went into a nearby laundromat and washed off with soap and water. Repeat this process.
  • Wait for medical help to arrive. They will probably put you through a similar decon process. A professional decon process includes stage #1--clothes drop, stage #2--wash down with soap and detergent, stage #3--monitoring for residual symptoms.
Virus Attack (Pandemic flu)
  • One person could be infected with a deadly virus and spread it to others, eventually causing hundreds of thousands to die. This person is called Patient 0 in a global pandemic.
  • In this scenario, a person on the subway is infected with a pandemic flu virus. He is unaware he has the virus as it takes a few days for symptoms to show up but you can be contagious even before you have symptoms.
  • The virus is spread from person to person. The man infects four people on the subway, they each infect four people; you can see how the virus can spread exponentially.
  • During a pandemic, the government will tell people to shelter in their homes. Schools, public events, and other places where people gather will be shut down. National Guard and law enforcement will do what is termed "aggressive control of contacts" by patrolling the streets and ensuring that people are not out and about.
  • The group in the scenario were now in survival mode. Their first task was to go to the stores and stock up on food and supplies. Everyone else was doing this too so food and supplies quickly ran out. Stores often have enough stock for only a day or two as they rely on just-in-time delivery of goods.
  • When you go out to stock up, realize that people will be in a panic, supplies will quickly disappear, and this also puts you in contact with many people which could expose you to the virus.
  • Viruses spread by touch transmission (the virus can last for 24 to 48 hours on items such as paper, cloth, etc), droplets from infected people that are discharged when they talk, cough, or sneeze, and by air dried droplets which float in the air.
  • In this situation, it is important to wash your hands often and try not to touch too many things (in the scenario they wiped down the grocery cart handle with bleach before using it).
  • The average man needs 1800 calories a day. A three month supply of food can be achieved by buying 20 pounds of rice (carbs), three gallons of canola oil (fats), and 100 6-ounce cans of tuna fish (protein). Also at the store you want to grab whatever other food you can (flour-based items and oatmeal are good), flashlights and batteries, duct tape, sheet plastic, garbage bags, and rain ponchos.
  • Don't talk to people when you are out as this can expose you to the virus.
  • In the hardware section, pick up N95 masks. These masks block 95% of particles and can be used when caring for the sick or going out in public.
  • When people are in a panic, they will try to take what you have. The group was confronted in the store parking lot by two men who wanted their food. Each of the four took a side of the asset (their cart of food) to defend, while one pushed the cart. The others used empty carts to keep six feet between them and the looters. It was noted that these probably were not hardened criminals and if you resist and fight back, they will go away and look for easier targets.
  • Note that you could be sheltered at your home for three months or until a vaccine for the virus is developed.
  • Before you bring anything into the house (food, supplies, etc) leave it outside, in the back yard, in the sunlight for a couple of hours. The sunlight will kill any virus on the items.
  • Wash your hands often with soap, including under the nails and between the fingers, for about 30 seconds. Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth as this is the easiest way to introduce the virus into your system.
  • Once inside, don't go out again or talk to anyone as this could cause you to become infected. In the scenario, one guy was talking to the neighbor outside so he needed to be quarantined in a sick room for up to six days to see if he had any symptoms of being ill. He will not be able to leave this room and infect others in the house until it is determined if he has or does not have the virus; this will take up to six days.
  • To make a sick room/negative pressure isolation room, put a fan in the window pointing out. Cover doors and windows with plastic and duct tape. For the door to the room that people must come in and out of, hang plastic in layers which will help contain the virus.
  • A couple of days later the guy was coughing, had a fever, and body aches. One person who was least likely to get sick (she did not have any chronic medical conditions and had had a flu shot which offers some immunity) was the only one assigned to care for him.
  • She only went into the room to give the ill person water and food and offer ibuprofen to control pain. Each time she went into the room, she needed to wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, shoes, a shower cap, a plastic poncho, a mask, and gloves to protect herself.
  • In six weeks, three million people could die from the pandemic; after ten weeks, there could be 10 million dead.
  • Only six companies in the world can make the vaccine and it can take from four to six months to develop, test, and produce a vaccine.
  • Soon the guy in the isolation room died. Morgues, ice rinks, and refrigerated storage will be used to store the dead. Since the people did not want to risk infecting themselves by leaving their home, they wrapped the body in plastic and buried him six feet deep in the back yard as far away from the house as possible.
  • Eventually the power went out, there was no garbage service, and all other service began to stop as more and more people who perform these services as their regular job became ill. At this point in the video I particularly like the "looters will be shot" and "neighborhood is patrolled" signs spray painted around the neighborhood.
  • After three months the group needed more food. Since grocery stores were long ago emptied, they took information from the phone book of locations of restaurants and food distribution warehouses to check for food.
  • Before they left to search for food, they made pepper spray from cayenne pepper mixed with rubbing alcohol and put in a small spray bottle.
  • One person guarded the house while the rest of the team went in search of food.
  • They used a long bar to pry the padlock off a warehouse door. To show you are not looting, it was suggested you leave a note with the items you took and contact information so you can settle up later.
  • Leaving the warehouse the group was attacked by a dog. One guy ran (note, don't run from a dog, you won't outrun it) and was attacked by the dog. He wrapped a sweater around his arm to protect himself and sprayed the dog with the pepper spray.
  • At this point there will not be any police force to protect you and there will be a lot of looting and violence by hungry, desperate people.
  • If you are home, looters will assume you have supplies and may use deadly force to take it from you.
  • The group reinforced their position from the outside in.
  • Outside, wrap glasses in a shirt and smash them. Use the broken glass to put along all outside window ledges so that if someone tries to break in at night, they will cut themselves and probably make noise.
  • In the house, cover the windows with black plastic so people can't see inside. Put heavy bookcases in front of the windows with plates on the case. If people try to break in, you will hear the plates falling (this will be your 'perimeter alarm').
  • Reinforce the doors with wood (like a small door) wedged between the door and the stairs. This will make it hard to break down but easy for you to remove if you need to leave.
  • Fill bags, pillow cases, and other things with dirt from the yard to improvise bullet-proofing. Stack the filled bags about midway down the staircase to make a bunker. This will be your defensive position if people try to come into your house. Stack the bags about four feet high and as thick as possible.
  • The group was cooking dinner and heard some plates break which alerted them that people were trying to get into their house. They all got into their bunker where firearms had been stored. The looters were shooting at them and they listened to how many shots had been fired. After about 15 rounds had been fired, you can assume that the looters will need to stop and reload. This is your opportunity to shoot back. An armed, aggressive response will deter most looters.
  • The pandemic flu will go in a wave. At the crest of the wave, the most people will be sick then the number of cases will decline as people recover from the flu and thus develop an immunity to it and as vaccines become available.
Again, as I always say, this is an excellent way to learn some survival skills from the comfort of your own home. Watch the video then plan accordingly for your own survival needs should this kind of situation ever happen to you.

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