Are you prepared just in case? National Preparedness Month 2012

On September 8th, San Diego County will mark the one-year “anniversary” of the Great Southwestern Blackout that affected over 7 million people in Southern California and surrounding states. Where were you on that day? Did you view it as an excuse to grill that steak and open that bottle of wine by candlelight?

Or did you take it seriously?

Maybe you thought about another September 11 years ago and how disaster can strike without warning, no matter where you are. Maybe, just maybe you knew that September has been National Preparedness Month since 2004 and you have actually done something about it.

Odds are, though, you haven’t.

Most people haven’t done anything to prepare for any potential crisis, disaster or any kind of hard times. The average family has about 3 days of groceries, 2 days of stored water, a few hundred bucks in cash and a hope that everything will always be just fine. According to a 2009 study by FEMA and the CitizenCorps there is a major disconnect between how ready people think they are and how ready they really are. For example, many respondents felt they were ready for a disaster (57%) by setting aside food and water, and yet only 14% had ever practiced home crisis drills.

I think I know why people don’t take it seriously… They haven’t felt the pain.

History teaches us that bad thing happen, a lot! Epidemiologists almost guarantee that we will see another severe flu pandemic, geologists almost guarantee the “big one” (earthquake) will hit California, and any study of history will show us that conflict and war are part of human existence. Just read the headlines and tell me things will always be happy and easy for you and your family. You just haven’t felt the pain- yet.

You don’t have to either, not if you really prepare. I’m not talking about a “72 hour kit” either (see http://www.ready.gov). If you study human existence and the most likely bad things that could happen, you would come to the conclusion that you only need a finite number of items and resources to survive the majority of bad scenarios that could happen.

Since I’ve studied and taught this material for years, I’ll save you some of the research and share just a few conclusions:

#1. Stop thinking that someone will come to your rescue. They might, but more likely they will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people needing help. Study Katrina and the Watts Riots as examples. You might actually be the one to help others too!
#2 Stock enough food for your family for a minimum of 3 months. There are lots of theories and suggestions about this but since this is a short article, we won’t open that can of worms (pun intended).

#3. Buy one really good non-electric-powered water filter and several backups. Can you imagine losing water in San Diego and not having something to filter what polluted water we can find?

#4. Be prepared to protect your home, family and supplies. You may not hear others recommend this, but the realities of our world speak to us every day if we only listen. You must, however, seek competent self-defense training and follow the complex laws of California and San Diego, though.

#5. Purchase and practice alternate forms of communication with your family like FRS radios or HAM radios. Build a communications plan to use in the event of an emergency.

#6. Build emergency plans for the most likely situations: Earthquakes, fires, floods, pandemics, and economic or political chaos. Practice them once a year. You can find some good templates at http://www.ready.gov.

#7. Begin to build skills in all these areas by practicing with like-minded people or make a hobby of it. Search for groups you feel comfortable affiliating with and get active with these skills. As a former SEAL, I put much more stock in embodied skills than in stored gear to get me out of a tough situation.

These are some very basic starting points as we look forward to a whole month dedicated to preparedness. Use this month to activate yourself to build some real peace of mind that you can be prepared to thrive and help others when crisis arrives at our doorstep.

Randy Kelley is a former Navy SEAL and Head Instructor at Ready 5, San Diego, a preparedness program focused on skills and training for everyday folks. For more information, visit http://www.ready-five.com

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The Great San Diego Blackout (Wake Up Call)

Do you want to hear a story of successfully being prepared?  After all, there are many, many stories of NOT being prepared when the blackout hit San Diego County last night.  They are everywhere- no water, no candles, nothing to cook dinner with, no generators, no gas, no maps, no communications, no walking clothes, and the list goes on.  Luck was on many people’s side last night and they need to be honest about that…

So, I make it my business to be prepared.  I teach others to be prepared.  I was on my way to a local gun range to teach handgun skills as a program of being prepared (see www.ready-five.com).   You’d think I should be uber-prepared, right?  Well, let’s see…

Once I got to the range and found out they were closed, I met a student there and we decided to convoy to my house.  I pulled out my charged, 36-mile (so they say) 2-way radios to converse with.   We kept our handguns, well, handy (but legal).  Then we did a map study on our smart phones.  Amazingly the traffic links were still working and we narrowed down the 15-mile trip to one that eventually only took us 30 minutes. If the smartphone wouldn’t have worked, the maps in my truck- oh wait, I left those at the office….

Good thing I always kept the truck at no less than half full.  There were cars all over with no gas, AAA wasn’t responding, nor were tow trucks. No gas stations were working either… I did feel comfortable knowing I had a stash of gas at the house too…

Once we got home, we started preparing for darkness, with candles, lights and such. My favorite gadget of the night was a motion detection LED light that used rechargable batteries.  Whenever we went inside to get something they lit up the room perfectly. Neat…   What we didn’t like was the heat.  When the kids went to bed, they were sweating and there was nothing to do about it.  One sleep outside.

Now, having a crank radio was awesome.  Kind of.  I got a little tired of cranking it every 30 minutes, but we had great info on what was going on. AM 600 is definitely the “go to” station in an emergency.  Listening to people report on what was going on in different areas was good.  It was funny to hear a slur in a few folks speech…

The reports on the radio said we’d probably have power by mid-Friday. Not one to trust the spoken word, I still filled up my trash cans and tub with water (for drinking).  Always do things while you can (my daddy used to say).  Good thing too, some areas lost all their water.

When I looked around the neighborhood, I could see a few people with generators and a couple of houses really lit up.  Hmmm, if I was a crook, that might be a juicy target.  Other people were less visible, and some just buttoned up.  Very interesting, indeed.  I think I’d rather stay un-observed.

Well, power came on around 1am and life began to return to normal.  Almost. While I’m at the office today, my wife it making another trip to Costco for some more of the motion lights and I’m ordering her a phone charger. I’m also putting my maps back in my truck!  My big lesson is that being prepared means your preps must be near you for you to use them.

What’s your lessons learned?

www.ready-five.com