Some people are naturally able to keep a level head in tough situations and find ways out that would otherwise go unnoticed as everyone panics. For most, though, keeping calm under extreme stress is a matter of practice. Read on to find out how to make sure the whole family is prepared for a survival situation.
Why Adequate Preparation Matters
Disaster preparedness isn’t just about buying the right emergency gears, although that’s certainly an important step. People facing survival situations also need to remain calm, think clearly, and make the right moves because one mistake can spell disaster. Adequate preparation is the best way to ensure that even people who are naturally prone to panic under stress will be ready for anything.
First Steps to Take
In most situations, there’s one person taking charge of disaster preparedness for the whole family. They’re generally the ones to take the first steps. That might mean starting buying gear and experimenting with how it works, taking the time to learn basic skills, or figuring out what resources are available in the local area. Getting organized during these initial steps will make it easier to share all of that knowledge with everyone. Here’s how to do it:
1. Identify Potential Hazards
The first step is to identify potential hazards specific to the area. They’ll be different for every location. Some families have to worry about fires, while others are more likely to face floods, hurricanes, blizzards, earthquakes, or tornadoes. These cover only the basics of natural disasters and not man-made problems, but they constitute a good start. The same skills that will help people weather a storm can be put to good use for shelter-in-place situations involving human threats, and the same goes for evacuations.
2. Learn About Local Resources and Procedures
Most communities have warning systems and signals in place to let people know if a storm or another natural disaster is on its way. Many also have local organizations that provide emergency management services, and just about every workplace, school, or community center has evacuation and shelter-in-place plans. Take the time to learn about all of these local resources and procedures, and if there’s not a non-profit already available to perform emergency management, think about stepping up.
3. Hold a Family Meeting
Instead of pushing forward alone, the next step is to hold a family meeting. This will allow parents to have age-appropriate discussions with their kids about why it’s important to be prepared and assign responsibilities to different family members so that everyone will work together. Now is the time to create a family evacuation and communication plan. Remember that it should account for everyone, including young children, pets, and family members with special needs.
Getting Geared Up
While it’s important to note that just having good gear won’t save anyone in a survival situation, the right equipment can make a life-or-death difference to someone who knows how to use it. There’s a reason this step doesn’t make it in before the family meeting, though. Involving a multi-generational household in the gear-buying process can be helpful. Not only will kids be more likely to get age- and size-appropriate clothes and emergency gear, but some family members may have relevant experience to share that can be brought to bear on what’s necessary and what’s not.
Covering the Basics
People who are serious about being prepared for anything usually have two survival kits. The first is a home disaster supply kit that has everything required to shelter in place for at least two weeks. This kit should include:
- Plenty of non-perishable food
- Drinking water and a water purifier
- A full first-aid kit
- Sleeping bags and pillows
- A NOAA weather radio
- Clean clothes, including jackets and sturdy shoes
- Flashlights and extra batteries
- Copies of important documents
- A supply of all prescription medications
- Dust masks or respirators
- Plastic sheets and duct tape
- Garbage bags
- Basic tools like wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers
- A manual can opener
- A cell phone and charger
- Personal hygiene items
- Some extra cash
Parents might also want to have some additional items on hand such as baby supplies, books or games for older kids, and a supply of pet food. Keep a fire extinguisher and fire blanket someplace accessible, as well. They don’t necessarily need to be stored with the shelter-in-place kit but should be easy to find.
Family-Appropriate Bug-Out Bags
Serious preppers often get themselves used to carrying heavy bags through rough terrain by doing things like going on wilderness trips to hone their survival skills. Not everyone can do that, though, so make sure that the family’s bug-out bags are appropriate to each person’s age, size, and skill level.
When putting together bug-out bags for kids, make sure to let them help. Ideally, they’ll also get the chance to use the supplies in the bag so they can get familiar with everything before it’s needed. Kids’ emergency bags need to be updated frequently to account for both physical and mental growth. However, they should always include:
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- A small, packable blanket
- A water bottle
- Some non-perishable snacks
- An extra set of clothes
- A whistle
- Basic personal hygiene supplies
- A laminated card with family contact numbers on it
- Glow sticks
Older kids can also be given basic survival tools if they are mature enough and knowledgeable enough to use them safely. They should also be given a three-day supply of food. Remember that no matter how careful parents are, there’s no way to guarantee that the family will be able to stay together.
Parents will need to accept that they’ll have heavier bags. They’ll be the ones carrying things like:
- Water purification devices
- First aid its
- Fire starters
- Stoves and lighters
- Pots, pans, and utensils
- Tents, tarps, and sleep systems
- Relevant literature such as how-to and local plant guides
- Weapons that are legal to carry under state and federal law
Getting family members involved in putting together these kits and practicing using them is a great way to keep them interested while also making sure everyone is prepared. Consider planning a camping trip where everyone can carry their pack and try to use some of the basic tools in it.
Learning and Teaching Skills
Even a solid two-week supply of food and water will only get the family so far in a really serious disaster situation. If the system for getting everyone help or getting them to safety breaks down, there’s no telling how long a family might need to fend for itself. That requires not just appropriate gear but certain skills.
What’s nice about learning and teaching survival skills is that this process can also get kids excited. While everyone must understand that disaster preparedness is a serious thing, there’s no reason not to make learning sessions a fun family event. Think about planning a family backcountry camping trip with a focus on hunting, trapping, and identifying edible foods, for example. Everyone will have a good time while also learning valuable skills.
There are plenty of other forgotten skills that could wind up being useful in a survival scenario, too. Basic carpentry, leather working, woodworking, and canning skills used to be shared among just about everyone, but now they are considered specialized. Get kids interested in learning life skills at a young age so they will always know how to do things like start a fire, track game animals, or set up a wilderness camp.
Another skill that everyone should have been basic first aid. While it’s true that young kids won’t be able to learn more complex skills, parents and older children can benefit substantially from basic first aid and CPR training. There’s little sense in putting together a comprehensive medical kit if no one in the family knows how to use everything in it.
Because many different types of disaster situations can come up, smart families have different plans to practice. Those that require sheltering in place will be very different from evacuation plans. Make sure everyone in the family gets together at least once every three to six months to practice the plan. Remember, this aspect of disaster preparedness isn’t just about making sure everyone has what they need to survive but also that they feel competent enough that they won’t panic in a bad situation.
No Better Time Than Now
There’s no better time than now to get started preparing the family for a disaster situation. The more time everyone has to get used to using emergency equipment, following evacuation routes, practicing shelter-in-place plans, and learning vital skills, the better off the whole family will be should the worst occur.
Not sure exactly how to get started? Read through books and articles by survival specialists or people who have made it through disasters and check out the different types of gear available. Just don’t forget to start involving the family early on so that a disaster situation won’t come out of left field and everyone will have time to get on board with plans.