If time allows and you have enough prior warning to an impending disaster the first thing you need to do is gather the family, second is to get your 72 hour packs and keep them with you at all times and move to your predetermined shelter, third if time allows, is to shut off all utilities to your home (you need to know and learn in advance where and how to do this).
Cut off all gas, electricity, and water to your home. Also remember not to use any candles or open flames for lighting during or immediately following a disaster because the threat of natural gas leaks is very real. Use light sticks, LED flashlights or LED lanterns instead.
After the disaster, check the family making sure that everybody is all right and address any medical or emotional issues that you find. Remember to stay calm and focused, your family is looking to you for guidance at this point. Any panic or fear on your part will only serve to feed theirs.
Next move the family and your 72 hour packs (remember keep the packs with you at all times) to a safe location, even if it is outside temporally while you make a quick assessment of your structure. Next is to proceed to cut off all utilities to your home if you did not have a chance to do this before.
If your plans do not include leaving at this time your first step is to make sure that the home is physically stable and is no threat to you or your family. If the house is unstable prepare to leave.
If the house is physically stable then you can begin to turn on your utilities one at a time determining that each is safe to have on (do this by watching the gas and water meters as you turn them on, if they continue to spin and don’t stabilize turn them back off). A spinning meter that does not stop spinning within a few seconds indicates a possible leak.
If in doubt it is better to leave them off rather than face the threat of leaks especially the threat of natural gas. The electricity is the one utility that will usually be down following a disaster and if it does not come back up instantly when you try to turn it on, immediately shut it back off. You can try it again later.
The reason for this is that you do not want the power to suddenly come back on when you are not in a position to shut it back down if needed. You are trying to avoid any sparks from electrical shorts that may start a fire or accidental electrocution from damaged or exposed wiring.
Alright the initial disaster has passed, our home is deemed structurally safe, the utilities (what there is of them) are under our control, the family is not under any immediate threat, but the ordeal is not over is it. Help has not arrived and depending on the size and scope of the disaster it may be some time yet before help comes.
Our job now is to make sure that we can sustain the family safely with what we have on hand for as long as it takes.
If we have preplanned and prepared for this type situation we already have long term stores of food and water and are setting in a good position (we will discuss long term food and water storage in another article). Unfortunately most of us have not prepared so here is a quick list of things we need to do.
Again we need to assess the situation, take quick inventory of what food and water we do have on hand, start developing a plan of how and when to use these resources and put that plan into action. DO NOT USE your 72 hour packs at this point in time. They are to be used if we have to leave or as a very last resort.
1) Since we have shelter, Water becomes our first priority – If we are lucky and the water to your home is still operational (even if you turn it on temporally) fill all bathtubs, pots and pans, pitchers anything that can hold water now because we may lose that utility at any time. Most water companies use the large gravity towers to supply water to homes but if the electricity is down they have no way to pump new water into these tanks, they will only operate for a short while. For water storage recommends 2 gal./per person/per day. That can add up to a lot of water but remember we need water not just for cooking and hydration but sanitation also.
2) Let’s say we are unlucky and water at the tap is not available. That means all you currently have is what you have on hand including bottled water, sodas, juices, milks, teas etc. Some will say beer and that is true it is mostly water but be careful with drinks containing alcohol, in any excess they will actually dehydrate you. Here is One source of drinking water in your house that you may not have thought about and many will turn your noses at, but this is survival, not a game. The toilet tanks (not the toilet bowels) in your bathrooms hold anywhere from 1.6 gal to 3.2 gal depending if you have a high efficiency toilets are not. I assure you this is the same water that comes out of the kitchen sink, just dip it out. Never ration your water supplies just excellerate your hunt for alternative sources.
3) If you are unlucky and find yourself in the # 2 group above one of your next priorities will be to find alternative water sources which we will be covering in another article. In that article we will cover how to find, filter and purify alternative water sources.
4) Food is our next priority and we have Food but no electricity – In order to get the most out of the food that you have on hand the food will need to be eaten in the order of shelf life. By that I mean whatever will spoil first gets eaten first. We will start with the refrigerator. Avoid opening the freezer, most modern freezers can hold frozen foods for 2-3 days or more before thawing if not opened to often or too long and we will get to them as the next group to be eaten. (If by chance you live in the North and the disaster happens to take place in the winter time count yourself lucky because you can use outdoor storage of your foods to extend shelf life, most won’t be that lucky).
5) Eat the foods as mentioned above that will only last a day or so without refrigeration such as leftovers from other meals, luncheon meats, and milks. You get the idea, the main thing is we do not want to nor can we afford to waste anything. THIS IS SURVIVAL it is not about balanced meals with proper side dishes, this is about calorie count and nutrition, enough to keep you and your family alive till help comes (a minimum of 800 calories a day will keep you alive to face another day). I’m sure Most of you have never considered a condiment being a meal but eating a jar of mustard might just buy you or your child another day.
6) By day 3 you should have cleared your refrigerator for the most part and it is time to move to the freezer. You should also by day 3 have established an alternative water source if needed. This is your day of feasting but don’t get too excited because it will not last long. By day 3 you should be confident that there are no natural gas leaks in your area. So if clear, break out the Bar-B-Que grill and cook all of the meats from the freezer and enjoy, (most cooked meats unrefrigerated will not last more than a Day) wash it down with the melted ice cream if you have some of that there but if you have some melted treats like popsicles save them as they are another source of water. This may be the last good meal you have for a while.
7) By day 4 or 5 you have now moved into your can goods and dry goods. These have the longest shelf lives of all foods in the average kitchen. Depending on how well you stock your kitchen with these types of items and how well you ration will dictate how long you can sustain the family. Most homes if rationed properly can last a couple of weeks if necessary.
8) All during this time you should have been listening to any of the latest news broadcasts on your battery operated radio that you have RIGHT! So that you know how widespread the disaster is And you have been communicating with your neighbors to assist each other RIGHT!
If by day 7 you have not heard any news or you are running out of supplies you may want to consider bugging out but as long as the family is safe and supplies are still holding you may want to stay a while longer. The discussion is yours to make and can only be made based on the facts as you know them at that time. If you do decide to leave, just have a plan, know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Now is the time to use your 72 hour packs as you Bug Out. GOOD LUCK!
You say this is a nightmare scenario and that it just could not happen in my area or my town or my city. I say, How quickly we forget resent history. Following Hurricane Katrina some residents of New Orleans went for 7 to 10 days without any help or relief and that was with the full force of the U.S. Government backing the relief efforts.
Was it a shame, absolutely? Can it happen again, you bet it can! Ultimately it is our ownresponsibility as individuals and heads of households to take care of our families during a crisis and see them through it safely. The government can help with the clean up!
Video about 72 hour packs: