Unpredictable. That’s what disasters are. So when you’re out in the wilderness on your own or with your family and a disaster strikes—an earthquake, flood or tornado it’s essential that you’re prepared.
Keep these crucial safety tips from a survival expert in mind when staying in the same location (barring any safety concerns)… they could very well save your life.
Once you’re safe and secure, the number one priority for a family in a disaster is water. It’s advisable to shelter in place unless it’s hazardous. “Water is definitely going to be the number one precious commodity that’s going to go quickly,” says Jerry Ward, owner and operator at Ozark Mountain Preparedness, an outdoor wilderness survival school based in Berryville, Arkansas. “The rule of thumb I recommend is 3 gallons per person, per day, minimum.
That’s to cover drinking, cooking, washing and hygiene.” He advises to have some sort of water storage available plastic bottles from big box stores and 40-gallon plastic barrels are perfect.
Barring any safety concerns or forced evacuation, it’s ideal for a family to stay in place and seek refuge in their home. “It’s a whole lot easier and more comfortable for a family if they’re already established in their home,” Ward says. “They’ve got all their stuff at home. This is especially important if they have kids. Plus, if you’re at the house, you’ve got all the stuff you’ve stockpiled.”
You’ll want to have sufficient clothing on hand based on the season, as well as a heating source, such as a wood stove; these are crucial to ensuring your body temperature stays at the recommend 98.6 F.
Unexpected disasters can lead to mechanical and soft tissue injuries. That’s why it’s essential to have a good quality medical kit on hand. Ward suggests assembling your own based on family needs. If you lack the knowledge, don’t fret, there are several companies that make kits specifically for the wilderness.
If you’re assembling your own medical kit, Ward recommends including at a bare minimum the following items: quality tweezers, EMT shears, cling wrap (to keep wounds clean and create tension), a quality space blanket and over-the-counter medications. It’s also doesn’t hurt to have some professional-grade medical training. You might not always have a medical kit on hand, so you might need to improvise.
ProtectionWhen a disaster strikes, there are plenty of good Samaritans who will offer help. Unfortunately, there are also people who try to do you harm.
Safety, whether it’s from humans or wild animals, needs to be a high priority. “I recommend for anybody who lives in an area where they are allowed, to purchase a firearm and get proper training,” Ward advises.
If you aren’t keen on owning a gun, some good alternatives include defensive martial arts training and dogs. Not only will a dog keep you company, it will alert you of trespassers.
Although food isn’t as crucial as water (you can live 30 days without food), there’s no reason to go without and suffer. “Food is a comfort item; it’s physiologically nice to have a full belly,” says Ward.Ward doesn’t recommend having a food supply for any set number of days. “I recommend you stockpile as much food as you can afford. It’s important to stockpile items you’re actually going to want to eat.” Ward recommends a mixture of canned, dried (pastas, lentils, peas, beans) and freeze-dried foods.
A communication device comes in handy during a disaster. Not only can you send and receive information, you can let loved ones know you’re safe. While it’s useful to have a cellphone, it may not work if the power grid goes down, so it’s a good idea to have a landline phone.
Other useful communication devices include a handheld radio (good for talking back and forth), short-wave radio with AM/FM capability and ham radio (good for broadcasting and receiving information).
If your shelter is damaged during the disaster, such as a tree falling down and damaging your roof, it’s a good idea to have basic tools on hand to make immediate repairs. These don’t have to be expensive tools, just the typical tools you’d find in any toolbox: hammer, shovel, axe, pry bar, screwdriver, ratchet, etc. Although not required, an electric generator comes in handy if you’re without power for an extended period of time.
“This isn’t at the bottom of the list because it isn’t important.” says Ward. “Comfort items are important to your family’s well-being, especially if you have children at home.” He recommends the following items for children: books, a deck of cards board games, crayons, action figures and a flashlight with extra batteries. Not only do these items entertain your family, they can help take their minds off the incident and put your kids at ease.