When a disaster strikes – whether it’s from extreme weather or a manmade crisis – you have a decision to make and it needs to be made quickly.
Do I hunker down or bug out?
Obviously this depends on the nature and severity of the emergency. But I think we can all agree that sheltering in place is the preferable choice, assuming that’s a possibility.
Of course, you may be away from your home when a disaster occurs, but the principle is the same – get indoors as quickly as possible.
Backtracking for a moment, spend some time thinking about the types of emergencies most likely to occur in the area where you live. Then take specific precautions for those types of problems.
If you do choose to “Bug Out”, ask yourself these questions and assess these situations to help prepare:
- Your Situation – What pushes your button internally that says “We have to leave”?
- Your Location – This can apply to both where you are and where you plan to go
- Your Health – Are you physically able to leave and possibly walk the distance
- Your Dependents – small children or old relatives. Pets?
- The Threat – What is the threat we are planning to leave for?
- Your Destination – Where is the place you are going to?
Next, in case you are away from your home when a crisis hits – even if it’s only a few miles away – know where the emergency shelters are in your vicinity. These are usually labeled in certain high school gymnasiums, public libraries and local Salvation Army locations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offer these three tips for dealing with an emergency situation in the first few moments:
- Get inside. Bring your loved ones, your emergency supplies and when possible, your pets.
- Find a safe spot in this location. The exact spot will depend on the type of emergency.
- Stay put in this location until officials say it is safe to leave.
If at all possible, listen to radio or television stations for instructions on what actions to take and where to go if necessary.
The CDC also recommends staying in touch with emergency contacts:
- Call or text your emergency contacts. Let them know where you are, if any family members are missing and how you are doing.
- Use your phone only as necessary. Keep the phone handy in case you need to report a life-threatening emergency. Otherwise, do not use the phone, so that the lines will be available for emergency responders.
- Keep listening to your radio, television or phone for updates. Do not leave your shelter unless authorities tell you it is safe to do so. If they tell you to evacuate the area, follow their instructions.
Sealing up a room may be necessary during a crisis situation, especially if you need to stop outside air from entering the room. So…
- Turn off things that move the air, such as fans and air conditioners.
- Get yourself and your loved ones inside the room, as well as your emergency supplies if they are clean and easy to get to.
- Block air from entering the room.
- Listen to officials for further instructions.
You may want to consider establishing a safe room in your home with a reinforced door and a deadbolt.
Now, what if you have pets? This could present a big challenge. The first thing you’ll need to do is prepare a place in your shelter for your pets to, uh, relieve themselves. For that you’ll require lots of newspapers, plastic bags containers and cleaning supplies. The pets should not go outside until the danger passes.
If you are in your vehicle when a disaster strikes, it may be safer to stay inside it, especially if you’re not close to home or a public building. In that case…
- Pull over to the side of the road.
- Stay where you are until officials say it is safe to get back on the road.
- Listen to the radio for updates and additional instructions.