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Be Prepared for anything

From GOCRA volunteer leader Pat Watson, this timely message on preparedness. Sure, armed self defense is great and important, but it’s only one tool in your survival tool kit:

prepared
image courtesy State Farm
                 

My annual preparedness message seems particularly apropos this year in light of the Paris attacks, as well as our upcoming winter weather season here in MN (whenever it gets here).

Are you prepared for an emergency?

Depending on your work situation and lifestyle choices, you should review your personal and family level of preparedness before an event like a blizzard or a security incident hits.

First step:

Be safe and make good choices. Get to a safe location and collect your thoughts. You made a plan for this – now it’s just a matter of following through. Keep in mind, though, that most plans don’t survive first contact, so be adaptable.

At work/school:

Preparedness can be a simple as carrying a comfortable pair of shoes/boots, gloves, stocking cap, scarf/face-cover and jacket, either with you, or in your vehicle. Even mass transit commuters can upgrade to a backpack for the winter (or carry one all the time), and have the tools they need to walk if necessary. An empty water bottle, a small amount of cash ($1’s and $5’s), high energy snacks (leftover Halloween candy, anyone?), additional socks, basic toiletries/hygiene products, a deck of cards (not even kidding) and a pair of rain/wind/snow pants will round out the bare necessities.

Think of what you would need to get home, or to your family “meeting place,” in the event you can’t use your normal form of transportation. In the event that travel is impossible, think of what you’d need to remain comfortable spending a night in your car, at work, or even sheltering on the floor of a school or community center.

Google a walking route home now, and print out a reduced-size version to carry in your wallet/purse/backpack. Mobile Internet service can be slow to nonexistent during an emergency, and phone/device batteries die in the cold.

Obviously, in extreme cold or blizzard conditions, you’ll need to know your own capabilities – and those of your group – before you leave shelter. Don’t encourage children or the frail/elderly to begin a journey they likely can’t finish. Sometimes the best option is simply to shelter in place.

At home:

Have a three- to five-day supply of non-perishable food and water. Think of items you or your family would normally use for meals, then have a rotating stock of those items.  Use or donate items prior to their expiration dates (or read up on why expiration dates are a farce on most canned products). A case of Ramen noodles isn’t planning: trust me, your gut will thank you!

For those on city water: in the event of a power failure, fill any containers you have with tap water immediately (even the bathtub). Water will remain flowing only as long as pressure remains in the local towers. That won’t last forever.

An alternative heat source is a luxury item, but small, efficient propane heaters – such as those used in an ice fishing house – are readily available and inexpensive. You can close off your home or apartment to a single room and hang out in there with the heater for quite a while. Remember to crack open a window for ventilation any time you run a combustion device indoors.

Communication:

Have a text message “tree” set up with a shared family member or friend outside your immediate geographical area – preferably in a different time zone. In emergencies, much like at crowded events, cell phone data service is the first thing to slow to a crawl, but text messages (SMS) can get out more readily than emails or voice calls.

Text this person your location and condition, and have them update social media on your status and location, and text your “tree” to get status and location from other family members. Coordinate with your family and friends that way, instead of all trying to find each other using local data connections, which may not be working. Facebook has the ability to set up “Secret” groups to which you can invite only your friends and family members; messages to each other can be posted there as time and service permits.

If you have an Apple device, remember that iMessage tries to send via data first, but you have the option to “Send as a Text Message” via a “tap and hold” on the message.

In the car:

Have jumper cables, warm clothes, high energy snacks, a blanket, a small shovel and sand (for traction if you’re stuck). Don’t let your gas tank get below halfway during the winter: you may need to idle for an extended period of time.

Also, keep up with recommended maintenance, especially with your battery!

Help others prepare too. Backpack “survival kits” can be made relatively inexpensively, and they make great gifts.

Be safe out there this season!

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