If you work or travel frequently more than a day’s drive from your home, you need a detailed emergency plan. A family disaster plan is for relocating before, during and after a catastrophic event. If the situation has caused you to be separated from your loved ones, you will need to have thoroughly documented and practiced executing that plan in order to maximize efficiency during the event. This is at a time when stress is high and outside influences will have a greater probability of adversely affecting your response.
For starters, everyone should have a bugout bag. What is carried in yours might not need to be carried in mine as each bag is different. At all times and in any given place, you should have the ability to make or obtain shelter, fire and food, as well as collect and purify water and communicate over a distance (preferably with family and friends for status updates throughout the event). Only you can figure out which items are best suited for you.
The next part of the equation is how you will reunite with your loved ones. There are some factors involved in this process you need to consider. Is the home still intact? Can all parties involved meet at a pre-determined and centrally located place, or will the traveling party return to base? One of the most important factors of this part of the planning and decision-making process is communication.
Are cell phones operational or do you have another method? You should have addition methods of communicating throughout this process such as shortwave, UHF/VHF radios? There are several amateur radio clubs as well as other communication networks that you can take advantage of in cases of emergency. AmRRON and ARES are some of the networks that you can follow for emergency communications options.
Get to Safety
Another element of a family disaster plan when separation has occurred is transportation. Do you have access to a vehicle? If so, how much fuel do you have? Are you on foot? How far do you have to travel? If you are on foot, the weight of the supplies that you need to sustain you is a factor. This could possibly be a major factor if you are not conditioned to hiking with additional weight.
How long will your food last? What kind of skills or currency do you have that will translate into sustenance as you make your way back? During my first trip to New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katina, the company that I contracted with was short on shelter but heavy on food, so during my next trip out there for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, I packed heavy on shelter and light on food. Big mistake, as they secured proper shelter arrangements and the food lines were disrupted adding a bit of unnecessary stress to the situation.
The next consideration is the route you will take. Anywhere from two to four routes should be included in any contingency planning. Landmarks and places of protection or rest should be documented in your planning process. Site visits should be used to determine each site’s suitability before these locations are included.
While everyday-carry items, travel routes, communications and alternate locations are all key elements of a reunification plan, the human factor is most often the weakest element in the equation. Mental fortitude is important as stress will be high and the time frame for seeing your loved ones again might be several weeks or months depending on the extent of the event and distance to be traveled.
Practicing your plan will determine how comfortable the process is. A good way to ensure a more comfortable journey, whether you are traveling or sheltering in place, is to acknowledge small victories throughout the process. Things like a nice meal, finding a pure water source, making successful communication, finding shelter during inclement weather or meeting a milestone are all things to be celebrated in an otherwise dire situation that will help you maintain a positive outlook.
This article was originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE™. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.
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