The Smart Mama: Preparations Matter in an Emergency ~ Communications Plan

thNews reports of shortages in supplies in advance of the ice storm now hitting the southeast underscore the need to prepare for emergencies in advance – and not 24 hours in advance. Yes, you can plan on being able to go buy food, toilet paper, dog food, formula, shovels, generators, whatever before a storm hits – but what if the stores don’t have the supplies? What if you simply don’t have time? What if you don’t have the money at the time or gas in your car or some other Murphy’s Law situation?

Most survival stories involve planning in advance – the right gear, the right planning, the right training – for the emergency. Of course, stores abound of individuals surviving against incredible odds – but why stake a successful outcome on happenstance? It is easier to plan in advance.  Of course, most plans don’t survive the emergency – but having put some thought into your emergency preparations, you will be much better off and have a higher chance of surviving successfully.

For most families, planning for an emergency is going to involve a family communications plan.  It is highly likely that in the event of an emergency, family members and pets may be scattered.  One or both parents may be at work.  Kids may be at school or at some activity.  A family member may be at church. Whatever.  A family communications plan should involve a discussion about how you will communication and where you will meet.  Where you will meet may vary depending on the hazard.  Cell phones are great – but they may not be available depending on the emergency.  Texts often have an easier time getting through – and kids should be instructed to text (assuming they have phones).  Also, meeting locations should be arranged.  My kids have three bug out locations in the event they are at school and must leave the school in the event of an emergency.  We have prioritized the locations and discussed the locations with my kids.  We’ve also been to the locations from school so that the kids know how to get there.

But talk these preparations out before the emergency.  Talk with your kids about what to do if they can’t reach you after an earthquake or tornado, or where you should plan on meeting.  And discuss how long it may take you to reach that meeting place in the event of a disaster.

So, to develop your emergency family communications plan, the first step is to meet with your family or household members and discuss the plan and options.  Go over how to prepare and respond to the emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.

Make a decision and plan on what you will do if the family is separated during an emergency.  Select at least two places to meet, one right near home in case there is a sudden emergency at home, such as a fire, and at least one outside your immediate neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.  If your kids are at school, I would recommend a third that is safe for them and in between their school and your house.  If it is a friend’s house, make sure that friend knows that your kids may stage at the location.

Together, choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have this person’s emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones, and the contact person should know that he or she may need to act to coordinate.  That person should have some familiarity with your town to assist your children.

You may also want to invest in some handheld two way radios.  They can be useful and easy to use.

If you need to evacuate, decide together where you would go and what route you would take to get there. You may choose to go to a hotel/motel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location or go to an evacuation shelter if necessary.  But make sure your kids understand what the plan is.

Practice, practice, practice.  It may seem silly, but practice does make perfect. At least drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on your map in case roads are impassable.

And, of course, plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.

 Don’t forget to remind your family members that the American Red Cross has its Safe and Well website to let family and friends know you are safe.  Teach your kids how to use it too.



TheSmartMama’s Guide to Surviving an Emergency – Packing a Get Home Bag for Work

thTo adequately prepare for an emergency situation, you have to know for what sort of emergency you are preparing.  I live in Southern California, and work outside the home.  The most likely emergency situations I will face are earthquakes and wildfires.  And, it is quite possible that these situations could occur while I am at work and my kids are at home or at school.  I work approximately 25 miles from where my kids go to school and we live.  In the event of a wildfire, I’ll probably be able to go get them – in downtown Los Angeles, I don’t see a wildfire sweeping through.  But in the event of an earthquake, it is quite possible that the freeways and streets will not be driveable, and it is also possible my car could be stuck in its underground garage. So I’m guessing I will be walking home.

My kids have bug out locations – I just need to get to them. So I have a “get home” but out bag at work, designed to allow me to get home safely. Assuming there are no major obstacles, I should be able to get home within 24 hours – probably more like 6 hours. So I have a relatively light “get home” bag designed for the conditions I might face in the event of an earthquake and I am forced to essentially walk home. 

Now, the tendency is to put everything you can think of in a bug out bag so you can live for at least 72 hours outside the house. And that makes for one heavy bag. My plan is to keep it light so I can travel quickly home . . . where we have more emergency supplies.  Hence, this is my “get home” bag and not a complete bug out bag.

So, what do I have. I have comfortable walking shoes – worn in tennis shoes. Yeah, tactical boots would probably be better, but those are in my real bug out bag. I have a pair of leggings, a short sleeve sports shirt, a long sleeve sports shirt and a pull over.  I wear dressier clothes to work but I sure don’t want to walk home in them through some not so nice areas of Los Angeles.  I have an emergency poncho in the unlikely event we have rain here. I have a crushable hat and sunblock (critical in sunny Los Angeles). I have a very small medical kit basically just for bandaging, cleaning, topical antibiotics, and some pain killers.  I have some waterproof matches. I have an emergency whistle. I have a paper map of the area of would most likely be traversing. I have a head lamp, a collapsible tactical baton, clean socks, clean underwear (thanks mom), some wipes, a bottle of water, some jerky, some energy bars, some alcohol based cleaner, a small towel, a rope,  and that is pretty much it.  I also have a multi purpose tool and a tactical knife.  I have 2 survival blankets.  I also have a couple of items I can ditch – neoprene face mask, shoe polish (if I need to travel at night), gloves, extra plastic bags, and warmer jacket. Light enough to make tracks if I need to, and good enough to survive.  All of this is in a comfortable backpack, fitted to me.

Now, this is really just for one person to get home. It isn’t going to support my kids – I have another bug out bag in my vehicle if I need to do that.

TheSmartMama’s Guide to Surviving an Emergency – Turning off the Gas

thSo we have now lived at the Land of Fruits and Nuts for a year.  Moving to the Land of Fruits and Nuts has resulted in a drastic change in my outlook.  Just dealing with the abundant harvest on 6 acres has driven me to learn to preserve the harvest – pickling, canning, dehydrating and more.  Trying to learn to preserve the harvest ultimately lead me in my research to a number of homesteading and doomsday prepping websites.  And that lead me to wanting to be much more self sufficient.

To the consternation of my husband. Who walked into our house after being gone for work for a week to a demand for a solar generator and more ammo.

But, that was somewhere in the middle of my journey and I didn’t blog about it.  I’ve been so caught up in gardening and preserve and chasing crows that I only recently woke up and realized I hadn’t blogged for ages.

Oh well.

Now it is a new year and we just had what I’ve dubbed our survival Santa Christmas. And I thought I would start blogging about my emergency preparedness tactics and tricks in 2014.  Because one of my resolutions for 2014 is to be more prepared for emergency situations.

First things first, I live in earthquake country, and knowing how to turn off your gas supply is critical.  Of course, only turn off the gas at the meter if you smell gas, hear gas leaking or have other signs of a leak, and only if it is safe to do so.  But EVERYBODY in the house should know how to do it, including your kids (of course, if they are old enough).

So, yesterday, on January 1, 2014, I disrupted the Minecraft games to teach my kids (1) where the gas meter is located at our house; and (2) how to turn it off with a wrench.

Many homes  in Southern California (and I presume other areas prone to earthquakes) have natural gas seismic shut-off valves.  These valves automatically shut off the gas service when an earthquake of a sufficient magnitude occurs.   You could also have an excess flow valve – this valve automatically shuts off the gas service when a significant gas leak or overpressure surge occurs at a pipe or appliance located beyond the point where the valve is installed.

If you don’t have such a valve, then you do need to know where your gas meter is located and how to turn off the gas flow in the event of an emergency.   You gas meter may be located in a cabinet, under the house, next to the house or in an underground vault. Go find it.  Then, you will need a 12 inch wrench in your emergency supplies to turn off the gas flow



As you can see from the image, the gas flow is “on” when the valve is in line with the pipe, and it is “off” when the valve is cross wise to the pipe. Keep the wrench with your emergency supplies so you have it ready if you need to turn off the gas.

That’s it. Pretty easy. And  your kids should know how to do it – it may save their lives.