As I sat planning this article one of my first realizations was that everyone has a different idea of disaster. For some it might mean the power goes out. For others it means total government collapse and anarchy. For others still it might mean the local nuclear power plant experiences some kind of emergency that requires evacuation. For the sake of clarification, in this article as I discuss disaster planning, “disaster” means anything that is forcing you to leave your residence for an unforeseen period of time.
Now when I roll through my mental check list for disaster planning I prioritize what I am going to take with me and how I’m taking it with me in several different categories which we will discuss. My mode of travel is predetermined and I’ve realized that my method of packing anything is layered, which we’ll also discuss. First and foremost though, I’ve come to realize that the level to which I can prepare for any disaster is entirely dependent on two things:
- My own personal level of physical fitness, and
- What level of comfort I’ve come to expect.
Every one of us has our own level of physical performance ability and our individual medical challenges. Some of you reading this may be so physically fit as to perform at or near Olympic levels with no medical challenges at all. Some of you reading this may be confined to a wheelchair, badly arthritic or dependent on multiple medications each day. As you plan your disaster response and make your preparations, you have to be aware of your own physical limitations and challenges and you have to be honest with yourself about them. Let me tell you what I mean: I know a man who has developed his disaster response plan entirely around his ability to hike out of his neighborhood carrying everything he feels he needs to survive on his person. I’ve seen his list of gear and know that he plans on carrying about 80 pounds of gear going out his door. Just to get out of the neighborhood he’s going to have to walk about five miles – and even if it’s on the paved roads there are plenty of hills. If he can’t use the paved roads to walk then he has to go through woods and streams, up and down hills and through uncertain terrain – all carrying that 80 pounds of gear. So what’s his challenge? He can’t mow his yard without taking a break for a cigarette and a beer; and it’s not a big yard. I’d venture to guess that, while his plan and preparation are good overall, he’s badly over-estimating his own capabilities and won’t be able to get off the block – much less out of the neighborhood – carrying all that. In my opinion, he’d be better off planning to use his vehicle (a large SUV) to get out of the neighborhood and not plan on hiking out until he’s gotten as far as his available gasoline has taken him.
So be realistic with yourself about what your capabilities are. Developing a disaster plan and making preparations around fictional capabilities is exactly as good as not making a plan at all. If you’re not in the physical shape you feel you should be (and how many of us are?), then get to work on that. Losing weight and becoming more physically fit is nothing more than adjusting your diet and exercising. This is something I’m intensely personally familiar with since I myself have lost over 20 pounds in the past year through nutritional adjustment and exercise. I DO NOT mean going on some fad diet, paying Jenny Craig or listening to some celebrity (who is getting paid) tell you what miracle diet worked for them. I mean daily tracking your intake of food in carbohydrates, protein, fat and sodium and reducing that intake in a healthy fashion. I also mean increasing your activity through exercise at least four days each week, but six is better (I do believe in taking a day off). If you burn off more calories than you take in then you will lose weight. It won’t be ten pounds in a week, but it will be a lifestyle change that benefits you in the long run. Between the weight loss and increase in physical fitness you’ll soon realize (soon being three to six months) that your capabilities have changed and you can adjust your disaster planning around that.
Now, with personal fitness addressed, what level of comfort do you expect as you put your disaster response plan into effect? For some folks, their idea of roughing it means the Holiday Inn. For others it means not sleeping in a cold puddle. For some the cold puddle is an acceptable option. You have to determine what level of comfort you are going to aim for in your disaster planning and then, as you layer down your response options, recognize that each layer will reduce your level of comfort as well. While the great goal is to survive the disaster in total comfort and with minimal inconvenience, the overall base goal is to survive… period. With that in mind, layer your preparation plan as follows:
- What you take in your vehicle;
- What you carry in a pack;
- What you carry in or on a vest;
- What you carry on your belt;
- What you carry in your pockets
I put them in that specific order because the amount you can carry to add or detract from your comfort level is reduced with each level as you go down that list. The needs you should address as you plan what you’ll pack in each level must include, in some form:
- Food & water
That may seem a short list, but virtually everything we take with us serves one of those four purposes. In future articles we’ll discuss:
- Vehicles, concerns and load options
- Packs, concerns and load options
- Vests, concerns and load options
- On your person: belt and pockets, concerns and load options
- Defense options, concerns, legality awareness, etc
Between now and next week when Disaster Planning 102 is released, start thinking about your physical fitness and what your level of satisfaction is with it. Make the necessary adjustments NOW to benefit yourself and your family – and anyone else who might be affected by the enactment of your disaster response plan. If you need help FOR FREE, I’m using MyFitnessPal.com. It’s a free website you can join, set your goals, set your current measurements and weight, and adjust how much weight you want to lose each week. It has built in databases to track what you eat and what you burn as you exercise. Remember that weight-loss and increasing your fitness levels is not a short term effort; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Commit to it, start on the path and as you do so, think about what you’d pack in your vehicle if you had to leave your residence for an undetermined amount of time. We’ll discuss that next week.
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