Emergencies are immediate concerns, while disasters are protracted events. Think the difference between "trapped in an underwater car" and "a hurricane destroyed my city". Both can be deadly, but you have much more time to think and reason in the second scenario than in the first. As a general rule, emergencies can be dealt with through training skills or techniques, and disasters can be dealt with through planning, tools, and materials.
Example. If you're starving in the wilderness, you have a couple days before the lack of calories impedes you. You don't need more than a general plan on dealing with this scenario since you'll be able to improvise on the fly.
If you're dehydrated, you have two days before you die. Not having water is thus much more important than not having food.
If you can't breathe, you have two minutes to react — and most of those minutes will be spent in extreme stress. You will only do what you trained to do; everything else will be forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Emergency preparation should focus on reducing the time to react and the speed of execution. A tool that's 60% effective and usable in a minute is more valuable than a tool that's 99% effective but takes five minutes and a perfect environment to use.
Under pressure, you don't rise to the occasion. You sink to the level of your training.
— Navy SEAL saying
In an emergency, the first thing you should do is assess the situation. Never charge in blindly to assist — that's how you turn one casualty into two. Always operate inside an OODA loop in emergency situations.
If you invest in training, focus your efforts on events where you only have a few seconds to react. Longer-term emergencies will give you enough time to think through your actions and you won't need to worry so much about having a good intuitive feel for how to act.
Fire, Smoke, and Drowning
In these disasters, the most important thing is staying conscious. If you black out, the environment will keep you unconscious until you die.
For fire, have an escape route planned that doesn't involve your main entrance.
For smoke, getting fresh air and staying below the smoke line are the most important things to do.
For drowning, remember that your body naturally floats in water. If you aren't trapped, you will eventually rise to the surface. Your goal here is to stay free and make sure your face stays pointed upwards. Facing downwards means you might pass out and then not reawaken when you reach the surface.
Emergency Medical Issues
For medical issues, buy a basic first aid kit or build your own. Having the equipment isn't enough, though — you also need to know to use it. First aid classes are available online, and this free video will cover the fundamentals.
Hypothermia and Overheating
It's easy to dismiss cold and heat, but they're killers. Having the right gear helps but it's more important to understand how your body regulates its temperature. Your extremities quickly exchange heat with the environment, while your core takes much longer to change. If you're overheating, cooling down your core temperature is the top priority.
Give them what they want because, in real life, whoever has the gun or knife wins. If the enemy forces a fight, aim for unprotected areas. Eyes can be scratched, ears can be ripped off, and noses can be broken with the palm of your hand. Jab their throat, knee their testicles, stomp on their toes — and run. You never know if an assailant has another weapon tucked into their jacket or a buddy lurking around the corner.
Preparing An Emergency Bag
An emergency bag is a duffel bag or backpack filled with gear to help you survive a protracted disaster. The bag should contain enough supplies for at least three days and be versatile enough to cover various scenarios.
Information is the most important type of "gear". Get a cheap tablet and load it with your emergency plans. Have maps with a clearly labeled place for meetups. Print out a copy of the Offline Survival Guide. In the long-term, having a solar-powered charger for your phone will be invaluable since you'll be able to figure out how to do almost anything with the internet's help.
Note. Buy enough perishables for at least three days, but try to make sure your non-perishables can last for months if needed. For example, don't buy a backup phone battery — get a solar charger and have the rest of your gear be compatible with it.
Categories of Gear
- Air. Get a face or gas mask.
- Temperature. Focus on your extremities and prioritize high-quality clothing. That means gloves, boots, thick socks, and wide-brimmed hats. Also, get a spare pair of sandals so you can dry out your boots without going barefoot in an unsanitary environment.
- Electricity. Get a solar-powered charger for your phone and other emergency gear.
- Clothes. Choose clothes that protect your skin: long sleeves, long pants, durable fabrics.
- Hygiene. Microbes, parasites, and tooth infections are deadly. Get soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. If you run out of toothpaste, charcoal can go a long ways for oral hygiene.
- Fire. Get a lighter or strike-anywhere matches. Starting a fire lets you cook, stay warm, and dry out.
- Light. Buy a flashlight that's compatible with your solar charger.
- Water. Have one gallon per day per person ready. However, if you need to leave, 2.5 gallons is the maximum you can reasonably carry. If you live in a wet area, purification tablets and double-boiler purifiers can help you survive on the water in your environment.
- Food. MREs and Soylent bars are an excellent place to start. Dry, calorie-dense foods like jerky or dried tofu are also solid DIY choices.
- Excretion/Urination. Get extra toilet paper and tampons.
- Shelter. Get a basic tent, and know how to build a simple shelter.
- Sleep. Your bag should have a sleeping bag.
- Communication. A whistle and a flare can attract attention. Get a radio to listen for news (either hand-cranked or compatible with your solar charger). Pencils are more durable than pens, and a journal lets you write notes and plans. Small-denomination cash and copies of essential documents such as insurance papers and identification will come in handy once you're no longer alone.
- Medical. Get a backup supply of any medications. If you're on insulin, make sure you have an insulated bag. If you use glasses, have a second pair in a reasonably durable box.
Maintaining Your Kit
After assembling an emergency bag, remember to take care of it so it's ready when needed.
- Canned food should be stored in a cool, dry place.
- Boxed food should be stored in sealed plastic or metal containers
- All items should be replaced regularly
- Once a year, re-think your needs and update your kit
Storing Your Kit
Since you don't know where you'll be when an emergency strikes, prepare supplies for home, work, and your car.
Keep this kit in a designated place and have it easily accessible in case you have to leave in a hurry. Make sure all family members know where it's stored.
Be prepared to shelter at work for at least a day. Your work kit should include food, water, comfortable shoes, and other necessities like medicine. Store it in a grab-and-go case or bag.
This kit is in case you get stranded somewhere. Keep a bag of basic emergency supplies in your car.