8358743_sDepending on your geographic location, a number of factors should be considered when it comes to disruption planning for you and your family.  Sandy, Katrina, OKC Tornadoes, Chevron Refinery Disaster in Vallejo, CA, and more frequent rail disasters with trains carrying light crude in Maine and liquid propane in Lac-Megantic may seem overwhelming but when you start a brief situation analysis you may discover some of these potentialities.  Events may take place in distant parts of the country and still impact travel and lines of supply.  For instance, a disruption to the rail lines through Colorado Springs might disrupt power from the coal plant that is dependent on daily coal shipments from Wyoming.  Likewise, you don’t have to live near a flooding river to be affected when a major artery of supply is washed away.

One should plan for a 100% disruption in water, power, gas, and services for at least one week at a minimum.  I would recommend two weeks of resources if possible.  In the first scenario, you wake up and you cannot or should not leave your house.  Perhaps weather such as flooding, fallen trees, or blizzard conditions preclude transportation.  Are you and your family ready to survive without electricity, gas, water, and wired communications for one week?  How many homes have a fireplace but no firewood?  Do you have sufficient bottled water?  Do you have propane and a camping stove for meals?  How are you going to pass the time without television and computers?  Do you have a landline in your home and an analog phone you can plug in during an emergency?  Once you start asking yourself these questions more and more items will come to mind.  These are just a few items to consider as a start point.

In the second scenario, you are required to displace or evacuate.  Have you already had the discussion on what your team should pack?  If time is critical, and it always will be, it would be helpful to have a storage bin prepared to throw in the car.  Rather than suitcases, backpacks should be considered a preferred alternative.  All those same considerations for no electricity, gas, water, and wired communication must be considered.  You may be sleeping in the car or on the side of the road so have you considered sleeping bags and air mattresses or a tent possibly?  You may find yourself ‘camping’ at a shelter or the floor in the home of a friend, family, or generous stranger.

If displacing or evacuating, is everyone dressed for the potential elements and terrain if walking becomes necessary?  Have you driven the most likely routes and found alternative back roads to avoid traffic congestion?  Again, having a series of plastic bins ready to throw in the car is critical because every second that passes is an opportunity to forget a key item or get stuck evacuating.  Be prepared to use credit cards whenever possible but also have cash ready since an event could disrupt communications for ATMs and credit card readers at stores.

I will continue this discussion in Part 4, “All Circuits Are Down” and Event Duration Discussion

Matt S
Matt is a former infantry officer in the US Army with a degree in systems engineering from West Point. He currently works as an engineering consultant integrating hardware and software into new applications. He is a graduate of Airborne School, Air Assault School, and SERE-High Risk (Level C) at JFKSWCS.

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