Get Your Priorities Straight

April 16, 2016


What do most people do in a disaster? Panic, of course. Run, scream, blame somebody, freak out. Or freeze and hope someone saves them. However, you are on this site because you have common sense, and you know that panicking is the least helpful thing you can do. Here we will discuss disasters like a big storm, a flood, an earthquake or major power out.


Priorities: Any time in life when you have too much to do, you set priorities. Decide what’s most important, and do that first.



Are you in a safe place? Are your people safe?


If it’s a flood, GET TO HIGHER GROUND! If it’s an earthquake and you are in a tsunami zone, GET TO HIGHER GROUND. On the West Coast, they tell us we have 15 minutes after the quake to be out of the zone. Is there a fire? GET OUT AND GO FAR AWAY. 


Stuff is stuff and can be replaced. Get your people and go.


Any injuries? Take care of major stuff first, like bleeding. Later take care of the minor stuff, like a broken finger. Here is a link to some basic first aid info.  


Safety hazards? Here's a great youtube about downed power lines


Turn off the gas and the water or anything that might be a hazard.



You can live three weeks without food, three days without water but three hours without shelter if it’s too cold. If your home is not safe, find a safe place for a tent or evacuate to a shelter. If it’s cold, work on a fire. Here is a link on how to build a fire. It’s essential to stay dry and out of the wind



After Hurricane Katrina, some evacuees suffered from Salmonella, cholera and norovirus. That would be a bummer to survive a catastrophic flood and die of diarrhea.


Flooding picks up sewage from homes and the sewer system. It also picks up chemicals like gasoline from cars and spreads it all over. When the floods recede, the sewage and poisons cover everything. I don’t even like thinking about the pollution from the Fukushima disaster in Japan.


Establish where people will relieve themselves and who will keep that area clean.  A 5 gal plastic bucket with a plastic garbage bag makes a great toilet. Just remember, sewage is a veritable soup of diseases that can wipe out whole towns. Plastic bags are a good item to stockpile to use in your bucket toilet. It might be tempting to wash the bucket in the stream, but that just sends filth and disease to all those downstream. It’s better to dig a hole and bury waste.


Overcrowding in evacuee shelters can spread disease like wildfire. Colds, flu, hepatitis A are the common ones. In the Philippines in 1991 Mt. Pinatubo erupted, and there were 18,000 cases of measles among the displaced people.


The number one best way to not become infected with illness is to wash your hands!  



High priority is having access to water and food. Hopefully you've done a good job of storing them.


Next priority is using them wisely. No electricity, so keep fridge shut so food doesn't spoil. It will take a fridge a few hours to warm to room temp. 


What is most likely to spoil and hurt you? If there is any meat, you should not let that warm up for more than a couple hours. It can make you extremely sick, and you may not be able to tell while eating it. Prepared food is the same. Milk and fruit and vegies get the sniff test. You can usually tell if they are spoiled.  Condiments last longer, varying times. Some, like ketchup, mustard, jelly, vinegar dressings and soy sauce are fine out of the fridge. Some, like mayo and creamy dressings, can make you very sick.


Use wisdom. Going hungry is better than food poisoning.


Eat fridge stuff first, starting with the most likely to spoil. After a day or two the freezer will warm up. It takes longer, first it has to thaw, come up to fridge temp and then high enough to spoil. By the 2nd or 3rd day, start eating the freezer food or sharing with others. 

If you have a lot of meat, and you have a fire, and you have salt and/or soy sauce, you have the makings of some homemade jerky that will last awhile. The salt and the dryness preserve the meat. If you do it correctly, it can last for months. Most of us don’t have the experience to make it safe enough to last months, and meat can make you very sick if it spoils, so be careful. If you can preserve it enough to last a couple weeks, you will have a good source of protein. And there’s nothing better than homemade jerky. Practice now.



Depending on where you live, this will be higher or lower on your priority list. If you live in downtown with gang members selling drugs outside your door, your situation is totally different than a farm community where many of the neighbors are relatives. You might do well to join forces with your friends or neighbors and form a united front against looters. You might need to stand guard at night to protect yourself.


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