Tag: disaster

Catastrophic Events and Disasters Can Ruin Your Day — Updated 2017

Ostrich Assessing the Situation

Assessing the Situation

Classic Categories of Disasters

When we started writing our Advisories, back in 2012 (!), this was the list of “Catastrophic Events” and “Disasters” we learned about and wrote about:

  1. Widespread Natural Disasters – Several of these HIT somewhere in the world every year. Examples: Earthquakes, tsunamis, major storms, major wildfires. (Melting of ice caps and drought can be added to this list, though they usually don’t HIT. Rather, they creep up on regions.)
  2. Annual Threats – These events can be EXPECTED regularly every year including in the U.S. Examples: flooding, power outages, tornados, hurricanes.
  3. Man-made Accidents – These are unexpected, far less frequent, and often can’t really be anticipated. Examples: train wrecks, plane crashes, explosions and fires, nuclear plant meltdowns. Some people would add an economic meltdown to this list.

Since 2012, though, there has been one change to our list. Along about 2014 we had to add . . .

  1. A new category: Man-made On Purpose

You can guess which disaster falls into this category: Terrorist attacks.

Facts and statistics about natural disasters change slowly. They get worse as more people crowd to urban and/or coastal areas where storms are most common. And weather patterns are changing because of global warming.

But the facts of these changes are pretty well established, and the changes themselves are relatively slow.

Terrorist attacks are something else. News about terrorist attacks is dramatic, and gets splashed on the front pages. These attacks take place suddenly and in totally different and unrelated places.

Moreover, facts and statistics about terrorism aren’t necessarily well known. Here are some statistics from the 2016 Global Terrorism Index.

  • In 2015, nearly 30,000 people were killed from terrorist attacks worldwide.
  • More than half the deaths were attributable to two organizations: ISIS and Boko Haram.
  • Although many countries experience terrorism, over 80 per cent of all deaths in 2015 occurred in 8 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria, Yemen, Pakistan, Egypt and Somalia.
  • Over 90 per cent of all terrorism attacks occurred in countries experiencing violent internal conflicts.
  • In developed countries (Europe, the U.S.), the “man-made” factors correlating with terrorism: youth unemployment, levels of criminality, access to weapons and distrust in the electoral process.

OK, enough on terrorist attacks.

Let’s get back to our full list. When we look at all the possibilities, we realize immediately that trying to prepare for every catastrophe is impossible.

So why do we even make an effort at preparedness?

Because we know some of these disasters will happen, some day, to us, to our friends and neighbors, and to our community!

A better question: How to respond to this reality?

Here are the three most common approaches we’ve observed:

  1. Denial. Some people feel overwhelmed and bury their heads in the sand (figuratively, of course), pretending nothing will happen to them. If you have people like this in your family or at your workplace, you feel the same frustration we do. We have found over the years that it’s not worth the effort to try to change these folks’ mind.
  2. Passionate Anticipation. Some people are convinced disasters of the worst kind will happen and they spend time, money and psychic energy getting training, stockpiling supplies, buying gear and developing the mindset to get them through when the SHTF. We have met many of these people over the years, and sometimes are envious of everything they’ve put in place.
  3. Common-Sense Acceptance. Far more people approach emergency planning as simply one of the steps that responsible citizens take. Just as we buy insurance for our cars – in case we have an accident – and insurance for our homes – in case there’s a fire – making a commitment to preparedness – in case one of these disasters hits – just seems sensible.

Here at Emergency Plan Guide, we tend to support attitude #3. And we try to encourage people to take easy steps for sensible preparedness.  We remind them that it doesn’t all have to be done immediately. BUT, it can’t be done after the emergency hits!

For newer and long-time readers . . .

Here’s how we approach the process of preparedness.

  1. Count on having the bare necessities. Start with the most likely and immediate emergencies. For example, running out of food and water – whether it’s because of a simple power outage or a severe storm – is easily predictable! And the solution to this problem is one we all already know. It just takes adding a few items to our shopping list each week for the next few months. Nothing difficult, nothing high-tech. Hardest part is deciding where to store these supplies!
  2. Add Life-saving skills. You already teach your kids how to call 911. You teach them to swim. Add a few more skills to your own stock, like how to send a text, how to handle basic first aid or administer CPR. These aren’t particularly hard-core survival skills – they are really every day necessities.
  3. Think stopgap instead of permanent. It’s possible that we will experience a true apocalypse. It a lot more likely, though, that we’ll be trapped in the car overnight, or have to leave the house for a few days because of a water main break or the threat of a hurricane. Have enough packed so you can get along for 3 days at a hotel or in your brother’s extra bedroom. You aren’t likely to be camping in a forest somewhere trying to shoot squirrels for food.
  4. Build a support group. We already mentioned your brother, but what about neighbors? As a team, you could expect to have all the necessities and skills needed to get through the emergency – if you have built a relationship so you trust one another! Here at EmergencyPlanGuide.org we recommend taking a CERT course and using that to kick-off an effort to build a neighborhood or workplace group. Everybody has something to offer, and together we’re a lot more resilient and powerful than we are standing alone.
  5. Keep this stuff in perspective. Yes, emergencies will happen, but your local First Responders will be able to deal with them in 99% of the cases. And yes, a terrorist attack could happen. But whereas in 2015 some 30,000 people across the world were killed by terrorist attacks, 30,000 people are killed by gun violence every year in the U.S. alone! For that matter, around 30,000 people are killed in car accidents every year, too. Keep it in perspective!

When uncommon threats become predictable

Occasionally a threat develops that used to be in the “rare” column but now approaches “likely.” For example, here in Southern California there is one looming threat that tends to disrupt the stable, calm-cool-and-collected scenario described above — and that is a major earthquake.

Major earthquakes are unique in their potential for widespread damage. And the chances of a major quake here are getting better and better. (I think you could add a developing hurricane to this category, too.)

If these major events happen, days or even weeks may go by before outside help can arrive.

Our own First Responders tell us that planning for a 3-day emergency is not adequate. They ask us to prepare to take care of ourselves for at least 10 days.

If your own list of catastrophic events contains a threat that is usually rare but whose chances of happening go up for whatever reasons, then you need to take immediate and more focused action.

Having the basics already in place will make that extra effort a lot easier and give you a lot more confidence in your ability to survive.

So, let this Advisory  be a prompt for reflection about your own situation – and an impetus for action.

As always, you can’t prepare or train AFTER THE FACT.

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Our section BUILDING YOUR SURVIVAL SKILLS can get you started quickly! (It’s in the right-hand sidebar of this page.) Clicking the links will take you to targeted Advisories. If you know exactly what you’re looking for, use the SEARCH box at the top of the sidebar to get to that information even faster.

P.P.S.  As I write this, we’re approaching PRIME DAY at Amazon (July 11, 2017). If you’ve got a shopping list going — for emergency supplies or gifts or whatever — now might be the time to consider becoming a PRIME member.  We find Amazon to be a good source for nearly all supplies, and sometimes there are really great deals to be had. Try it out for free right now:






Communication Challenges in an Emergency


Once again, Emergency Plan Guide offers some tips for business or neighborhood CERT teams.  Today’s subject: communicating with people in a disaster situation.

 Last month we talked about the importance of succinct and clear radio communications. Today, succinct and clear are just as important, but this is a situation where you are dealing with a non-professional. It’s a situation that may be uncertain and unfamiliar to you both. Communication is going to be a challenge, no matter what.

Action Item: Use this Advisory to start a discussion in your group on potential problems. You are likely to be able to add more specifics based on your environment.

Person with disabilities

“Not getting through?!” 

In a big emergency, whether you are a concerned citizen, an Emergency Response Team member, or a First Responder dealing with victims or potential victims, you may find your words just not getting through!

You are asking urgent questions or giving urgent commands.

But the people you’re dealing with just aren’t responding!

Before you overreact and start yelling, run through this list in your mind. If you can identify one of these problems, and its solutions, you’ll have a better idea of what to do next for better communications.

Don’t forget to start by introducing yourself!

In any emergency situation, start by introducing yourself and why you are there.

For example: “My name is Joe, I’m a member of CERT, and I am here because there’s been an explosion and we need to move you to a safer location.”

Tell the person where they are going and what they need to take with them. If you know, tell them how long this move is likely to last. Repeat that it’s urgent that they get started . . . and that you are there to help.

If you know the person’s name, use it to start your sentences.

If the person has a care-giving companion, address your remarks to the person, not the companion!

What to do if the person doesn’t respond to your commands.

There are a number of things that could be preventing your audience from understanding your words and/or what they should do. Here are a few problems, with tips for how to address them.

The person doesn’t understand what you are saying.

1- Whether the person doesn’t hear well, doesn’t speak English well, or has mental health issues, here are some ideas for improving communication:

  • Make sure they know you are there to help. Get their attention by calling out and flicking the lights.
  • Get face to face with the person and at their level; don’t yell down at them or across the room.
  • Speak simply, clearly and slowly. Use hand gestures in speaking.
  • Repeat your commands or requests as necessary. If still no understanding, use DIFFERENT words to explain; don’t just repeat the same thing over and over.
  • Write your message on a paper, and let the person write back.

2- You are dealing with an elderly person who is resisting or confused.

  • Tell the person you are there to help.
  • If the person needs to leave the home, reassure them that this will only be temporary.
  • Gather medicines (or at least a list) and any portable medical equipment.
  • Let them know how and when they will be able to contact family.


What if the person isn’t able to follow your commands?

1- Person has a service animal and you aren’t sure how to proceed.

  • The animal must be kept with its owner. A service animal is like an extension of the person – it is not a pet.
  • The service animal must be on a leash or in a harness but does not need a muzzle.
  • Don’t try to give the animal instructions or use its harness to direct it. The animal will respond only to its owner.
  • Do not feed or pet the animal.

2- Person has mobility problems (walker or wheelchair in room).

  • Ask to be sure you understand the person’s capabilities. For example:
    • “Can you stand or walk without your walker?”
    • “Can you get down the stairs without my help?”
  • Assume the person knows how you can help. Let her tell you the best way to do it.
  • Assume the person knows how her equipment works. Let her give instructions about how to attach or detach parts, move the chair up or down stairs, etc.

3- Person declares or you think he is visually impaired.

  • Announce your presence.
  • Visually impaired does not mean hard of hearing. Speak in a normal tone of voice.
  • State the nature of the emergency, tell him what needs to happen, and offer assistance.
  • Do not reach out and grab the person to move him. Let him take your arm or rest his hand on your shoulder and then lead him.
  • Warn of stairs, doorways, ramps, etc. before you reach them.
  • To help a person sit down, place his hand on the back of the chair.


Communicating in a disaster takes extra thought.

By and large, we understand and are able to automatically put many of these tips into use. In an emergency, though, we may allow our own excitement to make the situation more challenging than it needs to be.

Take a deep breath, think it through.

It will be so much easier dealing with someone who (finally) understands than trying to force them, confused and frightened, into action.

Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. The best resource I’ve found on the topic of communication with people with disabilities is called Tips for First Responders, from the Center for Development and Disability at the University of New Mexico. You can get copies of the booklet here: http://cdd.unm.edu/dhpd/tips/tipsenglish.html

P.P.S. Resources for dealing with people with disabilities all echo this point: these are PEOPLE FIRST.  Start with the assumption that they have many abilities. For an interesting perspective about the concept of “People First” – written by a person with disabilities — check out this article from the Huffington Post.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/15/disability-etiquette_n_3600181.html






Dear Parent


Dear Parent,

Welcome to another exciting school year. Before we allow your child to come to school, we need to know that s/he knows what to do in an emergency.

We don’t have time to fit this information into the regular school curriculum. So if your child is to have a good chance of survival, it’s up to you.

Please sign and return this note so we know your child is properly prepared.

Sincerely,  Your School Administrator


Wow! What if you got this letter from YOUR child’s school? How would you react?

I bet you’d have . . .

Questions for that “School Administrator!”

Here are a few of them:

1. What should my child know about responding to an emergency at school?

2. What emergencies are we talking about?

3. What plans does the school have for protecting my child?

4. Has my child’s teacher received disaster training?

5. What do you expect of me if an emergency happens during the school day?

The sad truth is, many parents do NOT know the answers to these questions. And I wonder, how many school administrators could answer for their school and their teachers?! it’s worth some effort to find out more.

I was inspired to write this post by three things.

School Emergency Planning• My friend Russell sent me a copy of a booklet passed out at his kids’ school. You’ll see it in the picture. It is packed with valuable information, pulled from a variety of sources. Because it IS so packed, though, no child would ever start reading it. Even a parent would be hard pressed to get through it. The booklet could answer questions 1 and 2 above.

• For the past six weeks, the LinkedIn Group that I participate in has been discussing disaster preparedness in the schools. These are professional trainers and consultants. Their reluctant conclusion? With rare exceptions, schools ignore basic survival skills for students. Some schools would be able to answer questions 3 & 4 above.

• Are schools required to be able to answer our questions? In June 2013 the White House released a guide  for developing emergency operations plans for elementary schools. The guide “incorporates lessons learned from recent incidents, and responds to the needs and concerns voiced by stakeholders following the recent shootings in Newtown and Oak Creek and the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma.”

Here in California, other resources are available through the State Department of Education. As far as requirements, all I could find is that regular fire and earthquake drills are mandatory. Still, a school that takes advantage of the guides and resources mentioned would, in fact, be able to answer all the questions above.

So where does YOUR kid’s school fit? Which of the questions can your school answer? Which CAN’T it answer?

It’s September. Back to School Month PLUS National Preparedness Month. Could there be any better time to find out more?


Virginia Nicols
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


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Preppers See Disarray and Disaster


Preppers See DisasterDo Doomsday Preppers know something we don’t?

Here at Emergency Plan Guide we’re focused on the common sense approach to surviving everyday risks, mostly posed by natural disasters. Our attitude toward solar sunbursts, giant comets and invasions of aliens is about the same as toward zombie wars or an armed revolution . . . largely the stuff of fiction or advanced stages of paranoia.

The Baby Boomer Threat

I came across some information over the weekend that is giving me pause. By way of background, I was doing some research for a job search article that focused on some issues of real concern:

  • the exploding retirement rate for “baby boomers” (10,000 people per day are reaching age 65)
  • long-term unemployment and
  • the widening wealth gap.

Among the resources I uncovered is an article by multi-millionaire Nick Hanauer, one of the original investors in Amazon.com, who foresees a scenario – very real potential – for a major revolt or uprising.

Billionaire Hanauer is Pushing the Alarm Button

The Politico article, The Pitchforks Are Coming . . . For Us Plutocrats  (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014.html) warns that “no society can sustain this kind of rising inequality.” Hanauer anticipates a very real possibility for an uprising and America becoming a police state.

“The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast.”

Hanauer appeals to his fellow oligarchs to set about helping to fix the situation before it’s too late.

Where do you stand?

When I also look at the declining real opportunities for young people coming out of school, combined with the avalanche of retirees whose savings and investments (if they have any) will not sustain them through an extended lifespan, I’m not so sure we are immune from such a dire scenario. I’m not ready to join the Preppers. At least not yet. But I recommend you read this article to see how it strikes you. Let us know your thoughts.

Joseph Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Organize Your Community To Respond to Emergencies


The first few minutes following a disaster (earthquake, fire, etc.) are the most critical for saving lives and minimizing disabling injuries. Historically, neighbors are the first on the scene and willing to help.

The unfortunate reality

Unfortunately, most communities are not organized and residents are not sure how to react.

What do do in an emergency


There is no time for training at this stage and people who are not pre-trained may follow the wrong instincts!






When pre-planning counts

Contrast this scenario with a community where residents have at least some basic training in how to react to save lives, turn off gas and electricity, etc. And, since phone service is likely to be interrupted, consider the value of knowing how to communicate within the disaster area, using inexpensive walkie-talkies.

This acute aftermath is followed by a period of post-disaster survival, which lasts until official help arrives . . . which, in the case of a major earthquake event, could be a number of days or weeks. More pre-planning is required to be sure you have enough water, food and medicine on hand for all members of the household (including pets) for at least 10 days, and preferably longer.

Where to get training

All things considered, advance “Community Emergency Response Team” (CERT) planning and training – which is offered at no cost by many cities and counties – can mean the difference between life and death for you and your pets.

And, it’s equally important to you to have your neighbors prepared as well. You can’t be expected to provide food and water (much less medicines) for the whole neighborhood.

It’s much easier to help neighbors prepare in advance than it is to turn them away after the fact . . . especially if they’re bigger than you are!

Here’s a quick 2 minute video that emphasizes the importance of training: Who Can You Really Count On In An Emergency?

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

P.S. This is a good article to share if you have someone you care about who hasn’t done any planning!




Don’t Double Down on Disaster


You made it through alive, but . . .

ATM signIt’s bad enough to weather a storm or ride out an earthquake that leaves you with many thousands of dollars in damage. But, if local power is out, roads are obstructed and you can’t get to your money in the bank, chances are you have bills that are going to go unpaid for some period of time . . . long enough to incur late charges and even serious damage to your credit rating.

That’s compounding the damage! So what’s the remedy?

One solution – and a simple one — is to pay your bills as early and as automatically as possible.

The benefits:

  • First, if payments are transferred automatically, even if YOUR power is out and you can’t access your computer, the transfer will be made timely.
  • Even if you haven’t set your accounts up for automatic transfer, having a history of prompt and up-to-date payment gives you more options in contacting creditors and asking for relief. If your history includes being behind, and perhaps having black marks on your credit, even when you get through in a panic to your creditors (“Just went through the storm, couldn’t get to you until now!”) you are not likely to receive a hearty welcome.

Of course, if your paycheck stops because of the disaster, ultimately your bank account will empty. That’s another problem to be addressed another time.

An Interesting Parallel?

We don’t really have scientific evidence that people who take preventive measures to prepare for emergencies are more likely to pay their bills earlier than others, but anecdotal evidence would seem to indicate a parallel approach.

People who act responsibly on matters of self-protection are more certainly more likely to survive an emergency. Those that take a step further, looking out for their neighbors’ welfare as well as their own, can mean the difference between preservation of our society and its social values and allowing it to regress into chaos!

The question is, “Are you willing to help persuade your neighbors to take responsible preventive measures to protect themselves and their neighbors . . . or are you resigned to meet them at your front door with a shotgun when they are thirsty?”

Something to think about . . .

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team


Instantly Out Of Work — The Result of a Disaster


Family safely reunited, but . . .!

We easily imagine what it’s like for the people who survive a massive storm. We picture family members coming together again, clinging thankfully to each other. We imagine them picking up debris, patching roofs or broken windows, cooking around a makeshift campfire.

But then the news coverage – and our imagination – switches to something else. And we forget that for many of these people the real emergency is just beginning, because they are out of work!

I was struck by this quote from the Alabama study that followed its disastrous April 29, 2011 storm, when 62 separate tornados touched down. The quote reads:

“Instantly, 7,000 people in Tuscaloosa were out of work. . .”

Now out of work.

Take a minute to reflect on the threats faced by your business. You may not be the business owner, but if your livelihood depends on this business, here are some things worth thinking about:

  1. What are the most likely threats? Power outage, chemical or material spill, train or truck wreck, computer system sabotage, fire, flooding, earthquake?
  2. If the building and business were shut down completely, how long could the business survive before customers would be forced to go somewhere else for service?
  3. What business processes could be carried on elsewhere – for example, could some work be done from a temporary office? Could some employees work effectively from home (if they had power)?

How to protect the business?

  1. Have you discussed an emergency preparedness plan for the business? This would help you make changes now, before the emergency, that would help get the business back on its legs. A typical emergency preparedness plan includes:
    • Identifying and fixing vulnerabilities in the physical structure of the building or in daily business routines.
    • Identifying the essential business processes that could keep customers satisfied until you could get fully back to work. Often, this is as simple as having a way to let customers know what is going on!
    • Training specific employees to understand and be ready to shoulder special responsibilities in case of an emergency. This could range from grabbing and using fire extinguishers to grabbing and protecting company records.
  2. Have you considered recovery actions that will be required after the disaster hits?
    • Where could the business be run from if not from its current site?
    • Which employees would be expected to come back to work, and under what conditions? Do they know and agree to this?
    • Do you have the supplies and tools these employees would need to carry on during the emergency? This might include customer and account lists, computers, office supplies, and cash.

Unfortunately, the statistics on small businesses surviving after a complete shut-down are not good. Even companies with a disaster recovery plan will face a huge challenge. Still, with a plan, they may have a much better chance.

Surely your business deserves that chance.


If you need more information on how to protect your business, check out:

A simple one-page tool:  Seven Steps

And watch for our 2017 Version of the Simple Business Continuation Plan, coming soon!