Be Prepared. But Are We?
The Scouting Movement has taught young men and women around the world to “be prepared”. But are we, the rest of humanity really taking up the challenge to be involved in helping ourselves, our neighbors and our governments, when disaster strikes. Not as some individualistic macho response to protecting “what is mine”. But because until we start caring for ourselves, our neighbors and our countrymen and women from the bottom up, all the dollars, relief packages and reconstruction initiatives in the world are not going be any more effective than a bandaid on a broken back.
There was a time when all “Preppers” were portrayed in the same frame as conspiracy theorists, every one who knew one denied any blood relationship, just in case their sanity was questioned as well.
However recent events, including unprecedented weather patterns, due to climate change and the rise of acts of terrorism both political, religious and corporate have led to a re-evaluation of the term be prepared.
Those who spend a lot of time involved in outdoor activities far from civilisation, have generally tried to ensure they have the essentials for survival in any situation they encountered. They live by the words be prepared. So doing all you can to survive in a hostile environment is not something alien to human beings.
Over the last 50 years there has been a growing awareness of the need to be better prepared in an emergency.
From the occasional comment about having a first aid kit at home to deal with minor medical emergencies or as triage for more serious accidents. Being prepared medically has developed to being mandatory in many offices and work vehicles. Around us the world is starting to be prepared. But are we?
On another level, organisations like Civil Defense, Red Cross and Red Crescent have gradually realised that casualties are reduced if residents in a disaster area, can be prepared by having access to items that increase their 72-96 hour survival chances.
They have partnered in recent years and around the world with “Prepper” groups, to educate the rest of us about disaster survival.
Why 72-96 Hours
The first 72-96 hours after a disaster are critical. Electricity, fuel, water, telephone or mobile lines may not be working. In addition, public safety services and private rescue teams may not be able to reach you immediately during a serious crisis.
Here both man made and natural disasters seem to happen fairly regularly:
- Conflict with political and religious terrorists.
- Maritime disasters, often associated with passenger ferry accidents.
- Land-slump and mudslides caused by illegal or unpoliced mining operations.
- Hurricanes, with lots of wind and rain.
- Tropical Storms, with heavy and prolonged rain.
- Earthquakes, including building damage and destruction.
- Volcanic Activity, including ash falls and lava flows.
- Flooding associated with the previous five events.
The Philippines government, established in 2010 the The National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC), formerly known as the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), which is a working group of government, non-government, and private sector organisations tasked to increase the effectiveness of responses to both natural and man-made disasters This is meant to be achieved by developing risk reduction strategies, prior to, during and after any of the above mentioned events.
The effective implementation of such strategies requires allocations of resources and as a third world country the availability of such resources is often not known until after the event has occurred and offers of aid start to be made. However there are a number of low cost responses we can make, so that we can be prepared. But are we?
One of those is the focus of this post, the creation of an individual survival kit, also known as a bug out bag or go bag).
But before we get to that, some really important things to consider as we seek the answer to the question. Have we a culture that honors the call to be prepared, or is just a comforting phrase?
The details of this section are the stuff of another post, but this synopsis is provided in response to queries from my pre-readers.
- Whatever kind of disaster strikes you will need a survival kit. You may choose to slant yours to a particular type of disaster, or you may bet on all bases.
- Immediately following the first wave you will need to assess injury and deaths both in your household and amongst your neighbors. This will require some knowledge of basic triage. It will require you to have a survival kit.
- Depending on the disaster you will need to assess the likelihood of future injuries and deaths.
- Whether you are going to stay put or move to an evacuation point, will depend on a number of things including:
- How safe structurally is your current location.
- What is the security status of your area.
- How well can you personally defend your household against looters or marauders.
- Damage levels between your current location and suggested evacuation points.
- Health and fraility issues within your household.
- Whatever the outcome of your assessment you will need a survival Kit.
- If someone in your household is unable to travel, and travel is your best option,
make the decision with them, beforehand about:
- Will they stay alone?
- If not who will stay with them?
- What are the tasks for that person?
- Getting them settled somewhere dry and comfortable before you leave.
- If you split up or stay together, you need survival kit/s
While much of your response to a disaster will be reactive, because we are unaware of the essence of the disaster until it strikes. Remember tropical storm Sendong (Washi) in 2011, very unexpected for residents of CDO and Iligan.
You can however be as prepared as possible for any event that could threaten, you, your family, your household and your community.
- The first is a precursor to the the creation of the survival kit, and part of that is a list of contents for your kit, which we will provide at the end of part 2 of this article.
- The other is to:
- Read about the effectiveness of disaster management in the whole nation.
- Learn about the disaster plan for your Barangay and municipality. Now there will be those who say this is the Philippines there will be no local plans. Every Municipality has one. The quality may vary, but they have to meet a minimum standard to satisfy the law.
- Raise awareness wherever you have influence about the need for disaster preparedness.
- Talk with your neighbors about what you are doing about preparedness.
- Talk with authorities about levels of awareness you ascertain in your community, ask if local responses could be improved and how?
- Talk with the members of your household and family about family about drawing up a household disater plan.
- First, learn together what disaster hazards the Philippines faces. Get your kids if you have any or discuss with your spouse and members of your household, what are the most frequent and or worst disasters to hit your region.
- Then discuss what you would do, as a household, in each situation.
- Start writing stuff down so people don’t forget that this is real life not a soap opera.
- Post emergency phone numbers, where your family can’t avoid seeing them. I have seen them posted on fridges, back doors, beside front doors, in the garage. Your household may decide on one or more of those places or somewhere different. The idea is that everyone knows where to find them when disaster strikes.
Some may say that in a disaster these services will be overwhelmed and useless. I say not all disasters are catastrophic across the whole community. Think of house fires, landslumps or slides, flashfloods.
- Select one or two reliable out-of-town/province family contacts, that you can contact.
- In a local or personal disaster they would be the people you rely on to disseminate information to other family and friends.
- They are also the people who would arrange ongoing accomodation and assistance, should you need them.
- In a wider disaster, these are people you can work with for your mutual survival.
- Install smoke detectors in each room of your home, and test them regularly so each person knows what they sound like, and to ensure they are working.
- Make sure that you are aware of the sounds of any community warning systems. It may be a siren emitting a certain paterrn of sound for a certain period of time, then repeating.
- Have a plan for meeting children or other household members in the event they are not with you when the disaster occurs, always with an alternative location for safety.
- Agree on a general course of action that should be taken if they are not able to rendevous at an agreed meeting place. For example stay with a responsible adult from the school, go to a police post, or hospital.
- Finally, practice each part of your plan so that each household member is confident in what they should do. Practise during daylight to start and then maybe once a month at night.
- Get every household member to memorize your family name, address and phone number. This aids in tracking if they get separated.
The Survival Kit
- Put the Kit together today, while you are reading this, don’t put it off. Disasters are full of stories highlighting a lack of preparedness..
- Remember that any steps you take towards preparation are good ones. You don’t need to do it perfectly; you just need to do it.
- A survival kit is different from a fixed-site disaster supplies kit. The survival kit is only designed for initial survival 72-96 hours from the time you are affected by the disaster.
- Each person in your household, including workers should have a survival kit, that is custom built for their needs.
- Older children can prepare their own kits – this exercise will train your children to make disaster preparedness a way of life.
- Someone responsible should be designated to carry the kits of the elderly, the sick and the very young. The kit should be able to carried without difficulty by the person who owns it, so some oversight might be necessary when packing, especially for children and teenagers.
- If you spend a lot of time driving, it would pay to have a separate kit in the boot of your car. Just in case you can’t get home if disaster strikes.
- Think about a disaster kit for the family when travelling on holidays or family visits, if you have your own transportation.
- When choosing bags choose brightly coloured ones, or attach tassels or patches to make them readily identifiable. Unless of course the disaster is one where insurgents are a threat to you and your household,
in which you need to make them drab. This can be achieved with mud.
- Your backpack should have good supporting shoulder straps and a stomach strap for comfort. If your pack doesn’t have a stomach, waist, or hip strap you can buy them separately. One example you can use.
- Store the kits in an easily accessible place in your home so you are able to grab then and be out of the house in minutes, should that be necessary.
- Make an entry on your paper or digital calendar to check use before dates on food tins, packets and on medications, every three months.
- Always have a pair of sturdy and well worn in walking shoes, for each person in your household, next to each survival kit, just in case you need to walk for any distance or through rubble and debris.
- If you don’t want to prepare your own kit, you can purchase them from a number of outlets in the Philippines including the Red Cross, OXL, and Lazada. We have an affiliate link for a couple of Lazada offerings, plus some starter gear at the end of this post.
Can you survive with less? Sure but to be confident I would consider them all.
Under each heading in this section you will find:
- Some general tips about the item/s under that heading.
- The items I think everyone should have in their kit. With information on their use.
- Items which are important but that not everyone needs to carry.
At the end of “Be Prepared”, But Are We? part 2, I will draw up:
- a list of items that each household member should have in their personal survival kit.
- a list of larger items that can be shared by four of five household members. These items will need to be distributed among household members.
- Normally, one can survive without food for 5 days as long as there is water to drink.
- After a disaster event, it pays to be cautious about previously safe sources of water, even if your taps or faucets appear to be working as normal.
- Treat all water as if contaminated, at least until authorities tell you otherwise.
- The average requirement of water for each member of your household is about 4 litres per day [1 ltr for drinking and 3 ltrs for washing].
- Four litres of water weighs about 4 kilos, that is a big load for a child to carry. So unless you know there is no water where you are going or along the way. I suggest you avoid having your household members carry more than the litre they each require for drinking.
Collecting And Storing Water And Dealing With The Unexpected
- The first is Life Straw Water Filter. This is a physical filter that is has made pure water available to people around the world. It is designed to allow you to drink directly from a polluted or muddy water source, but without modifications it cannot fill a canteen or a bladder. I recommend one for each household member, it won’t be used every day, but if needed everyone needs their own.
- The second is the Karadyn Water Filter system for larger amounts of water. This is also a device based on a physical filter. You can pump large amounts of water into any type of container, you are only limited by your stamina. Provided your container is clean the water is ready for drinking as it is pumped. Only one of these is required per group of 4-5 people
A superior system, in my opinion, is the “Sawyer Complete 4 Liter Gravity Water Purification System“. It is not readily available in the Philippines, but should that change I would not hesitate to change to it from the Karadyn system. It is about a quarter of the weight, significantly cheaper, the filter is guaranteed to last for a million litres as opposed to 750 litres for the Karadyn and the filtration process happens hands free, into the provided 4 litre bag, while you do other things like collect firewood, erect a tent, tend to needs of children, the elderly or the injured.
Of course if you buy the Karadyn, then you will need a container into which to pump the water. Even the Sawyer 4L purification system, will work more efficiently if you have a container into which you can pour your four liters of clean water, so you can get back to filtering again.
- A 20 liter water bladder. These can provide sufficient water for a group of five on an overnight stop. If you are staying in one place ensure that the bladder is set up in the coolest spot you can find.
I cannot envisage a situation where I would ask anyone to carry that much water for an all day hike and would think it unlikely that it would be necessary here in the Philippines.
- There maybe times though when water is not available in the form of a lake, pool, stream or river. Fortunately the water table in most places in the Philippines is quite high and digging a hole, 18 inches (45 cm) deep and two feet (60 cm) wide will usually yield you a source of water which will replenish as you use it.
- A 1 Ltr water canteen. There is much debate about the merits and even the dangers of various metals, the info in the article will help you to make a decision about what metal you prefer..
Here are the locally available items at the time of writing Option1. Option2. Option3. Some of these come with a nested container for boiling water in, or even cooking with, they are very handy, and space saving, but if your canteen of choice does have one then…
- A Metal Cup such as this or this are a must have for every one of your party. Choose one that will nest with your canteen if possible.
Dealing With The Unexpected
Sounds like you have everything covered until:
- Someone breaks or loses their “Life Straw”
- The Karadyn Filter splits.
- You or the person carrying the Karadyn gets separated from the group.
You are left still needing water, but with no way to purify it.
All is not lost, you do not need to be making a choice between terminal dehydration or some deadly water borne disease.
- The following methods require you to filter out the particles in the water first. So they:
- Don’t make your water feel crunchy in your mouth.
- Don’t continue leaching toxins even after treatment.
- Don’t leach unpleasant tastes or odors, even if not toxic.
- Don’t continue to contribute to discoloration.
- If you are really stuck and have time, say overnight, you can let gravity draw the majority of the particles to the bottom of your container and slowly pour all but the last inch of the water into a new container. This may be an option if you still have sufficient purified water to last.
- However dehydration is important to address as soon as you can so any piece of permeable material, such as a cap, socks or a t-shirt will do a good job, in an emergency.
- Two pieces of the material, which can be as small as a DVD cover, should be packed one in each persons bag and another on their person.
- Some water sources will yield a lot more particulates than others, and slow down the passage of the water through the filter. You should avoid trying to force the water through the filter material, as it will perforate and be less effective. If the water is flowing very slowly it is better to stop pouring and shake the particles off the cloth and then resume.
- Once you have your water filtered then you should follow one of the following methods to purify your water.
- The ultimate low tech solution for purifying water, is to boil it. A rolling boil for 1 minute will kill off many of the biological contaminants. A further two minutes will ensure that the major water-borne cysts found in the Philippines are also eliminated. Remember to have your water covered during the cooling period in a container that won’t add chemicals to it, especially when it is hot.
- To boil water you will need a source to create fire and fuel to sustain it.
- Talking of fire please ensure that children are not allowed to play with fire or the devices used to create it. You can sustain small but deep burns from touching or holding a lighter which is being used to create a fire or has been recently.
Loose clothing can drag through flames and ember and much of the children’s clothing available in the Philippines is not treated to retard or resist flames.
The last thing you need in a survival situation is preventable injuries.
- There are many great ways to start a fire, but for 72 to 96 hours survival I think the following are the best choices, but ultimately the choice is yours.
- To give yourself some “wriggle room” I would always carry two of the three types. I would not put all my fire lighting assets in one place. Put half your matches and or one disposable lighter in the pack in double zip lock bags, the other half in double zip lock bags and stored in a pouch on a utility belt.
- Once you have a source of fire, you need some tinder, Tinder works best if it is dry, and you could spend several family weekends preparing tinder for your survival kits. The materials can be:
- Dry Wood Shavings.
- Dried Moss, Twigs, Tree Bark, Leaves.
- Old Cards, Newspapers, Envelopes, Toilet Tissue Inner Rolls.(Collect the stuff they hand out at Malls, or at places like Ace Hardware.)
- Fingerling branches (they are dried finger circumference branches), coconut fronds, (the part where the front attaches to the palm, is excellent, when dried, and can be cut to fingerling width)
- Homemade or store bought fire-lighters. Making the home made firelighters are an excellent family activity where you can instill the importance of being prepared.
- For three days make up three packs for each survival kit and another three packs to be carried on the person.
Each pack should contain:
- A cup of dried shavings and or dried moss, milkweed seeds, twigs, tree bark, (The Rainbow Eucalyptus is a great bark, but anything that can be peel from the core will do the job.)
- The equivilent of two toilet roll inners, a double page of a newspaper or old magazine.
- Use both of the toilet roll inners and pack as many small branches into the centre as will fit without tearing. (8 – 12 is average) Close off one end with Packing tape the cut the branches to fit the tube and close of the other end.
- So you can now start a fire but you need to be able to sustain one for long enough to cook a meal, heat a drink, dry wet clothing or just warm your self. How do you find substantial amounts of firewood in a wet environment. The good news is that if the wood is dead but solid, then no matter how wet it looks, it is relatively easy to get it to burn using the technique in this article.
- Given that this is the Philippines I would suggest to swap out the expensive Sheath knife and buy a bolo for each each adult and responsible teenager in your household, they are useful for many survival tasks
My only caveat would be not to use anything that hasn’t been washed. See my notes on clothing.
- The other approach is chemical water purification. Their are many types of water purification formulae. For a survival kit I would use Water purification tablets One purification tablet can purify a liter of water. It is recommended that all water you use is purified so at 4 tablets per day for four days that is 16 for each household member.
The disinfecting process takes about 30 minutes if the mean temperature of the water is at least 16°C. The colder the water, the less effective the chemical is as a purifying agent. Research has shown that at 50°F (10°C), only 90 percent of Giardia cysts were inactivated after 30 minutes of exposure. If the water temperature is below 40°F (4°C), double the treatment time before drinking. It is best if water is at least 60°F (16°C) before treating. You can place the water in the sun to warm it before treating.
- Some folk use a combination of both methods if they believe that more than bacteria is contaminating the water.
I hope you are finding this topic useful, we will be concluding the article in a few days so look out for ‘We All Know The Term “Be Prepared”, But Are We?” Pt. 2.
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