Urban Disasters No Match For A Prepared 4-Wheeler

In previous columns I’ve discussed how to prepare your vehicle for driving off-road, and offered a number of safety suggestions for you and your passengers. The goal, of course, is to make sure you are properly prepared for your trip and ready for most contingencies.

In honor of National Preparedness Month, I’d like to revisit the issue of preparedness but take more of a big picture approach.

It’s too easy to become complacent in our lives. We’re not faced with daily calamities and crises like you see in other parts of the world. We California residents are somewhat more in tune because we’re always under the threat of an earthquake, and we frequently deal with major events such as wildfires. But it’s still easy to take our relatively calm lifestyle for granted.

Disaster can strike in a heartbeat. Will you know what to do when it does? How will you and your family react? Where will you go? These and many other questions will be blazing through your mind. Unfortunately, that is not the time to be asking questions. Instead, you must act, and act fast. How you respond when disaster strikes is directly related to how well you and your family have prepared.

The Red Cross www.redcross.org and FEMA www.fema.gov provide a wealth of information on how to prepare for emergencies. The key is to take action now. Merely thinking about it won’t do any good.

The interesting thing about 4-wheelers is to begin with they often are pretty well prepared. Their vehicles are well stocked with the necessary tools and materials, and many have what I call a survival mindset. We’re accustomed to being out among the elements, and can manage fairly well for a short period of time.

The problem is the planning we do is just for the particular outdoor trip, which may last a few days at most. We don’t give much thought to how to handle a major urban crisis.

Reviewing the Red Cross and FEMA sites will give you some great ideas. The next step is to put those thoughts into action. Don’t worry about accomplishing everything in one day. Some of these steps, like developing a plan, take time. What’s important is that you do something now.

Use the Swiss cheese approach. When faced with a large, daunting task or problem, tackle the small matters you know you can accomplish. Over time you will punch enough holes in the main problem so that it looks like Swiss cheese and will fall apart on it own.

Complete two actions today.

First, develop your emergency contact list. This should be comprised of a friend or family member in another state. (A son in Michigan is on my list.) Sometimes only a long-distance call will go through. Just as you program your ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers into your cell phone, you also select an individual to contact in the event of a major disaster. Make sure your family members know the contact person’s name and number. This person can relay messages for family members. During an emergency, and if you have the time, let your contact know where you are going should you have to evacuate.

Second, establish two meeting places for your family. One should be just outside the house. This is especially critical during a fire. Too many people have perished because they ran back into their homes, not knowing that their loved ones were safely outside.

The second location should be in your community, and is used in the event of a larger-scale disaster. Recently I successfully tested my ability, using ham radio, to contact my wife while she was in the parking lot at work. For us that parking lot is an ideal location, because it is local, sits on a hill, and there’s a good chance at least one of us will be there.

OK, if you want one more simple action for today, jump on the FEMA site, click on the Plan Ahead tab, and print the suggestions listed under Protect Your Family.

I also suggest that you keep your gas tank at least half full at all times, and create a Go-bag. Containing food, water, and other essentials, your Go-bag can help you survive on your own for several days. Backpacks with multiple pockets make really good Go-bags. Some people keep these in their homes; others store theirs in the vehicle. Either way, the Go Bag is essential for preparedness planning when you must leave immediately.

You may also consider brushing up on your driving skills. Sign up for one or more off-road driving courses (such as a Rocks Clinic or the Basic Course), or an advanced course (Winching, for example), so you are better prepared to drive over broken streets, downed telephone poles, other debris, and climb curbs to skirt problems.

The Go-bag, along with the supplies and materials already on hand and the skills you bring to the table, turns your 4WD vehicle into what I like to call a Mobile Disaster Preparedness unit. Just what you need in a time of crisis.

Emergency preparedness isn’t the most pleasant topic. We wish we didn’t have to even think about this. But disasters are a part of life. By preparing properly now you give yourself and your family a fighting chance should the unthinkable occur.

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