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Self-Survival of the Fittest

Notes from the laptop of a Fairfield, PA resident:

So I am sitting here, with my wife, watching the Baltimore Ravens trying to have their way with the New England Patriots.  I look around and think how blessed I am to be able to do this in my own (and the bank’s) warm home.  I’ve been in Pennsylvania for four years now and have only witnessed two winter-weather incidents that could have robbed us of this pleasure.

Maybe it is in the nature of those of us in emergency management to think “worst case scenario”.   We are educated and most of us have had some real-world experience with what has happened to others.  We have trained and responded to folks living through the worst day(s) of their lives.  Most of us have seen where an ounce of prevention…..

And aren’t you glad we are this way?   We can remind you of things that you may or may not have thought of in a long time.  Things that could possibly save a life or property.  Most folks go through their days thinking “No, that couldn’t possibly happen to me (us)”.  Why  not?   Aren’t you a human being?

Believe me it is good to have folks like us around because it is usually too late to prepare after the incident hits you.

So, here is the reminder:  You are human and vulnerable!  What provisions have you set aside to provide for your world in the event of a major weather or human related incident?  I mean could you self-survive for three days after the power goes out?  I say three days because that is usually how long it will take to get county, state, and federal intervention to your doorstep.

Folks in my neighborhood are usually well prepared for that first three days.  But what happens when fuel for the generator runs out.  An extended power outage (remember “Sandy” – it was out for weeks for some folks) also cuts the fuel pumps in the area.    What about water?  Most of our portable power generators don’t connect to our well pumps.   And what about our pets?  If you must evacuate to a shelter, what will become of your pets or livestock?

Some items include a pretty common sense:

Hydrology: Several cases of bottled water.  Who wants to waste gas heating bathtub water.  Save that for the toilet.

Lumocity: Plenty of lighting sources AND Batteries.  New LED lights use so little power.   Remember to leave the batteries out until you need the appliance.  Rotate fresh batteries through storage often. Candles are good, some last a long time but they do create a fire hazard.  If your going to use them make sure you have a lighter or two handy.  You may also desire to use an oil-filled lantern or two.  I see them in the hardware and antique stores all the time.  Be sure to keep a supply of oil and always use them in a ventilated space.

Grocery: Plenty of canned goods.  Look for ones with “ring-pull” lids.   Either that or keep one or two can openers in your cache.  Look for your favorite food items that are made for long-term storage.  Then rotate them through your pantry to keep stored foods as fresh as possible.

Pharmacy:  You’ll want to make sure you have plenty in the house if we predict a possible incident in your near-future.   Farther out is hard to keep prescription meds for any length of time.  Consult your doctor or pharmacist for more information here.  Do keep other things like aspirin, Benadryl, tylenol or whatever you deem necessary.  Remember a good first aid kit, or build your own from the FEMA list.  You’ll also want to consider special needs like glasses, contact lenses, deodorant, soaps, etc.  Just think about what you take for granted…it won’t be available in a crisis unless you make it so.

Communication:  You can pretty well forget the cell phone when the power goes out.  If the cell towers aren’t working or overloaded, so is your phone.  If that happens turn the thing off for a few hours…save the battery!  It would be a good idea to invest in a small radio that has its own crank/solar/battery power.   Even if you can’t get out, you can still hear what’s going on outside your door.

Social Network: Look out your window (any direction will do). You see those building to the right, left, in front and behind yours?  The folks inside them are called your neighbors.  They are your first tier, real world social network. Most are friendly when it comes to an emergency.  I have a great one next door who plows my driveway (another blessing).  Talk to your neighbors, get to know them.  Besides making friends…your life may depend on them!

To be really prepared go to and see what the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has for you.  You’ll find instructions, checklists and suggestions for stuff you probably never considered.  AND IT IS ALL FREE ADVICE.  Well not totally free your tax dollars paid for it. Keep in mind it is the little things that can really make your life a nightmare.

Another idea is to help out the folks who are helping your world.   Check in with your county emergency management agency, talk to your local police and fire agencies or volunteer some time at your local hospital.  You’ll be amazed at how grateful they are.

In our area we also have the Fairfield Emergency Management Association (FREMA).  This group of dedicated citizens are working to “foresee and provide” local assistance (especially during that first three days).

These are just some thoughts coming from an interested citizen and FREMA Deputy Director.

PS…It is not too early to start planning for the extremes of summer.  I’ll have more later.