26 August 2011

Priorities in your preparedness, part 1

Preparedness planning can often be overwhelming. As you get further into it, you realize more things that you'd like to do, more things to prepare for, or more ways you want to be self-sufficient. When it all seems a bit much, it's helpful to review life's necessities and your personal situation, then prioritize the things you need to do to.

Personal Survival Necessities

First, consider the things that every person needs to survive. This list of needs is typically summarized in the Rule of Threes, along with how long you can typically survive without them. The Rules of Threes means that you could die within:

  • 3 seconds without composure (i.e., you panic*)
  • 3 minutes without air
  • 3 hours without shelter
  • 3 days without water
  • 3 weeks without food
  • 3 months without hope (or companionship)
*Credit to Cody Lundin for this one, in his book When All Hell Breaks Loose

This gives us the basic order of personal preparedness needs, as discussed in the following sections.

1. Composure
When faced with disasters, emergencies, or extreme situations, staying calm and focused will enable you to think through the situation and act appropriately.

One way to improve your ability to stay calm and composed is to imagine the potential emergency and mentally rehearse how you might react if it should happen. You can then plan and prepare accordingly (mentally, emotionally, or physically). Being prepared will give you a sense of reassurance and confidence, which may help in the face of a similar emergency.

Practicing your plans, to whatever degree you can, will make that confidence even stronger. For example, thinking through how you'd escape if your home were on fire ahead of time will help you realize what to do if you wake up and your house is actually on fire. Actually performing fire drills beforehand gives you a physical memory of escaping and makes it even more intuitive. Other preparations can work the same way.

Obviously, we can't imagine every situation, but we can think through the more common ones, or those that are the most life-threatening.

2. Breathing
Thankfully, air is prevalent on our planet, so the concern here is eliminating whatever's causing the lack of oxygen. Another way to look at it is that we need to prepare for maintaining our oxygen supply.

What situations might cause a lack of air? Here are a few examples, along with how you can prepare for them:

  • Smoke in a fire: Staying low while escaping the building. Alternatively, having a smoke hood may help.
  • Drowning: Knowing how to float and swim, wearing a flotation device, and/or avoiding unknown or dangerous waters are ways to prepare. Knowing CPR may help others who have drowned.
  • Choking on food: Chewing consciously and thoroughly and not eating quickly can help avoid choking. By coughing or self-applying abdominal thrusts, you can help yourself when choking. You can also use back slaps and abdominal thrusts to help others who're choking.

3. Shelter
Inadequate shelter isn't just being stranded in the wilderness while hiking, or after a plane crash.  A lack of shelter can happen when your car gets stuck in a snow drift, or when you suffering heat exhaustion, or if your home heating source fails in the winter.

4. Water
Interestingly, we'll die of a lack of water before a lack of food. Technically, it's the lack of safe, clean water that's the concern. As such, our options for preparing are storing or collecting water, or having the supplies to purify unsafe water.

Store adequate amounts of water can be a challenge, especially for large groups or if the emergency is going to be long-term. Collecting rainwater or harvesting water using other survival methods can also be unpredictable or too limited for larger groups too.

Having the materials and knowledge to purify water is a better option. Having a well may also be a good alternative too, if your region allows it.

5. Food
Like water, storing food is a great idea, but can become difficult or unmanageable for large groups and/or long emergencies.

It is critical to develop other methods of obtaining food. Gardening is an obvious and relatively easy solution. Hunting, trapping, and fishing are good alternatives for getting high-protein food sources. Finally, learning to forage for food is a good investment. Knowing what wild plants are edible, and how to prepare them, could be a way to quickly increase your food intake without a lot of cost or other invested resources.

6. Hope (or alternatively, Companionship)
I've seen the Rule of Threes list rounded out with both hope and companionship (or something similar). I believe that they're both necessary to we humans, but I believe hope is the more important.

Lacking companionship generally means that you have no one to help, or to "have your back." Ultimately, the loneliness of being alone (even if it's feeling isolated in a group) can lead to despair, which is a loss of hope.

Hope is critical because it motivates us, and gives us a reason to continue existing. It's the reason we prepare in the first place, and why we fight to survive.

Hope for an end to the emergency, for getting through the disaster, for our society and culture continuing in some meaningful way... these are the things that will keep us going.

So, how do you prepare against a lack of hope?

For me, hope is a spiritual thing. It's rooted in my faith, my relationship with God, and my belief that He will shape events to ultimately lead to a better world. So I "prepare," or "stock up" on my hope, through prayer.

It may be different for you. That's fine, of course. The key is that you must find out what gives you hope, i.e., figure out what gives you the strength to carry on. You must find it within you, and then build upon it.


After the Personal Necessities, then what?

The above paragraphs give us some direction on how to plan our preparedness. Still, they're not all that we need to consider. For one thing, there are threats to our survival that aren't addressed above. In addition, we need to look at our individual situation, environment, and resources too.

These additional considerations must be evaluated and used to prioritize our preparedness activities, and that will be the subject of part 2 of this post.

In the interim, how have you addressed any of the above necessities? Please share below.

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