SURVIVING IS A LONELY BUSINESS
An expression I heard as a kid, which I suspect came out of the Old West, is that we all have to kill our own snakes. I take it to mean that we have to handle our own problems because we can’t rely upon anyone else. Of course, we cannot personally take care of all of the problems that life throws at us, but when it comes to surviving disasters, all of us have a duty to be prepared.
By their very nature, natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes and disasters caused by terrorist attacks with chemical, biological, or nuclear devices are widespread occurrences that hinder and sometimes totally cripple rescue agencies.
Surviving more localized emergencies like fires and terrorist attacks requires an immediate response by us rather than waiting for the police, fire department, or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to save us.
Since rescue agencies may be crippled or the danger may have occurred too quickly for outside help to reach us in time, we all need to be prepared to take care of ourselves.
This guide to dealing with the often insane ravages of man and nature is based upon my own experiences coping with crimes committed against me and those close to me, the thousands of criminals I dealt with as a criminal defense lawyer, and the times I have had to deal with angry Mother Nature.
In my own mind, one of my best qualifications for giving advice is that I am paranoid—a mind-set that makes me avoid anything higher than the tenth floor of hotels because fire ladders don’t reach any higher, and the first floor of motels because the bottom floor is the most easily accessible to criminals.
I do not believe that the government is completely capable of taking care of me in a crisis, and that means I have a ready-to-go plan and a stocked survival kit. I also follow a nuclear warfare preparation mentality that advises keeping at least a half tank of gas in my car at all times—advice my brother failed to heed and thus couldn’t get quickly out of town when a trainload of military munitions began exploding near his neighborhood. He survived, but it’s the sort of experience that can eat a piece of your soul.
While the government tends to handle large crises poorly, many governmental agencies are excellent sources of information about surviving a disaster. One of the best and most comprehensive is the publication Are You Ready?, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, as you would expect from a governmental agency, the very long (over two hundred single-spaced pages) guide also has information overload and often speaks in technical language.
Because the guide is valuable, I have included it as a significant part of this survival manual, and have gone through it and removed some verbiage that I feel increases the difficulty of grasping survival tips from it.
In addition, because large-scale emergencies commonly result in the loss of electrical power and an inability to access the Internet, including the FEMA guide in this book means it is readily available to you wherever you are in an emergency, as long as this book is in your survival kit.
Included at the end of my reflections on surviving are lists of governmental and nongovernmental entities that are good sources of materials on surviving a crisis—but again, survival is a lonely business and those online sources may not be available during a crisis.
Dealing personally with emergencies is discussed below in the chapter called Surviving on Your Own.
Can you benefit from reading about surviving a disaster?
The point about survival being a personal snake to deal with is emphasized not just by me but by governmental agencies: During a disaster, whether it be a terrorist attack, angry Mother Nature, or a man-made disaster such as a chemical or nuclear reactor contagion, there will be a time during which you and your family have to survive on your own.
That is the message, the warning, from every agency that has assessed the threats from terrorism and other disasters.
You must have the tools and plans to make it on your own, at least for a period of time. The rule of thumb being used by the security agencies is that you should have a grab-and-go bag (to grab as you go for your car) that will last you at least three days, and a shelter-at-home two-week supply.
Most people assume there will be a police officer, fireman, emergency medical tech, and Red Cross shelter staff at their elbow when disaster strikes. By not purchasing and storing emergency supplies, they act as if people who work in groceries and drugstores are going to leave their families and put themselves into danger to open store doors.
Don’t plan on it. The ultimate responsibility for your survival falls on your shoulders. That is what the government charged with protecting you is telling you. As Harry Truman would have put it, the buck stops with each of us.
Consider this: A suitcase-size atomic bomb exploding on Wall Street in New York or in the National Mall area of Washington, DC, would rip the heart out of this country’s well-being. But even short of a staggering blow against the integrity of the nation itself—the wet dream of terrorists—there are numerous city-devastating scenarios involving nuclear power plants, subway systems, chemical and biological facilities, and sporting arenas that could take place.
There is a threat to you if you live in a city; if you are within fifty or even one hundred miles from a nuclear power plant; if there’s a chemical or biological facility, an oil refinery, rail tracks that carry train cars, or freeways that carry tanker trucks in the region; if you attend sporting events, gamble in a casino, drive over a bridge, live at or near a port where ships dock, fly in a commercial airliner … etc., etc.
In other words, if you live and breathe in this nation or even on this planet, you probably are in a danger zone where you could be subject to an attack.
That doesn’t mean there are terrorists lurking near your city’s water reservoir, waiting to pour a vial of toxic bacteria in the water supply. Or that you have to keep an eye out for a suspicious-looking van when you’re driving across a bridge. It just means that there is a new breed of supercrime in this world, and you need to have an awareness of it and have a personal security plan to deal with it.
Most of us believe the police are our main line of protection against crime—but we still lock our doors at night, don’t leave valuable items outside, and invest in security systems. We don’t do that because we expect to get murdered in our beds every night—we make these simple security plans for the possibility that sometime during our lifetime, a locked door, a big dog, or an alarm company sign on our lawn may save our lives.
Federal statistics indicate that disasters disrupt hundreds of thousands of lives each year, including killing and injuring people, making natural and man-made calamities more likely to harm you than even violent crimes.
The security measures you need to take in regard to a possible emergency are easier and less time consuming than even the simple things mentioned above that protect you from more conventional crimes. The measures are most often one-time preparations, in which you arm yourself with the knowledge of what to do and make a few relatively inexpensive purchases to have the necessary “security” devices.
And it doesn’t matter a great deal whether the emergency is a man-made or a natural disaster, the basic items you need and your mental processes are pretty much the same.
Is it really possible to learn a few simple tactics that can save your life when you are suddenly confronted by a life-threatening act of terrorism, an accident, or Mother Nature with a vengeance?
Yes. Absolutely. For people with a will to survive, the simple tactics outlined in this book can make the difference.
The most important trait you need in order to protect yourself is the will to survive.
Copyright © 2012 by Junius Podrug