Disaster Procedures: A Survival Field Guide, by A.V.

The Relevance of Procedures
In a disaster situation many things previously fixed become variable. Communications, supplies, security and many other aspects of civilized society that we often take for granted may quickly become mired down by inefficient or massive use. Equipped as we are with a survival mindset, many still succumb to the environment of pandemonium that evolves: we forget our training, misuse our equipment, and the pace of events overwhelms us. On top of these considerations, many interested in disaster preparation may not have a family or group that is equally well-versed in the nuances of survival situations.

Many organizations address these shortcomings through the use of Procedures. Corporations use Procedures to ensure that any new employee has the ability to step into a task with the ability to perform the necessary work. The military has developed and adapted Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for use in situations where soldiers require guidance or where logic alone may not lead to the performance of the appropriate actions. Procedures and SOP are ways to coordinate actions and ensure consistency and unity of direction. They are tools of continuity.

Bringing the Problem to Light
To understand the utility of procedures I present a hypothetical situation:

A local disaster or emergency has occurred. It is a Tuesday morning in the coldest month of December. In reaction to the disaster or emergency cell phone circuits are full, power is spotty or out altogether, major traffic arteries are congested or stopped, and law enforcement is stretched beyond capacity. You are at work 10 miles north of your home, your spouse is at work 10 miles south of your home. Do you know what to do to get home? Does your spouse know what to do? Does either know precisely what the other is doing at any point in time?

In this (albeit simplistic) example a lack of clear procedure leads very quickly to losing control of an already volatile situation. It is this lack of organization that causes panic and wasted effort, which ultimately endanger your personal and family security. Had this hypothetical couple developed procedures such as a communication plan they could have coordinated activities and exchanged information. If one of the pair was injured while traveling home a set medical plan could help mitigate the injury or inform the other where the injured is located. A logistical procedure may have exposed a weakness in supplies such as food or potable water that could be devastating during a protracted crisis.

If there is value in the security that organization provides then the need for procedural doctrine and tactics logically follows.

Procedure Categories
Procedures can take many forms to fit many different types of situations. Purely technical activities may include a step-by-step set of directions, dependant procedures may closely emulate flow charts, and dynamic procedures might simply be a list of suggested activities or responses. Procedures for realistic situations or activities will generally be a mixture of the three.

Procedure Category Examples:

· Technical: Changing a tire, purifying water, preventative maintenance checks on vehicles.

· Dependant: Collecting rain water, planting/seeding crops, getting additional medical assistance.

· Dynamic: Negotiating or bartering, giving charity, allowing access to secured areas.

Procedures also resemble manuals, how-to, and tip sheets. The primary difference is that procedures also provide a context and logically reasoned purpose for the activities. Think of them as a road map: knowledge of individual parts may be the map, but the procedure provides the route.

Procedures Borne of Necessity
Emergency procedures are driven by the most likely situations you may encounter. A useful practice in developing procedures is to identify your needs during an emergency and then to extrapolate from those needs the activities and responses which would allow you to maintain an acceptable level of security and organization. Then break those needs down to their most basic procedural elements and begin to clearly document each one. What should develop is a personalized manual for disaster response and survival, which only needs occasional updates as situations specifically cited in the documentation change.

Some common themes for specific portions of a disaster procedure include the following:

· Communications: This procedure set defines the types, frequencies, and content of communications in a disaster situation. It contains contingencies in case of a the breakdown of certain communication system types (cell phones, Internet, land lines), the frequency of communication attempts (when attempting to use cell phones you may attempt to call every two minutes for 20 minutes), and the content of messages sent (messages include the name, time, location, to and from destination, ETA / ETD, all or part of which might be coded).

· Medical: This procedure set may contain any number of items, such as treatment of common injuries or illnesses, nearby medical resources, transportation to advanced care as well as decision standards used to determine the level of care needed.

· Transportation: This procedure set includes transportation asset availability and use standards, as well as maintenance and associated items and requirements. It may include things like routes to common or expected locations, communications plans and times, checkpoints, and logistics along the route.

Maintaining Inventory
Lists or inventories of relevant items are an excellent thing to include with your procedures. For instance, your medical procedure set might rely upon knowing the approximate amount of items available, such as the number of splints, bandages, tourniquets, and medication. Perhaps your procedures trigger a re-supply when you have a certain amount of medication. You may opt to keep a master inventory with categories that allow you to discern with ease where items are expected to be used or needed. Keep an electronic copy of these procedures and inventories, but make sure to print out updates on a regular basis.

The Procedure Manual
Format of the procedure manual is also important. Use page sizes that make the booklet easy to carry, such as half of a standard piece of paper. At the end of each major portion include a few blank or lined pages for notes. Laminate the booklet and keep a stash of fine-point Sharpies and alcohol pens. Leave a larger edge on one side of the laminated pages, punch or cut holes in this then use rings to secure the pages together. If done properly this booklet will last through the elements long enough to remain useful in any emergency, as well as be modular enough to remove or replace sections as needed or updated. As with anything upon which you may have to rely, maintain operational security and keep informed.