Family Disaster Planning, by N.J. – Part 2


Food and water, everyone needs it, and everyone will be looking for it. Remember the “six P’s” mentioned at the beginning of part one of this article; plan and prepare. Store as much food and water as you can, but do not rely on this to get you through the disaster. If organized groups come around passing out food and water, send someone (or several people) to get some. Even if you have to stand in line for hours, it behooves us to send someone. Do all that you can to NOT create a security issue by putting the thought in someone’s head that you have enough resources that you do not have to go stand in line to get some. They will come to you to take yours.

If the plan is to meet at a central location, have enough supplies in that location to take care of those who are designated to meet there and maybe a bit more. If you have a pantry in your home, consider rebuilding by installing insulation to keep the room even cooler, thereby extending the life of your stored goods.

Water. Store at least one gallon of water per person per day. Keep at least a two week supply. The longer your supply lasts the better. The immediate plan should not be to ration. In an emergency, your water heater can be used as a source of water. Make sure the heater switch (and gas supply, if a gas heater) ) is turned off. FEMA recommends that you turn off all incoming water, so as to not contaminate your water supply in the event of broken pipes. Know how to turn off your incoming water source and have the tools required to do so available. Caution: Carbonated beverages, caffeinated drinks and alcohol should not be used in the place of water. Carbonated beverages do not meet the bodies need for water and caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrates the body increasing the need for water.

Food. Store at least a two week supply of food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation, or cooking and little or no water. If you must heat food, plan on using sterno heat. Select food items that are compact and lightweight. Include a selection of the following foods: ready-to-eat canned meats, fruits and vegetables, canned juices, staples (salt, pepper, sugar, spices), high energy foods, vitamins, food for infants, and comfort/stress foods. Note the expiration date on all products. Do not use food in cans that are bulged or swollen, even if it seems good. Remaining healthy is paramount, and you would not want to do anything to jeopardize that.

Freeze dried foods. This is its own category for specific reasons. Care must be taken in its storage. Rodents will come after your stock, if they smell it. In areas of high heat, the shelf life of your food is diminished (see chart below), but all in all they are a great source of food, but it does require water and may not taste like what you are used to or even expecting. It is best if you dedicate a cool location in your home for storage. If you want to get some, I recommend that you buy a meal or two and actually eat it to determine if it is to your liking. Again, while we eat for sustenance, it actually has to be something that you will eat. This is particular true with children.

MRE’s. These have their own category as well. Many companies that sell MRE’s are selling from surplus. If you intend to buy them, make sure you know if they are surplus or not as this reduces the shelf life. They are especially vulnerable to high heat. If you cannot designate a place inside you home that is cool, you may want to reconsider how much of your emergency supply is dedicated to this option. If you decide to use them, you should rotate your supply at given intervals by eating some of it and replacing what you eat at a given interval, preferably replacing what you eat at intervals. (Don’t stock what you will not eat.)

MRE Storage Recommendations

Temperature (F)

Months Storage















For storing at 60° or lower no data was collected. projections are that the 130 months will be extended.

Cooking. While it is best to store items that do not require any preparation, that may not be what you end up doing. Camping equipment works well in this regard. A camp stove using either propane (see the section on Power Supply in Part One of this article) or white gas is good. Bunsen burners work well too. While barbeque pits/grills sound like a good idea, they should only be used in the early stages or in extreme emergencies. If you are barbecuing three weeks into a disaster, and your starving neighbor around the corner smells your food, they may not like that one bit. Do all you can to not create any security issues.

Utensils. Break out the paper cups and paper plates. Do not spend water for cleaning, if you do not have to. A non-electric can opener is a must. Try your best to maintain control of the amount of trash you generate.

Other items. Include matches in a water proof container, aluminum foil, plastic storage containers, and plastic bags.

Clothing. While many people do not consider clothing, when it comes to a disaster, you should have something set aside for this. Depending on your climate, clothing for each season would be good. In the case of extreme weather, water proof boots, hats, gloves, thick socks, and rain gear should be kept. A good pair of comfortable shoes is a must.

Cleaning Supplies. Your surroundings should be kept as clean as possible. Prevent the spread of germs by cleaning up as often as you need to. Cleaning is an excellent way to keep busy and keep your mind off of what is going on around you, too, so be sure to have cleaning supplies stored away.


This is by far the ugliest of all the categories. No one wants to deal with security. There is a lack of understanding of what is required to secure our homes as best as we can. The fact is that if someone wanted to get into your home, they could and they will. What we want to do is to make it as hard for them as possible and/or give the impression that entering would not garner any benefits and may very well end in a loss (their loss, not yours).

Remember, loose lips sink ships. Do not share your plan with anyone who is not a part of your household. While your friend may want advice in developing their own plan, do not give out specifics on what you have setup.

You want to secure your home so that it is hard to get in but easy to get out. It’s true that no home is burglar proof, but if we make it not worth the effort, then we stand a better chance of not being robbed. To this end, bars work well. Alarm systems are good, if you can afford them and have power.

A good disaster plan includes a defensive strategy. A good defensive strategy has everyone on the same page. By this, for example, I mean that everyone is using interchangeable or standardized equipment.

While you may not believe in guns, please believe that the person coming to rob you does. Give your family the best chance to survive by doing those things that you have to do and even the things you don’t want to do. Everyone over the age of 12 should take a handgun safety course. Many local shooting clubs offer them at low rates. While it may not seem useful, a hunting safety course is a worthwhile expenditure as well.

Guns To Grab (by Gary Sr has a great discussion on what types of guns to maintain. The discussion is mainly on caliber and goes into why those particular calibers are chosen. Please read it carefully.

Each hub should be protected by a defensive plan as exemplified below: Long Range– greater than 300 yards; Medium Range– 100 to 300 yards; Short Range– 5 to 100 yards; Point Blank– less than 5 yards; and Hand to Hand– in your face.

It will be almost impossible to determine from what distance an attack will take place. In most cases, you will not know until the attacker is in your face. Still yet, have a plan. It is better to be prepared for an attack that does not take place than to be attacked and not be prepared.

Hand to hand combat is a situation you do not want to get caught in. Most laymen fall victim in this category. Everyone should be familiar with simple techniques and points on the body to quickly disable an attacker. In hand to hand combat, use everything that you can, especially your teeth. All in war is fair. There are lots of low-cost classes (especially for women) that will teach you the basics.

Stay on top of security bulletins. This will help you stay out of areas of high risk security and avoid situations where the police don’t care what you are doing and if you are where you are not supposed to be. Do not carry illegal weapons. Look for safety in numbers instead. Avoid travel at night, especially foot travel. Know your surroundings and if you can’t do that, at least know your route.


Creativity is a must. Keep all options open. Some of the things suggested here will seem outlandish, but the idea is to cover the needs to get around, moving resources and or people.

Automobile. This is by far the mode of choice. However, you have to consider fuel availability, as was the dilemma with Hurricane Katrina. Keep your car tuned, filled with as much gas as you possibly can all the time, with a locking gas cap, and secured with a club that you actually use. Keep extra gas in storage containers at home away from your house (possibly buried in another container near the back fence). Keep extra items in your car– a change of cloths, comfortable shoes, food, water, a small first aid kit. An off-road vehicle or two can provide a great service during a disaster. They normally have higher ground clearances, improved shocks, tires geared towards improved traction on unimproved roads, better hauling capacities, and decent gas mileage. If you can afford one, get one. By off-road vehicles, I do not mean your normal urban SUV with 20-inch wheels. I mean a real off-road vehicle, like a Jeep Wrangler.

Motor home. Being what it is, it is an excellent choice. If you have one, know where local and several non-local facilities are to get needed services. Keep your motor home in good running condition. If your home is damaged and your motor home is not, it can serve as your first option for temporary housing. A motor home can be used as a staging/way point to a hub site. It can also be placed at a hub site to provide added shelter. As such, it is a valuable resource; protect it.

Motorcycle. While this is a great option, it has limitations. Not that the limitations should deter you, you simply must use the right tool for the right job. If the right tool is not available, improvise. In some cases where road conditions are not great and you may have to travel across unimproved ground, a dirt bike would be a great choice.

ATV. This is actually a good vehicle to have. While there may seem to be no urban application for this vehicle, you will thank yourself if you have one.

Bicycle. It’s a great way to get around. They provide a means of exercise, can get through tight spaces, can be carried when need be, are easy to maintain, are better than walking, and can be used as a power source with a generator attached to it. Mountain bikes are better because of their ability to use them on rough terrain. Remember, this is a resource. Protect it by keeping it locked up at all times.

Horses. While this seems outlandish, horses are agile, can go long distances, carry a lot of weight, and get places where other forms of transportation cannot. Say goodbye to gridlock. The downside being they are expensive to house and will not be in close proximity of you in the event of a disaster, if you are a city dweller, but they are still worth mentioning.

Walking. Yes, it’s the last choice, but we must do what we must do. If this is the only mode of transportation and one must move from one location to another, have some comfortable shoes.

Canoe. As we saw with Katrina, getting around with flooded streets is a nightmare. Having and knowing how to use a canoe can save your life and that of your family members. Canoes are a great means of transportation, but make no mistake about it; they are not easy to use when getting started. Their limitations are the number of people and amount of equipment they can handle, but their strengths are their agility, strength, and mobility. They can be easily mounted to a car and moved to a desired location.

Boats. Again Katrina showed us the importance of having the ability to get around during a flood. This category is for smaller boats with larger capacities than canoes.

Ultra light. One of those items is more of a luxury than a need. However, if there are family members in locations that are not easily accessible via other modes of transportation and they need resources, an ultra light can be used to drop those resources until help can arrive. While most ultra lights do not require a license to fly, lessons should be taken nonetheless. One ultra light for a given region, say Northern California, should be sufficient.

GPS. While traveling, a GPS may become your best friend. Even if you are walking, a GPS can get you there and back. There are several different kinds. The most basic one is for hiking and has no road maps or directions, but you can add waypoints that will help you get to where you are going and back. This requires a decent supply of batteries and should be used each and every time you leave your place of housing. Even if you know where you are going, if you end up somewhere else unexpectedly, you will be able to find your way back.

Emergency Services

The most fundamental of this category is medical services. We should not rely on the assistance of government-sponsored services or organized medical groups. There could potentially be hundreds, if not thousands, of people in need and vying for the same medical assistance.

Wilderness First Responder. This is a great training certification. While the name says wilderness, it can be used in an urban setting, as well. Each hub should have at least one certified WMT/EMT. If possible, this person should train others to assist in the event the need for such abilities arises.

First Aid/CPR certificate. It is vital for members of every household to have this training, particularly homes with children.

First Aid Kit. This is also a must. Determine what the needs of your family are, and keep a kit at home. You should keep a kit in your car, as well, containing items not normally found in a first aid kit. Each hub should have a trauma class first aid kit. In addition, it would be great if someone designated to be at a hub is qualified in the medical field (an EMT or WFR is great).

The Avian Flu is real. Several companies make kits just for this. While the costs of these items do add up, many of them are worth getting. To get world-wide information on the bird flu, check out this site

Some other important information for preparing for a disaster is available at:

SF area has a warning network that you can subscribe to. Alerts are sent to your registered wireless device. Go to to register. Research if the area you live in has such a network. See if your area has something similar.

Fire is one item we do need to depend on government agencies for. While each household should have a number of fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, when it comes to a fire, let the experts handle that. Do what you have to do to keep your family safe and get them to a safe point. Have regular checks of things which could be a fire hazard; train your family on things not to do (like pouring gas down a drain), and run fire drills.


Please do not discount this section. This has many important items which did not fit neatly into another group. While some of these items are listed to keep in case of an emergency, many of them should be obtained and used as often as you can.

Entertainment. We have to maintain our sanity. With that, have an entertainment scheme to keep people engaged and to relieve tension.

Sanitation. In many disasters you will not having running water. While bottled water takes care of one end of the spectrum, you still have to supply an outlet at the other end. A port-a-poti works really well for this. In the event that you ever needed it, this is the one item you will really wish you had, if you don’t have one. Other items include toilet paper, towelettes, soap, liquid (preferable biodegradable) soap, feminine products, personal hygiene items, disinfectant (a must), and chlorine (bleach). There are different sanitary needs for men and women. Keep both handy.

Board games. These are great. They require no power, and people interact with each other, which is great. Cards are also included in this category. These include Monopoly, Life, Chutes and Ladders, Candy Land, and whatever you think would be enjoyable for your family. Let your imagination run wild.

Mind games. These help you stay sharp. Trivia Pursuit, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, Battleship, chess, checkers Majahong, and such games are great to use.

Physical games. Our bodies play an important part of our lives as well. Not only do these games assist in team building, but they allow us to exercise our bodies. Several good games to keep around include volley ball, soccer, football, baseball, softball, tetherball, badmitten, and frisbee.

Music. –There will be a desire by many to listen to music. This takes a lot of batteries. Please consider the consequences of such usage of your resources. In addition, please be considerate of the likes and desire of all when you put together you musical selection. Kids may not like blues; adults may not like rap, and while gospel is a really good overall choice, some may not want to take part. Poll the members of your household to determine what is best to keep.

Computers. They tend to hold a lot of our important information. Backup your files, if possible. These days, two gig USB drives are pretty cheap, and they hold a lot of data. Consider backing up to this and keeping this with your ID information (on you at all times). Use your own discretion in determining what is important to backup and what is not.

Movies. There should be a schedule for movie entertaining. Projectors work really well, because they take up so little space, can be moved around, to create dual-use spaces (dining room as a movie theater as well), and connect to a number of pieces of equipment (computers, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, etc). If in a situation where power is a limited resource but you have the ability to supply some power, schedule several hours a week as an essential item for power consumption and sit everyone in front of the TV for movie night. Activities that get the family together in one sitting are worth the use of limited resources.

Children. They are our most valuable resource. We really need to keep their minds and bodies active. Family-oriented games are great, but sometimes they need their alone time as well. Activities that your children like to do on their own should be considered according to your budget and space to store these items.

Medicine. If you need them, or someone in your household needs them, keep enough so that you don’t run out. Some over-the-counter medications are great to keep around anyway. You never know when someone might get a headache or need cold medicines. Always review purchase and best used by dates on items you buy.

Time. Synchronize watches and stick to schedules as best as possible. Keep appointments, make deadlines, and stay in touch at designated intervals.

Fire extinguishers. These are excellent items to keep around. Not only are they good to keep in your home but in your car as well. If you store extra gas at home, keep a fire extinguisher close by, just in case.

Website. A secure family website is a great way to keep tabs on each other and share information, plus it would go a long way in coordinating efforts around any group endeavor. Not only would it benefit people in the region, but others could feel at ease knowing we are all safe.

Utilities. Everyone in your household should know how to turn off the utilities. They should also know when to turn them off.

Utility items. There are several items that fit the bill. Decide what’s best for you, but the following are suggested: Rope, (real) work gloves, duct tape, safety glasses, safety helmet, a signal flare, a good tool bag (with tools you will use/need), work cloths would be nice, and a map of the area is always a great idea.

Insurance. While it may seem like a “nice to have” thing, protect your family by having it. If you rent, get renters insurance. If you have a car, get car insurance.

Chainsaw. It is one of those items that will seem like a life saver. You can quickly clear downed trees and poles and cut through other debris as needed. As they require gas, store enough to keep your equipment running.

Family Business

Having your own business can actually help you in a disaster. Who would’ve “thunk” it. Having certain established businesses is a great thing in the event of a disaster, for many reasons. Depending on the nature of the business, it can help you, as well as others, get through the disaster.

Commerce. The government is always looking for businesses that can bring needed goods to a disaster area. If we have an established Import/Export business, and even if we are not established but licensed, we can possibly land a government contract to bring supplies to the affected area. Several members of the family have trucks. These trucks can be licensed to be used for the business, giving the owner a tax write off as well.

Freedom of movement is the main reason for me bringing the Import/Export idea forward. This business gives us the ability to move people, even if a few at a time, while conducting business. When traffic is limited to an area on a “as needed only” basis, this business will be worth platinum.

Security. Yes, a security firm is a good family business as well. In the event of a disaster, several businesses in the affected area will be looking for security beyond what local government agencies can provide. We may be able to land one of these contracts as well, but only if we are established.

Gardening service. This may seem like an unlikely business venture, but people will need services. If we can provide this service, especially watering gardens with reclaimed water, you can make a great deal here. Clientele must be targeted, and a solid business plan must be presented. Rates must not be exuberant but must be enough to cover services. Being able to guarantee services and having the ability to acquire and store the water is essential.

Tree Trimming Service. Many people will require your services. Keep your equipment in good shape and advertise. Perform emergency services 24/7. Again, several people in the family have trucks, and this would be a worthwhile endeavor. Since several people are currently knowledgeable on this type of business, it would be easy to train others and get started.

Fish Fry Services will help generate funds to assist with the funding of our disaster plan. All those that take part in the activity can share in having supplies purchased from the proceeds.

Garage sales will also help generate funds. Garage sales could be done to supply a hub site and/or purchase electronic equipment, such as satellite phones, HAM Radios, walkie-talkies, bike-powered generators, gas or diesel generators, et cetera.

Barter system trading is good to know. Unfortunately, the world is moving away from this system, which is in affect destroying relationships, replacing them with business dealings. In a time of need, barter what you can do without for something you need. Do so in a way that does not present a security problem by exposing your resources to those who may want to exploit/take them.

Again, this is a suggestive piece meant to spark conversation in your family on how to prepare and survive a disaster.

Good luck.