What is a Disaster and How to Prepare

We hear the term disaster so much these days that the meaning seems to get watered down somewhat. To some anything that doesn’t go according to their schedule or plans is a disaster. On a personal level, a fire in our shed could be considered a disaster or even worse a fire in our house.

However, it is important to understand the difference between a personal tragedy, an emergency, and a true disaster. This will allow you to keep things in perspective when making your own disaster preparedness plans.

A house fire, even if nobody is injured is certainly a personal tragedy. I can’t begin to imagine the feeling of seeing your life go up in flames. But as tragic as it is at a personal level, help is usually close by and aside from an initial flurry of headlines your personal tragedy is soon forgotten by outsiders and rebuilding your life begins.

Planning for tragedy of this nature is really limited to ensuring you have done everything possible to prevent it in the first place; being prepared to extinguish small fires before they spread; being prepared to ensure safe evacuation; and having the appropriate emergency supplies like thermal blankets and a quality first aid kit on hand.

An emergency situation could include such things as a car accident, breakdown in a remote location, a school lock-down, localized weather events, and wilderness misadventures. Preparedness for this type of event is possible and practical. I have a personal motto that helps me envision potential emergency situations: “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst!”

An emergency situation is not always predictable or avoidable and having the necessary supplies in the location where you need them can save your life. Hypothermia has claimed the lives of many stranded travelers that got stuck in blizzard conditions. Something as simple as a candle or thermal blanket could have been all that was necessary to save their life.

A disaster is defined as an event causing great loss, hardship, or suffering to many people. When we think of this kind of event we usually think of catastrophic events like hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and even man-made disasters. In situations like this help may be unavailable because rescuers may be in the same predicament that you are, and it could take a considerable length of time for outside help to arrive.

Disaster preparedness is the sensible thing to do. It doesn’t need to be expensive; and it can save your life! In these situations we are not talking about losing heat or power for a few hours we are talking about losing essential services, under extreme circumstances, for a prolonged period of time. Water, heat, shelter, and finally food are your main concern. After that things like light and communications, or at least a means of receiving information should be considered.

Disaster planning is disaster preparedness; disaster preparedness is disaster survival! Taking the time to think about these things before a disaster occurs will go a long way towards ensuring your survival and the survival of your loved ones.

©Lloyd Fridenburg, 2007