You don’t have to be a devoted prepper -- you know, those people who stockpile food and supplies for doomsday scenarios? -- to get your family ready to face potential emergency situations.
Any average family can learn how to survive and thrive without their normal vital services and access to supplies.
Here are three novel ways to prepare.
1.) Go camping.
Preparing your family and your home for natural and man-made disasters is a great way to keep your crew secure while you bond as a team.
No activity helps you and your loved ones bond and learn to live without conveniences more than camping.
Portable camping gear like tents and tables also serve as emergency shelters and furnishings, should you be forced to evacuate your home for any reason.
Numerous state, federal and private campgrounds offer low-cost camping-site rentals for a single night or a whole week of roughing it. Make sure the site of your choice is open for business, reserve your spot, pack up the kids, and go practice the skills you need to live with minimal supplies.
Some campgrounds offer bathhouses with showers and table-bedecked tent sites with electrical hookups to make your transition to bare-bones living easier. Other camping-friendly wilderness areas offer zero amenities, so you can truly live without conveniences for a few days and see how well you do.
Preparedness skills you and your family should practice while camping include the following:
• Building a fire
• Cooking over a fire
• Cooking with a propane stove
• Consuming adequate nutrition
• Keeping foods cold and fresh
• Washing dishes and food prep with no running water
• Completing bathroom tasks with no running water
• Setting up solar and propane lamps
• Using limited water responsibly
• Dressing appropriately for climate and activities
• Staying comfortable in wet, hot, and cold environments
• Hiking with a backpack full of supplies
• Maybe even something fun like fishing
When you return from each camping trip, you could even talk about what went well and what you could have done better. With everyone’s input, complete an inventory of the items you wish you’d brought along on the camping trip and another list of things that only got in the way. Use your lists and experiences to collect practical supplies for disaster preparedness.
2.) Make a trouble map of local perils.
The people who suffer the worst during natural and man-made disasters are those who have no clue about the potential risks in their areas. For example, a fresh transplant to Florida may not fully understand the hazards posed by hurricanes. A person newly relocated to Michigan may not realize what a blizzard can do to shut down life as we know it.
Even longtime residents of established towns remain blissfully unaware of all the potential disasters that could affect their homes and communities. Instead of being blind to local dangers yourself, embrace them by learning all about the things that could cause trouble where you live. Create a colorful "trouble map" using the internet or a paper map of your region, and you can make the project really helpful and entertaining.
Of course, this activity should be restricted to older teens and adults without anxiety issues. The goal of this activity is not to terrify yourself or make your family believe there’s a disaster around every corner. The takeaway is advance warning of potential trouble and better informed planning, should you need to avoid specific areas or flee your home due to disaster. Use maps, county records, news stories and other sources to learn about:
• Local gas and oil pipelines
• Local water and sewer infrastructure
• Factories and industrial sites that could release toxins
• Earthquake and wildfire likelihood
• Flooding, landslide, tsunami, and hurricane/tornado potential
• Locations of train tracks, airports, and other transportation hubs
• Locations of nearby military properties
Ask yourself: What might it look like if any of the items listed above becomes a problem? Is there a way to keep tabs on risky facilities and natural disasters?
For example, gas pipeline companies generally notify and provide emergency contact info to people who live within a certain distance from the gas pipelines. If you have a vulnerable loved one who lives within the designated pipeline zone, you may be eligible to receive a text if there’s ever any pipeline leak.
Likewise, sign up for weather and other news alerts (from us!), so you can stay informed about dangerous climate conditions and other hazards. Also, research the local emergency agencies who would take over your area should there be trouble. Learn where the nearest hospital trauma center is located and plan out alternate routes for evacuation on your trouble map.
3.) Create a family disaster role-playing game.
You could create a role-playing game where various characters encounter pitfalls based on your trouble map. Use preparedness books and tools to make up age-appropriate scoring systems that reward players who know how to function during a flood, water-main break or hurricane.
Opting for a lighthearted gaming approach to disaster preparedness allows you to educate and train younger kids without making the little ones freak out.
Let the kids develop their own strategies and solutions, even if their ideas are far-fetched. Your kids gain confidence in themselves, and you may even find some gold in their youthful, novel ways of looking at disaster planning and response.
Games are also a great distraction during high-stress situations like living in emergency shelters or coping with no power. Along with the role-playing sessions, teach your kids some fun board and card games before disaster strikes, so they have low-key ways to stay occupied while you deal with the big stuff. Always pack some games or at least a deck of playing cards in your evacuation supplies as boredom and cabin-fever reducers.
Develop your own ways to help your family learn the patience, coping skills, and life skills they need to survive trouble. It’s likely that you’ll never need to use your disaster supplies or training, but you’ll be glad you have both if they ever do become vital to your family’s survival.