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Have you ever asked yourself, "How prepared are you?"

Have you ever conducted your own exercise to determine how Prepared you are for potential disasters and emergencies? It is easy to say you are ready and it is easy to overlook (not really) simple items until you are in the middle of a disastrous event and do not have what is needed. You should conduct a simple test to grade yourself on what works and what is needed. If you don't believe this to be true, pull up video from the past five years on disasters and watch them and see what you may have performed differently with a plan.

Conduct a test using answering the following questions. When getting started with emergency preparedness, a lot of people make the mistake of rushing out and buying a lot of non-perishable foods, bottled water, and random gear. But this isn't a good way to prepare. If you have attended one of my Preparedness classes you may remember me discussing want vs need.

Some people find comfort with a lot of stuff. However, stuff may not save you when the time comes. Do your homework and determine what is needed. You must have a plan! Without an emergency preparedness plan, you will end up wasting a lot of money on supplies which you don't really need or won't be able to properly use. Understand what you are buying and how will it be applied to your circumstance. Retailers will sale you anything you have money to buy. But, you must ask, "do I need this item."

Try to build your plan using the "one is none and two is one" concept. Have a backup to every primary item, as much as possible. Yes, it can seem overwhelming to prepare for an unknown disaster. You don't know what is going to hit (will it be an earthquake, hurricane, solar flare...?), so how do you go about preparing for it. Keep in mind, you should focus around the basic four items first; water, food, shelter and security. These are must have items. Then, determine what will be the most likely event you are preparing to survive? Southeastern and Gulf coast could be a hurricane. Northwestern states could be cold, ice, snow, fires and earthquakes. Southern states could be tornadoes, drought, fires, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes. Central states could be floods, cold, ice, and a drought. The northeastern states could be snow, ice, freezing temperatures, power outages, and hurricanes. These are events based on averages.

If you have monitored the recent changes to weather patterns you would know about anything is possible in any region. Emergency Preparedness Checklist This emergency preparedness checklist will help you assess your current situation. After taking the assessment, you will be able to see where your strengths and weaknesses are, then make a plan for improving the weak area. *Note that this is a home preparedness assessment. You'll also want to assess the preparedness level of your workplace, school, vehicle, and eventually your entire community! For now, start with assessing your home.

Part 1: Water Preparedness How many gallons of water do you have stored per person? You should have a minimum of one gallon of water but two to three is preferable.

Would this water last your family 3 days?

Would this water last your family 30 days?

Do you have a renewable source of water available (stream, pond, a pool, etc.)?

Do you have a means to purify water at home (water purification tablets, beach, filter, etc.)?

Are you harvesting rainwater?

Part 2: Food Preparedness :

Do you have enough food stored to last 72 hours? FEMA now recommends a ten day supply for each person.

Do you have enough food stored to last 30 days?

Do you have a sustainable source of food (garden, aquaponics, chickens, livestock, etc.)?

Do you have a method of preserving food (canning, dehydrating, pickling, freeze drying)?

Do you have MREs, dehydrated or freeze dried meals, or canned products stockpiled?

Part 3: Home Safety:

Do you have a home security system?

Do you have a guard dog?

Do you have a safe room?

Do you have a storm shelter or bunker?

Do you have a perimeter around your home?

Is the perimeter secure?

Do you have a way of barricading doors and windows?

Do you have weapons in your home?

Are the weapons easily accessible?

Has everyone in your household been trained to use them?

Do you have a plan for what to do during a home invasion?

Have you run a home invasion drill?

Do you have two escape routes from your home? This includes escape ladders for the upper floors.

Part 4: Light, Heat, and Cooking :

Do you have a generator? *

Do you have an off-grid lighting method (solar-powered lamps, oil lamps, candles, etc.)?

Do you have at least 1000 hours of lighting?

Do you have flashlights for each household member?

Do you have an alternative way to heat your home (wood stove, propane stove, generator, etc.)?

Is there enough fuel to provide heat for 7 days? For 30 days?

Do you have an alternative method of cooking food (gas stove, rocket stove, etc.)?

Do you have wool blankets and/or sleeping bags for everyone? Emergency Mylar Survival blankets?

Part 5: Emergency Supplies :

Do you have items that could be bartered? (small bottles of liquor? hard candy? hygiene items?)

Do you have hand-operated tools (hammer, screwdriver, ax, etc.)?

Do you have repair items (planks of wood, duct tape, nails, etc.)?

Do you have heavy-duty gloves?

Do you have boots?

Do you have rain clothing? Plastic or rubber totes to secure critical needs such as food and water, dry clothing... in flooding or methods to escape with your products?

Part 6: First Aid & Hygiene :

Do you have an emergency toilet?

Do you have disinfectants, such as bleach?

Do you have medications, such as prescription meds and antibiotics?

Do you have first aid supplies?

Do you have first aid training?

Part 7: Evacuation:

This is where the rubber or plastic totes may come in handy.

Is your Bug Out Bag (aka 72 hour kit) packed?

Do you have an emergency communication plan?

Do you have two way radios?

Do you have an evacuation vehicle?

Do you have enough fuel to get to your evacuation location?

Do you have an alternative evacuation vehicle, such as a motor bike?

Do you know how to read a map?

Do you have an evacuation plan?

Have you practiced your evacuation plan?

Part 8: Mental Preparedness:

Have you run a threat assessment?

Have you ran drills of your emergency plans?

Have you practiced Emergency Conditioning? Have you tested your emergency communication plan?

Have you talked to your children about what to do in an emergency?

Part 9: Group Dynamics :

Are there more than five members in your survival group?

Do the members of the group collectively know a variety of survival skills? (Medical, Electrical, Mechanics, Food processing, communications, ...)

Have you held a community meeting about disaster preparation?

Are you in good physical health?

Do any members of your group have special medical or physical requirements?

Have you made a plan for these requirements, such as stockpiling medicines? Defining Your Strengths & Weaknesses. Understanding Risk Analysis and how to conduct a vulnerability assessment and mitigate your vulnerabilities is key. Did you finish with the Disaster Preparedness Checklist? You will need these results to define your preparedness Strengths and Weaknesses. Which areas of the preparedness checklist did you do really well on? These are your strengths. Which areas of the checklist did you have a lot of NO answers? These are your weaknesses. For example, you might find that your pantry is very well stocked with nonperishables so you don't have to focus too much on that. Or you might realize that you have no alternative method of heating or cooking, thus leaving you very vulnerable to blackouts. Start Strengthening Your Weak Areas. Choose one of your weaknesses and fix one or more issues in it.

You should now be able to answer "Yes" to those questions in the checklist. Then move on to another weak area. And so on. Not sure where to begin? Deciding what to work on first for disaster preparedness can be tricky. Again, don't rush out and buy a bunch of supplies.

You need a plan for how you go about prepping for disaster and emergency. Here is how I recommend getting started: Fix the easiest and cheapest weaknesses first. OR Fix the weaknesses which have the biggest impact. For example, it takes a lot of research and money to improve home security. But it doesn't take much effort or expense to fill up empty milk jugs with water for storage.

In just a few hours, you can have an entire 72-hour supply of emergency water. If you store water in previously used jugs such as a milk or tea jug, make sure the jug is clean. Some water is better than no water, however you want to ensure no bacteria is in the stored water jugs.

Consider having the ability to clean the clean the water as it is used. Or you might decide to focus on your Bug Out Bag first. Packing a Bug Out Bag requires careful planning, and you'll want to spend some money on quality supplies. However, a Bug Out Bag is one of the most important things you can do for disaster preparedness so spending the time and money on it will have a big impact on your level of preparedness.

You should consider setting up a 5 - 5 - 5 plan with your bags. This is the 5 second, 5 minute, and 5 hour, plans. If you are not sure what this is, ask. How well did you do on the checklist? Is it mostly YES or NO answers? What are your strong and weak areas?

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