5 basic steps to start on the road to preparedness

The Survival Mom blog offers five baby steps for newbies on how to start on their preparedness journey:
  1. Plan for a Short-Term Emergency
  2. Prepare Your Vehicle
  3. Get Smart About Potential Disasters
  4. Get Home, No Matter What
  5. Develop a Mindset
You can read the rest of the article here where you can find links to more detailed postings. For many people new to preparedness, the task may seem daunting as there's so much to learn and do. Just the expense alone can make people give up as they feel they don't have the budget to be 'fully prepared'. My advice is to relax, start simply and build up your preparations over time. The world is unlikely to collapse around you tomorrow but every little thing you do today can only make you better off than you were yesterday. Continue Reading

Emergency cooking in a condo – is your fire kit appropriate?

I'd always been told that it's important for your survival kit to have three ways of making fire. For example, you may have a lighter, matches and flint and steel. All my emergency kits over the years had these and I'd been feeling pretty confident that I was prepared—that is, at least until Typhoon Ondoy. You see, while it was a major calamity for some people, my wife and I live in a condo in Metro Manila so for us, it ended up only being an inconvenience. The power was off and while we couldn't cook using our electric cooker, it was a simple matter to step out to buy food or eat at a restaurant. Breaking out my fire kit to start an open fire in our living room trash can wasn't a realistic option. This made me realize that my preparations in this area were inappropriate for our situation. Our fire kit may have been useful in a total catastrophe where we'd have to make a camp fire in an open space. However, it wasn't right for being holed up in a condo with no power. Our cooking capabilities were limited to two extremes: one in which utilities are working relatively normally or the other where there was a complete breakdown in social order. In reality, as Typhoon Ondoy demonstrated, we are more likely to experience varying degrees of intermediate emergencies. Fortunately, not being able to cook wasn't a major problem at that time as we had other options. Nevertheless, it did get me thinking about what would have happened if the situation had been more serious. I solved this problem by purchasing a portable gas cooker that takes small gas canisters. It allows us to do some basic cooking and sterilization inside our condo unit without posing an unacceptable fire hazard. Furthermore, the unit is small enough to be conveniently packed in a bag should we need to evacuate.
Portable gas cooker and spare canisters for your disaster preparedness kit
Portable gas cooker with carry case and spare canisters
A cooker like the one shown in the image can be purchased from many hardware stores like Ace Hardware and True Value for between Php800 and Php2,000. Spare gas canisters are about Php50 to Php80 depending on size. I've placed a spoon and fork next to the cooker to give you an idea of its size. The lesson here is to avoid blindly following rules-of-thumb when it comes to preparedness. What might work well for another person may be totally inappropriate to your environment and circumstances. Think realistically about how you and your family may respond to emergency scenarios and build your kit around that plan. Also remember to update your plan as your lifestyle changes. As a single person who enjoyed camping as a teenager, my simple fire kit would have been fine for almost any scenario. If things got bad enough, it wouldn't have been a problem to leave my condo for another location and live a little more ruggedly for a while. Now that I'm married and have a baby, this would not be at all desirable. Being equipped with only the bare basics may turn a manageable situation into an arduous challenge at best and life threatening scenario at worst. In conclusion, take a little time to run through a simple review of your current circumstances and make the necessary upgrades to your emergency kit. Continue Reading

Firearms for self-protection after a disaster

I have not seen any of the mainstream preparedness information resources discuss the effectiveness of firearms for self-protection after a major disaster. Usually it is left to the niche survivalist sites to tackle. Perhaps the subject is too politically sensitive for large organizations. Generally, the focus is simply on stocking up on supplies, making a plan and then taking your lead from 'The Authorities'. Unfortunately, recent examples have shown that for some time after a disaster, the authorities are often nowhere to be seen. Looting and violent crime surge while ordinary people are left to fend for themselves against criminals. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans suffered from widespread looting. Survivors of the Chilean Earthquke of 2010 were forced to form their own local watch group against criminals, arming themselves with makeshift weapons. In Haiti, criminals fought with other earthquake survivors over scarce resources. One Haitian witness said, "All the policemen are busy rescuing and burying their own families. They don't have the time to patrol the streets." Interestingly, the 2011 Earthquake in Japan proved to be an exception. There, the quake victims were orderly, looting was almost non-existent and even the Yakuza enforced order while helping to distribute relief goods.

Post-disaster Manila will not be orderly

Will a post-disaster Manila more resemble Japan or Haiti? It's silly even to pose the question when we have, as a normal occurrence, akyat-bahay (house intruder) gangs who sneak into homes, sometimes killing the occupants for low value items. Of course, there's a place for expecting the best out of your fellow man and people often pull together during adversity. Just don't rely on this happening. It seems likely that desperation will cause more people to use violence on others. In particular, the people who've taken the effort to prepare beforehand may become a target of envy from those who did nothing, or those unfortunate enough to have lost everything. We must accept the fact that people may want to do us harm and there is no tool more effective at repelling them than a firearm in the hands of a trained person. Sticks, pepper-spray, unarmed self-defence and strong words all have their place but only a firearm enables a weaker person to repel several stronger attackers.

Get a gun, learn how to use it

I realize that advocating this is controversial but I would be doing you a great disservice by simply ignoring the topic. If you are at all serious about preparedness, you need to get a gun and learn how to use it. Preparedness includes being ready to protect yourself, your family and your property. There's little point in stocking up on supplies when everything can be taken away by a street thug or desperate mob. Let me be clear, however, that using your firearm against an adversary should obviously be considered the absolute last option; there are many, many things you can do to avoid that situation altogether. Nevertheless, dealing with reality means acknowledging that the danger exists. Some believe that the best way to protect people is to strive for a 'gunless society'. While they are entitled to their point-of-view, these well-meaning people are sadly misguided. A deeper discussion belongs elsewhere so all I will say here is that if a major disaster hits the Philippines, our society will definitely not be gunless. Fortunately, Filipino civilians can legally own firearms and the country has an active sport shooting culture so there are many information sources available. If you are a novice, do yourself a big favor and join a gun club. There you can get more information about training and legally purchasing a firearm. Armscor, Jethro and Stronghand are just a few of the the more popular clubs in Manila.

Types of firearms useful in a disaster

The subject of which types of firearms for a disaster sitauation can, on its own, cover many articles and generate heated debate. I'll just give you a summary of my opinion on the matter. 'Prepper' and survivalist sites, usually US-based, often advocate that you should have three types of firearms: a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun. Their reasoning is that this covers you for the range of uses from concealed carry and home defense to hunting game for food. I don't think this advice quite applies to Manila residents. First of all, the only 'game' you're likely to hunt will probably be disease-ridden rats, cats and dogs. Secondly, the tight confines of our city would mean that the longer range of a rifle may pose a risk to innocent people if you miss your target. (And if someone is at a distance where you'd need a rifle, they're not likely to pose an immediate danger so why would you be shooting at them?) Personally, I believe that the best combination for those of us living in Manila is the handgun and shotgun. A handgun can be kept with you at all times and easily concealed so as not to cause alarm. The shotgun provides more power while being reasonably priced and versatile. Shotgun shells are also widely available and cheaper than rifle ammunition.
Shotgun and pistol with ammunition
Firearms for home protection after a disaster: Mossberg 500 with a variety of loads, Springfield XD 45 and Ruger LCP pistols
Many Filipino preppers, like their American counterparts, are also fans of what are classed in the Philippines as 'high powered rifles' (HPRs). Examples of these include the AR-15, M4 (technically a carbine) or AK-47. Some tend to look down on the shotgun as an inferior cousin and believe that you must have a HPR for any serious civil unrest situation. If your situation allows you the opportunity to own a carbine or high-powered rifle, great; there's nothing wrong with having more tools in your toolbox. However, these are expensive and the sale of HPRs to civilians are restricted. The expense and effort it takes to procure one may be better spent on other areas, like learning first aid or buying food and medical supplies.

Choose what suits your situation

Ultimately you should choose what suits your situation while considering what's most likely to happen. A major earthquake or flood is unlikely to turn Manila into a war zone so stocking up like Rambo may not be the best use of your resources. However, it's prudent to expect a rise in violent crime like looting, hold-ups, rapes and armed home invasions. Also remember that those who are most at risk would be the weaker members of your family such as children, grandparents and especially women. You may not be around to protect them so it's important to ensure that they're capable of protecting themselves. Firearms do this more effectively than any other tool.
Please practice peaceful and responsible firearms ownership Remember to observe the four rules of firearm safety:
  1. Always assume that the gun is loaded.
  2. Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
  3. Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on the target.
  4. Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.
For more information, please visit progun.ph
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The emergency plan card – an important tool for reuniting your family

Two important parts of your family emergency plan are having an out-of-town contact person and setting meeting points should members be separated during the event. However, you might not be able to recall important telephone numbers and addresses due to high stress. Even if you keep details in a phone or personal organizer, these may be lost, damaged or discharged at the time you need them most. One solution is distribute emergency plan cards amongst your family. These should contain the essential elements of your plan and be kept with them at all times. Feel free to use the PrepareManila.org Emergency Plan Card template which you can find in the Resources section. Go ahead and download, print and give copies to all your friends and family.

How to use the emergency plan card

I've kept the template simple and fairly free-form so you can customize it to suit your own plan. Simply cut it out and fold down the middle to create a small business card-sized booklet. The front page should contain your out-of-town contact telephone numbers and meeting place locations. The back can contain special notes about the plan itself. There will be a blank space for the middle pages where you put anything you want, such as reminders, procedures or other important telephone numbers.
Sample Emergency Plan Card
Emergency Plan Card with sample information
Download the Emergency Plan Card template.

A digital emergency plan card for iOS devices

Download Emergency Plan for iPhone on the App Store
Update 10 April 2014: There is now an iPhone app version of a paper-based emergency plan card called Emergency Plan for iPhone. It has an advantage that your phone stays updated as part of your every-day use so is more likely to have your contacts' latest details. Of course, a disadvantage is that it's unusable if your battery is dead but its usefulness is more for the immediate aftermath of a crisis.
A digital emergency plan card: Emergency Plan for iPhone
A digital emergency plan card: Emergency Plan for iPhone (download)
Apple iPhone and iPad users can download it on the App Store. For more details, see the developer's site. Continue Reading