Together, Bryan and Jen talk through the four steps that you can take to improve your personal preparedness:
- Have a plan
- Get a kit
- Practice your Plan
- Review your Kit
You can learn more at our blog post on the same topic from last week.
Bryan Strawser: So, every great story starts with a story, a lead, right?
Jen Otremba: Yeah.
Bryan Strawser: So, I’m from a small town in Indiana called Covington, whole 2,400 people and in 1979 we went through a tornado, I was five. My brother was maybe 18 months old. It went about a half mile, maybe a quarter mile from my home. We had pretty significant damage. I vividly remember, we didn’t have a basement so we ran to an interior closet with my mom and the dog.
Jen Otremba: Okay.
Bryan Strawser: And we’re hiding there and the storm comes through. My mom saw the funnel cloud, that’s what started all of this.
Jen Otremba: Oh, really?
Bryan Strawser: So, we’re hiding in the closet and then, you know, it passes by and then you go outside and you look at the aftermath of the storm. My city was without power for more than a week, actually I think it was closer to two weeks. We had trees down in the yard, we had a tree at a 45 degree angle leaning towards our house so we couldn’t sleep in our bedrooms because that’s what the tree was aimed at. We had to sleep on the floor in the living room with sleeping bags, which fortunately we had.
Jen Otremba: That’s kind of fun for kids.
Bryan Strawser: It’s kind of fun for kids, for my mom, not so much and my dad was out-of-town working because he was usually gone every other day. We weren’t prepared to deal with this other than having sleeping bags and enough food for a couple days.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. So, on the flip side, I grew on a farm so we were used to kind of living without for periods of time because we weren’t very close to a grocery store, things like that. I also have few childhood memories of some major storms that came through.
Bryan Strawser: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Snow storms. Right?
Jen Otremba: And my mom waking us up in the middle of the night for tornado warnings, dragging us down into the basement.
Bryan Strawser: You had a well for water then?
Jen Otremba: We did.
Bryan Strawser: Okay.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, we did and we had a basement sort of cellar type of place that mom would drag all four of us down there in the middle of the night, terrified. Again, you’d walk outside, like you said, trees are everywhere.
Bryan Strawser: Could you get to the cellar from inside your house?
Jen Otremba: You could.
Bryan Strawser: Or you have to go outside and go through the wooden door?
Jen Otremba: No. It was in the house. It wasn’t like on the movie Twister where it’s coming and you’re trying to open that storm cellar, anything like that.
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Jen Otremba: No, we went right down to the basement.
Bryan Strawser: Okay.
Jen Otremba: Yep. And definitely snow storms too. Everyone remembers the ’91 snow storm where we were snowed in for days.
Bryan Strawser: I think people in the … We take this for granted in the United States, a lot, I think, we just don’t prepare personally the way that maybe you grew up on the farm and these are things that you just lived because you had to, you weren’t in the city.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, that was the way you did things. You know?
Bryan Strawser: Right. I think about the first major crisis that I worked that was a crisis was Hurricane Katrine, back in 2005 and granted, the government perhaps did not do all of the things that they should have done but at the same time, people were completely ill equipped to deal with the fact that there was no response coming, initially.
Jen Otremba: Right. On that personal level.
Bryan Strawser: On that personal level.
Jen Otremba: How do I take care of myself and my neighbors?
Bryan Strawser: Right. So today we talk, as a result of that, the Federal Government anyway launched the Ready campaign, which you can find those resources at ready. Gov but we think this is an interesting topic because as we’re helping businesses and clients improve their resiliency and improve their preparedness, we often turn the conversation back to, this is gonna start with your team. As a company, as a business, reinforcing what you want the team to do, personally, because if they can’t take care of themselves and they can’t take care of their families or their worried about their family, they’re not coming to work.
Jen Otremba: Right. It always starts with people first. Right?
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Jen Otremba: Taking care of people first and taking care of yourself more than that first.
Bryan Strawser: Right. So, the Ready campaign teaches us three things; have a kit, have a 72 hour kit because we think that three days is really the boundary by which you’ll start to get help from Federal, State, Local Government. To have a plan, to build a basic plan for your family and then to practice that plan and as a result of that plan, go back and take a look at your kit.
Jen Otremba: That’s right. So, maybe we break it down a little bit, those three different categories and talk just a little bit about each of those.
Bryan Strawser: Let’s go into that. So, FEMA talks about having a 72 hour emergency kit and what needs to go in that kit.
Jen Otremba: I was just looking at the top of the list here is obviously water and second to that is food. It makes me think, in my house, I always have an overstocked fridge. We don’t have kids but I always have an overstocked fridge and overstocked pantry. It drives my husband crazy because he can never find anything.
Bryan Strawser: But you grew up on a farm.
Jen Otremba: But I think that’s where it came from.
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, exactly. I’ve always got something that I can come up with something to feed a whole crowd of people even though it’s just my husband.
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Jen Otremba: Yeah.
Bryan Strawser: Also, we also talk about some supplies, flashlights, first aid kit. I like to have flashlights but I prefer to use the headlamp ’cause then you can use both hands to do whatever, as you’re manipulating something or fixing something or trying to navigate, trying to help another person. Batteries, lots of batteries.
Jen Otremba: Oh yes. Yeah.
Bryan Strawser: Batteries are important.
Jen Otremba: Flashlights, candles in multiple rooms. So, let’s say you can’t get to, ’cause like you said, there’s a tree in your bedroom and that’s where you keep the flashlights and the batteries so it’s probably a good idea to place them in various rooms of the house.
Bryan Strawser: Maps. Can openers for food, manual can openers for food.
Jen Otremba: First aid kit. This is something I always have. I like to call myself a recovering medic from the Air force so I always have thought through what you would need in basic first aid situations.
Bryan Strawser: Right.
Jen Otremba: And then some.
Bryan Strawser: Yeah. So, those are a lot of the basic things. We also recommend that you have some cash and that you have spare medication, over the counter medication, in addition to your prescription medications. You can always talk to your doctor about handling an emergency kit and I want to have spare of whatever it is that you take and most doctors will help you acquire that with a proper prescription.
Jen Otremba: Yep. Spare fuel or propane or however you may be heating your house, those types of things are good to have on had. Back to water, I just briefly touched on that in the beginning but I think that’s pretty important because you think about what could happen to, say you’re on city water, that water supply could go bad for whatever reason in the midst of a big storm and you want to make sure that you can survive on what you have. We always have gallons and bottles of water available even though our city water, we drink that most of the time.
Bryan Strawser: Right. And for water, we’re talking about a gallon per person, per day.
Jen Otremba: At least.
Bryan Strawser: So it adds up pretty fast to be a pretty significant amount of water.
Jen Otremba: If you’re in a hotter climate, you might want to think about more than that.
Bryan Strawser: More? Yeah. If you want to get fancy and you’ve built this kit for your home, then you can start to think about, “What’s the get home kit that I need to have in my vehicle,” because I might be 50 miles from home when the disaster strikes and I need to get home or wherever it is that I’m meeting my family, we’ll talk about that in a minute. You can think about a lot of the same kind of things, you need clothing in your vehicle for different climates and cold weather and spending the night outdoors. You might want a tarp and some rope to help you shelter from the rain. You’re going to want food and you’re going to want water and probably a comfortable backpack to help you get from point a back to home.
Jen Otremba: I think the vehicle thing, we’re relatively good at here in Minnesota because we’re used to traveling through snow storms.
Bryan Strawser: The winter, right.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, where your best of intentions, maybe it’s not bad but you end up rolling right into the ditch and you need some of those basic items until you can get help your way.
Bryan Strawser: So, part two of Personal Preparedness is to have a plan, a plan that you develop with your family. It starts with just getting access to information that you need to know about the disaster that could be coming, so that could be weather alerts, have a weather radio. Subscribe to local, city, county, state and FEMA alerts so that you know about floodings, severe weather, hurricanes, I mean you would think folks would know about these things but you’re surprised sometimes at who doesn’t get emergency notifications.
Jen Otremba: I think even aside from that, preparing yourself comes along with, I mean we always look at the weather every night. So, what’s the weather look like this week? It’s not just ’cause we’re pilots, even though that’s [inaudible 00:08:53] things but we’re always looking at what the weather’s doing in our future for that week.
Bryan Strawser: The next part of your plan is where do you meet if you can’t meet at home? What’s the back up location and probably what’s the back up to the back up location but if your home was in the impact area, where would you want to meet your family and if you consider that cell phones and text messaging and email and the internet that we all depend upon 24/7, may not be working, you need to have this planned out in advance where are you going to meet with your family to make sure that you can all gather together in the same place?
Jen Otremba: It’s also probably a good idea to let somebody know that maybe doesn’t live right next to you what your plan is. Like I said, for my husband and I it’s one thing just to let each other know but our family may not know where we’re at and how we’re doing if we’re in that area.
Bryan Strawser: The third part of Personal Preparedness is to practice this plan. It’s kind of like your own, personal crisis drill.
Jen Otremba: Exercise, exercise, we love these.
Bryan Strawser: Exercise, exercise, exercise, we are now evacuating the house.
Jen Otremba: Yes, now what? Now, where are you gonna meet?
Bryan Strawser: Where do we do go? We’re going to our primary spot.
Jen Otremba: We learned this when we were kids and we went through fire drills in our house and having that designated location.
Bryan Strawser: Here’s the rally point.
Jen Otremba: Exactly.
Bryan Strawser: So, you should at least, once a year practice the plan with your household including checking your backup meeting locations and your emergency route home to make sure those are still valid. You might have road construction or maybe the road has changed and you need to meet somewhere else or things are different. Then you’ve got to go back and look at your kit and see, “Hey I need fresh batteries. I need to replace some of my first aid supplies cause I’ve used them or they’ve expired. I should refresh my water.”
Jen Otremba: Yeah. Exactly. Think of like you would be checking this in a business organization where you maybe have first aid kits and somebody’s responsible for checking those. It’s no different than in your house, make sure that all of your supplies are still working and operational.
Bryan Strawser: Beyond that, those are the three basic things. Have a kit, make a kit, develop a plan and then practice your plan and go back and review your kit. If you’ve done all those things and you’re starting to think about, “Okay, I want to go further,” well, you can start with training. You can take the community emergency responder course, the CERT course from FEMA. It’s often taught by your local fire department but it really has to do with how can you help your local community in an emergency. You could take a CPR and first aid training from the Red Cross or from a Red Cross instructor; I think that’s actually one of the more valuable things that you can do. You can take an amateur radio course and buy some amateur radio equipment and become part of that network of kind of community folks that coordinate and communicate information. What are some other things that you can do?
Jen Otremba: I was just thinking, if you’re a business and you want to train your employees to make sure that they’re ready so that they can come back to work because they’ve taken care of themselves, we’d be happy to come and help with something like that as well.
Bryan Strawser: We do, do that kind of training. We have done that training with many businesses.
Jen Otremba: We have.
Bryan Strawser: We’re working on a campaign for that very thing right now.
Jen Otremba: That’s right.
Bryan Strawser: You should keep your car fueled, I’m horrible at this.
Jen Otremba: You should at least, what do they say? Half a gallon at least, always in your car. Which, I drive excessive amounts to work when I come to work and I never have the amount of fuel you’re supposed to have.
Bryan Strawser: Nope. It’s good to also just look at what are the emergencies that have happened in your area and what’s been learned from those. I mean, if you’re in a flood zone, if you’re in a flood plan, you’re gonna know ’cause you’re gonna have flood insurance on your residence but you should know what that looks like and you should have an idea of what the city, county, state are going to do in those situations so that you can plan your response.
Jen Otremba: Right, if anything … If you’re in a very rural area like I was growing up in, you know that you’re gonna be on your own for at least a couple of days after something like that.
Bryan Strawser: You should assume you’re gonna be on your own for three days.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. The least.
Bryan Strawser: That’s the minimum amount of time before help should be available.
Jen Otremba: Exactly and I think, also having that plan with your neighbors potentially in that area, ’cause you can help each other out with that type of thing is a good idea. I know we did that growing up as well.
Bryan Strawser: The beginning of this year my wife and I started talking more about personal preparedness and you would think both of us being crisis management folks that we would be better at this and we’re not but we’ve done a lot over the last six months. I think to be a little more aligned with where we need to be for this. It helps having an office where we can store some things. Now, I mean we would probably come here if something happened, as a starting point, this is not far from our home.
Jen Otremba: Yeah, this would be a good option minus the windows.
Bryan Strawser: Minus the windows.
Jen Otremba: Yeah. But it’s a good rally point that you and your neighbors or your friends could potentially use and take into accountability.
Bryan Strawser: Right. So, for more information, you can go to ready. Gov to the Ready campaign website, there are plan templates and kit instructions and other things there that are useful to you for resources. We also have a blog post on our blog; Four Steps That You Can Take Today To Improve Your Personal Preparedness; and we’ll put that in the show notes so that you can take a look and there also is a list of kit contents and other steps that you can take.
Again, make a kit, have a plan, practice your plan and get some training if you want to go further than that. So, we’re gonna tie this into our next episode, which will be about business preparedness and we’re gonna talk a little bit about what happens after a storm and what that means and how this idea of personal preparedness connects in to recovering your business when something happens. We’ll see you on the next episode.
Jen Otremba: See you then.