Preparedness 101 – thoughts on Boston and West, TX

First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the attack in Boston as well as those in West, Texas.  What a rough week for so many.

Let’s recap the week:

But let’s try and weed through the noise for a few minutes and get to something useful:  “Is there anything I can do in a disaster like Boston to help me survive?”

Some initial thoughts about what happened in Boston:

  • I talk about the Normalcy Bias a lot.  As far as I’m concerned, understanding what it is and how it manifests itself explains darn near everything anymore.  I’m still working on the link between the Normalcy Bias and Area 51.  Stay tuned.
  • Do you remember watching 9/11 unfold on tv?  Nearly all Americans had no place mentally to handle what was happening – and so most of us simply could not process the information.
  • There are countless stories of people not understanding what happened on 9/11, and even if they saw a plane hit a building, hundreds or thousands simply just went back to their day.  They went back to checking email, making phone calls, whatever it was they were doing immediately prior to the attack – even if they were in one of the towers that was on on fire, even if they felt the jolt and heard the explosion.  If you or I were there that day, I’m sure we’d have likely done the exact same thing.
  • Now watch the videos from the bombing in Boston this week – very different story.  Immediately after the first blast, even before the 2nd blast, people were moving, trying to get away, trying to find cover.  No one had to explain to anyone what had just happened – they all just knew.
  • Then immediately after the blasts, I see a lot of people helping out the injured, men removing their shirts to help stop the bleeding, race organizers trying to control the crowds, etc.  It was like a horrible, well-choreographed ballet.
  • Yes, there were the initial reports that it was a gas line explosion.  But aside from that, the people at the scene sprung into action.  By some accounts, there were 30,000 tweets and facebook posts within only a couple blocks of the attack.  That’s encouraging news to me.
  • But cell phones went down nearly immediately after the attack.  The official story I heard was that they were worried about more terrorists using cell phones to detonate more bombs.  So that may be a blessing and a curse.  If it saved us from more bombs going off, excellent!  But the one thing that most people crave during emergencies like this is the ability to communicate with loved ones.  So unless you have a Plan B for that, you’re out of luck.  Should cell phones be shutoff after an attack?

So what can I do?

The biggest thing you can do if you find yourself on the scene of a horrible incident like this one is to understand that “wow, ok, something important just happened.”  Don’t dismiss what you see, hear, and feel.  If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.  Trust your instinct.  Don’t be Jimma Reat, who got some horrible (and tragic) advice at the worst possible time.

Take care of yourself and your family.

The “security expert” in this video has some good tips, but she recommends never standing next to a trash can or anyone carrying anything.  Good luck with that.  Click on this link:  http://video.foxnews.com/v/2306622423001/

But I do agree with her assessment to look at people.  Take a lesson from a cop – make eye contact.  Seriously, do you know a police officer?  Every police officer I’ve ever met, honestly, has this amazing ability to make eye contact.  I’m not sure what in their training brings that out, but wow, they all get an A+.  But that’s an excellent thing to practice that each of us can practice every day: eye contact.  Here’s a tip: be friendly!  “Hi Bob!  Love the new car!”  Study after study says that when people are up to no good, their eye contact reaction is either the stare-right-through-you thing or avoid eye contact at all costs.  There really is no middle ground.  So notice people around you and be nice.

Lastly, have a plan.  Have a communications plan and a meet-up plan.  Both my wife and I keep ham radios in our vehicles and we have 4 or 5 places to meet each other, depending on the situation (at the house is always first, then across the street, then at the park that’s visible from our house, then the nearest fire station, then a relative’s house about 15 miles away, etc.).

Quick communications note: if your cell phone won’t get a call out, try text messaging.  It works on a different bandwidth and could still work even if a call won’t go through.  It’s worth trying.

One short personal story about that: a couple summers ago when Texas had all the wildfires burning, my parents nearly lost their home.  At one particularly trying moment, my Dad had gone to help try and keep the fire on the other side of the highway (not far away) and my Mom’s job was to “pack the car.”  She struggled with that, and that’s an understatement.  But I remember asking her what her plan was to meet up with Dad again (roads were getting closed everywhere and neither of them knew where the other was at that moment) and she says “well, I guess I’m going to text him.”  That was it – their entire communication and meet-up plan hinged on them both having functional cell phones despite one of them actively fighting a fire at the moment.  Lesson learned.

You’ll have enough on your plate without having to worry about getting in touch with family, where to go next, etc.

Quick thought about the explosion in West, Texas: we talked before about “bugging in” and “bugging out,” but how nice would it be to have some extra food and your own clean water to be able to have some guests in your home without having to worry about those things?  The biggest reason many of us prepare for disasters like this is to be able to help others in a time of need.  So get your ducks in a row so that responding emergency personnel can worry about other things.

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2 comments on “Preparedness 101 – thoughts on Boston and West, TX

  1. Will says:

    How do you plan to keep your battery charged for your Ham? Also, would you bother getting licensed if it was only for emergencies?

  2. Hey Will! Our handheld radios have rechargeable batteries that they came with and can also use AA batteries. So we try and store extra batteries (they stay good for a fairly long time). Having a solar backup option would be an *excellent* idea, we just haven’t gone there yet.

    I wanted the license not so much to talk, although we do on occasion, but to actually learn about that stuff. It’s reasonably easy – you learn the stuff, take some practice tests, and you’re ready to go. Well worth the time!!

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