Friday, October 15, 2010

Preparedness 2010 - Testing

After we make our plans and collect supplies for our various preparedness kits for home, workplace, school, and vehicle; testing is the next logical step.

For a test to be realistic, it needs to be conducted under as similar conditions as possible to those you're likely to encounter.

For example, during winter, it's easy enough to turn down the heat and forbid everyone from using water from a faucet for the weekend of the test. I wouldn't actually turn off the heat or water for a winter power outage and water shortage scenario because I wouldn't want the pipes to freeze. Turning the thermostat down to 45° F and letting a faucet drip slowly should prevent a weekend adventure from turning into a bona fide emergency.

The trick is to pick a weekend that's good for your scenario and unlikely to become a real event.

Another option is to test while the weather's still warm enough for you to shut off the gas and water, which you need to know how to do anyway, without the risk of your pipes freezing except then you wouldn't know if you're able to stay warm enough or will have to evacuate to a motel which you may not be able to do if an ice storm covers the roads with ice for several days.

Also, you'd have to restock supplies soon after so the test doesn't leave you unprepared for the real deal.

Testing a car survival kit realistically is easy enough since all you'd have to do is get a camp site then spend the entire weekend in or near your vehicle. For the sake of the camp ground and other campers, I'd use the camp ground's toilet facilities, but figure out the wheres and hows as if there wasn't a restroom because there probably won't be one when you're out stuck somewhere in your car.

The more kinks you can identify during a trial run and work out will make a real event less stressful but if the nearby camp grounds are closed for the winter, you might have to spend the weekend in your vehicle in your own driveway which will make the neighbors think you're very odd. Plus, there will be the temptations of getting things from the house and spending more time indoors than using the bathroom warrants.

Think of the emergency situations you're preparing against, then put your preparations to the test over a weekend for each scenario. Of course, unexpected situations such as reuniting with your family after something like 9-11 or a tornado that hits while you're at work and the children are at school won't need the entire weekend unless you combine testing your Get Home kits with the power outage and water shortage test at home.

Some situations I can think of testing are:

1. Sheltering in place with a power outage and water shortage at home or wherever you might be when conditions prevent you from reaching a community shelter.

2. Evacuating your home because of a fire, flood, tornado, or hurricane.

3. Reuniting with your family at home after a common disaster disables public transportation and closes major roads.

4. Reuniting with your family after a common disaster but at a different predetermined location.

5. Surviving in your vehicle because you can't reach your destination due to being lost or impassable road conditions such as a mud slide, snow, or ice.

People are advised to have various kits ready for their workplace, vehicle, and home to meet the events likely for their locale. For traveling, I'm thinking my Grab & Go bag should be modified into an I'm Already Gone bag or I need to make other provisions since I'm used to leaving such things as important documents at home when I travel. While not valuable to anybody else, the destruction of insurance policies, shot records, home inventory, and family photos could range from terribly inconvenient to emotionally devastating.

Practice not only highlights the rough spots, giving the opportunity to smooth them out prior to an actual emergency situation, but also builds confidence by letting everyone get acquainted with their part and the equipment through testing the plans.

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