The Compass DeRose Guide to Emergency Preparedness
Since 9/11, of course there has been a lot of interest in what, if anything, the average person can do to gain some protection from various kinds of attacks. The information available online is highly variable -- scans of old 1950's brochures, on up to the latest ideas. So I have collected summaries and links to useful information I've found.
Warning: I am not an expert in this area. The closest I've come is having been an Emergency Medical Technician and a Certified Radiological Monitor (didn't know we still had those, did you?), random relevant skills, and reading a moderate amount. So, take my advice for what's it's worth, and check it out with other sources. I've surely made some mistakes in here. Given the importance of adequate safety preparations if an emergency does come up, it is even more important than usual that you check for yourself and consider the many variables that can affect what to do. These pages do not constitute professional advice.
I've divided information into these categories, corresponding to the basic needs people have in roughly decreasing order of urgency. At the end of this page are several links to useful related sites. You should consider all of these and make an appropriate check-list and family plan. FEMA has several check-lists and planning helps.
Also, here is a discussion of some background and basic principles.
Did you say "duct tape"?
I'm not impressed with the "duct tape and plastic sheeting" method of civil defense (though I think it's smart to have plenty of duct tape around for lots of other things). If you want to know why, look here.
On to the real information:
- A quick-start overview
- Air quality and usage
- Toiletries etc.
- Cooking, heating, and lighting
- Basic Shelter
- Instant ("expedient") emergency shelters
- Nuclear, radiological, biological, and chemical protection
- First aid and medical provisions
- Hardened shelters
- Transportation and escape
- What about them old FEMA bomb shelters?
- Skills and courses
Let us all pray and work so that this kind of information is never needed.
- Cresson H. Kearny. Nuclear War Survival Skills. ISBN 0-942487-01-X
- This is the best book I've seen yet on shelter design and construction. It is focused on nuclear hazards, so doesn't discuss bio and chem dangers; supplement it with some knowledge of how to purify air and you should be fine. The author also gives clear, simple plans for shelters and equipement ranging from the sohisticated pre-planned, to the last-ditch, no-notice, make-do-with-whatever's-around type. Highly recommended.
- James Talmage Stevens. Making the Best of Basics: Family Preparedness Handbook. ISBN 1882723252.
- I haven't read this one, but it seems to get great reviews. Apparently it teaches the basic skills of living independent of a huge technological infrastructure. Sounds like a must-have.
- Jack A. Spigarelli. Crisis Preparedness Handbook. ISBN 0936348070
- This book focuses more on how to plan, store, and resupply food and water. However, it also has brief sections on many other topics. A quick glance looks promising.
- David Werner, Carol Thuman, Jane Maxwell. Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook. ISBN 0942364155
- This book is for training people to provide medical care in settings where there literally is no doctor. It's for the Peace Corps volunteer, missionary, or similar person working where despite having no formal medical training, they are the best hope for an ill or injured person. In a big enough disaster the same situation could arise, and these skills could save a lot of lives. Obviously, providing medical care without proper training and licensing is entirely inappropriate (not to mention illegal) when competent care is available; this tells you what to do when there is no alternative (other than doing nothing and watching people die).
- Bruce D. Clayton, Ph.D. Life After Doomsday. ISBN 0-87364-175-2
- This has a lot of basic information you would want to know in case of any major disaster, and starts out by making the good point that terrorism or nuclear war is not the only possible bad event -- it would surely be a shame to have a wonderful shelter and plan for surviving an ICBM attack, and then to be hit by a flash flood. The book includes some useful charts, shelter plans, etc. On the downside, it pays most attention to cold-war-era scenarios involving lots of nuclear fallout.
- (various). "SAS" Survival books.
- The ones I've seen have nice pictures and a few useful tips on wilderness survival. I didn't find much that you couldn't get from some time on Outward Bound, or as a Boy Scout, etc. There may be great exceptions that I haven't looked at; and many of them seem to get quite good reviews on Amazon.
- Hugh Coffee. Ditch Medicine: Advanced Field Procedures For Emergencies. ISBN 0873647173.
- I've ordered this but haven't finished it yet. Looks promising. Medical skills are not all easy to master, though; the more training you can get ahead of time, the better use you can make of further information like this. Don't do your first suturing on a real person -- practice on a steak until you can do it well -- then get a doctor friend to watch you and tell you the 30 mistakes you're still making. I have had training using Where There Is No Doctor (see above), and can recommend it highly.
- Ragnar Benson. The Survival Retreat. ISBN 0873642759.
- This is by one of the best-known survival authors, and seems very sensibly written to me. He discusses just what you might want a retreat to do for you, and practical situations, like what are you going to do if a few starving children show up at your door? He does talk about defense by force, but strongly advocates placing and designing a retreat to minimize the chance it will ever be found and attacked (which seems a much safer as well as more humane approach).
- Ragnar Benson. Survival Nurse: Running An Emergency Nursing Station Under Adverse Conditions. ISBN 1581600755.
- This is by one of the best-known survival authors. Even so, I wasn't favorably impressed. It didn't seem very practical to me.
- Barbara Graves. Chem-Bio: Frequently Asked Questions. ISBN 0966543718.
- I found this a nice basic introduction to chemical and biological hazards. It's boring, more of a reference than a tutorial; but useful to pick up and scan a few pages every now and then.
- FEMA: The Federal Emergency Management Agency. Their site has vastly improved since I looked at it right after 9/11. See especially their preparedness page.
- Regional Environmental Hazard Containment Corporation has a lot of good information on emergency preparedness, and sells a wide variety of products. I haven't done business with them, but their Web page is at least worth a look.
Pedal and hand-crank generators. This site offers a line of human-powered generators that look great. Here's a report on a home-made version; the author claims to have generated about 120 watts continuous power, and 450 watts peak. A pedal generator putting out 12 volts seems to me ideal for a shelter, even if you're only going to be in there for a few days without power. Car batteries are cheap for their capacity, and last a long time; you can get almost any kind of device in a version that runs on 12 volts, or use a voltage regulator to get any other DC voltage you need (see the Compass DeRose on building a universal power supply for more information on voltage regulators. A small car inverter to go from 12VDC to 110VAC is good to have anyway (I sometimes use mine to charge my laptop on long days). Go with rechargeable batteries for radios and flashlights, the new high-efficiency LED lights, and so on, and you might not even miss electricity that much for a while. Plus, the exercise is good.
- Radiological monitoring equipment
- RadMeters4U. I've had excellent service and support from these folks. They recondition and then sell surplus civil defense radiation survey meters, dosimeters, and some other equipment and supplies. I have training in radiation monitoring, and the equipment I received from them is the right stuff, and is in excellent shape (I can't independently test their calibration -- but they do certified calibration, and given my overall experience with them, I believe them). They also have many useful FAQs and information.
- Gas/NBC mask sources
- Approved gas masks. They also carry chemical protection suits, medical equipment, and other emergency gear.
- HEPA filter systems. The cheapest way to bring in HEPA-filtered air may be to use HEPA filters for Shop vacuums (not any old vacuum filter!). $30 here, but you may be able to find them just as easily at your local hardware store. $25 for re-usable goretex-based ones here. $40 to fit Sears of Shop-vac brand here. In a pinch, you could use a shop-vac to pull air in from outdoors to a shelter. So if you've got a shop vacuum anyway, get some HEPA filters to fit it, and enough hose to patch it to an air vent, and you have an "expedient" air supply system (but remember, HEPA filters don't do a thing versus chemical weapons).
- Ultraviolet air cleaning systems. The Honeywell UV100 system is one example; the easiest source appears to be here. A system will cost you a few hundred dollars, and will do a good job of killing microorganisms in circulated air; great for allergy sufferers, and a good safety measure for shelter air supply in the bargain.
- Chemical aire filtration
- Complete custom shelters. They also have a wealth of information and purchasable items for shelter construction, including blast doors, ventilation blast valves, air filtrations systems, fans, and so on.
- The Preparedness Center: Useful gadgets: hand-crank radios, supplies, books.
- 21st-century goods: Another source for alternative-power gadgets.
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