Careful Planning – Saving Your Life in Disasters

We Want to Survive Life’s Disasters 

run for your life

California wild fires and Alaska earthquake

We all know just how frightening disasters like wild fires, floods, storms, and earthquakes can be. Horrible photos are thrown in front of us nearly daily to keep the pain and suffering on our minds. Now lets really scare ourselves by adding in the possibilities of things like war, terrorism, plane crashes, and a multitude of other disastrous things that happen which in moments put our lives in peril. This is in fact a scary world that we live in.

yikes, they might leave me

Worrisome to say the least

While you ponder these things, to try to imagine how much more frightening these disasters could be if they involved you, your family, or friends. The last step into the disaster mental minefield is to imagine yourself in a wheelchair, or if you were perhaps blind, elderly, or really disabled by any physical problems that would put you at the mercy of the disaster at hand. These are terrible situations that you could not handle without the help of other people. That is why WE are here!

I need a tranquilizer right now myself from just talking about it. Disasters are a horror that can face us all at any time, but the danger is extremely magnified for people with disabilities. Thorough planning and preparation mitigates the problems substantially.

OK, Let’s Calm Ourselves by Doing Smart Things First   

no where to go

the Dead End

There are standard procedures and guides for various situations that need to be read by all of us. Once these sources are studied intensely, put to paper, then they need to be practiced until they become 2nd nature. By intense, sincere PRACTICE lives can be saved and associated risks can be minimized because of this well thought out careful planning. If no adequate planning has been done, when the emergency arises, the panic mode sets in and it is  rapidly followed by poor and uneducated decisions. These are the times when many lives are needlessly lost.   Planning ahead is of tremendous importance. Without good planning you could end up in a dead end alley. Not a good place to spend the rest of your disaster.

There is yet an additional insidious danger lurking just out of sight. Today people, especially those who do not live in a 3rd world country, feel so “safe” in the world around them, that making plans as to how they should respond to any disaster just never enters their minds until it’s too late! Then the danger to life and limb is compounded all the more.


Whether you are of normal health and capabilities or you are a person with disabilities, PLANNING AHEAD IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. When careful planning takes place and we follow the plans that we come up with, the risk of the threat to life is greatly reduced because we have prepared for and practiced for just such disasters and now we  know just what to do to be as safe and prepared as possible.

How To Make Plans To Save Lives  

The person that wants to be prepared should begin by seeking the advice of people in their support group, survival publications and local authorities on local emergency planning. Another set of eyes will always find the things we have missed in our personal planning. This in itself will save lives.

When you begin your plan, write it out. I suggest you do so with double spacing, a thick pad of paper, and even some permanent waterproof colored markers like sharpies.  For example you might mark a danger zone in red on your notes and maps (don’t mark up your maps until the end.

Now while your coffee is warm, the air is clean, you can take your time and make some very good plans. Let’s get started.

By the way, I am not a special forces guy so if you see mistakes or have some ideas you would like to share, please do so in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you!

General Planning Guidelines You should Follow

When you have planned for as many things as you can think of, and when you have mapped your escape routes and rendezvous points ( on scratch paper, mark your maps last) and you are positive there are no mistakes, you should give copies to anyone who you feel might be able to help in case of an emergency. Then all parties should review the plan again together. It is better now than later.

If you are fortunate enough to get a Personal Locator Beacon (GPS) be sure to follow the instructions in the paperwork to get it registered so it will be working before you need it. Be sure to verify this too.

I also suggest double zip lock bagging your plans, the PLB’s instructions, and maps for the best escape routes and alternate routes along with your collection of emergency numbers and numbers of friends, neighbors, and family members should be stored with the plans and maps to protect it from the elements. Try to keep all essential items close to the door you plan to lock last.

Sometimes people have only minutes to safely get out of the house, apartment, office, and neighborhood. Avoid any form of mass transit. They sometimes have no idea as to what to do or where to go like most people. Trains and subways are scary too. Remember I said CAREFUL PLANNING. Do your best to leave no details out.

Be very careful of human contacts along your way. Hoard everything because it is up to YOU to protect yourself and your family. I would use the 24 foot rule at minimum. I saw some armed police officer training where a guy with a practice knife covered 24 feet before the officer could draw his weapon. Good thing it was a practice knife.

Keep your thumbs on the trigger of your pepper spray when any strangers are near, especially if you ask them to stay back and they just keep coming at you. Almost anyone can and will take from you your stuff or your lives. You do watch TV right?

It is sometimes argued that people with disabilities should plan to turn their dwelling into a little fort. I have mixed emotions about this. Unfortunately sometimes it is not even an option. You know if it is underwater, on fire, or just missing, I wouldn’t bother with it.  Seriously though, it deserves careful consideration if you or a loved one has a disability. You will need a fallback plan and regardless, you will no doubt still need these things below to be safe no matter where you are.

Put Modern Technology to Work to Save You and Your Family

Personal Locator Beacons = Security

One of the things I suggest as an extra safety feature in your planning is to add a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) to your survival tools.  If you are in a disaster of any kind you can activate your PLB to help the first responders to get you as quickly as possible.  Yes, you have done all of your planning in detail but when we least expect it, all of our paths to safety might not be available so PLBs are an ideal contingency plan. They will all function inside your double bagged zip locked quart sized bags that you have your papers, plans and maps in, not the bags with aluminum foil protecting your other electronics.

What the HECK is an EMP?

Being a techno-geek I Googled and compared this short explanation to Wiki for you:

Telescope photograhy of a solar flare

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is a short burst of electromagnetic energy interference caused by an abrupt and rapid acceleration of charged particles, which can damage electronic components by short-circuiting them. An EMP can contain many energy components of the electromagnetic spectrum, from the very low frequency waves to the ultraviolet wavelengths. One very common cause of EMP is lightning strikes, which supercharge ions in the atmosphere and cause electricity in the power lines to

you know the drill...

Smores anyone?

surge. The not so common cause is a large solar flare striking the earth. An EMP as an act of war is when a nuclear device is detonated several hundred miles up in the atmosphere. In any event if you see one of these things, don’t worry… it’s too late.


Until the emergency actually happens, I would also recommend that you keep your electronic devices tightly wrapped in a baggie, then a thick layer of brown paper bag, followed by at least a double layer of aluminum foil, duct taped tightly, and lastly followed by another zip lock bag with the seal duct taped securely.

“Lookie here Bubba, we got ourselves a miniature Faraday Cage. Well ain’t that cute!”

This is to protect these devices from an EMP whether it comes from lightening, a weapon of war or a large solar flare makes no difference. Wrap and tape the foil carefully so that not even a pin hole exists where the pulse can kill anything with electronics in it. You have a lot to take with you anyway so spares are not logical. Besides, the spares will get zapped as well. Protect your stuff. If you have a second or old phone this is a good item to add to this shielded bag. You can at least play games on it. (see entertainment items for children)

To illustrate just how important this aspect of your survival planning is, just know that nearly all aircraft have automatically activated ELTs (Emergency Locator Transmitters) to help searchers looking for a downed aircraft to find it quickly as well.

GPS vs. Cellular PLBs

This same technology will work for you. The areas you might be in, for example the downtown area of a large metropolitan city will often require a higher quality and higher powered transmitter, just like if you are way out in the country camping. Your average  range of these items is generally limited to line of sight to those who might be receiving your emergency signal, especially if your signal is cellular. The exception to this problem  is registered GPS PLBs which use satellite signals to find you. Like any electronics we buy, you pretty much get what you pay for so if you can afford it, this is not the time to look for bargain basement prices.

I have seen PLBs that are no more than cell phone apps. Ever lose your cell connection or even kill your phone when you accidentally drop it into the toilet? I personally prefer a registered GPS unit, that is buoyant hence water-proof. One that is rugged and highly rated. You can easily spend over $1,000.00 for a high quality PLB but this is usually not necessary.  I have also seen numerous units that are priced less than $100.00 although I don’t know how I would feel with a bottom of the line PLB in an emergency.

The unit I chose was found on Amazon who has a great selection of units with lots of bells and whistles, some of which you just don’t need to spend the money on. The price for my PLB is in the bottom 25 or so percent of all the units I looked at. I love the security this PLB offers and you don’t need to be rich to get one. I think the price is a bargain since I prefer to survive as long as is possible! The  ACR PLB-375 ResQLink+ 406 Buoyant Personal Locator Beacon (the yellow unit shown above) is just right for me and trust me, we are not rich. However when the water is rising or smoke is billowing I don’t want to die with the savings I made on that el-cheapo PLB still in my wallet.

Your Bug-Out-Bag 

What Do You Need In A Survival Kit?

At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below. Almost everything has a convenient link so you can find it quickly. I use these items myself and have found them to be reasonably priced and of good quality.

Water: 1 gal. per person, per day (3-day supply if evacuate, 2-week supply for home). Water jugs make great area lighting. Just use one of your flashlights, tape it to the spout or the side, pointing into the water and say Wow!.

Food: non-perishable, well sealed, individually wrapped, energy bars that won’t melt, etc.(3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home). Not exactly the food your Momma wants you to eat when it comes to nutrition but they will keep you alive. A variety keeps you from getting bored. Homemade trail mix is a favorite of mine.

Pocket Flashlights: Flashlights 2 in case one wears out or gets damaged and put one in your foil sealed bag. Not the little tiny flashlights. The ones I linked to I use daily.
NOAA Weather Radio – Battery-powered, solar panel or hand crank to recharge at night or on rainy days radio   
Extra batteries: For the flashlights you can use 3 good AAA batteries each (make sure you have spare batteries for everything). I recommend this  set of 4, 18650, 3.7v lithium rechargeable batteries that come with their own charger. They produce a brighter light that I feel lasts about 3 times as long as the AAA’s do.
First aid Kit: Study First Aid Kits carefully. You probably don’t need a full surgical ER in your backpack. I chose the one linked right above. It has a nice sturdy case and 250 items. OSHA rated for 50 persons. Let me explain, first of all this is a GREAT PRICE. Secondly you probably want extra stuff in case you (being the Good Samaritan that you are) decide to help someone else.

Oh yea, a nice thick piece of leather to bite on cause ‘dis might hurt a little. (you know, like in the cowboy movies) you used to watch TV, right?

Multipurpose tool: What is a multipurpose tool? You know one of those boyscout type knives with some of everything folded in. Get a good one with as many tools on it as your can afford. If you are alone 1 is good otherwise 1 per adult. These are quality Gerber tools.
Cell phone with chargers: I suggest a separate solar charged battery. Most of these will charge 2 items at once. They will run your laptop or cell phones, or charge your 2-way radios. This is rated at 50,000 mah (milli-amp hours) that is normal human terms means it will last thru the ball game and the sitcom for the family. The solar panel is built right in. All of this for less than $27.00. Love it.
Emergency blanket: These emergency blankets are great.  These are  big enough for 2 people to share. (ten per pack). If you are in a warm climate these work by themselves but are not so comfortable to lay on all night. I love my sleeping bag but in cold or wet weather you can put your sleeping bag or blankets inside the emergency blanket. You’ll stay toasty and dry.
General items like hearing aids with extra batteries, spare glasses, contact lenses, syringes, tourniquets, rope, etc. I use 550 paracord for most needs and it doesn’t take up much space. This stuff is strong, durable, and bright orange so you can see it and you don’t clothesline yourself or others. 100 feet.
Two-way radios  
Cheap Surgical type masks to protect you from breathing smoke or dust
Eye Protection: A pair of cheap flexible goggles that won’t break easily (like the ones you use in the yard or garage) for each person
Rain gear: A 5-pack of longer hooded lightweight raincoats 
Sleeping bags 
A few large canisters of pepper spray
Work gloves  6-pack of nylon, nitrile coated gloves

Inflatable pillows: These take up little space and are cheap but the bottom line is that some extra clothes or towels work well too. Even a roll of news papers with a rubber ban or shoelace to hold the shape will work.

Large roll of aluminum foil: Aluminum to protect your stuff on  the get-away or cover your windows at home so you can have a better chance of making people think you are not home. It can protect your electronics at home too. Even that 80 inch 4k TV you just bought. I would just take a portion of foil on the road if walking. Leave the TV.

Backpacks: Backpacks are almost a necessity. One or more can  even be attached to a wheelchair. This is an item that you really don’t need a brand name just to get the price higher or that super-cool logo. Adults should plan on a full size pack. If there are children, a small child can carry a lot of essentials like underwear, socks, and toys.

SAFETY Whistles Safety Whistles at least 1 per person. Make sure the kids have one and know how and when to use it. This one is not a toy to drive adults crazy with. They should be worn at all times by everyone in your family. If a person loses sight of a family member they start blowing the whistle to find one another.

Copies of personal documents  These should include medication list and important medical information, driver’s license or state ID with photo,  proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, copies of you evacuation maps, clearly marked routes and rendezvous locations. Keep these and anything else you think of in the double zip locked bag mentioned above.
Sanitation and personal hygiene items. I’ll let you figure your personal needs here. Toilet paper and lightly scented wipes at minimum. Do everyone a favor, take a stick of deodorant too. Tooth brushes, flossers will feel great. Use baking soda for toothpaste.
Medications: (7-day supply prescribed if on the move or 2 weeks at home) and additional medical items if you need them and your First Aid kit doesn’t contain them  I suggest you add aspirin (over 25 years old ONLY), tylenol, or Ibuprophen if it is safe for you. a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
Extra Cash: Strictly up to you again. I can only recommend coins and smaller denominations of paper money. Precious metals are your best bet. Be prepared to barter. You can’t eat money or gold so in just a few days money will basically be worthless. Booze and bullets are the prepper’s best bartering currency, even if you don’t use either will be almost as valuable as cigarettes. Never barter your food away.
Games and activities for children  I just make mine stand guard for entertainment.
Extra clothing, hat, gloves  and sturdy shoes. Decide by climate.
Cloth Towels: even a couple of rolls of paper towels. They all can double as wound dressing held on by duct tape in emergencies.
Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers) You can make them stand guard  or crawl the camp perimeter if they aren’t walking yet.
Extra set of car keys and house keys (spread between 2 adults). If your keys have an electronic entry or starter button, you should wrap them in aluminum foil.
Matches In a sealed pill bottle. I just carry 2 Bic lighters.
Paper for notes and eye-catching posted messages to friends. A few (8.5 x 11.0) pads of bright writing paper and perhaps a pack of day-glow orange paper to help people who may be looking for you to find you easier. Note on your plans what color rescuers will be looking for when they search for you. You may not want to write your plans and post them publicly, but if a friend knows you have blank day-glow orange trail markers they can follow the route you took. 
Several rolls of duct tape Enough said   
A package of nails to hang your trail markers or use them to attach your tent rope to trees, etc..
Pets should be tied to your foot, never outside alone. Some folks say they are tasty if one is hungry enough. Besides that also makes for a good proximity alarm.
Plastic sheeting: A 10′ by 20′ package of at least 20 mil plastic construction or painting sheeting. Use for many things including shelter or even gathering water. Leave it in the bag until you need it.
A signal mirror: This can be found a most any surplus store but a signal mirror can easily be made by taking an old compact mirror out of the case, drill about a 3/8″ hole in the center of the case where the mirror was. Then push the mirror back in and use a pencil or marker to mark a circle on the back of the mirror. Next you can take the mirror out again and scrape the reflector off of the mirror inside the circle you marked. Hot glue the mirror back in. Voila! you now own a signal mirror complete with pink carrying case. Guaranteed the one from the surplus store won’t be so fancy. Just look through the hole with as bright a light as you have available hitting the mirror. You will easily be able to see the point in the distance where you need to signal to. Whew!
Household liquid bleach
Entertainment items like playing cards or dice You can gamble like there is no tomorrow (I know, not funny). The money is worthless by the time you get bored enough to gamble.
Weapons: Solely At your discretion for food or self-defense. NEVER show your weapons. Someone ALWAYS wants your stuff and they often have better weapons than you. Many can be made on the trail as you leave town if you feel they are necessary. That pepper spray works well. I’ll stick to the guns and pepper spray. Your choice.

OK, Follow the plan as closely as possible.This list sounds like a lot of stuff to carry around but in the event you need it you will wish you had not just skipped that item. Of course you can use some of the items as dual-purpose items and perhaps save a bit.



As I said earlier, I always love hearing from you. If you have comments on how I can make this better for my readers, PLEASE let me know in the comment section below.

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About David Kennedy

I am a retired Senior Development Engineer for Hughes Aircraft Company. I retired from Hughes In 1997 and moved to Phoenix with my young daughter to be with my two older sons attending Arizona State University. I am a former member of the U.S. Air Force where I was an active member of the 95th Fighter Interceptor Squadron.
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