What to do first?
- Assess the situation — Determine what is most critical to your survival. Until you do that, you will be unable to decide on a course of action that is appropriate for the crisis at hand.
What to do next?
- Make sure you take care of your own survival needs first. That may sound selfish, but think about it — in the safety briefing on commercial airplanes, there’s a reason why they tell parents to put the oxygen mask on themselves before fitting on to their children. Because if you aren’t alive, you can’t save anyone else.
- Medical needs come first. You can take care of food, water and shelter later. Take care of emergency medical situations immediately. In order for you to be able to do this, you should become trained in emergency medical techniques. Check with your local fire department for information about how you can obtain this training in your area. They won’t train you, but they can probably point you in the right direction so you can get the training you need.
- Locate your loved ones and let them know what your plan for survival is. If members of the family are separated from each other when the crisis happens, you should activate your pre-arranged rendezvous plan. This is why it’s important for everyone in the family to know what to do and where to go in the event of a disaster. School children will likely be kept at the school under the direction of the school’s disaster plan. If you know that, you’ll know where to go to find them. If you don’t have that figured out in advance, you’ll be in a state of anxiety, wondering where the children are and if they’re okay.
- Gather everyone to a safe place. If you can shelter in place at your home, you’ll have basic supplies to work with. If you need to evacuate, grab your evacuation kits and get moving. Of course, all of this assumes that you have prepared your home with emergency food, water, medical and other supplies in advance. And it also assumes that you have an evacuation kit already prepared. When the crisis hits, it’s too late to be making these preparations.
- Let distant members of your family know what your situation is, so they won’t worry, or so they can send help, or so they can plan on your arrival if you’re evacuating to their house. Normal communication lines may be down, but if you have access to HAM radio you might be able to get a message out via radio contact with a distant HAM operator and then a phone patch to your extended family members. I suggest everyone become licensed to operate a HAM radio, and buy at least a basic VHF radio that will allow you to contact other operators even when there’s no electricity or phone service available.