100 years ago people where I live were just getting indoor plumbing and electricity. They lived a far less glamorous lifestyle than we do today. Not everyone got a warm shower every day like we do now. The truth of the matter is, those things are so common place and expected that they are no longer considered conveniences. Should the water heater in our house go down, I would have a full on insurrection happening within 24 hours. Same with the toilets. Without a pressurized water system feeding everything we desire, things get complicated. So lets consider an event of such a magnitude that most utilities would be out for weeks. In Indiana we have a few major possibilities for such devastation. Firstly, a tornado (or several) hitting the delicate infrastructure on the south side of Indianapolis would cripple our community for weeks if the damage is bad enough. Another risk would be a large earthquake. We don't get many here but the possibility is there. Lastly, and most likely in my book would be another big ice storm. What would you do if it happened? How would you heat your house? What happens when you can't leave because power lines are down everywhere?
Consider what happened during the Derecho (sp?) storms that started in Chicago and left a swath of destruction from there to DC. I happened to be traveling to a dive location located directly in the path of the storm. Much of Ohio was without power and there were people driving 50 miles to get fuel for their generators.What if that happened today? Are you ready to survive past the 2-3 weeks it will take for FEMA/state/national guard/DHS to save you?
Why in the world anyone would wish to rely on the federal government is beyond me. They have one of the worst fiscal and policy records you can consider. Anything they have a hand in goes over budget, under serviced and never ends well. Look at Katrina and tell me, was that a success? These are the people you are putting your faith in to save you unless you plan ahead for tough times. They will fail and people will die unless they make a plan to save themselves.
Common sense is your friend when it comes to being ready for any disaster scenario we might face. Some disasters are personal and have nothing to do with the weather or government. Medical emergencies happen to people every day. These accidents and ailments are responsible for so much pain and suffering that they have to be considered as one of the more devastating issues we face. I know from experience that if your livelihood is taken away for even the shortest time, you can rack up medical bills that overwhelm any savings you might have squirreled away over the past few years. Insurance only goes so far and what's left is on you. The added costs in addition to loss of income can be devastating to a family unit. Many families fail from the pressure of a debilitating injury or illness.
It's nearly impossible to foresee some of these issues but others are hereditary and can be overcome with diet, exercise and preventative care. Be aware of your family health history and be proactive in your personal care. The simplest tests and health maintenance can save you in the long run, both financially and physically. Stock up on your medications and vitamins, these can become non existent or hard to get in a long term emergency. Insulin is one that is hard to keep, but can be stored for periods if you have the resources to care for it. Heart medications are vitally important to those that require them. The stress of an emergency coupled with the loss of medications to control blood pressure can be a fatal combination. One little thought of but more dangerous considerations would be medications for the insane or emotionally frail. Should they go off their meds, it can be dangerous for the entire community.
Unemployment has become a way of life for many Americans. We've spent our way tot he point that so many wouldn't make it on a single income. Having a deep larder or food storage would enable many families to continue living at the same level for a long period if they are frugal and willing to sacrifice some creature comforts. The key is to stock up on the basics and include as much protein and regular consumables as possible. This includes tooth paste and other regular care items that are inexpensive when you can afford them and invaluable when you can't.
Every American should have at least 3 weeks worth of food and water on
hand to survive in a grid down emergency. You must have a means to cook
the food unless it's all MRE's or eat cold food. A few extra propane tanks for the grill can get you past the worst of it. I personally have 3 sets of tanks for the grill and try my best to keep 2 full at all times. I also have a multifuel camp stove that will burn just about anything you throw at it. This is a backup to the grill in case of a tornado that would destroy the grill. The easy way to store the food is to buy bulk and store it in Mylar bags or 5 gallon buckets. There are many sources with info on this so I'm not going to go into detail on the subject. All you really need to know is that you need it, now. How much you need is up to you and your situation.
Sanitary considerations are huge when there is an emergency situation. Disease spreads quickly when conditions become less than ideal. If the sewers stop working and water becomes scarce, it's all to easy to forget about sanitation and start an epidemic. Learning how to make a functioning latrine and keep some Lye on hand for this eventuality. Your entire neighborhood might have to use your facilities should things become unbearable for any length of time.
Simple skills lost during the advent of electric appliances should be at least known if not practiced. 3 weeks of the same clothes (especially underwear) would make for a pretty gamey existence. No running water can also keep people dirty and smelly. Learn how to make a home made bucket shower and have the stuff around to make one. Wet wipes are another method to keep clean in a pinch, they are cheap and last a long time. Should they dry out, all you have to do is add water to bring them back to life.
Practice a simple existence by camping or backpacking. It's a cheap and healthy way to bring a family together and learn to overcome challenges as a family unit. You learn to rely on each other and how everyone will react when they are tired and under stress. Make it fun and explore your world past the back yard. Backpacking will teach you so many lessons on how to be self sufficient without the comforts of home.
Consider an off the grid lifestyle. The new fad of "Zero Homes" that are super insulated and utilize solar power to heat and cool the home are a great way to no longer require a utility company to service you. If you're not on the grid, being without one doesn't crimp your style in the least. Some people even sell power back to the grid to pay for their costs of installing the system. It's an expensive setup and worth every penny when you consider the monthly savings and to be able to charge the power company to be hooked up to your home!
Becoming your own emergency support system is the most selfless thing a family can do. You can free up resources needed for others or be able to help those in worse shape than you are. I know the ability to drop a 5 gallon bucket of food on someone's porch when they are desperate is good for the soul and is the right thing to do. We are responsible for the less fortunate in our community and especially in a time of extreme need. Having that food on hand gives you the ability to directly impact your community.
In closing, I'd like to discuss the most important part of a survival plan or contingency. Knowledge- It weighs nothing, takes up no space and is invaluable when you need it. Become needed by being in the know on the subjects that will be required in an emergency. Get CPR and First Aid trained, learn primitive skills and farming and become active in your community. Once people recognize you as a leader in your community, you will be able to help more people by empowering them with what you have learned. Spread the knowledge and you will have less dependents in an emergency. Your community will be safer and better able to handle an emergency.