How Long Should You Expect to Wait For Help From the .gov After a Disaster?

It is strange to see an article about prepping in Wired. The Science Behind Home Disaster Preparedness Kits Is a Disaster.

Wired is a Left-leaning publication, so they are all upset that “You might be telling people that they have to rely on themselves and their neighbors and not the government.”

Everybody from the Feds on down agrees you need to be prepared. But not many are.

Government agencies don’t have the money to send a fire truck to every house after an earthquake or hurricane. People have to be able to help themselves.

But what to put in the kits, how many days to plan for varies widely.

A couple of years ago things got even more complicated. In 2016 the Washington Military Department, essentially that state’s National Guard, ran an exercise called Cascadia Rising. The idea was to simulate a response to an earthquake and subsequent tsunami emanating from the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific Northwest, subject of a much-read New Yorker article from the previous year. “Cascadia Rising was a massive eye-opener,” says Karina Shagren, spokesperson for the Washington Military Department. “We realized there would be pockets of communities that won’t receive help for several days, if not several weeks.” Washington’s coastal communities would lose the bridges that connect them to the rest of the world. They’d have to wait for help by air or sea.

Washington State now recommends that you are prepared to be on your own for 14 days. The Federal .gov is still saying “more than 3 days.” Most people aren’t even prepared for that.

Wired gets wound up in Social Justice, worried that poor people can’t afford to prepare. But canned food, if you rotate through things you like doesn’t have to cost any extra. You don’t need to buy expensive dehydrated food. Yes, if you need to evacuate, cans are heavy, but do your kids have a wagon? Do you have a non-electric can-opener? Do you already own some sturdy walking shoes? A backpack?

The article even makes some valid observations.

Is there stuff you should probably definitely have access to in your home? Sure. Copies of personal identification documents. Prescription medications. A good whistle. Lightsticks. Water purification tech. A crowbar. (The time you need a crowbar is the time you really, really need a crowbar.)

Water purification is key. You can survive quite a while without food, if you aren’t trying to march 20 miles a day. But you need water. One of my choices is the Lifestraw. But then I have both a cistern and a pond on my property. So I have quite a bit of water. It just needs to be purified before I can drink it. (I also have other filtration systems, but this is one I like, since if I need to evacuate, I can take it with me.) One life straw will filter 4000 liters of water. It isn’t a perfect solution, but it is better than what most people have. The Big Berkey System is on my list of things to buy. (But that list is actually quite long right now.) I think it actually does a better job removing parasites, but I would have to redo some research. If you live in an area where you can expect rain, you can catch quite a bit of water with a clean tarp, you just need containers to put it in.

Also I’m willing to bet most people can’t start a fire, since no one smokes anymore, no one carries matches. (Flint and steel. Fire piston. Waterproof matches. Lighters.)

Hat tip to Claire Wolfe.


3 thoughts on “How Long Should You Expect to Wait For Help From the .gov After a Disaster?

  1. Another view on this, which Wired should have thought of, is that the better prepared the people who can afford it are, the more resources the public responders can concentrate on the lower half of society. So, yeah, your being prepared helps those other people.

    After the ’04 hurricanes, some guys I worked with were without power for a full month. That’s a reasonable “worst case” target around here for how long to prepare for. 3 days might let you make it until the FEMA trucks get in so you can get in line for water. Not my idea of a good time. Being prepared for two weeks would get most people back to normal.


    • Parts of Miami were down longer than that after Andrew, though not by much. I agree on the point about standing in line for FEMA handouts.

      Water is the main concern. I’ve been surprised that after Andrew or Katrina or Harvey that we haven’t seen the outbreak of something like cholera. I have water filters for several thousand gallons, and a pond, which the deer are happy to drink out of, but I would filter. A Berkey filter is on my wish list, but it isn’t near the top.

      I need to bump up my canned goods, and do a better job of rotating through them. My friends laugh at me because I have beans and rice for months, and also some dehydrated stuff – everything from eggs to dinner entrees. (Food allergies make the dehydrated meals – even MREs off limits. Or mostly off limits.) The long-term shelf-stable stuff is great.

      And for the beans and rice, it pays to have stuff to share. (Want to be a good neighbor, and all that.) Every meal I eat, or can give to a neighbor, is one meal the Red Cross can send elsewhere. Of course I don’t expect the RC will be very close to me. I value my privacy over convenience.


      • I was always surprised about how few people in Florida seemed to be ready for a Hurricane. Standing in long lines to buy plywood, and bottled water. (The water BEFORE the hurricane is fit do drink. Mostly. You only need containers for it.)

        But then when Super Storm Sandy hit NYC, people had nothing on hand. (And knew a storm was coming for days in advance.) And were shocked to learn that they couldn’t use their iPhones to buy stuff because communications were down.


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