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When there is a natural disaster, there are certain things that are likely to happen. If you think through what will probably happen, it can help you see where there are gaps in your preparations. Let’s take a look at the first few hours after a natural disaster.

First of all, what makes this type of a disaster different than others? The major differences are that it affects more people in your geographic area at once and that there is an unspoken expectation that the things will get back to normal in a relatively short time – usually the government would be part of getting the community “back to normal.” But chances are, you will be on your own for 72 hours or longer before any outside help will arrive.

These types of disasters are more widespread, and would usually be things like an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, or wildfire. It generally leaves a horrible mess in its wake. Regardless of the cause, the important thing is to figure out how to survive the early days after the disaster.

First, there will be shock. Did it really happen? How bad is the damage? Who is affected? With all the shock and unanswered questions, it is natural for there to be panic – but that only makes things worse. Remember that your goal is to sustain life. All your knowledge, training, and practice, coupled with the preparations you have made, are what will help you keep your wits about you and make it past the panic stage. This is what you’ve been preparing yourself for.

If the community or neighborhood infrastructure is damaged and you suspect your utilities won’t be able to be restored very soon, turn off your main electrical breaker and main gas line. It would be dangerous to leave them on if they are not functional. Remember to not turn off the gas prematurely, because having it turned back on requires a professional – but if you smell gas, turn it off right away. Safety is of utmost importance.

Once the electricity and gas are off, you should start dealing with your food situation. The food in the freezer will be fine for a while without power, just avoid opening the freezer. Frozen food can often be fine for even up to 48 hours and still be good to eat, as long as it is kept as cold as possible. The greater urgency is the food in the refrigerator. Because it isn’t frozen, it will begin to go bad within just four to six hours. This food should be used in your first meals. Cook and consume all you can the first day of no power. That food that you bought for an emergency? That’s the food you’re going to be grateful for and use after you’ve used everything fresh and frozen. Keep buying it, but when the disaster hits, eat the perishable foods first.

As you work, be sure that you put your trash and food remains (spoiled food, especially) far away from the house. Trash and food will attract rodents and insects, along with bacteria, and you don’t want that near where you are living.

Check your water faucets. Often they will allow some water to come out even once the utilities are off, as long as you do it soon after the disaster. But don’t assume this water is clean – if there were breaks in the water line or damage at the water treatment plant, that can affect the cleanliness of your water. Plan to purify before use any water that you haven’t stockpiled ahead. Depending on your climate and weather, you might also want to start gathering rainwater. Rainwater is considered relatively clean and can be very good for extending your water supply. Water is crucial to survival, so take the time to gather all you can, and buy a water filter/purification method. There are many types available through eFoods Direct.

These are the first important things to do when a natural disaster strikes. Soon, we’ll discuss what’s next, as the first week goes on and life settles into a pattern while you wait for things to get back to normal.

2 Responses to “Timeline After a Natural Disaster—the First Few Hours”

  1. TRICIA LAINE

    I HAVE A SMALL STOCKPILE OF WATER WHICH IS STORED IN INDIVIDUAL 5 GALLON MYLAR BAGS WITHIN HEAVY CARDBOARD BOXES. I ALSO HAVE A COUPLE OF 55 GALLON PLASTIC DRUMS. I KEEP READING THAT THE WATER SHOULD BE CHANGED EVERY 5 YEARS. IN AN EMERGENCY, WHY WOULD I NOT BE ABLE TO USE THIS WATER IF IT IS REFRESHED WITH EITHER BLEACH, COLLOIDAL SILVER OR A UV LIGHT? DOES ANYONE HAVE INFO ON THIS?

    TRICIA

    TRICIA

    • Chris Howell

      Tricia,

      At the end of the day, as long as the water has been pasteurized or disinfected of active pathogens, rotation is not a major issue. For me however, and this is why I rotate my stocks…is taste…and plasticizers, which by the way are related. Plasticizers are chemicals that are put into plastics to keep them pliable. Over time and especially after exposure to UV light, these chemicals leach out. (Look at the film that gets on the inside of your windshield…that’s plasticizer that’s been leached out of your dash most likely.) It effects the taste of the water and who knows what that stuff does to DNA over time…but for me, that’s the primary rational I use for rotating my supply.

      Jax Finn