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What is a Disaster? These 5 Questions Will Better Prepare Your Family

what is disaster


It dawned on me the other day during a conversation over dinner the importance of clearly defining the following question: What is a disaster? That is, what circumstances constitutes a disaster in your eyes, precisely when does one occur, what impact will it have on your family, how will you respond, and when can it be considered over?

Sure, there are seemingly obviously causes as to what most people would consider a disaster, such as a tornado ripping through your neighborhood or an earthquake shaking your home to rubble. The thing is that it’s not always so cut and dry. In particular, your reaction to and preparations for a calamity are not only highly dependent on the direct impact you have experienced from a disaster, but on the preparations you have made for such an event as well as your reaction(s) as a result of the experience.

What drove this point home for me was a comment that a gentleman made during a recent dinner party. We began talking about emergency preparedness because most conversations with me lead there and, in a nutshell he mentioned that, while an EMP event would be devastating to nearly everyone dependent on grid power, the Amish community would barely even notice. If you’re unaware, the Amish are big believers in traditional values, living off-grid, growing their own food, and so on. Assuming golden hordes don’t rush their doors TEOTWAWKI+1 they would be relatively unaffected.

The rest of us, however, would be jumping from rooftops. Sadly, this is probably closer to the truth than I want to admit. Anyway, the point is that it really is beneficial to clearly define what a disaster means to you. Start by answering the following questions…

  1. What constitutes a disaster (in your eyes) – Natural disasters are an obvious one but, as the Amish example points out, even a huge disaster such as an EMP may not be a big deal; it all depends on your preparations and lifestyle. That said, even personal “disasters” could be included as a disaster, such as the loss of a job, divorce, or loss of a spouse. Clearly defining what a disaster means to you (personal, local, regional, etc) is the true first step in leading a prepared life.
  2. At what point does one occur – Again, natural disasters may be fairly obvious with respect to this question. Personal disasters may not. Take, for example, a job loss. Is it an immediate disaster the day you lose your job? It may feel like that but probably not. You’ll still have food in the pantry and maybe a few dollars in the bank. Fast forward a few weeks or months and the reality may be significantly different. Being able to identify when such a disaster becomes a DISASTER allows you to clearly think about it and devise an appropriate plan of action before the fact.
  3. What impact will it have on your family – Will your family’s lives be at stake? Will they potentially go hungry? Is their medical health at risk (such as from the loss of medical insurance or inability to procure life-saving medications)? For each of the disasters you choose to list it would be helpful to define what problems will need  remedies as a result. List them out as best as you can. Obviously, many problems will overlap, which is useful because preparing for these problems will help your family be better prepared for more disaster scenarios.
  4. How will you respond – Knowing what can happen and understanding the impact a disaster will have on your family is only half the battle. Planning how you will react to these disasters is the other half. Get a set plan in place now. Talk it over and write it down. Even if the plan must be revised as you actually implement it–and it will–having a plan in place is vastly superior to nothing for the simple fact that it will allow you to think clearly and act decisively at precisely the moment you probably won’t be.
  5. When is it over - At first, this may not seem like a worthwhile question to answer. However, just ask the folks who are still recovering from the mile-wide tornado that ripped through the town of Greensburg Kansas five years ago or those who are still suffering from Hurricane Katrina if their “disaster” is over yet. Maybe, maybe not. For example, you might define a disaster as being “over” when you have a home of your own again. Or, perhaps gainful employment. Maybe it’s when you have all of your household belongings back. Or, is the fact that your family is safe, have a roof over their head, and food in their bellies enough?

Answer these questions thoroughly and I promise you that you and your family will be better prepared for nearly anything that comes your way. A good place to start answering these questions is by using the reThinkIt! Preparedness Tools. Although these questions are not specifically included, the file will aid you with thinking about and preparing for disasters. Oh, and it’s free! Check it out.

1 comment to What is a Disaster? These 5 Questions Will Better Prepare Your Family

  • Martin

    These are tough questions to answer the more I think about them. Definitely food for thought!