Survival Survey: Picking up the pieces

image by Valerie Everett

One of my Facebook friends, Ellen, asked the following, and I thought it would make a great Survival Survey question.

I’m in Alabama, where we are still digging out from the April 27, tornados. There are so many miraculous stories of people who survived with devastation all around. If you and your family managed to survive (like the folks in their shower stall that was tossed into the neighbor’s rubble), and there was NOTHING left – car gone, 72 hour kit gone, bugout bags gone, your grab binder is in the debris cloud 40 miles away, there is not one brick on top of another as far as you can see, what do you do? Where do you start?

In this thought experiment, no fair saying, “I’d have a better shelter”, or “My stash is protected”. I’m talking about dealing with a disaster that wipes out all your preparation. These storms peeled pavement off the roads and carried giant trees for miles. How do you deal with it?

What a question, and yet, something we should all consider.  It may not be a tornado that wipes out life as you know it, but all of us are vulnerable to something.

My own first thought is that my family would first rely on any and all help available, even though being dependent on others isn’t something we relish.  Hopefully, family or close friends would be able to provide temporary housing and maybe even a short-term loan until we could access funds from the bank.  My second choice would be asking our church for help, and a distant third choice would be staying in a Red Cross or FEMA shelter.  Shelters require that you give up a lot of your basic rights, and that would rub me the wrong way.  If we didn’t have a satisfactory living situation, I’d buy a big tent and camping supplies.

Transportation and communication would be two immediate needs.  We would need to contact insurance companies and start the claim process as soon as possible, and then have a way to get supplies, provisions, and to and from our new living quarters.  Additionally, I would get my hands on as much money as quickly as possible.  We would need everything: clothing, toiletries, shoes, bedding, you name it, and we’d need a way to get to stores in areas unaffected by the disaster.   We would also want to reimburse our family members/friends for fuel, food, and other expenses.   It’s possible that a local church or charity would be able to help, but that’s not something I’m counting on.

As soon as we had a form of transportation and communication, we would start trying to track down our pets.  School would be put on hold, but since we homeschool, that wouldn’t be an issue for a while.  We would have to become accustomed to being displaced refugees until our home could be rebuilt and would probably end up living in a rental of some sort. My husband would start looking for work in order to bring in regular income again until he could re-establish his business.  I’d start blogging as soon as I had a laptop and an internet connection!  You would all hear about my trials and tribulations!

Our emotional and mental well-being would take a serious hit, so I would do my best to establish a routine, get the family active physically, and look for ways for us to have fun.

To tell you the truth, I’d also be so ticked off that all my buckets of wheat and Mountain House food was gone that I would probably need to take an anger management course!   I also have to admit that there are catastrophes that are impossible to prepare for.  The recent earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown in Japan come to mind.  A mile-wide tornado is another.  All of us Survival Moms prepare for the worst, but we should all think about the ultimate worst case scenario: having nothing left but the clothes on our back.

How would YOU go about re-building your life?

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  1. Ellen says

    Wow, you really think big-picture! I had gotten as far as "shoes. we have to cover our feet so we don't step on nails and glass". Maybe I'm still a little emotionally stunned.

  2. alicia says

    This is why we've got an ammo can with extra copies of personal information and cash stashed at a relative's house, out of state! But my first thought is "is anyone hurt?" and seeking medical attention. Then to the nearest possible working phone or computer, to get a message to my parents to come and pick us up and take us to their house, if possible. I'd be willing take temporary shelter and aid from local churches or Red Cross, but not for any length of time (any port in a storm, so to speak). Along with all this, the emotional blowout of loosing everything and seeing all the devastation, especially for my children, would have to be dealt with. If we survived and were left with nothing, but harbored bitterness or fear in our hearts after that – to me that would be worse than not surviving at all!

  3. ecomum says

    One thing we can all do to prepare for such a possible disaster is to scan all the documents that might be needed and then email them to ourselves. (Zip the file if it’s too big.)
    Then, as soon as you can get back online, you can retrieve the document.
    I believe that there are companies who offer a similar service, but why pay for it if you can do it yourself?
    As a backup, if you work elsewhere, leave a password protected copy there.
    The sort of things you might want to have post SHTF include:
    birth and marriage certificates;
    insurance documentation with maybe photos of expensive items or the receipts;
    your CV and any educational/vocational certificates – if you need to get a job, you may need to prove that you can do it;
    details of your bank accounts, savings, etc;
    driver’s licence and vehicle documentation
    extras you may wish to consider include any irreplaceable photos
    I’m sure everyone will have their own ideas on what else would be useful

  4. Barbara says

    It's true, no matter how much stuff you have stashed in your basement, something may come along and make a disaster of your basement!

    Make sure you have sufficient insurance to replace what you loose, including your emergency supplies.
    Make sure you have at least a little money saved in the bank. (Aside from cash you keep at home).
    Try to have an off-site location at a relative's house or a rental storage unit, with clothes and the basics.
    Keep important papers in a safety deposit box, not in your home.

  5. Shreela says

    I need to finish this project:
    (by a man affected by Katrina – go thru all the LGO bag links in the lower left)

    Also, if I could still dig, I'd dig a ditch alongside the less seen area next to my house to bury a few PVC caches, one of which would contain a somewhat small tent and bedding, and of course food and water in other PVC caches.

  6. MimiQ says

    We are in Al. We still have a home. Insurance will replace many items. Most preps ruined were food. Even in our solid middle class neighborhood looters were arrested at one house. This was with hundreds of power trucks on hand. We probably had over a thousand workmen in the area. We stayed in our home and I would advise against leaving unless you plan not to return or have a total loss of structure. We are reassessing preps along the lines of advice here, MD Creekmore, and Argentine blogger Ferfal. As older preppers and my husband disabled this will be our strategy. Thanks so much for a high quality site’. Power out from 4/27 to 5/8 + more days. Still no landline or internet. Originally there was no way out except on foot. That lasted 3 full days. There were 500 old oaks down in a 5 sq mi area. I’m sending this on an iPhone. MimiQ

  7. Jeri says

    I think all comments are great. I apologize if I am repeating but as soon as you are in a tornado warning, make sure you have id somewhere on your body. I place my military id in my back pocket. I have also heard about ID Tattos for kids, these you can write on with contact info.

    • SherryM says

      The kid ID Tat's are a GREAT idea!!!! So many kids were brought to local ER's here in AL after the 4/27 tornado outbreak & given #'s only, as there was no way to ID them, especially if critically injured or nonverbal babies/toddlers. Going to order some now to stick in the BOB/GOOD bags! Thanks for the idea!

    • Abigail's Mommy says

      You could also just sharpie the information on the kids in a pinch. I would do their stomachs so you only see it if needed.

  8. says

    This is an interesting scenario, and a valuable one to boot.
    This is where knowledge of survival SKILLS goes hand in hand with survival STUFF. If you can make a fire, you can provide heat and boil water. You will find a can, I'm sure and water will be somewhere.
    My point, before I go off an a tangent, lol, is that if you know how to provide for you and your family from what seems like nothing, you will be better off than those with nothing and no survival skills.

  9. cathie cooper says

    I live in Florida and hurricane season is on our doorstep, I always prepare. Because of all the devastating weather we have seen all over, I have to say I am very concerned this year. The hurricanes of 2004 were not a walk in the park by any means. But as other have said our weather has changed and become very violent whether it be tornadoes, quakes or even thunder storms.
    I am thankful I am more prepared than I was in 2004. All the reading, storing and sharing of ideas will not only help my family but also hopefully help my neighbors as well. To rise above crises we must all pull together.

  10. Michelle says

    My first thought would be making sure we were all ok and injury free.

    Next thought would be to try to salvage something, anything, useful from the debris. Clothes, shoes, food, blankets. Maybe we could even make a temporary shelter to shelter us from the sun/rain. Rags could be used as quick band aids or to help carry things.

    I'd want to make contact with other survivors and rescue workers as quickly as possible, in hopes that we could get some assistance and possibly help with search/rescue and recovery efforts.

    Hopefully, the knowledge and skills I had acquired prior to the disaster would help me to keep a calm mind in the situation and help get us to safety afterward.

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