By Mike McMaken: If you’re like me, you subscribe to and read a lot of newsletters, blogs and articles about surviving when the SHTF. Which means you have no doubt read numerous articles warning us that a major pandemic is imminent. You’re possibly growing tired of seeing them because they’re filled with horrifying statistics that warn us how bad it’s going to be and yet it never gets quite that bad. I’m here to tell you not to get too blasé. While these warnings are common, you’d be an idiot to ignore them. One day the Big One is coming, and you will need to be ready. Very ready, indeed.
During my career, I have worked closely with many international organizations to prepare for, and respond to, pandemics ranging from the 2009 global Influenza A/H1N1 outbreak to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Africa. Not as a medical professional, but in terms of operational preparedness and continuity. In 2014, the organization I was advising had people traveling all over Africa, and the risk of Ebola infection was a very real, everyday concern. In each case it was critical to develop a plan in advance and to be ready to initiate it at the earliest sign of an outbreak. The same applies to each of us living here in the relatively secure environment of the USA if we want ourselves and our families to not only survive a pandemic, but to be able to continue to live independently day-by-day.
The variety of potentially devastating pandemic diseases is staggering, and many of them have either been actual outbreaks or the topic of dire warnings over the past years. Chinese ‘Klebsi Plague’, H1N1, H5N1, SARS, Avian Flu, Ebola, and so on. For instance, Ebola is back in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – RIGHT NOW! They have recorded deaths and the fatal illness is on the move. As we have also reported on this site, the Bubonic Plague, is also spreading — from Madagascar to Idaho.
Most of the articles warn us that these illnesses are on their way but very few tell us what precautions are being made by the government to protect us. In fact, we can take a very educated guess at the authorities’ response by looking at the Clade X pandemic tabletop exercise (click for our story on it) which was held on May 15, 2018, in Washington, DC. This imaginary epidemic and the reactions from all aspects of government, our allies, our enemies and our own First Response units should make us very, very nervous about surviving a major outbreak of anything at all! It’s a sad fact but the people we pay to respond to pandemics are utterly clueless. No, we need to learn how to to protect our families, ourselves.
What is a Pandemic?
Merriam-Webster defines a pandemic as follows: ‘…Illness…occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population. For example, the 1918 flu was pandemic and claimed millions of lives.’ And to be honest, unless you are one of those rare people who live in a self-sufficient compound in the hinterland somewhere, there is a risk you could come in contact with people who may possibly be infected. So, what do we do to protect ourselves?
A pandemic is not like what we often think of as a SHTF scenario of the power grid being down or the banks being emptied and closed. It carries with it an additional hazard and challenge that anyone you meet could be the harbinger of debilitation and painful death. So how do we prepare to survive when even stepping outside your home can be a death sentence?
Considerations and Realistic Steps
- Recognize that you must limit your exposure and that you will not be able to run to the grocery store. There is also a good chance that utilities may shut down because there are no crews to operate them. Most of us already stockpile food, fresh water, camping stoves, candles and lanterns, and other emergency supplies so do an inventory before the pandemic strikes to ensure you have what you need. If you don’t already stockpile, start now. Be prepared to subsist on your own for at least six months.
- You will also not be able to go to the doctor to get stitches, set a bone or if the kids get sick. Medical providers will be overwhelmed or ill themselves, and you sure don’t want to go anywhere near a hospital. You need basic First Aid training, which is easily obtainable in a few hours from the Red Cross or American Heart Association. Better still get their Wilderness First Aid Training which will get you some bone-setting basics. Watch videos while you can. Buy wilderness medical survival books. Ensure you have medical supplies on hand and that several people know how to use them. These include both oral and topical antibiotics, plenty of dressings and simple adhesive bandages, splints and materials to set broken bones, and even suture sets and surgical staplers. Learn how to use everything, and if at all possible, this includes simple surgery and dental care. A decayed tooth that becomes abscessed and infected can kill you.
- Provide sufficient infection control supplies such as hand-hygiene products, tissues, receptacles for tissue disposal. Red plastic bags usually indicate hazardous biological materials, and while they are more expensive than black bags, they might be worth the investment. You will bury these bags to prevent animals from getting at them too easily and it is wise to warn any human that finds then later, that they may still be infectious. Bacterial infections can live for centuries and you don’t want to be the person who reintroduces the disease in decades time. If you use regular bags – LABEL THEM.
- Stock up on N95-rated disposable masks. Ensure they are rated N95; simple dust masks are not adequate. The ‘N95’ designation means that the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) particles. They are not foolproof, but they will help. If you want better protection, stock up on ‘gas mask’ style protective masks and spare filters but those will be miserable to wear during normal activity over long periods.
- Be prepared to deal with waste products. This includes both contaminated waste and the simple waste products of everyday life. Ensure you have planned for toilet facilities, like the one shown here. If you’re planning to dig latrines, have a couple of bags of lime on hand to sprinkle into them to control germs, odor and flies. Have plenty of strong plastic bags to contain trash and prevent hazardous material from spilling into your living area. Living in a quarantined environment is a lot like living under a siege, and in any siege, illness is one of the greatest killers.
- Educate everyone who will be sheltering with you. This includes family and anyone who you have included in your group, both adults and children. All your preparation will amount to nothing if someone breaks quarantine.
- And this brings us to the most important thing you must do . . . have a plan! Do some research — especially on this website where there are hundreds of helpful items covering all aspects of survival — and work with your entire group to develop a plan to survive. Assign tasks and ensure people are trained and prepared to fulfill their roles, and everyone must have a role no matter their age. There are a lot of good resources you can access and study but do it before the crisis strikes. If you wait until after, it could be too late.
Number One Priority: Maintain a Safety Perimeter
A critical aspect of surviving a pandemic is to limit contact with persons who may be infected, and that will be just about anyone. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, many countries initiated mandatory vital signs (such as taking temperatures) screening at airports and other points of entry where persons could be arriving from areas where there were known outbreaks. That isn’t going to be a practical step for most of us, and if you live in a heavily populated area, especially in an apartment or townhouse, the potential for contact is going to be extreme. Consider taking the following precautions:
- Act in advance of a severe outbreak to get out of heavily populated areas. Go to stay with trusted friends or family in the country if possible.
- If living in an apartment or condo, use plastic sheeting to create an air barrier around the door to your apartment. If the building has a powerful ventilation system, it’s possible that air may blow in under the door from the hallway or common areas increasing the potential for exposure to airborne parthenogens. If you’re on a central ventilation system, it might also be wise to cover the vents with extra filters or to even have family members wear an N95 mask at all times as practical.
- Consider posting “Quarantined” signs around your property and on your door. This will dissuade people from randomly coming to your door due to concern that you are already infected. You can always notify trusted friends/relatives the real purpose of the signs.
- Ensure you have a good supply of various disinfectants such as hand cleaner, sprays and wipes, and cleaners. Ensure that anyone or anything that has been outside your home is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected upon returning. A simple internet search will tell you what’s available.
Center for Disease Control – http://www.cdc.gov/
World Health Organization – http://www.who.int/en/
Tooth Repair Kits – https://www.campingsurvival.com/deemdekidrst.html
Suturing wounds – https://www.wikihow.com/Suture-Wounds
Using a Surgical Skin Stapler – https://www.surgicalstaplesdepot.com/use-surgical-skin-stapler/
© 2018 by Mike McMaken for Self-Reliance Central. Mike is a US Army veteran with over 30 years of military, law enforcement and private security experience. He spent several years in Iraq as a security contractor and has made trips into many of the world’s most “challenging” places. He holds a Master’s Degree in Behavioral Science.