Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Laurie Ecklund Long, an emergency specialist. Laurie is a best-selling author, national speaker, and trainer that helps people survive natural disasters and family emergencies.
Laurie learned many of her “survival skills” through the loss of 12 family members and close friends within a period of five years. During that time, and through experiences related to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, Laurie began to investigate ways for individuals and businesses to face their losses and recover quickly.
The value of what Laurie does becomes apparent when you ask yourself a few cutting questions: Do you have a personal emergency tool box? Can you quickly locate your legal, financial and personal documents within minutes and be able to rebuild your life if something happens to your home?
Laurie’s book, My Life in a Box … A Life Organizer is all about helping you address those questions with skill. Laurie works with individuals as well as businesses, government, and the military to help them prepare for emergencies. By building emergency tool boxes, and emergency preparedness plans, you can quickly leave your home within minutes with everything you need to rebuild your life and prove who you are and what you own, in the case of a disaster.
Without further ado, here’s Laurie on how to disaster proof your life and be ready for any emergency …
“Lions & Tigers & Bear…Oh My”. One of my favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz. As Dorothy got on her bike to run away from home, she had no idea how drastically her life would be changing. The tornado was just the start of her adventure into survival. Once she arrived in Oz and began looking for a way to get home, she encountered many things that caused her to say those simple, but profound words…
”Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore”.
If you have personally experienced a natural disaster, home fire, car accident, toxic chemical spill, or terrorist attack, then you might be able to relate to the Dorothy analogy. In a matter of minutes, life as you know it changes forever. And yet, it does not need to be devastating. How can we disaster-proof our lives and still live our lives to the fullest? Well, I have an answer!
Over a period of five years I lost 12 vital people in my life, including my business partner, my Dad. Very quickly I realized that I did not have the tools to deal with all of the loss. It wasn’t simply their passing, which was hard in itself. It was trying to locate all of the documents to prove who they were and what they owned. At that point I began formulating a plan. A plan to help people, prepare for and survive any type of personal loss so that they can successfully get back to living.
When Hurricane Katrina reached New Orleans, I noticed something very interesting. The thousands of people leaving New Orleans would deal with the same issues I dealt with when my family members and close friends died. Most of them simply left their homes with the clothes they were wearing. No documents, no supplies, no food, they just left thinking that they would return home soon. They had no plan. They had no way to prove who they were and what they owned.
Seeing the parallel between personal losses and surviving natural disasters, I decided to create a simple program to help people get started and be successful survivors.
Here’s a quick test to check your level of preparedness:
- If the next big storm strikes your community and you have just minutes to run to safety, can you leave your home or business in 5 minutes with everything you need to rebuild your life?
- If you are in an accident, can someone locate all of your personal, legal and financial documents in one location?
- If the power goes off in your community for 5 days, do you have enough food, water, tools and first aid supplies to stay in your home comfortably?
These are tough questions, but they need to be answered and most people I meet are not able to say “Yes” to all of the above. I teach people how to build an emergency tool box. As with a normal tool box, you have tools that you know how to use when you need them. Most of us do not use our tools every day, but they are there when needed. This holds true for any emergency tool box. You assemble it, know how to use each emergency tool, and then you put it away until you need it.
My emergency tool box includes all of my documents, important photos, a 3-day Get Away Bag for everyone in the family, including pets, and a shelter-in-place kit for surviving 5-7 days in my home without power.
There are hundreds of books on the market that will tell you everything you need to know about survival and most of them have hundreds of pages. My goal was to create a plan that would kick-start people into preparing, and the first edition was just 48 pages.
My Life in a Box…A Life Organizer was launched in 2007 and to date over 150,000 individuals and families are using my simple steps to build their emergency tool box.
Recently I was house-sitting in Hawaii when a tsunami warning occurred. Three couples that I knew from California were spending the week on the beach in a duplex. They were literally 20 feet from the water. When the sirens began to sound, we were in the middle of dinner. There was no immediate panic on their part but they asked me what we should do. I suggested that we leave!
Quickly we packed up all of the clothing, and food, and within 8 minutes we were on the road and headed for higher ground to my home. After three hours, the sirens stopped and the tsunami warning was downgraded to a tsunami watch, and nothing really happened. I was able to find places for everyone to sleep, and the next morning we woke up and talked about the steps we took to be safe. Each of us felt some form of fear, but it was short lived because we were together and we were ready to solve any problem as a team.
If you have followed any of the former disasters in our country there is a theme that comes out of each one. The theme of community. People reach out and help their neighbors. They find ways to cook food from their refrigerators and freezers, offer shelter, rebuild, and restore hope.
It would be great if during a disaster we were each given a pair of ruby slippers.
We could click our heels and say those magic words…”There’s no place like home”
and go home, just the way it was before the disaster. Since the ruby slippers don’t exist, then it is valuable to understand what proactive things you need to accomplish and have your emergency tool box ready.
If we take time and face the potential disaster before it happens, create a plan for survival, and then build an emergency tool box, we will be ahead of the disaster and face it head on, knowing that we have prepared.
By the way, In my own life, I know what it takes for my own personal survival. My “Get Away” survival bag, clothes, tennis shoes, my grandfather’s pocket knife, duct tape, water bottle and chocolate.
Preparing for disasters, whether they are natural or man-made is not something that any of us really want to do. Many of us are specialists in procrastination. In fact procrastination is such a part of our culture, that the second week of March is National Procrastination Week. Now is the time to stop procrastinating and begin to build your emergency tool box so that you will disaster-proof your life.
Some of My Quick Survival Tips:
- If you have a young child or grandchild, make sure that their name and a parents phone number is marked on the back of the stroller and car seat. That way if there is an accident or the person pushing the stroller is injured, the identity of your child is known and you may be contacted.
- If you go walking or jogging, make sure to take a cell phone and/or an identification card just in case you have an accident. If you are alert, you can call for help. If you are injured, someone will be able to identify you.
- If you are on vacation, pick up the hotel business card upon registering. Copy the hotel information and put one copy in your wallet, and one in the pocket of each child who may wander away from the hotel or go out with friends and not remember the name of the hotel.
- Sit down as a family and talk about where you will meet in case you are at work and your children are at school. Also, find out if your children’s school has an emergency plan.
- Put an emergency contact in the glove compartment of your car with your car registration. Include phone numbers of family and friends that should be contacted. Include phone numbers of doctors, and any vital medical information such as allergies to medications and health issues.
- Create an emergency bag or backpack each family member and make sure that it is updated each season. Keep one in your car so that you have toiletries, clothing, shoes, and snacks in case you can’t get home quickly.
Disasters happen. While you can’t prevent them, what you can do is prepare for them and improve your ability to respond and recover.
Laurie Ecklund Long is CEO of AGL Publishing, Inc. in Fresno, California. She helps individuals and businesses survive natural disasters and family emergencies through her personal emergency preparedness program, My Life in a Box…A Life Organizer. Laurie’s book, My Life in a Box … A Life Organizer, is available on Amazon.