Monday, March 24, 2008

Prepare! Doomsday in 24 Hours - A test of survival

This post is a drill. I repeat this is a drill.

Actually, I came up with this idea the other day at home. My wife and I were short on time and had a busy schedule for the weekend. We quickly brainstormed in the kitchen and assigned various tasks and jobs, i.e. "You drive here and get this. I will drop off so and so here.." etc.

It dawned on me, "What would I do to prepare if I only had 24 hours before an impending doom event took place?" So I came up with this scenario. Read through it and consider your answers to the questions.

Thursday evening, around 7PM, your phone rings. On the other end is an old friend you grew up with who now lives in Virginia and works for a well-known U.S. government agency.

Your friend informs you that in 24 hours the United States will come under nuclear attack. Several cities and key locations have been targeted and will be struck by nuclear weapons.

The largest city nearest to you is one of those targeted. Your friend is calling to let you know because he cares about you and your family. (Further, it is payback for saving his life during a horrible tree house accident when you were both 13). Regardless, your friend has already sent his family to safety and would like to provide you that same chance.

Because he knows you most likely will doubt the veracity of his statements, he asks that you check your email. Attached to an email from him, is an irrefutable document from the same agency he works for which attests to the facts he has presented.

There is one caveat.

The document in question ties directly back to your friend. If it gets back to his agency and the government he will be executed on the spot without question or trial. Therefore he asks that you only show it those you most trust and not to release it to the general public.

Good luck your friend wishes you. You have 24 hours to prepare. The line goes dead.

Here is your situation:

You and your family (wife, two kids, dog) live in a standard suburban home - single story, 3 bedrooms, 2 and a half baths, attic, basement and two car garage.
Your home is on city water, gas and electricity. You have several neighbors some of whom you and your family have known for years.

Your subdivision is located in a small bedroom community about 30 miles northwest of a medium to large sized city. Your town has a variety of standard big box retailers, stores and businesses.

You think you might want to weather the attacks at home.

- For instance, you generally have a good stock of food and other supplies on hand, probably more than most other people you know, but still inadequate for a major catastrophe like a nuclear war.
- In the backyard you have a 30x30 garden space which you plant each spring with a variety of fruits and vegetables.
- Your home has plenty of good storage space including a two car enclosed garage.

So, do you stay or go?
Should you batten down the hatches or take to the open road and try to reach someplace untouched by war?

Remember, this is only make believe and in no way real.

If you decide to stay..

First, print out the document your friend emailed. Then take it to your spouse. You will need an their support and cooperation to get through the next 24 hours and the many more afterwards; they must know what together you are up against.

Once your spouse understands the implications, the two of you must decide which friends and family members you can trust with this information. Further, you need to determine who you will be riding out the storm with during and after the attack is over. Your shelter will comfortably house your immediate family and could probably squeeze in another like sized family or two.

Who would you invite?
Would you tell all of your neighbors or just a few?
Would you phone distant relatives and possibly create a panic (and potentially the death of your childhood friend)?

Once that is decided, you take your list and you wife hers and you start to make contact. You and your wife agree to only tell the others parties once and leave it to them whether or not they trust and believe you and your wife.

Next, there is no time for grocery lists. You take the family car and head out the door. The first stop is to the bank. The bank is closed according to the hour, so hit the ATM for the largest amount you can get with your card.

Next your check your credit card and balance and make a note what type of funds you have to work with.

Would you empty out your bank accounts?
Would you max out your credit card?
Or would you take only a budgeted amount of cash out for supplies and hope your friend was wrong?

Next, head for the closest warehouse food store if the are still open i.e. Sams, Costco, etc. Many are open to 9 or 10 in some areas so you might be okay.

Once there, grab a flat handcart and load it with staple foods; flour, sugar, salt, powdered milk, honey, cocoa, etc. You then top off the hand truck with several of the largest packages of toilet paper, feminine products, trash bags, paper towels, cleaning supplies and batteries.

After you pay and load, you take your first shipment home and working in tandem with your wife put everything down in the basement.

Next head out to the corner supermarket. Many are open until midnight or all night. Fill your cart with over the counter (OTC) medications including stomach, cold, and other medication. Also load up on aspirin, tooth paste, tooth brushes, and other daily usage personal care products.

At this point, is this considered hoarding?
Are you taking more than your fair share of supplies that others may need and want to obtain in the minutes after the pending attack takes place?
Or are you being prudent and stocking up while there is plenty and others are oblivious to what is coming?
Are you only concerned about taking care of your family and friends?

Come home and unload your purchases. While you are shopping, make sure your wife runs all of the dirty clothes through the wash. While they are washing, have her start collecting everything you will need in the shelter and start carrying it down to the basement. Start with clothes, housewares, food from the pantry and most important - water. Have her fill every container available in the house.

Your next stop is the all night Wal Mart. Once there, hit the hardware section. Get more water containers, gasoline containers, duct tape, plastic sheeting, flashlights, fruit and vegetable seeds (hybrids are okay considering the circumstances), camp stove fuel cylinders, water filters, and air filters.

Head home and unload again. Even though the hour is late, get to work on the shelter.

An improvised fallout shelter can be built in a basement using simple materials (see here).

Using this guide, make sure all of the framework is in place. Check the ventilation and access points to the basement and shelter. Increase shielding in the basement as much as possible and as needed. Also check outside for further additions like soil or other material on the walls to block radiation.

Do you think you could adequately shield an area of your home to survive fallout and radiation from an atomic attack?
Do you think it is possible to shelter in place and survive?
Do you think you could prepare your home in time?

Take a nap. If you can. You might feel like heading out for more supplies. Hitting an all night gas station might be wise. Fill up your car and a few of the gasoline cans you own or have just purchased. While you are at it, do you have a generator? A portable one will work fine for temporary life in the shelter, but it might be loud. You might want to consider getting some deep storage batteries from the auto parts store in the morning. Charge those with the generator and live off the stored power.

When the new day starts, your first destination is the grocery store or warehouse store. This time, stock up on canned and packaged foods. Remember to get things you can eat, if needed, without cooking. Get as much as you can load into the car. Plan on making two trips if there is time.

Run home and unload in the house quickly. Now head to the hardware store. You need sandbags, cinder blocks, plywood and plastic sheeting. (A good substitute for sandbags which work just as well and have a dual purpose are bags on potting soil. They will act as shielding first and then later can be used to grow food in pots outside once it is clear).

If you have time before hand, measure your homes windows and doors on the ground floor. Call the hardware store contractors' desk and have those measurements cut to order with plywood. Pick up this order and your other needs and head home.

Once back at home, board up the doors and windows at the ground level. Put plastic sheeting on the inside of the windows and doors to keep dust out.

By now, your invited friends and neighbors should be on the scene are on the way. Have them help with covering the windows, getting water and putting away supplies. Remember water is the most important resource to have on hand. If you have a faucet or sink in the basement, good for you. As long as the power is on you will have water. A large container for water storage would also be ideal.

Do you think your invited friends and family would show up?
Would they doubt you or your friend's credibility?
If they did show up, would they help?
Would there be trouble?
What would you tell your neighbors who might see what you are doing?
Would you let them pitch in and stay in your shelter?

Put plastic sheeting over your garden area and as much of your yard as possible. It will make fallout cleanup much easier.

Now take some time to head to the sporting goods store to pick up camping supplies like lanterns, camp fuel, freeze dried food, sleeping bags, air mattresses or cots. If you have firearms, you may want to get more ammunition. If you do not have a gun and think you might need one, you might be in trouble. Some states will not allow you to purchase firearms on short notice, not even a long gun. But if you have the funds and your state allows it, you might want to pick up an all-purpose firearm like a shotgun if available. Take the ammo home and store it quickly but carefully.

Should you purchase a gun or ammunition in this circumstance?
Do you think you need it?
Would you be willing to use it?

Once home, check your shelter again. Do you have more than one point of entry into and out of the shelter? Do you have firefighting supplies? Tools in case you have to dig your way out? Adequate ventilation? Secure locks on your home and shelter to keep out evil doers?

Depending upon the time, consider any other supplies you might need and are available. For instance, another run to the grocery store might be worthwhile.

Would this be hoarding and selfish?

As the clock reaches the limit of your 24 hours, put your car or cars in the garage and lock it. Lock your home and board up the front door. Place furniture in front of doors and windows along with other heavy objects.

Go down the basement and lock the door. Check your water supplies once more. Check your other supplies and plan on using them as shielding too. Enter the shelter and say a word of prayer. You and your family may make it.

What if the bombs go off and your neighbors or friends show up?
What if they have small children?
Would you let them in?
Would you threaten them with violence if you did not want to let them in?
What if they threatened to break in the house or your shelter?
What if you simply do not have enough room for the people you already have?

In today's scenario, it is safe to say that most of us would have a hard time determining what we would do. This might be a moral dilemmas which we should consider now in peacetime rather than in haste during times of conflict. Regardless, as we live in interesting times, this might be worth thinking about.

What would you do?

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