How to Survive a Natural Disaster

If there’s a natural disaster or terrorist attack, can you protect your family?

If you’re cut off from the outside world with no power, food or help, can you survive? This has been on my mind ever since I read “The Road,” and seeing one natural disaster after another around the world. It should also be on your mind because protecting your family is job #1.

While I’ve been thinking about what my family would do when a natural disaster hits and no one comes to your aid (as we saw with Katrina),  I really haven’t done much about it. I mean, I’ve done the little things: we have enough water for days, batteries, some food, but have dragged my ass on the important stuff.

One thing I did do was pick up Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life, by Neil Strauss. Neil realized that he couldn’t take care of himself without the help of modern conveniences and wanted to make sure he’d be a survivor if our whole system collapsed, as many think it will at some point. The book chronicles his three-year journey as he goes from snobby city boy to taking courses in wilderness survival, joining FEMA and learning how to kill and skin a goat. He also became an EMT, learned how to shoot a gun, studied Krav Maga, and actually got citizenship in another country in case our borders are ever locked down. And that’s not cheap.

I’m not saying all this to scare you, but to alert you. No one has to turn into a survivalist freak, but you have to rise to the occasion when the shit hits the fan. Will your family be warm, fed and safe? Or panicking and looking to your neighbors for help?

Now, did Neil go way overboard? Absolutely—he was writing a book. But his story is a great wake-up call to all of us who depend on the system as much as we do. The biggest thing I took from the book is that in a natural disaster, the government isn’t there to save you—they come in to control the situation, clean up the mess and then rebuild.

Let me repeat that: the government isn’t there to save you.

By the time they decide who’s running things, who talks to the media and who is in charge of movie night, things go from bad to worse. That’s the way the system is set up. They also teach the first responders to take care of their own families first and make sure they are safe before venturing out to help others. Which makes sense.

That means you’re on your own.

I’m not saying all this to scare you, but to alert you. No one has to turn into a survivalist freak, but you have to rise to the occasion when the shit hits the fan. Will your family be warm, fed and safe? Or panicking and looking to your neighbors for help?

Make sure you have enough food, water and medical supplies to take care of the ones you love. There are many places you can go to get these things,Costco has great emergency food kits, and you should look at getting a generator if you live in an area that loses power a lot.

You should also have a plan. Neil also has some good stuff on his website, including his answers to the top ten emergency and disaster preparedness myths.

So, make your emergency plan and don’t be the guy who looks to his neighbors when disaster hits.


This was previously published on Shake Your Foundation.

Read more in Hands On on The Good Life.

Image credit: DVIDSHUB/Flickr

About Craig Playstead

Craig Playstead is a writer and content strategist living in the suburbs of Seattle. He writes about the creative process, writing, and things that make you laugh. Check out more of his work by visiting his blog


  1. If you live in an urban or suburban area you are well and completely screwed…..
    The ethics and methods of storing a hundred gallons of gas make this an unattainable option.
    AGenerator that will run some lights, a refrigerator and a TV burns maybe 15 gallons in a 24 hr period. And here in Sandyville we couldn’t get gas, due in part to the stations having no power, so get a hand crank pump and be prepared to quickly commit a felony on day 2…..
    So maybe get the propane kit for the generator and it is more viable and stable to stock LPTanks- though the fire marshal isn’t a big fan of that either….
    Ahhhh I can’t go on – 1st day off since Sandy hit….

  2. “…the government isn’t there to save you…”
    You’d think that at least the educated, the bright, the intelligent and well-traveled would have their eyes open, but boomers et. al. have been lulled into a passive, trusting and submissive sleep for quite some time. I have to say though, the sense of immunity from such disaster is pretty darn ridiculous.

    Sandy was nothing compared to what we’ll see if the trucks stop running in this nation, or the power gris is attacked. Supermarkets run in super-efficient just-in-time modes of restocking. In New England, we see the weaknesses as soon as we hear of a storm coming. the sleepy whir of generators may become New Hampshire’s new State Song.

    But things can get truly, truly bad If someone threatens (just threatens) a smallpox outbreak, or a highly contagious and deadly flu. No one will be at work. Who’s going to leave the safety of their own home and go to virus vectors like office towers, trains, planes, etc to potentially kill themselves and their families? The systems in place will shut-down and we will be tested in our entirety.

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