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house in the woods

Most emergency plans focus on getting away. What if you are stuck in an isolated area? These tips will keep you safe and comfortable during a natural disaster.

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When reading through disaster articles, it’s easy to find information on creating a “bug out bag” or where to go when you must leave your home. But what about those who live in a very isolated area and wind up stuck as Mother Nature rages outside? That requires an entirely different type of disaster planning, one that demands a homeowner become quite savvy about keeping comfortable and safe during tenuous conditions.

Living in an isolated area has made me seriously consider our disaster planning and what would really happen if things got bad. Our neighbors have regaled us with all sorts of stories about surviving Superstorm Sandy — including the three weeks they were without power, the downed trees, the flooded basements, and so much more. One thing is certain: Proper preparation is the key.

Get started yesterday

The best time to plan for a disaster is well before it happens. Think about the spring floods during the gentle autumn rains; consider the impact of winter snows while the sun is shining in the dog days of summer.

And remember that there are potential issues that you can’t plan for because they happen fast, with serious consequences — such as the lightning strike that takes out everything with a plug, to the earthquake that rattles you in the middle of an ordinary day. Having a plan now means you can swing into action as soon as necessary.

house in the country

Consider unique preparations

Look over your property and ask yourself: What could go wrong, and what do I need to fix it?

For example, our home is isolated deep in the woods. That means trees are everywhere, and what happens when a major storm hits? Those trees come down anywhere they please. That means we need to have a good chainsaw in the garage, plenty of extra gas to power it, and a way to move the debris, such as a sled, wheelbarrow or even a small ATV with the right attachments. And of course, when the trees come down they will probably take the power lines with them, which means preparing for life without electricity for the foreseeable future.

Another example: if you live in a flood-prone area, what will you do if the waters rise? You might want to move the most valuable things in your home to the second story, or have a plan to do so at a moment’s notice. Have a stash of non-perishable food, plenty of bottled water, and even a few lifejackets or a small blow-up raft tucked away on the top floor.

Everyday prep counts, too

What are the most basic things you will need if you are stranded for several weeks? Keep in mind that even if it is not several weeks that you are cut off from the rest of the world, if you are prepared for that, it makes just a few days much easier to tolerate.

So think long-term. You will need non-perishable food and water — plenty of it. You might need a way to heat things up, such as a portable propane stove (because eating cold beans from a can for a week on end will not be good for morale!). You will need oil-powered lanterns and lamps, because flashlight batteries will only last so long. You will need a way to keep warm if the problems happen during the winter.

emergency kit

And don’t forget your pets! They will need the necessities, and you might want to have a carrier for them as well — even if you aren’t leaving the property, the carrier will corral them and keep them safe if there is damage to your home.

Other tips for disaster preparation

This should be enough to get you started. Here are a few more things to consider:

  • No matter how isolated you are, someone needs to know you are out there. Speak with the closest neighbor about checking on each other when the going gets tough.
  • Purchase a generator and learn how to use it. This can help dramatically if the power is out for longer than a few days.
  • Make sure your insurance covers what might happen; for instance, most homeowner’s policies don’t cover major floods, or even sump-pump backup. You will need a separate policy, rider or endorsement for that.
  • Have repair items on hand, such as a tarp for that roof damage or a toolbox with all the necessities.
  • Know where all the shut-off valves are. It will be up to you to turn off the water, gas, propane, and other services that might cause a secondary disaster.

And finally, pay attention! If the flood waters are rising and you can get out, do so. If the blizzard is one for the record books, heed the warnings. Be well-prepared with a bug-out bag and other essentials that will allow you to get out of dodge. But if you do wind up staying in your very isolated home, make sure you are prepared for that, too.

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.