There are some disasters that you can’t prepare for, like a supervolcano.

Credit: Discovery Volcano

Take the one under Yellowstone National Park for instance.  One of the reasons why there are so many geysers is due to the large amounts of magma lurking underneath the surface.  According to this article in the New York Post, the magma chamber is over twice as large as originally estimated.  The upshot of this is when the next eruption occurs, it could wipe out large portions of the US.

Such a disaster would be so massive and devastating, its all but impossible to survive it.  The scale of the destruction combined with the impact on both infrastructure and the environment means an eruption would be a global catastrophe.  So preparing for this event really isn’t worth your time.

Now why am I saying this?

The point is there are some events that nobody can adequately prepare for.  A better use of your time and resources is to plan for events that are both likely and survivable.  In the next year the vast majority of humanity is more likely to experience a power outage than have to contend with a massive volcanic eruption.  The smart move is to plan for the power outage because probability says it is likely to happen.  So think about what is most likely to happen and prepare for it.

Over the last few weeks I’ve spent time swinging an axe, using a wedge, and wielding a hatchet while chopping wood.

Firewood

The reason is simple, I wanted to have enough firewood and kindling for the winter.  After all, having an ample supply of wood on hand is a good practice for anyone with a fireplace.  So I spent two out of the past three weekends splitting, hauling, and stacking the wood I need.

Besides the aesthetics of using a fireplace, there are some practical uses for it during an emergency.  If electricity or natural gas supplies are interrupted, the fireplace can keep your house warm.  It can also serve as a means to prepare food when the power is out.  Plus, it is a good central gathering place for when the lights are out during a winter storm.  That’s why for centuries the fireplace has occupied a central position in the home.

There is also a practical reason to spend time getting firewood.  I spend several hours outside in the fresh air getting the wood ready.  Not only is this good exercise but its a good connection between work and result.  One appreciates the work that goes into a good fire more when your own sweat helped make it happen.  Its a primal activity that remains a valuable skill today.

Even though its October, its still hurricane season.

Credit: NBC News

Tropical Storm Karen is currently threatening the Gulf Coast and will hit land soon.  Regardless of whether it remains a tropical storm or becomes a hurricane, this storm is going to cause damage in the area.  If you live in the Southeastern US, hopefully you are prepared for what’s coming.

Storms like Karen represent a multifaceted threat to people who live near coastal areas.  Tropical Storms/Hurricanes can have a devastating impact due to:

  • Storm Surge
  • High Winds
  • Inland Flooding
  • Blackouts
  • Water contamination
  • Infrastructure damage

If you want to learn more about how to prepare for these, check out the NOAA website on Hurricane Preparedness.  Its a great resource that goes into much more depth and provides helpful details for those who live in coastal areas.  Even if you live inland, take some time to learn about the after affects of tropical storms and hurricanes.  Often times these storm can spawn heavy rains, flooding, tornadoes, and high winds far from the coast.

The good news is that these storms move relatively slowly, which gives people time to evacuate if necessary.  Make sure you have at least a half tank of fuel in your vehicle, have your go-bag packed, and keep your ears open for any evacuation announcements.  If you are ready, getting out of the storm’s path will be a minor inconvenience that will lead to safety.

One September 12th, I was flying to Minnesota from Phoenix.  For over an hour, we experienced serious turbulence as we flew over Utah and Colorado.  After I landed, I found out why.

Credit: AP Photo/Earth Vision Trust

The Colorado flooding has been catastrophic, some towns may be uninhabitable for months due to contamination and flood damage.  While the death tool has been fairly low, damage to infrastructure and property has been extensive.  Some estimates put the value of the damage in excess of $2 billion.

Ready.gov has a lot of good information about how to prepare for floods, so make sure you check out their site to get a start on preparing for this type of disaster.  In addition, be aware that anyplace that gets rained on is vulnerable to flooding.  Even if you live in the desert southwest, you can experience flash floods due to seasonal monsoons or heavy winter rains.  Use the Colorado flooding disaster as a catalyst to prepare for it in your neighborhood.  After all, heavy rains and flooding can strike your community without warning so be prepared before they happen.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, the coming winter could be a cold one.

Credit: Farmer’s Almanac

If the predictions are correct, most of the US will experience a cold and snow-filled winter this year.  As you can see on the map, some areas are projected to receive less snow than others but the overall prediction stands.

Now whether the weather predictions come true or not is secondary to a key preparation principal.  One must be prepared for all weather conditions, especially as winter draws near.  Having extra firewood, fuel, blankets, food, and other supplies is a matter of survival for most of the country.  Its always better to have more supplies on-hand and not need them than not have enough.  Winters can be cruel, especially for those who aren’t prepared.

Keep another thing in mind too.  Even if you live in the Southwest or West Coast, you can still be impacted by severe cold.  During extreme cold, energy demand can spike as heating demand increases.  This will impact the price of fuel and other goods in areas not affected by winter weather.  Also, manufacturing and agricultural production could be affected by interruptions in the supply chain when bad weather hits.  As I’m fond of saying, plan accordingly.

Regardless of what this winter’s weather will be, take steps now to prepare for it.

If you see this, its too late to prepare…

Credit: Onstar

As we saw last week, tornadoes can wreak havoc when they strike populated areas.  However, you can take steps now to protect yourself from them.  You can read more by going to ready.gov and reading their pages that discuss tornado preparedness.  There is more good information over at the CDC and the Weather Channel regarding tornadoes as well.  The Red Cross also publishes a handy, one-page Tornado Safety Checklist that you can view or download here.

There are also some important things to keep in mind when it comes to tornadoes.  Often times, heavy rain and hail accompany the storms that spawn tornadoes.  While the destructive path of a twister can be relatively narrow, the storms can be hundreds of miles wide and cause significant damage.  The rain, hail, and wind is more likely to cause damage to people and property, which needs to be accounted for in any tornado preparedness plan.

The aftermath of a tornado is something that needs to be accounted for as well.  Many times power lines are downed, causing loss of electricity for days or even weeks.  Roads can be blocked by fallen trees or other debris too.  The rain storms can also cause flooding that can wash out roads, bridges, and damage structures in low-lying areas.  While the tornado may only last a few minutes, the after affects will last much longer.  Here are some items you may want to have on-hand if you live in or near Tornado Alley:

  • Radio with NOAA weatherband
  • Flashlights and extra batteries
  • Water and food for three days (MREs, Datrex rations, granola bars, etc.)
  • First Aid kit
  • Medication
  • Cash
  • Chainsaw and fuel
  • Portable generator and fuel

Take some time today to read through some of these links and start making your tornado preparedness plans.

Bonus:  Here is a good article about what to do if you are in your car during a tornado.