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What Does Preparedness Mean and Why Is It Important

September is national preparedness month. On the heels of hurricanes Harvey and IRMA we thought we’d run a short series on being prepared. While natural disasters don’t often happen here in Michigan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary steps to be prepared. Whether it’s an actual disaster event, being stranded, or the loss of power in your home there are still plenty of scenarios outside of full-on disasters that warrant having a preparedness mindset.

CAVEAT: We are not preparedness or disaster event experts by any stretch of the imagination. The definition breakdown is just how we see each function being applied. You can find more resources and significant online that exceeds what we are presenting. The definitions from FEMA are strictly from our point of view.

The Definition of Preparedness

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA define preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” All of that seems familiar as an overlander because those essential functions are what we use to plan and execute trips and expeditions.

As overlanders and outdoor enthusiasts, some of the principles used in the definition of being prepared apply pretty easily to what we normally do for trip preparation. We’ve broken them down below and how they might apply.

Planning

Planning should come pretty easy as planning takes a significant role in what we do as overlanders. Instead of planning routes and menus for a trip, preparing for a disaster situation has you working out the details of what happens when a disaster situation occurs. What food do you have or will you need? Are you sheltering in place or bugging out? What route are you taking? Is anyone else joining you?

Organizing

Again, a natural function to incorporate into a disaster plan is the organization of equipment, food, and even people. If you’re using bins and totes of some kind for your overlanding adventures, you can adopt the same approach for disaster event gear.

Organizing, in this case, doesn’t just mean gear, it also means how you might organize a group for evacuation from or response to a disaster. What’s the reporting structure for the group? What communications are going to be used?

Training

Much like winching or driver training, having training specific to disaster events is important. The lines of types of training can cross and intersect here, and nothing can replace proper training. Figure out what kind of disaster you are planning for and get training that is applicable. First aid training is always a good choice but having some actual disaster response training can be invaluable.

Equipping

Much like asking what might be needed for an overland adventure, you need to figure out what gear you’ll need in case of a disaster. If you’re planning for multiple scenarios, then make sure the gear you have will be usefull in each situation, so you’re not storing multiple pieces of equipment.

Exercising

This is a crucial part of planning overall. Everything looks good on paper, but once it has been tested, you may find things don’t go according to plan. An exercise should regularly be executed to test the abilities of your gear, people involved, communication plan, routes, etc.

Evaluating

Once the exercise is complete, take some time and evaluate the overall process, what worked, what didn’t. What gear was used and needed and what equipment wasn’t even touched? Did your route make sense and work? There are plenty of questions to ask during an evaluation, and everything should be considered.

Corrective Action

Most times after a trip a corrective action is taken to remove or add equipment that wasn’t needed or may have been needed. As part of the evaluation, you should be able to pinpoint what didn’t work and come up with a corrective action.

What’s Needed and For How Long

You can Google preparedness and find any number of lists for different scenarios and events. The best thing to do is decide what sort of disasters you might be facing and plan accordingly to what they are. For example, here in Michigan, depending on the area, you could be faced with large snowfall amounts. In this case you may want to ensure you have enough food, water, a source of heat, and warm clothing for everyone who will be with you.

Your supply lists should include food, water, and the necessary gear you’ll need to survive your particular disaster scenario. It should be enough food and water to accommodate however many products will be with you. Part of the planning function is to decide how long you want supplies to last.

Why Be Prepared

There is any number of reasons and situations to be prepared. Disaster scenarios happen to be the primary reason but consider other scenarios as well. What if you’re stuck in a traffic jam and unable to move for hours on end? What if you’re in the woods and can’t make repairs to your rig? Do you have enough supplies to last you those two scenarios? Do you have enough gear and supplies to have to walk out of somewhere?

Realistically, you may never have anything happen at all, but it’s always better to be prepared than not to be prepared. It’s one of the reasons we carry some of the equipment we do as overlanders. First aid kits and recovery equipment are good examples of this. You may never need them, but it’s better to have them than not to.

To be prepared for your chosen scenarios you need to ask yourself what gear, what supplies you’ll need, and actually work in the planning stage heavily. You may end up finding that you need to plan gear and supplies for a shelter in place and a bug out situation. If this is the case, you want to make sure your equipment and supplies potentially crosswalk between both scenarios and are readily available.

This article provides a very basic and high-level overview. You could spend hours falling down the rabbit hole on preparedness topics and discussions on websites and forums. In the end, do you what works best for you and/or your family. Have the gear and supplies necessary to sustain for your determined length of time.

What sort of planning and preparation do you employ? Leave some comments and let us know.

Nick Howell

Nick is a lifelong Michigan resident, born and raised. He grew up in Bay City and transplanted to the metro Detroit area after college for work. Seeking more woods and outdoors time, he resolved to get out more. In a spark of creativity, he co-founded Michigan Overland with the intent to travel to parts unknown both within Michigan and abroad.

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