How To Survive Epidemics – Knowing When to Bug in is The Key to Survival…
by Moira M
This past winter, the flu epidemic in Central Tennessee made the news across the country. I got phone calls from family in Florida about how we were doing. Our local school system closed for several days. The truth is that we avoided the flu this year. Everyone that we knew who did get the flu was able to get Tamiflu and got well after a week or so. It was more of an inconvenience than an emergency. But it did give us a reason to think about when action would be necessary.
There are emergencies where you have a better idea of when to do something. When the floodwater or forest fire reaches your house or close enough to cut off escape, it is time to go. When you see what are clearly enemy paratroopers land in the field beside your school (and certainly when they shoot the history teacher), it is time to go. Also, it’s time to leave immediately with what you can pick up and carry out quickly. You don’t have time to get a rental truck up to the house to load grandma’s wedding china. Not every scenario is as clear cut as these or requires the same response.
My thoughts turned to what kind of things would I look for in the flu epidemic to make me realize it was time to bug in? Is there any time when we would agree to leave the area? I have a limited amount of leave time at work and the kids have a limited number of days they can miss school, so it would have to be serious.
I would have considered bugging in if I heard a combination of things that I think would signal that the epidemic was getting out of hand: if several patients were dying of the flu; if Tamiflu was being rationed or was unavailable; if I got a sense from medical staff, emergency personnel, or other such people that it could actually be a real problem; or the big one, if I saw any evidence of temporary hospitals being set up in gymnasiums, fairground buildings or large tents.
Many times in history and in disaster/apocalyptic films it seems that getting home or to the alternate bug out location early is key. It certainly would be critical for people who don’t live at or very close to their bug out location. In the movies, the viewer clearly sees signs of the disaster that the characters do not notice. I understand that this is because a movie where a family goes to a secure, well-stocked location that they can easily hide or otherwise defend would be incredibly boring.
Epidemics Survival Tips: Knowing When To Bug In (Or Out)
But if it was real, and it was you and your family, then you need to notice signs and come up with appropriate levels of response. That led me to think of what could be more generic signs of an impending problem. Maybe one of these things is not that out of place, but a group of them might be:
- Stores out of stock on key items or many items (when not on sale or otherwise in demand – obviously a great sale on bacon will empty the shelves and it may be hard to find sweet potatoes the evening before Thanksgiving)
- Gas shortages
- Unexpected price increase on key items (gas fluctuates, but if the price doubles all at once something is fishy)
- Seeing posts or articles about something in your area on social media (there was recently a shooting at a plant in a nearby town and social media reported on it accurately long before local news media)
- Seeing a social media blackout locally or nationally (one might have a problem, but two or more may indicate an intentional block)
- Seeing a large number of seriously ill people as you go about your business.
- Unusual power outages
- Unusually bad cell service or no cell service in a place that is normally fine
- Unusual internet outages
- Many military vehicles and personnel in your area if you don’t live near a base or on a main highway/flight path (we get flyovers all the time, but would notice if there was a big increase or unusual patterns)
- The sudden absence of military vehicles and personnel in your area if you live near a base (it may indicate a training or exercise, but it could also be a lockdown or preparation for something)
- Unexplained cancellation of government activities such as commission meetings, parades, festivals, and so on
- Unexplained closure of government offices
- Local TV and radio stations stop broadcasting or change from the usual formats, especially if news stories are absent
- Mail or package delivery disruption
- News reports of many people ill, dying or missing
- News reports of an unusual number of dead or missing pets, especially in your neighborhood (I read once where burglars went through and let out pets from yards so there would be no barking when they went back to break in)
- A sudden increase in crimes in your area
- A controversial court case that could incite a riot in your area
- Roads unexpectedly blocked off
- An accident with bodies lying around the vehicles – especially if there is a tanker involved (emergency responders have died breathing poison gas released when a semi or train carrying hazardous materials crashes and is compromised – watch for the HazMat placards!)
- Nature acting strangely – it would be odd if I saw no squirrels, birds, or other wildlife, on my way to or from work. Get used to how wild and domesticated animals behave in your area so that you can tell when things are off. Likewise be aware of trees and plants. If all oak trees dropped their leaves on June 1st, something is wrong.
- A government issued curfew, especially if it seems to be an overreaction to circumstances you know about.
- Certain websites going down, including survival sites, news sites, live webcam sites
- In smaller towns, an increase in people when there is no apparent reason – they may be refugees from a nearby town headed onward or building up staff before making their move
- The presence of utility vehicles in your area for an extended time with no apparent reason, especially if they are unmarked (If the power is on and the cable/the internet works what are they up to? In fairness, sometimes contractors who work for multiple utilities use plain white vehicles.)
- The presence of unusual vehicles generally in your neighborhood – dark sedans or SUVs (especially if very clean and new, Feds?) or perhaps cars cruising the neighborhood to see who is there and what can be stolen.
Next, we need to identify the signs we observe what might be going on now, and what appropriate response might be. Bugging in every time a helicopter flew over the house would be tiresome, especially if you live near an airport or hospital. Running away because you thought that the Independence Day fireworks were the Commies finally making their move would get you laughed at by your friends at the very least.
To start, make a plan with your household about what you may want to do as a potential threat level increases. One step might be to keep gas tanks full, and stock up on any last minute items. The next level might be to stay home unless you are going to work or school only.
This may reduce your exposure to infected people and statistically reduce your chances of being out when something bad happens. Perhaps if you do go out, such as to the store, everyone goes. This reduces your chances of getting split up.
However, it leaves your home empty. You have to consider what is going on as you make your plans. Should you all bug in for a few days? That could work, but you also have to consider whether you will let visitors in under these circumstances. Can your kids’ friends come to visit? That defeats the purpose of self-quarantine but also may be obvious what you are doing, which you may or may not mind. And finally, is there any reason you would decide to leave your home? What are they? Where would you go first? What if that place was compromised? Would you take anything?
If so make sure it is easy to carry and ready to go. (Quick Note – Thousands of important documents and family photos fit on flash drives that can be carried easily or stored at a relative’s house in case your home is ever lost. Do encrypt the drive to protect from identity theft).
If you feel that you need to be more aware of things in your area, try to make connections in your community that may inform you of problems or give you a better sense of what is going on in the area. Joining the local CERT group is a way to be “in the know,” meet informed contacts, receive training, and maybe helps your community.
The Red Cross and other volunteer groups may be similarly helpful in providing training and emergency alerts. The Rotary Club, Jaycees, and other service groups would broaden your contacts as well and increase the chances that you will hear news or rumors in time to act.
If you live in a larger city, especially with a government or military presence, you may be able to observe the important people or their families and tell when they are acting differently. If the legislature suddenly dismissed mid-week during session, that might be a clue that something was wrong.
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This entire article can be summed up into two simple thoughts – be aware of your surroundings and have a plan. Hopefully, this has given you some things to think about in your efforts to be prepared.