Survival

The Ultimate Survival Guide for Natural Disasters

You can ask any prepper what they are most worried about, what they are most concerned with preparing for, and chances are they will respond what’s an answer about some kind of natural disaster.

That is with good reason: natural disasters are one of those things that we just cannot stop.

We can forestall or avoid completely threats arriving in the form of man or beast, or avoid entirely harm resulting from an accident due to our own lack of skill, attention or negligence.

Natural disasters are acts of God. They will occur and continue to occur with or without your consent and no matter how good you are. All we can do is hope we can get out of the way in time or survive them if we can’t.

Natural disasters take many forms, from the slow-to-arrive but regionally devastating hurricane to the seemingly never-ending, frozen onslaught of a blizzard.

All of those events occur with almost no warning at all, or with very little warning, as do volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Considering how common and how regularly natural disasters take place compared to more exotic SHTF scenarios, you’d be foolish to omit preparing for them.

Getting prepared and staying ready to handle all of the above should soak up a significant amount of any given prepper’s planning, training and purchasing.

There is a lot to learn and do. Fortunately, today’s article will be your jumpstart survival guide to help you prepare for all of them.

Big or Small, Prepare for Them All

While I’m talking about natural disasters in the context of this article, I’m not just talking about region- or nationwide mega-disasters that will completely change the course of history or even the world.

While such globe-spanning cataclysms can and have occurred in the past, most of them are so fantastically unlikely to occur during your lifetime they barely fit into the realm of real life.

Furthermore, you don’t have to be facing a disaster on such a titanic scale for your life to be completely, literally turned upside down.

Ask any survivor who decided to ride out the monster hurricane what their life was like before, during and after such a severe storm passed directly over their town and area.

It will likely sound similar to the tale given to you by the survivor of an EF5 tornado that effaced their home and city from the map.

Most of us who only hear about wildfires on the news will likely spare little thought toward what it must be like preparing for and fleeing from one that is about to consume our neighborhood.

The point I mean to make is that everyday, common disasters are more than enough for most of us to deal with. And deal with them we will have to, one way or the other. If we are very lucky, or very fast to act, we might simply be able to get out of the way.

Though you might have to pick up the pieces of your home and life later, you have to be alive in order to do so. With certain, sudden kinds of disasters or if the circumstances simply do not favor us, you may not be able to evade in time, and you’ll have to ride the ride, and deal with what comes.

In that case, knowing what to do, having a well-drilled plan for you and yours, and keeping the right survival supplies close at hand could make all the difference in your chances.

Stay or Go?

One of the fundamental choices you’ll have to make when it comes to dealing with any natural disaster is whether you will try to bug-out and get out of its way or will shelter in place and potentially be prepared to bug-in for the long haul.

Assuming, of course, that you do have time enough to make that decision…

In our modern era, you will reliably be able to make that choice pretty much every time they occur.

Take hurricanes, for instance. Thanks to satellites, meteorological radar, storm-chasing planes, and all the other accoutrements of an incredibly intricate weather early-warning system,

You will often know days and potentially even a week or more ahead of time when a hurricane is heading for your state or your area.

That means the choice is on you if you want to evacuate ahead of time, potentially wasting resources, time and money if the hurricane peters out, or stay in place, risking a direct or near-direct hit and potential catastrophe if the storm grows very powerful prior to landfall.

In another scenario, a powerful system of thunderstorms rolling across your state will at least let you know ahead of time that a tornado is possible, if not probable, allowing you to get one step ahead in case a powerful twister does form.

On the other hand, some freak storm systems can intensify rapidly, rapidly enough to spawn tornadoes that turn out to be extremely destructive with virtually no prior notice.

This is a situation where you may be afforded enough time to head for safer ground or just a better shelter, but you may not be.

Lastly, consider an event like a tsunami, which arrives with no or only minutes worth of warning in many instances, and is more than capable of leveling buildings and people alike well inland from the coastal regions where they strike.

If a tsunami warning was to be issued, you will have only seconds to assess your situation and location, determine whether or not you’re capable of making it to safe ground, or if you need to shelter as best you can in place before the tsunami arrives.

Making the wrong decision either way could be fatal in any of the above scenarios. Trying to flee and being caught on dangerous ground when a disaster properly impacts could mean you and your loved ones will perish.

Conversely, staying in place and trying to ride out any disaster might see you perish for hubris when you had the chance to get away. There are no guarantees, and there may not be any second chances.

You’ll need to learn all you can and make the best decision you can at the time with what info you have when a disaster is drawing close.

Basic Survival Supplies

No matter who you are, where you live or what kind of disaster is most likely to affect you, you will need a basic survival kit or stash that covers all of your basic survival necessities, things like shelter, water, food and so forth.

Whether the threat comes from the sky, the earth or the sea, you will still require the same fundamentals if you want to survive. Think of this as your basic life support package during and after a disaster.

This is not to say that surviving certain disasters will not require specialized gear and equipment as many things can come in very handy depending on the situation, but no matter what happens you will always need the following items and they should form the core of your prepper stash in any event:

Food

A minimum of 1,600 calories a day for an adult that is not exerting will keep you alive for a good while, but 2,000 calories a day is better for supporting hard working metabolisms. This is per person, per day, don’t forget!

Good choices for this category are things like canned or foil-pouched meals, and don’t forget to include some electrolyte powder mix, especially in hot climates. Also toss in disposable utensils and plates.

Water

You’ll want 1 gallon of water per person, per day in any case, and significantly more in hot climates. This will cover hydration along with basic washing and hygiene concerns.

Keep in mind you will never be sad that you have more water unless you have to carry it.

Learn more about stockpiling water here.

Shelter

Tarps and cordage, tents, sleeping bags, blankets, pillows; whatever makes sense for your climate and location.

Remind yourself that exposure can kill in as little as a couple of hours in cold weather. You might need to stay warm inside or outside your house depending on the situation, and your bed may not be a part of the equation.

Clothing

Replacement or supplementary clothes for when your current set gets filthy, damaged or wet.

Make sure they are climate appropriate, but also protective and flexible enough to allow you to work or travel on foot. Shirts, pants, gloves, hats and plenty of socks and underwear should be in this stash.

Also make sure to include a dedicated set of previously broken in lightweight boots or trail shoes. Waterproof waders or coveralls are a great idea if flood events are a possibility.

First-Aid Kit

You should have all the supplies you need to treat minor and major wounds, doubly important when emergency services will be unreachable, overwhelmed or completely out of the picture.

Things like band-aids, gauze rolls and pads, disinfectant and alcohol pads, compression wraps, tourniquets, clotting agents and a variety of over the counter meds should be in this kit.

Also include a stash of prescription meds (kept up to date!) and replacement prescription eyewear with all supporting supplies. It goes without saying, but you must know what you are doing medically before you botch an intervention and make things worse!

Tools

You don’t need to lug around a mechanic’s tool chest, but you should have plenty of useful hand tools to help you build or demolish what you need to during a crisis. Hammers, nails, screwdrivers, vise grips, handsaws and crowbars.

If you know how to run one safely, a chainsaw can make quick work of fallen trees and branches whereas an axe is a muscle-powered alternative. A small stash of lumber and plywood on hand is a good thing in case you need to make hasty repairs. Don’t forget a ladder.

Cash

Cash money will always work where credit and debit cards fail when the grid goes down. Some preppers also consider a small stash of gold as an easy to carry insurance policy when you really need that favor to come through.

Personal Papers

Digital or hard copies of all your most vital docs, things like deeds, titles, accounts, passwords, ID’s, passports and so on. Make sure these are kept as secure as possible while still keeping them handy with your kit in case of emergency.

From this core kit, you can build upon it and grow, adding situational or location specific items that will improve your chances of surviving a disaster.

There are also some disaster specific items or supplies that you should consider adding to your kit that I will mention where applicable in the sections below.

Your Guide to Surviving Different Natural Disasters

There’s a lot to learn about all the different disasters that can strike, no matter where you reside in the world. In fact, it is far too much to cover elegantly in a single article!

But luckily, we have in-depth articles that go into far more detail on every disaster that is presented below, including selections written by your intrepid author. Make sure to check them out!

hurricane

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of the most common and spectacular yearly disasters that can strike all over the globe. Virtually every area of coastline and the areas far beyond are vulnerable to hurricanes in the right seasons.

Hurricanes are one of the most prevalent threats that any prepper may face because they present so many varied dangers.

These dangers may come in the form of deadly high winds, extreme amounts of rain, punishing storm surges that result in tremendous flooding which, to make matters worse, they often spawn tornadoes of their own.

Any major hurricane that makes landfall is almost certain to change both the geography and the culture of a place for decades to come. Its impact is nothing short of enormous, and it will definitely have long-lasting implications.

When you stop to consider just how common hurricanes are, and the fact that they usually arrive in batches, you had better make preparing for these near the top of your list unless you live very far away from the shore.

Destructive Effects of Hurricane

Hurricanes, and their functionally identical cousins cyclones and typhoons are categorized based on wind speed, but each region of the world and the corresponding oceans near them have different benchmarks for it that place their storms in different categories.

Regardless, Atlantic and Pacific hurricanes have wind speeds anywhere from the relatively sedate 64 mph at Category 1, which usually means a storm capable of producing significant wind damage and major local flooding, all the way up to the positively biblical Category 5 hurricanes with wind speeds that are sustained at over 140 mph, which can annihilate cities and then drown their remains.

Even a category 1 hurricane might be a significant danger, but anything that is a category 3 or higher is a severe threat to life and limb.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand how hurricanes, even comparatively small ones, can severely tear up coastlines.

But what many people, including a few preppers, underestimate is that they can also a great danger to people living far inland, even hundreds of miles away from the coastline. One should never underestimate the reach and power of a hurricane.

The overall amount of danger a hurricane will put you in is usually dependent on how close to the center of the storm you are when it makes landfall.

The center of the storm, the eye, is where the winds will be highest and sustained, as well as the most powerful and torrential bands of rain will be found.

As with tornadoes (which incidentally sometimes spawn from hurricanes), one of the single biggest dangers is flying, wind-blown debris, natural or man-made.

Impalement and blunt-force injuries are a real and constant possibility, as is the prospect of being crushed by toppling trees and buildings. As I once heard a comedian say, “It is not that the wind is blowing; it is what the wind is blowing.”

During and after the storm, you’ll have to deal with flooding and all of its attendant problems (see below) like mudslides, landslides and buckling or submerged roads, loss of all utilities and services and completely overwhelmed or disrupted logistics and emergency services.

All tallied, the risk of infection for minor injuries will become very high and difficult to treat. Disease is likely to run rampant as with any flood event and then second and third order effects like chemical and biological contamination along with mold propagation will begin to take a toll on survivors.

Surviving a Hurricane

The single best thing you can do if you want to increase your chances of surviving a hurricane is to be elsewhere, and I mean far away before the hurricane arrives.

If you can get out, then get out with plenty of time to spare.

If you cannot, or choose not, to leave then you must be prepared by fortifying your home intelligently in the form of boarding up windows, stocking up on an abundance of supplies, and keeping one ear tuned to disaster alert radio so you can monitor the storm’s progress as well as the authorities’ response to it.

If your home is poorly sited or if you lack the wherewithal to fortify it, you must know where the nearest and best hurricane shelter is, and to get to it before conditions outside make it too dangerous to travel.

More so than most disasters, a hurricane affords you the time to do your advance work before the clock ticks down to landfall.

Correspondingly, making sure you have done all of that advance work in the form of having an evacuation plan, knowing where alternate shelter locations are and being prepared to properly fortify and secure your home is invaluable when it comes to surviving a hurricane.

Learn more on how to prep for and survive a hurricane here.

tornado

Tornadoes

Towering. Destructive. Terrifying. Just a few of the adjectives one could ascribe to tornadoes. Tornadoes typically form and appear out of powerful thunderstorm fronts, and generate the highest wind speeds on Earth of any storm event.

A tornado can spawn, carve a path of destruction across the landscape and then vanish just as quickly, leaving stunned and scared survivors looking fearfully towards an eerie sky in its wake.

Tornadoes can happen anywhere on Earth, but are overwhelmingly the most common in the United States, and are very prevalent in parts of the South and much of the Midwest.

The very nature of these storms mean that they are chaotic and unpredictable, sometimes forming and reforming, weakening or strengthening seemingly without rhyme or reason.

You have to be on your toes during tornado season, and be ready to act at a moment’s notice if your area is under a tornado watch.

Assessing past tornado events, you can determine that any area that has a tornado bearing down on it will have 15 minutes or less of warning before the twister arrives.

That means you are definitely on the clock if you want to stand a chance of surviving these iconic and Infamous storms.

Destructive Effects of Tornadoes

Tornadoes are storms that generate the highest winds found on the planet Earth, with even the weakest of tornadoes, measuring on the Enhanced Fujita scale at EF0 pushing anywhere from 65 to 85mph winds more or less constantly.

While that might not sound like much, these are still more than capable of causing damage to buildings and even toppling shallowly planted or weak trees. Large and sturdy trees will still lose branches.

At the extreme upper end of the power factor scale, EF5, a tornado will produce 200mph+ sustained winds, more than capable of completely obliterating all but the most reinforced buildings and hurling automobiles and even train cars through the air like styrofoam peanuts.

Anything that is made airborne by winds this powerful will become a deadly projectile, and if you are caught out of doors you will be flensed alive or carried off by the fury of the storm.

The majority of people killed by tornadoes are killed by flying debris, so you must take this hazard seriously no matter how powerful forecasters claim the storm system is.

But beyond monumental wind, tornadoes are typically spawned from and will accompany powerful thunderstorm fronts.

That means you’ll be dealing with hazards like lightning, torrential rain and large hail that is more than capable of battering vehicles and inflicting severe injuries on exposed people.

What is worse, the driving rain can serve to mask a tornado’s approach, increasing the chances that you will be caught unaware, or with little time to react.

Assuming someone survives the passage of a tornado, they will probably be emerging from whatever shelter they managed to find out into a bleakley altered landscape.

The vast majority of buildings will be damaged if they are not completely annihilated. Every power line will be down, everything else will be damaged, and detritus, both natural and man-made, will be scattered everywhere.

Surviving a Tornado

The best way to survive a tornado is to be prepared with reliable shelter you can access quickly, and preparation also means having a survival kit close at hand when tornado season is upon you.

Anytime there is a thunderstorm more powerful than a passing shower, you must keep one ear tuned to the weather radio.

You will not always have warning when a tornado is approaching, considering they can form quickly, but meteorologists in conjunction with storm chasers have gotten very good at spotting conditions that are likely to create a tornado.

When you are under a tornado watch, the time to act is immediately. Clear the way to your shelter, and keep your survival kit close at hand or inside.

The best shelter is the strongest structure that is easy to reach in seconds, although some are completely inadequate for the task, such as vehicles and mobile homes.

If your home is not capable of withstanding a tornado’s might, it is definitely in your best interest to locate the nearest passable shelter that you can make use of.

One idea that is definitely worthwhile is upgrading your home’s construction to better withstand the high winds that accompany a tornado.

While this is an expensive and time-consuming process, an ultimate that is also functional and practical is the installation of a below-ground storm shelter module on your property.

Aside from your basic survival kit we went over above, you might consider adding helmets and goggles, both to protect you from flying debris and from unstable structures and falling materials.

Chemlights can be useful for marking family members during hours of darkness after you emerge, and an audible signaling device, something like a whistle, air horn or similar item may help you get rescued if you are trapped beneath a collapsed structure.

flood

Floods

Water is an ever-present killer in one form or another, and anywhere that it can rain it can flood.

Despite being one of the most precious resources on Earth, absolutely vital for sustaining life, water remains a terrifyingly powerful force when there is too much in one place, especially when it is moving.

Flooding claims many thousands of lives the world over every single year, and costs hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage. Places that are not vulnerable to flooding are very few and far between.

What’s worse, flooding can result from all kinds of events, from the aforementioned major thunderstorms and hurricanes, to tsunamis, landslide events into lakes and even from dam breaks.

Destructive Effects of Floods

Floods are immensely destructive and extremely dangerous, whether or not they’re standing water or fast-moving flash floods.

Any moving mass of water standing only a few inches will easily knock a person off their feet and carry them away, whereas a foot of water will sweep a vehicle right off the road.

Any structure that is shoddily built, poorly anchored or already damaged can be toppled by flood waters breaking its support members.

Even when the water stops moving, or was never moving to begin with you will have much to contend with if you want to survive. Rising floodwaters will contain and conceal all kinds of debris, much of it dangerous.

Everything from twisted metal, spilled chemicals, sewage and human waste, corpses, and more will all be hidden in the brackish water. This makes moving through floodwaters especially dangerous.

As you might expect, a flood event will knock out or compromise all major public utilities including water, electricity and oftentimes gas. Logistics in the affected area will grind to a halt as roads become completely impassable, and some areas find themselves completely cut off.

Watercraft of various kind will be able to pass through floodwaters but this is risky. Aircraft, of course, can fly right over the carnage below, but will not be able to land anywhere near the flood.

Surviving a Flood

Surviving a flood is mostly a matter of being aware of the potential risk in your area, knowing evacuation routes and taking them before things get too bad, and making smart choices if you are forced to shelter in place.

Creating a map ahead of time of the high ground nearest your home and place of business is a good idea, even if they are just terrain features.

Similarly, mapping areas that are vulnerable to flash flooding or our danger points in the case of standing water, things like bridges over fast-moving water and so forth, is similarly wise.

Entering flood waters while trying to escape from a flood is a great way to be swept downstream if on foot or in a vehicle, or become trapped in the latter.

Additionally, if your house is being overtaken by flood waters you should seek higher ground but never inside the attic, as it is too easy to be trapped by the rising water. Remember, never, ever enter floodwaters, moving or otherwise, if it can be avoided!

If one has a good handle on the local topography and what you can expect from historical floods, it is possible if you act quickly enough and have enough labor to secure your house using sandbags or water inflatable barricades to redirect or even stop flood waters.

If this is not a possibility, all you can do is seek higher ground and hope the waters recede before you are forced to the roof.

Learn more on prepping and surviving a flood here.

tsunami

Tsunamis

It is rare the disaster that will strike more suddenly, and with more destructive force than a tsunami. Imagine it: a massive surge of water pushed far inland sweeping aside people, vehicles and buildings alike, dragging behind it an inundating wall of water.

Anywhere that a large body of water meets the shore a tsunami may occur, typically appearing in from the ocean but also possible and large lakes and reservoirs.

Tsunamis often give little in the way of warning, but if you know the often subtle signs that precede them and you act quickly, it is possible to survive one.

Destructive Effects of Tsunamis

Despite what many spectacular disaster movies would show you, a tsunami does not look like a skyscraper-sized curling wave of the kind that you might see surfers enjoying during the day at the beach.

A tsunami is actually a mass of water, composed of waves that are generated and pushed toward the shore whenever a large body of water undergoes a significant displacement event.

This most commonly occurs due to an undersea earthquake, a similarly aquatic underwater landslide, a volcanic eruption or even potentially a major asteroid or meteor impact.

Because tsunamis are essentially a series of waves and not one giant, singular wave they can strike the shore repeatedly over a length of time.

You might have anywhere from a couple of minutes to hours between impacts, and they can reach a shockingly long distance inland from the shore.

This means that after the first impact, once the water recedes for the most part, people trying to flee or otherwise evacuate could be overtaken by a follow-on wave that may easily kill them.

Tsunami waves strike with incredible force, and often exceed 25mph in speed. We already discussed briefly in the flooding section above just how powerful moving water is even when it is not very tall.

Tsunami waves both move quickly, and gain height as they move inland, providing a lethally powerful one-two punch against people on foot, vehicles and structures. Even after the tsunami proper is over, survivors will be left in a flooded area that is badly ravaged.

Surviving a Tsunami

Surviving a tsunami is all about being alert to any sign or symptom that one is impending, such as an earthquake, a sudden rise or drop of the tide outside of its normal schedule, a freight train-like rushing or roaring sound, or a sudden, pronounced and comparatively small surge of water moving up the beach and shore.

Any one of these symptoms alone or in tandem is an indicator that a tsunami is imminent and you must act immediately!

If you are in any area that could be affected by the tsunami you must act fast and get to the highest available ground that is as far from the waterline as possible.

Never wait for an official warning to do so! If you cannot find and enter a tall, strong building, then you should try to climb the tallest, strongest tree that is nearby.

You must do everything in your power to stay out of this tsunami’s waters, as they will be badly clogged with all kinds of dangerous debris, and you are very likely to be killed by drowning or crushing when the next wave arrives.

After you are certain that the tsunami has concluded, you must be very wary of entering any standing water as with any flood event: It will contain many physical dangers as well as potentially live power lines and other hazards.

wildfire

Wildfires

Wildfires are another common and perennial threat in many parts of the world depending upon the season and also depending upon how badly environmentalist, earth-loving policies are allowed to impact brush control, preemptive burning and other fire-management methods.

During particularly bad wildfire years, tens of millions of acres can be burned, with countless more millions of dollars done in property damage globally, and can result in hundreds or even thousands of lives lost, along with the lives of countless animals and insects.

Wildfires are pervasive, persistent threats because the smallest accidental spark can turn into an apocalyptic conflagration that threatens entire counties.

Destructive Effects of Wildfires

Wildfires are brutally singular in the destruction their wreak.

Growing from a small blaze to a raging firestorm, consuming everything in its path that is capable of burning and then growing ever larger and ever faster the more fuel it encounters, a wildfire can turn so apocalyptic in scope that it can scorch the very soil, preventing any plant matter from regrowing.

The winds driven ahead of a wildfire can be scalding hot in and of themselves, and burning embers can travel a great distance spreading smaller fires ahead of the main one.

Many communities that have found themselves in the path of a wildfire, one that was unable to be contained or stemmed by valiant firefighting efforts, have been completely consumed, and only the luckiest homeowners, or those who can both afford to and have time enough to implement the most extreme fire prevention methods will see their home survive at all.

Probably the most surprising thing about wildfires is just how fast they can travel across the land in ideal conditions.

Without any fire breaks and without any smaller fires or controlled burns to consume underbrush, fallen branches, twigs, dry grasses and so on you could be facing a major conflagration that can race ahead of all efforts to stop it.

Surviving a Wildfire

You have only one real chance to survive a wildfire and that is by evacuating. Choosing to stay behind in your home when a wildfire is closing in is tantamount to suicide if all you’re trying to do is save your home and possessions.

If you are caught in the wilderness in a wildfire situation, one surefire way to survive it is to look for a large body of water but you can get in and swim or float to the middle of while waiting for the fire to pass you by.

Alternately, If you can find any break in the fire that is approaching and make it to an area that has already burned, you will likely be safe from the flames, but you should beware at the surrounding area will be extremely hot.

One common and tragic mistake that people make sometimes when they’re about to be overtaken by a wildfire in their vehicle is to bailout and try to run.

It is extremely dangerous to attempt to run from a wildfire at the last minute, as radiant heat is the biggest killer and anything that can shield you from is an advantage.

If you are trapped inside your car with a wildfire approaching, keep the engine running, get as low as you can in the vehicle, and cover yourself with something.

Things will get extremely hot in the car and it will very likely become hard to breathe due to lack of oxygen, but with a little luck the fire will pass you by leaving you unburned.

Learn more on prepping for and surviving a wildfire here.

volcano

Volcanoes

Most volcanoes erupt more or less harmlessly, but a few can create significant localized destruction and hazards to citizens. But some volcanoes erupt with such legendary force they can become proper cataclysms.

History furnishes many examples of such volcanoes, and even here, in the U.S., the eruption of Mount St. Helens not too many decades ago stands as testament to the biblical destructive force of a large volcano.

Most volcanic eruptions are nothing to get out of bed over unless you live very close to the volcano itself, but even a mid-grade volcanic eruption, to say nothing of a truly powerful one, means you will have to have your survival procedures sewn up tight and act on them immediately if you want to stand any chance of survival.

Unfortunately for the U.S., we are sitting on top of an unfathomably powerful supervolcano in the form of the Yellowstone Caldera. It has erupted in the past, and if it erupts in kind again it will make Mt. Saint Helens look like a cap gun, and even Krakatoa pale by comparison.

Yellowstone (and others like it) are properly classified as “supervolcanoes”, and can erupt with force that makes even the most powerful nuclear weapons look puny. Volcanoes of this magnitude are slumbering forces of world-altering power.

Destructive Effects of Volcanoes

Volcanoes are threatening in more ways than you might be thinking, far beyond mere lava flows as terrible as it sounds.

A volcanic eruption powerful enough to be called significant will generate immense quantities of asphyxiating smoke, gas and ash which can incapacitate people and animals, and stall internal combustion engines.

Also, copious amounts of incredibly hot rock and molten magma will be ejected and flung far and wide, starting fires and posing direct hazards to people and structures.

As bad as that sounds, the signature and characteristic effect of an erupting volcano is a pyroclastic flow.

Imagine, if you will, a rapidly moving wall of unfathomably hot gas and ejecta from the volcano moving together away from the site of the eruption in a sort of shockwave.

This pyroclastic flow annihilates anything it hits, and travels anywhere from a comparatively slow 65 mph to a mind-boggling 350 mph.

None of this eventuality bodes well for your survival if you are anywhere near the volcano when it occurs.

The aftermath of a volcano will likely result in a total shutdown of electronic communication in the area resulting from disruption of physical landlines, transmitters, the blockage of satellite-based communications, and even radio due to atmospheric interference.

Surviving a Volcano

Volcanoes have a sort of rhythm of their own that beats on a geologic timescale, meaning that even the smartest and brightest scientists can only work with what data they can tease out of them.

This means that you might have some warning if scientists think a significant eruption is going to occur, or you may literally have no warning whatsoever, at all.

Assuming that you will not have to endure a truly catastrophic volcanic eruption that is likely to kill you more or less instantly, survival depends upon a few key factors.

First, if signs of a pending eruption are occurring, you need to evacuate, and get as far away from the volcano as you can while remaining upwind of it.

Remember that even if you escape the blast and pyroclastic flow, the atmosphere will become choked with ash, gases and smoke that can make you gravely ill (or worse) you if inhaled.

You must also be very cautious to avoid any streams, rivers and lakes that are near the volcano and travel away from them while you try to reach minimum safe distance.

A volcanic eruption that affects a large body of water or tributary will turn into something called a lahar, which is a mixture of lava, mud and mineral matter that is in all practical aspects a boiling mudslide which will travel along the path of the water, and is itself utterly lethal.

blizzard

Blizzards

It is hard to believe that common, sustained, winter weather can cause so much destruction, so much death and turn into such a logistical snarl on a yearly basis, but it does.

Any proper blizzard is marked by sustained low temperatures, high winds and tremendous amounts of snowfall can literally immobilize entire regions, halting commerce, knocking out utilities, and placing tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions of people at risk of exposure.

Mother Nature makes it very clear but only those who live near the equator are ever free from fear of winter’s icy grip.

Destructive Effects of Blizzards

Freezing cold, deep snow, blistering wind and lots of all three. A blizzard is not a particularly glamorous disaster, but that does not mean they are not extremely dangerous, especially when they persist for weeks at a time.

Any blizzard event will mean you’re going to shelter in place for days or weeks on end, and if your supply situation is not up to snuff you might be taking your life into your own hands if you go out in the chilling, blinding conditions to try and find more (assuming they can be found at all).

Aside from the obvious strain or total shutdown on commerce and other civil logistics the blizzard will cause, there’s a good chance that you will lose utilities for the duration, or at least until the worst part of the blizzard relents and crews can restore services.

If you rely on electricity or natural gas for heat, and lose access to both, you are now in a serious survival situation.

Risk of exposure and loss of essential medical care are two of the biggest risks posed by blizzards no matter where you are, and it is easy to take for granted that emergency services will be barely functional if they are functional at all for the duration.

Surviving a Blizzard

Surviving a blizzard is essentially about being very well-prepared for bugging-in since you’re probably going to be staying put for the duration.

Is also essential that you are skilled with creating shelter and keeping warm, since you will not be able to count on having access to electricity or gas for heating your home.

A fireplace with a good supply of firewood or a wood-burning stove that is properly vented will be quite a comfort indeed during the frozen onslaught of a blizzard.

Remember that you cannot burn anything for heat that will create a risk of trapping carbon monoxide gas inside your home even during a blizzard! Doing so will put you and any other occupants of the home at serious risk of death.

If you can’t burn something safely, don’t burn it at all; you’re far better off creating a microclimate inside your own home- a shelter within a shelter- in order to stay warm, even if it is very cramped and uncomfortable compared to just lounging around the house.

The last thing you might have to be concerned with during a blizzard is getting snow off of your roof, and out from around your doors so you do not become completely buried.

Snow is heavy, and if left to accumulate it can cave-in weaker structures. If you have plenty of supplies and are prepared for the loss of utilities you can make it through even a severe blizzard.

heat wave

Heatwaves and Extreme Heat Events

The U.S. CDC reports over 600 deaths a year attributed to extreme heat exposure, and there are many tens of thousands more that will be incapacitated or gravely injured by the same.

A combination of extremely high temperature and high humidity can essentially broil you alive, your body unable to cope with the stress. This is exacerbated anytime you are exerting yourself in such conditions.

Statistically extreme heat and heatwave events are some of the most lethal natural events that you can face in life, and most places on Earth, even those that are not year-round hot climates, can experience extreme heat events.

Destructive Effects of Extreme Heat Events

The single biggest hazard posed by extreme heat events is interference and reduction in the body’s natural capability to cool itself.

Anytime temperatures climb higher than 90 degrees F (32 C) while the humidity similarly remains high, you will be facing a significant risk of heat-related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Secondary effects of heatwaves often include brownouts or even blackouts, as the electrical grid struggles to cope with the increased demands on it generated by residential and commercial cooling systems.

Surviving an Extreme Heat Event

Surviving an extreme heat event is relatively simple if you are not part of a vulnerable demographic, like the old, very young or sick. If at all possible, stay out of direct sunlight and in the shade, or in an air-conditioned building.

Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, paying attention to replacing electrolytes regularly, especially if you have been sweating.

If you must work, work in the coolest parts of the day; early morning and late evening or even night time, and carefully regulate yourself so you do not overheat.

Remember: By the time you start feeling bad or thirsty it is already too late. You must stay on top of hydrating and replacing electrolytes regularly if you want to stand any chance of working through a major heat event.

solar flare

Geomagnetic Storms

Geomagnetic storms are powerful cosmic events caused by electromagnetic fluctuations and ejections in our sun’s magnetic field.

These eruptions can fling powerful and unpredictable energy at our home on earth that is easily capable of disrupting signals of all kinds and potentially even disrupting or downing our electrical grid akin to a massive, naturally-occuring EMP.

These events may not be physically dangerous in and of themselves, but present significant threats to life and limb by disrupting vital communications infrastructure and potentially even the electrical grid.

Destructive Effects of Geomagnetic Storms

A geomagnetic storm is not directly dangerous to people, but that doesn’t mean it cannot hurt you. looking at prior solar storms, such as the infamous Carrington event of the mid-nineteenth century, we are able to deduce that a similar event today would cause widespread havoc, injuries and even deaths.

A geomagnetic storm would certainly disable our power grid, and could possibly do it for good since the world’s power grids, and the United States’ in particular, is extraordinarily intricate and vulnerable to disruption of any single part.

If enough parts of a power grid fail in succession lasting damage or even total destruction may result. A regional, or even worse, national blackout will take a very long time to repair, and the second and third order effects of such an event are difficult to collate.

Imagine if you will what that will herald for medical services, police and fire departments, groceries, refrigeration-dependent commercial and scientific products and more.

It is an ugly thought that only gets uglier.

Surviving a Geomagnetic Storm

Chances are good that you will survive a geomagnetic storm so long as you are not in an aircraft at cruising altitude. It is surviving the aftermath that will be challenging.

Peppers who are already well acquainted with self sustainment, permaculture and living a simpler life that is not completely dependent upon electricity and the internet will make the transition better than others.

It goes without saying that any prepper worth the name should have a substantial stash of all household goods, supplies, equipment and provision that they need to survive and thrive during a sustained blackout.

You can get extra points in this category if you have taken pains to ensure that your most vital implements are EMP proof.

earthquake

Earthquakes

Earthquakes are another disaster that can strike anywhere on Earth, are highly variable in their destructive effect, and occur with very little or absolutely no warning.

Earthquakes can be anything from a minor, inconvenient shaking or trembling that can upset delicately placed hangings and decorations to apocalyptic upheavals and shattering of the earth itself.

Earthquakes occur more or less constantly, and it is only a matter of time before a “big one” strikes, especially in areas atop major fault lines.

Destructive Effects of Earthquakes

During an earthquake, caused by the very foundations of the earth shifting, grinding and groaning the land beneath your feet will shift and heave and split, gravely damaging or even toppling buildings, buckling roads and bridges and mauling utilities systems like water, gas and electric pipelines.

People are easily injured during earthquakes, being knocked to the ground, thrown into the air, struck or crushed by falling debris.

The damage done by a powerful ‘quake to structures and civil infrastructure cannot be understated. Smaller buildings that survived the shaking and rattling may be crushed or severely damaged by debris falling off of their taller larger neighbors.

Buildings with sturdy foundations that do not tumble or outwardly show any signs of severe damage may still be rendered unsafe and unstable by a strong earthquake.

Inside the buildings, things will be no less hazardous as falling debris, breaking glass and heaving floors all serve to injure the occupants, and make it difficult for them to reach meaningful shelter.

Buildings that do collapse will bury their occupants alive, killing many of them, and trapping the rest.

In the aftermath of a major ‘quake, electrical disruption or complete blackout is to be expected, as is non-functional or compromised water supplies, and compromise sewer systems.

Combined with the often severe damage to roads, bridges and even runways and helipads earthquake cleanup is often a logistical nightmare as responders and survivors alike must carefully pick their way through the rubble and use their best judgment for guiding vehicles in such a way that they will not become immobilized or damaged.

And finally, it isn’t over until it is over…

Earthquakes are often and infamously accompanied by aftershocks, subsequent tremors that may be nearly as powerful as the initial quake, and still more than capable of causing damage and injuries, and disrupting response efforts.

These aftershocks can go on for some time.

Surviving an Earthquake

Surviving a powerful earthquake is a matter of getting to the best possible shelter you are able to reach at a moment’s notice, since the longer the ‘quake goes on, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to move with anything resembling good order while it is occurring. The single best thing you can do is to reach sturdy overhead cover, and get beneath it.

A well-built table is usually the most accessible piece of overhead cover in most buildings. Do not take shelter in a doorway unless you have no other option.

If it is possible, reaching open ground and clear sky will at least keep you safe from falling debris but will not protect you from being flung about as the ground beneath your feet literally rolls like the ocean or fractures violently.

In the aftermath, having a packed bug-out bag that is accessible will likely make the difference between you sustaining yourself or not.

Earthquakes seem to have a sort of tipping point as far as post-event survival is concerned.

They are either not so bad that society completely implodes in a given area or they are so destructive that every facet of society comes to a screeching halt. There is not much of an in-between.

An earthquake may be bad enough to bust up roads and disrupt utilities, but life can to a greater or lesser extent go back to normal after the shaking stops.

Or an earthquake can be so powerful that it makes the area affected by it look like a model town that was dropped from a great height.

If you are facing anything resembling the latter category your BOB will be all you have, likely.

landslide

Landslides and Mudslides

When enough rain has saturated the soil near a cliff’s edge or the slow, almost gentle, settling and cracking of rock and soil around the hills and mountains of the world has gone on long enough, you will see a mudslide or landslide, respectively.

A terrifically heavy mass of soil and rock, or mud, that hurtles downward propelled by gravity, flattening and burying anything in its path be it man, beast or building.

Landslides and mudslides occur all over the world and can happen due to weather events, other disasters like earthquakes or all on their own after enough time has gone by, and erosion has occurred.

Destructive Effects of Landslides and Mudslides

The destructive power of a landslide or mudslide depends largely on the scale. A relatively small one, say a largest chunk of a hill or cliff face breaking off and hurtling downslope, is extremely dangerous and quite destructive to anything directly in its path.

But either one that occurs on a very large scale, say half of a mountain or an entire hillside loosing from its moorings will absolutely obliterate anything in its path.

The two chiefly differ in how they behave as they travel. Mudslides as their name suggests are more liquid than the solid mass of earth and rock in a landslide.

For this reason mudslides more commonly follow routes that a similar mass of water would be likely to take. This to make them a little more unpredictable and make your life even worse if you are in an area that would funnel the mudslide to you.

Any mudslide or landslide would inflict significant damage to most trees and structures, and is as expected a grave threat to life if you are caught by it.

The largest landslides and mudslides are nothing short of disastrous, and will obliterate all but the strongest of trees and structures in its path, and are positively lethal to people that are caught by them.

Surviving Landslides and Mudslides

The one Surefire technique for surviving a landslide or mudslide is to not live or dwell where there are most likely to occur.

Mountainous and hilly areas are the most vulnerable, and you are just asking for it if you care to perch your home right on the edge of a cliff or hill to admire the stunning vistas, as these structures are destroyed utterly when that cliff edge or hillside gives way.

The calculus of survival when facing a landslide or mudslide is simple: you will have virtually no warning that they are occurring.

If you are lucky, you may see or hear it coming, and have a few precious seconds to react. Using this time wisely may save your life.

If it is at all possible to seek higher ground that you know will withstand the event, you must do it at once.

Barring that, there is a non-zero chance that you might be able to move out of the impacted area before it reaches you, though this is risky; you’re almost always better off taking your chances in cover versus being caught outside and impacted by a landslide or mudslide.

hail

Hail

Hail is commonly encountered as a feature of powerful thunderstorms, and that means it can occur anywhere that thunderstorms occur. Most hail is harmless, pea sized or smaller, and will do little more than raise a racket as it patters harmlessly off your roof.

Frequently though, much larger sizes of hail can be encountered, reaching golf ball-size or even much larger, and they have enough mass and velocity as they falls from the sky to inflict significant damage to vehicles, roofs and obviously people.

Destructive Effects of Hail

There is no flashy, dramatic effect of hail to concern yourself with; the mundane effect is dangerous enough! Water is extremely dense, and once frozen into a rigid shape in the form of ice it can inflict significant damage if traveling with enough velocity when it impacts something.

Time and time again, nature proves through hail that it can beat anything into (or out of) shape. Large diameter hail will break windows, badly dent wood and thin metal, and inflict bruises, concussions or lacerations on people that are struck by it.

Surviving Large-Diameter Hail

Anything that is golf ball-sized or larger is growing significantly dangerous, dangerous enough that you should definitely seek proper shelter, and not rely on simple overhead cover.

Any sturdy structure will do as will most cars that lack fabric tops. Beware any glass, as it will likely shatter or break entirely.

If caught without overhead shelter, use your arms to shield your head and face as best as you can, or make use of anything that can absorb impact like a backpack, purse, thick coat or blanket.

Conclusion

Preparing for and surviving all of nature’s most furious weather events is no easy feat, and will require considerable planning, preparation and study.

But if you are dedicated and use this guide to get you started and direct your energies you can save yourself a lot of wasted effort.

No matter how laborious it seems, you must not neglect to get ready for natural disasters of all kinds; they, more than any other, are likely to impact you over the course of your life.

Charles Yor

About Charles Yor

Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.
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