4 Prepping Lessons Learned Following a Near Disaster

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Living in the Pacific Northwest, you become accustomed to the occasional earthquake.  I still remember the earthquake of 1964 as well as the big Nisqually quake of 2001. I especially remember that there was a lot of destruction during the 2001 quake, and that our neighbor’s house slid off its foundation.

There is no way to anticipate these sudden, unexpected events.  But we can do our best to prepare for them not only as individuals and as families, but as communities as well.

Marina Fire 011 (Mobile)

Here in my own small community, we experienced our own unexpected event on Wednesday morning when an 85’ yacht at our marina burst into flames.  For those of you not familiar with boats and marinas, let me explain the danger.

First of all, boats these days are made of fiberglass.  When burned, fiberglass produces heavy toxic fumes and smoke – lots of it.  Then there is the matter of fuel.  Typically, diesel fuel is flammable but not explosive.  On the other hand, gasoline is both highly flammable and explosive.  In this case, the burning yacht was adjacent to a fuel dock where both diesel and gasoline are pumped to visiting vessels.

And then there is the fragile marine environment. This yacht held 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel. A spill of this magnitude would be devastating to our little harbor.  I doubt that there would be crab, shrimp and edible fish for many years to come.

A MAJOR DISASTER AVERTED

The boat here at Roche Harbor burned for most of the day and it eventually sank. The smoke throughout the day was thick and based upon first hand reports, was seen as far away as Pender Island in British Columbia.

I first learned of the fire when I heard the fire trucks zoom by shortly after 10 AM. Looking out my window, I realized that there was a potentially dangerous fire down at the marina two football fields away.  A single fireball and we would be grabbing our bug out bags and heading for higher ground!

As luck would have it, our community was well prepared for this event.  Through drills and practice, the mostly all-volunteer fire department and EMS crew knew what to do when they reached the scene and were successful at isolating the fire to the vessel itself, insuring the safety of the local residents as well as the hundreds of tourists that visit this time of year.

You know that I have strong feeling about having a sense of community, about knowing your neighbors, and about learning preparedness skills so that you can deal with the unexpected bumps in life.  Wednesday was a fine example of why I feel that way as I witnessed the community, its citizens and its local businesses pitching in to avert what could have been a major holocaust of an explosion and fire.

Today I am sharing some lessons learned from this incident – lessons that can translated into action by all preppers, no matter where you live, near the water or not.

4 LESSONS LEARNED FOLLOWING A NEAR DISASTER

Survival and preparedness skills need to be practiced

Clearly, the skill of our volunteer fire department in fighting this blaze was due to practice, drills, teamwork and coordination.  Although the blaze was the largest ever of its type in our community of 7,000, they were on spot, working as a team through out the day.  Teams were rotated in and out to avoid exhaustion and decisions regarding what to do and how to do it were made quickly and decisively.

For anyone with a prepping mentality, having the ability to switch our brains into autopilot immediately after an emergency is critical.  There is no time to check the rule book and certainly there is no manual at your fingertips telling you what steps to  take and when to take them.  All of this must come from instinct that has been learned through disciplined practice.

Identify an escape route in case you need it later

Bugging in is always preferable to bugging out but if a fireball, a tsunami, or a marauding gang of thugs is headed your way, know when it is time to leave and how to get to where you are going.  Don’t simply make a plan and stick it away in a binder somewhere.  Practice grabbing your bug-out-bag and getting out of your home quickly.  It also is a good idea to have two or more escape routes  – you just never know.

Know your neighbors and help when you can

Smoke was everywhere.  After going to the scene and shooting some video (which by the way was aired by a Seattle TV station), we were advised to close our windows and to wear protective masks both in our homes and out.  Volunteers were handing out N95 masks but of course, as prepper’s, we had some as well.

Because we knew our neighbors, we were comfortable in alerting them to the dangers of the smoke and to advise them that they needed  to stay indoors along with their pets. Had we needed to bug-out, we would have let those that we know and trust tag along with us.

Can you imagine, however, doing the same in a neighborhood, an apartment building or a condo where you know no one? I know that if they were in real danger, I would sound the alert but the situation would be extremely stressful and I would have my hand in my pocket along with some pepper spray just in case.  Harsh, I know, but these days you can not be too careful.

Don’t underestimate the value of protective masks

This is the one that caught me by surprise.  I put a supply of masks away right after Fukushima.  In my mind, I also knew they would be useful in the event of a biological hazard or chemical spill but the likelihood of that seemed rather remote here on San Juan Island (Washington State).

Marina Fire 015 (Mobile)

This was before the smoke got really bad

Having a protective mask (such as an N95) at the first sign of fire and smoke makes good sense.  And even if you can not see the smoke due to atmospheric conditions, it can still be there along with toxic fumes.  These masks are cheap, about $10 for a box of 20.   You can bet that I am going to get some extras.

Note:  The N95 mask is a particulate filter only.  It does not to protect the wearer from of toxic fumes. 

THE FINAL WORD

After the fact, it is easy to think of yesterday’s fire as a big adventure.  On the other hand, tonight the winds have shifted and now, more than 24 hours later, I can still smell smoke.  Still, a little smoke is a lot better than the potential disaster that was averted through a combination of skill, luck and the capable, quick acting members of my community.  No one was hurt and loss of property was isolated to the burning boat itself.

This event made me grateful that I am prepared, with the goods, skills and mental mindset to prevail in an emergency.  Furthermore, it reconfirmed that crazy, unpredictable events do indeed happen to ordinary people, living ordinary lives, in ordinary places.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

Gaye

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3M N95 Particulate & Respirator Mask: This is an inexpensive mask that can be used in a variety of emergency situations. They come in a box of 20 and are NIOSH-certified. The molded cone design is fluid and splash resistant and will greatly reduces your exposure to airborne particles. Less than $10 for 20.

Quikclot Sport Brand Advanced Clotting Sponge: A must for any first aid or emergency kit, Quikclot Sport stops moderate to severe bleeding until further medical help is available.

Israeli Battle Dressing, 6-inch Compression Bandage: This is another inexpensive, yet critical item. Combat medics, trauma doctors, and emergency responders all recommend this Israeli Battle Dressing (IBD) for the treatment of gunshot wounds, puncture wounds, deep cuts, and other traumatic hemorrhagic injuries.

Where There Is No Doctor: Hesperian’s classic manual, Where There Is No Doctor, is perhaps the most widely-used health care manual in the world. About $20.  Also available as a free download at the Hesperian website

Adventure Medical Kits Pocket Survival Pack: Adventure Medical Kit products are well priced and with an excellent reputation among outdoor types such as fishermen and hunters. This is a good place to start if you are looking for a pre-packaged kit.

The Pill Book (15th Edition): New and Revised: For nine bucks, there is no reason not to have this book in your emergency medical kit.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): These come in a pack of ten and are packaged tightly in a small packet that will fit in any sized pocket.


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Comments

4 Prepping Lessons Learned Following a Near Disaster — 5 Comments

  1. ” A single fireball and we would be grabbing our bug out bags and heading for higher ground!”

    I was rereading your post, and this phrase jumped out at me. It certainly depends on the situation, but you should not usually head up a hill to avoid a fire. Fire moves faster up hill, the drafts and heat draw it upwards at phenomenal speeds!

    Just wanted to make sure no one gets caught in the wrong place when a fire is coming.

    • Kimberly – I did not know that so thank you very much for the advice. We live in a tsunami zone and have mapped out our get out of dodge route (two routes actually) from our current location close to sea level to a location at about 800 feet above sea level.

      In the event of a huge fire, it sounds like we would do well to keep moving inland as far as possible.

      — Gaye

  2. moke from a fire, or a wild fire, is a big health concern. A sudden burst of a fire in a close building or plant can be highly toxic, yet not overlasting. On the contrary, persistent wildfires become an health threatening matter, and ask for adequate protection. Past wildfires in Russia, or in Malaysia, turned the atmosphere to a thick irritating smog, for the mungs as for the eyes. During these long day (up to one week and more!), staying unmasked was nearly unbearable.
    Same can happen this year with the spreading wildfires.
    “Smoke was everywhere. After going to the scene and shooting some video, we were advised to close our windows and to wear protective masks both in our homes and out. Volunteers were handing out N95 masks but of course, as prepper’s, we had some as well.”
    Considering the boat burned for most of the day, and the smoke throughout the day was thick , you had to keep the mask on during a lot of hours. This is why a good efficient mask is required, and also training … Some people are unable to breathe with an N95 after a few minutes, and panic. Not speaking of being able to properly don it.
    “The N95 mask is a particulate filter only. It does not protect the wearer from of toxic fumes.”
    As you noticed in your introduction, fires today do prodice heavy highly toxic smoke(particulates and fumes – gases). Firemen use self breathing respirators (with tanks); heavy, expensive, and providing up to 20 minutes of autonomy. Fire-escapes hoods, often epensive, are single-use only for most of them, and for a short time (excepted if they are fitted with a standard NATO canister).
    If you are not in the middle of the fire, without oxygen, gas masks (or hoods with gas mask canisters) are the best, consider a wide spectrum filter needed (both particulates and all gases). They prevent the eyes from irritatiion as well.
    Anita RN nurse.

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