Synopsis: Many people will have to deal with a natural disaster at some point in their lives. Two civil defense experts discuss how to be ready before it comes.

Host: Nancy Benson. Guests: Jonathan Jones and Kylene Jones, co-authors, The Provident Prepper: A Common Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies 

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Preparing For Disaster


Nancy Benson: Depending on where you live, almost every season has the potential for disaster. Snowstorms can paralyze large cities. Hurricanes may devastate coastal regions. Tornadoes can destroy entire towns. Earthquakes, wildfires, floods and drought may threaten, at least if you’re not prepared.

Jonathan Jones: We like to look at our preparations as insurance, and we believe that most people out there have health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, home insuranc–this is another form of insurance.

Nancy Benson: That’s civil defense expert Jonathan Jones. He and his wife Kylene, editor of The Journal of Civil Defense, are co-authors of the book, The Provident Prepper: A Common Sense Guide To Preparing For Emergencies.

Jonathan Jones: There are risks all around us, and I don’t know that the risks are necessarily increasing, but at some time in our lives, most of us are going to face some kind of an emergency or a situation where a few preparations will make a big difference. We like to have people be part of the solution and not part of the problem. So, being prepared is really a force multiplier. It really means that instead of somebody having to take care of you, you can take care of yourself and your family, and reach out to those around you, and make a big difference in this world.

Nancy Benson: The Joneses say to get through virtually any disaster, basic survival is the first thing to consider. Things like a storehouse of food and water.

Jonathan Jones: Food is down on the list a little bit and certainly we advocate that people start with having a little supply of water in their home. And we encourage people to have a two-week supply, which is two gallons per person for two weeks.

Kylene Jones: And you will hear some people say one gallon per person per day. When you really try to live that, it is not feasible. You really need two gallons per person per day so that you’ve got some drinking water and some hygiene water.

Jonathan Jones: And when you look at what we typically use in a day, two gallons would be very very little, but it’s doable. You have enough to drink you have enough for a little bit of cooking and cleaning, caring for ourselves. Certainly we want to keep ourselves clean and tidy and that helps us to stay healthy.

Nancy Benson: Obviously, the Joneses are thinking of truly major disasters–the kind where nothing comes out of the tap when you turn it on, or the grocery stores have been flattened.

Kylene Jones: I think you really have to just think about your personal situation. Evaulate your risks. What are the most probable risks that threaten you and your family? So, if you only have less than a week’s supply of food in your house, how long can you survive? How can you be useful to others? But if you plan ahead and buy things when they’re on sale and have a really well stocked pantry or storeroom, then if Wal-Mart doesn’t get their order, remember that just-in-time inventory that has changed and made it into a really fragile system. Within 24 to 48 hours, all store shelves could be empty.

Nancy Benson: One other critical need most people haven’t considered is medication. What do you do when your supply runs out and the drugstores are all closed?

Kylene Jones: If you’re on a critical medication that you need to sustain your life, are you depending on the pharmacy? Are you within one or two days of that medication? We really encourage people who have some serious medical needs to really think about that and to be able to find a way to get a little bit more medication. Insurance usually pays every 25 days and they fill a 30-day prescription. So even just using your insurance benefits you could fill it every 25 days and stockpile that little 5 day supply so that you could generally and gradually build up a supply, so that if something happens and your not able to get your medication it’s not gonna cost you your life.

Nancy Benson: Another critical lifeline most people don’t think about is electricity. The Joneses say the grid is extremely fragile, and if it goes down for any length of time, we’re all in trouble.

Jonathan Jones: Our society is so dependent on electricity for everything: refrigeration, water purification, sewage treatment, hospitals, the ability to refrigerate and freeze our foods. There are so many things that we require electricity for. We have become so dependent, and with microelectronics and computers and all these things. The possibility of a grid down situation is very, very real.

Nancy Benson: Certain times of the year make electricity far more than a convenience. Lives may depend on having a backup plan if the power goes out for some time.

Kylene Jones: If we have a problem and the power is out in the winter, how are you gonna keep from freezing? In our book we actually talk about an experiment that we did in January when it was well below freezing and we just turned off our power to see if we could survive in our own house without any alternative heat source. And there were several things that we did to help us be able to accomplish that and we learned a lot. We talk about it in the book. But we set up a tent for the children to sleep in because that creates a little microenvironment that will keep you much warmer. So, just that little bit of knowledge, and maybe that’s one of the most important things to do when you prepare is gain some knowledge. Because the others stuff is important, but knowledge is power, and knowledge is what’s gonna really be able to make a difference in the outcome of your scenario.

Nancy Benson: However, the number one risk for just about everyone doesn’t involve a huge natural disaster or failure of the infrastructure. It’s fire. And the Joneses say every family ought to have a detailed plan for it.

Kylene Jones: Having family fire drills, the actual fire drills, is what will save lives and life is more important than property. So we wanna do what we can do to reduce our risk factor by getting our fire extinguishers and doing things safely, but then how do we get out, and how do we make sure that we’re all out? We have to have our smoke detectors and our carbon monoxide detectors, because those are really important, installed in our homes. But the practicing with our family –we’ve sat down and we’ve written out this plan and then we physically practice it with those smoke alarms blaring. If you wanna really do it right, fire is very dark and hot, so you really, when there is a fire going, you’re gonna have to low crawl out of the house unless you’re out right when it starts. So, there’s drills where you actually blindfold the family, and you have them low crawl, like army crawl out of the house on the floor to see if they can actually find their way out of the house.

Nancy Benson: One of the most important parts of any family fire plan is a place to meet, to make sure everyone’s accounted for. And far from making children afraid of disasters, the Joneses say practicing fire escapes and paying attention to other potential emergencies makes kids feel empowered, able to handle just about anything. You can find out more about Kylene and Jonathan Jones’s book at or through a link on our website, radio health journal-dot-net. You can always find our segments on ITunes and Stitcher. Our production directors are Sean Waldron and Nick Hofstra. I’m Nancy Benson.

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