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Emergency Action Plans

The first thing you hear is a siren. It sounds like one of the WW2 air raids so you look up and over to the East there is a fire or something and you can see the smoke rising. It looks like it is heading your way. With growing horror and fear you realise it is a leak from the chemical factory about 5 miles away. What is it? It is chemicals so it could be something bad. The siren is in their procedures when there is a leak of any sort. It may be nothing but it could be very serious. You race home to find your neighbours outside watching the pretty light show as the potentially toxic fumes interface with the suns rays. Your BOV is ready to go, as planned, but the kids are nowhere to be seen. Where is everyone?

That could easily be the scene if you have spent your time working on stocking up, working on your retreat and not working on a valid Emergency Action Plan for each individual. You should have a plan which every member of your team, family or group has, understands and is willing to follow. It may not involve bugging out but should be the first stage of that bigger TEOTWAWKI plan. Pulling everyone to an agreed RV (Rendezvous). If you wanted to it could be used for everyday issues if necessary but I’m looking at it for emergency use only. A plan for serious and unexpected events. Your events can be less serious if you want.

Codeword
Set up a codeword. Nothing too spectacular and yet nothing you or others are likely to send them in a basic conversation. Use a word like Damocles. Then when they see it they know it is not a request but something serious. Tack it on the end of all your key instructions. Make sure that everyone knows that it is a trigger and must be followed.

When triggered each person has a task. Person A goes to school to pick up the kids. Person B goes home to man the phones and coordinate while everyone else just goes home or to an agreed RV.

Plan to meet up somewhere
This plan has to be as simple as possible. It is going to define the triggers and actions for everyone to get to agreed safe points, either home or another location, and it will depend on the circumstances themselves. Some will involve picking goods up, topping fuel tanks, picking up people, sending Status and Ack (Acknowledgement) messages at agreed points. For example a riot breaks out in a close city. People can move home in the first instance, load the guns and await further instructions. A chemical leak like I described in the opening paragraph needs immediate action. Move to the nearest RV and if you don’t make it the nearest house and text their status. The kids must come straight home or go to agreed RV and text their status.

I liken it to a fire evacuation plan but it is much more than that, it needs to be more flexible and take much more into account. For example we can coordinate by mobile phone but if your kids are like mine they never have any credit. Plan for that. Buy a phone voucher that is only opened when the plan is activated. Have coins for phoning home. Check them and if they have been used then they need replacement and whatever punishment you see fit is doled out. You can’t count on the phones either, an EMP or government action will see the service restricted and you should also plan for that. A unable to contact option must be in there.

What I have done is to look at all the issues that may happen, based on my risk register, and plan what we need to do for each event. Write this down and ensure that they understand and accept that the will follow those instructions. Each set of instructions must be tailored for a scenario, that individual and dependant on their capabilities. Some can drive, some are older, some work or play some distance away.

You rely on these instructions being followed and they must be ones that that person has the capability to do, has agreed to do and fully understands the implications of failure.

For example;

  • They get a text from you saying ‘Come home. [Codeword]’. They stop what they are doing, send an Ack and come home by the safest route
  • There is a break out from the local jail. An explanatory warning text is sent to the others which they Ack and then come home by the safest route
  • They hear the siren I talked about. They send an explanatory warning text to the others and then come home by the safest route
  • They hear a siren but there is no phone system. They come home by the safest route

RV point
You need to set up a message system at the RV to keep people informed. Without it they may assume that nobody else made it when they may be the last ones and everyone else is in the garage. It needs to be a place where people will check when they get there. A note saying ‘Gone to pick up X back at 14:00′,’Gone to retreat, Stay here. Will be back for you tonight’ is good. Simple and easily understood.

Get them to check the notice board every time they come in and, in an emergency, have some marker system to show they are on site which they use in an emergency.

Contacting people via phone
My ISP has a SMS facility where you can send a message and it is sent to as many phones as you have set up. I’ve set one up for the local group and thus a single message sends a warning text to all. It also sends the message to their emails as well in case the phones are down but the Internet is still up. Funnily enough I am the only one with a phone without email connectivity. Note to myself: need to fix that.

We would then text each other with messages. Texts are better because it works on a store and forward system so the message usually gets through at some point when the service is quieter. It also keeps the phone line free so the coordinator can contract anyone after evaluating the threat and the action plan making adjustments as necessary. Subsequent texts can refine the plans or shut down the extant plans.

Contacting people without phones
Well basically you are down to individuals, messages and hoping they follow instructions. Bit like they did in the olden days. Send people out to pick people up or at least get them somewhere safe. Send them with CB or walkie talkies if available. Use messages on the contact board as well to inform what is going on. Preferably leave someone at home to pass messages. If the safe house locations are not too far apart consider setting up a flag or light system to communicate between the houses.

My view is if the phones are down that is a first stage trigger to get everyone to a safe location. Default value. I don’t live in an area where the phones go down so if they did I would worry.

Behaviour
In my experience having a checklist pre thought out and with clear obligations and instructions enables people to perform their tasks reliably. They can just follow the instructions, nothing gets forgotten and everybody knows what their role is and the potential repercussions if they do not.

An issue you may get is that others may not be interested in what you are doing. Especially the older children. Mine, who are admittedly older and more sensible, stall as they want to discuss anything that interferes with what they want to do. Discussion is something I have tried to instil in them but when I say ‘Don’t argue I need you to do this’ they buckle down. The problem I have made for myself by trying to make independent thinkers. If something happens, they decide it isn’t what I think, can’t contact me and do their own thing having justified it in their own minds, I would have no idea. While they were younger following instructions was how they earned part of their pocket money. Most older kids like to be independent though so you need to make sure they understand and hope when it gets down to it they have listened. Good luck with your kids.

Testing
Test this system. Do not use the codeword though. Keep that for a real emergency and emphasis that to use it means an emergency and must be followed. They must not use it because they are hungry and there is nothing to microwave or that they have locked themselves out of the house. Make sure a test is understood as a test and be careful when you trigger it. Allow certain latitude for test to keep OPSEC and the situation.

KISS
Ensure that you keep the plans simple. They must not be ambiguous or open to interpretation. They must be short, to the point, the right size and font to be clear to read, in a checklist format and use basic simple english.

Example plans
My own plans are simple;
Person A goes home to coordinate. There most of the time anyway. status message when at home to those not there.
Person B, works locally, own transport, goes and picks up the baby from school and heads home. Texting to coordinator at each stage. Ack when received instructions, status: at school, status: has miniature unit and on way home.
Person C, works locally, no car, comes straight home.
Person D, own transport, working further away, comes straight home or to ground where they wait for instructions depending on situation. Default come home. Status report.

We are looking at bugging in. If this changes we will need to revisit the plan.

Conclusion
This system doesn’t cover everything nor is it always the best way to go. For example a spilled chemical tanker pose a slight danger to the public but my team are on their way home and moving outside when it may be best to stay indoors. When they are old enough to evaluate the threat then they get flexibility to make the decision. Nothing is perfect. However, this is better than uncertainty, people running all over the place and missing each other. It can be used for other eventualities as well, not just TEOTW stuff, someone gets lost for example. You have a nice checklist ready for them to read and follow. Some coins and contact numbers for emergency use.

Obviously you need to adapt the scenarios, plans and actions for your own situation and needs.

3 comments to Emergency Action Plans

  • Luddite

    With young children that have to be picked up, let them have a codeword for ALL circumstances where a neighbour, other adult or even police may need to bring them home. That way it works for any circumstance (illness, car breakdown or TEOTWAWKI). It’s good practice, less confusing for the little ones and stops them being ‘collected’ by nutters and criminals. Tell them if the person doesn’t have the codeword to scream the place down.

    We used this method with my DD when she was young, and additionally had a sign – ‘I love you’ in British Sign Language for circumstances where we needed to be silent. She insisted we do it as well, lol. We used it once in anger when I fell and broke my ankle, and a neighbour picked her up from holiday club while DH drove me to the hospital. Worked a treat.

  • Skvez

    Any major issue is likely to overwhelm the phone network with traffic. Although the phone companies plan for it, it’s common for text messages wishing a “happy Christmas” or a “happy new year” to be delayed, sometimes for hours due to the huge spike in traffic at these times. Any event is likely to be unexpected and the phone companies will not be able to handle the extra traffic. Try not to have a plan that *relies* on a text getting to where it’s supposed to go immediately. (The technical term is “non deterministic” you can not be sure when (or even if) the text will be received). If your plan relies on knowing that someone has got the message you need to require an acknowledgement (ack) text (of course you can’t be sure the ack text didn’t go missing so not receiving an ack text doesn’t guarantee that the original message wasn’t received. This will be a major problem if you’re trying to coordinate which RV to go to.)
    You should get everyone to respond including *what* they’re acknowledging and an ETA.
    You may send “come home [code work]” at 13:00
    At 13:30 the situation may have changed and you may update that to “go to grannies [code word]”
    At 14:00 an “Ack” message could be misleading if they didn’t get the second message, “Ack, coming home ETA 16:30” at least tells you that they are going to the wrong place and when they’ll be there.

  • Skean Dhude

    Luddite,

    Good point. I have heard of that being used before. We’ve been lucky that we have always been able to get someone there that they know. The school will not let then go if they say they do not know the person. One child was annoyed when her father sent his new g/f and she said she didn’t know her. The father had to leave work to sort it out. 🙂 It is a good idea though for everyday use.

    Skvez,

    Very good point. I’ll modify the text to reflect that.

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