This is certainly one of the most creative posts in this series of articles in regards to organizing for a “grid-down” event. ICS (Incident Command System) can be a dry and boring subject when presented in the classroom by dolts. In this series of articles I am taking the best emergency and disaster response organizational model and applying it to the Zombie Apocalypse. Hardly boring.
In the previous article (Preparedness & Organization : Part #2 – The Necessity for…) I went over the differences between ICS and the military’s versions of organization. I showed the benefits of the ICS system and hit the high points showing how it overcame the general problems associated with prior disaster and emergency response systems. All of which applies just as much to a grid-down event. And just an FYI – I am going with a grid-down event as the most extreme example of an event that ICS can be applied to. If ICS can work for a major grid-down event, then it can meet any lesser critical scenario. That is one of the attributes of ICS – scalable.
Just to recap, the event we are talking about is a major breakdown of society, government, law enforcement and infrastructure. And for this exercise we will not involve the military just to ensure that our response is as “isolated” an incident as possible. Jumping right into it, what is our #1 need? Or, should I ask, “Is there an actual way to identify needs in a systematic and reliable fashion?”
In that L.I.P.S. article I shared a 100% valid and reliable way to set priorities and make sound decisions. I touched on it in the previous article in this series as well. The overall priorities in any incident are:
In another post (7 Common Risks/Threats) I listed the general “needs” (i.e. risks/threats) of any incident and I will list them here again as a basis to start from. They are, in order of priority:
3. No/Poor Communications
4. No/Poor Organization
Let’s breakdown those individual needs –
I am a big believer in “safety” and during any incident safety is always threatened. No matter it be from a hostile crowd, contaminated water, or threat of disease. All the prepper gear and equipment, all planning and learned skills, all the best of intentions means nothing if some gang-banger wanna-be comes along with a gangsta pistol and kills you and your family. So defense is #1 priority when it comes to discussing the needs of an individual, family, group or community during grid-down.
If security needs are going to be met, someone has to be put in-charge of security. I am referring to the security of whatever is your base of operations. If you are a family prepper group, then it is your home. If your group has a farm they have retreated to then it is that farm. If your neighborhood has organized then it is the neighborhood bounded by the streets within that neighborhood. If it is your whole community, then it is whatever those boundaries are. But the security of that piece of real-estate is of paramount importance. Without security, nothing else matters.
And this is not an essay on how to defend an area, it is stating that defenseis the #1 need. And someone must be placed in-charge of figuring it out as quickly as possible once the event has occurred. I think there are three general aspects to security:
1 – Parameter: keeping bad guys out of the area.
2 – Internal: keeping life and property safe from each other within the area.
3 – External: keeping people safe when they must travel outside of the protected area.
I will go into more detail on this as I outline ICS capabilities in future posts, but for now a single person can be put in-charge of all three aspects or it can be broken down to an individual placed over each of the three aspects of security. The kind of people to look for to put in-charge of security would be: military, DOD guards, prison/jail guards, etc. Law enforcement personnel may not be the best choice for these positions of leadership. They may well be stuck on “law enforcement” vs. survival security. But having a badge at the front gate checkpoint might not be a bad thing. Just don’t let them become “badge heavy” and overbearing to the group members. Which brings me to the “Rules of Engagement” (ROE) that must be developed and then agreed upon by the group. ROEs must be established to give security personnel guidance on when use of force is authorized. And not only authorized but the use of will be backed by the entire group should a problem develop. You don’t want to hang one or two gate guards out to dry when they open fire on someone trying to crash through the gate into the neighborhood. The group must be united and stand together.
Another aspect of security will go beyond providing gate guards. A plan to deal with a parameter breach will need to be developed and folks trained on it. Communications between and among the security folks needs to be established. Shifts, feeding guards, and so much more. Someone who knows organization as well as physical security needs to be placed in this critical position of security.
This is another pet peeve of mine. Yes, I know, I have so many pet peeves I could open my own pet store. But being able to provide first aid within your group is extremely important. And I am expanding the “first aid” label to “medical aid” because the aid you may have to render might have to go far beyond traditional “first aid” treatments.
To accomplish being able to provide medical aid the first thing that has to happen is to find out who has medical skills within your group. I mean everyone; firefighters, EMT, nurses, doctors, even those trained at work for CPR. IN a perfect scenario I hope you can find some combat medics, corpsmen and Emergency Room nurses in your group. Yes, doctors are great assets, don’t get me wrong. But they are seldom the best folks for on-the-ground traumatic injuries as gun-shots and such. They are much better suited to be in a more controlled environment providing longer-term medical care. Your #1 priority in this category is the “patch’em & move’em” folks; that saves lives immediately. Then you can work on the longer-term medical care.
Once skilled people are identified then an assessment of what medical gear and supplies are available. And here might be a bit of a problem – trust. I will speak for myself. If the grid went down and someone from my neighborhood knocked on my door and asked what kind of medical supplies I had and could them take them, well, let’s say I would be “hesitant” to say the least. So tack and trust are going to be big factors here. But getting a feel for what kind of supplies are available it a must. Next would come the scheduling; who will be on-duty, where will they be, if a firefight breaks out what happens. All those kinds of things need to be worked out.
So this area needs some basic breakdown in responsibilities as well. I think it might be something like this:
1 – Immediate aid care: first aid stations and field responders.
2 – Hospital care: designated wound care facility, including surgery.
3 – Training: providing first aid training to everyone.
4 – Medical supply: central location for medical supplies
Obviously you won’t have a real hospital, but a central location where the highest level of medical care can be provided is more like it. Its location must be agreed upon and established. Medical training is important, and it doesn’t have to be extensive. Subjects such as; how to stop bleeding, how to transport, and CPR would be a good start. If people are willing to donate medical supplies a person needs to be placed in charge of that function. That person can also be responsible for listing what supplies are needed so external acquisition might be available. The “Intimidate aid care” has a couple dimensions to it; 1) more regular, every-day kind of medical needs such as broken leg, cut finger, 2) then there is the more dramatic such gunshot wound during an attack on the gate. So a solid SOP (standard operating procedure) needs to be planned out for the different types of “immediate” that might come up. Example: Will EMTs be embedded with security personnel or will you set-up field aid stations?
I always have to start out talking about communications by referring to wildland firefighter line of duty deaths. All investigations into wildland firefighter fatalities shows that failure of communications played some part, if not a major part, in the event. And it is is attributable to a breakdown equipment and process, or person’s decision not to communicate properly. In other words, the equipment either failed entirely or partially, and/or people failed to properly communicate when and/or what they were supposed to. That being said I have a special place in my heart for the need for quality communications in preparedness. In grid-down it could easily mean the difference between life and death.
There are a couple distinct aspects to communications when it comes to preparedness; 1) external, 2) internal and 3) language.
External – This category is where I refer to the ability to communicate with the world external to your camp, home, group or community. In this situation it is assumed that everyday infrastructure can’t be counted on to reliably handle these communication needs. There is only one true, reliable way to accomplish this, Ham Radio. And to have the best reach, viable options, and best chances of success I recommend a combination of Ham radio rigs, the Yaesu FT-897R. It is a combination of HF and UHF/VHF frequencies. <click here to read more about the Yaesu FT-897R>. But a good shortwave receiver is a great option as well. Whatever you decide to use, just remember it must be something that isn’t based on the normal infrastructure.
Internal – I have seen that the ability of people to communicate reliably is essential to the success of any incident response. And it is imperative that you have multiple backup or redundant capabilities whatever system you choose, or are forced, to use. Example: if you have FRS/GMRS radio then have whistles as a back-up. If you use handheld Ham radios, the have FRS/GMRS radios as a back-up. And you can always use handwritten notes delivered by runners. But have a system, have a plan, and have at least one back-up option. If you fail to have reliable communications within your group your chances of success drops to near zero.
Language – I am not talking about some distinct language like English or Spanish. I am referring to a common set of terms that everyone in the group uses. This common terminology will avoid misunderstandings and reduce the volume of verbal communications. Example: A person that has been given instructions could say, “Yes, I understand what you have told me and I will do my best to follow your orders.” Or, if your group has a solid Communications Plan and just a little training they would say, “Copy.” Both responses means the same thing. One is far more efficient and reduces radio traffic for other messages. A good start to understanding the “language” aspect is found in the article Basic Radio Terms & Phrases. <click here to learn more>
Let me stress one more time – failure to be able to reliably communicate is almost a sure bet of accomplishing failure.
At first glance this may sound a bit silly, but trust me…it isn’t the least bit silly. If you and your family aren’t organized you will be wandering around trying to figure out who should do what. And if you wait until the emergency occurs to set into place the organization…you will more likely fail.
Also, I am not talking about organization in terms of lists, plans, maps, etc. I am talking about “who” does “what”. Who will be the leader, who will handle logistics, who will handle defense, who will do the cooking, etc. If you are fortunate enough to be part of a larger group such as your church’s congregation or any other group, this becomes even more important. Having a way to organize any group of any size is vital to successfully overcoming any emergency. Fortunately you don’t have to invent the solution…it is already there for you.
Problem: If your family or group is not organized to meet the needs of the group you are far more prone to problems of all kinds, especially violence, injury, and sickness.
Solution: Learn and adopt the Incident Command System.
Now we start touching on the “non-glory” aspects of grid-down survival. The security and medical priorities always garner a lot of cool attention, and that is understandable. Lots of us like to consider ourselves trigger-pullers and combat medics. That is all well and fine, but the more mundane aspects of grid-down will need far more time and work, water being one of those.
Water is not a complicated or sophisticated need; it is quite basic. You need:
1 – A source of water
2 – Ability to store it
3 – Ability and supplies to filter & purify it
4 – Training to conserve it
Every house will have some water already stored in it, even if they are not a prepper. Most homes will have a hot water tank and toilets; that is the basics of getting started with storing water. Some homes will have bottled water and some may have rain catchment barrels. So there are some built-in sources. They need to be identified and folks need to be told to conserve that water at all costs. Historically speaking, water is usually one of the last utilities to go down. The reason being is most municipalities and districts store water in large water tanks that are elevated. This provides for water delivery even when the power goes out; water is delivered through the system via gravity. This is where “survival mentality” must kick in.
Every household within your group must store all the water they possibly can. Every possible container must be used regardless of condition or cleanliness. It is more important to store some kind of water, rather than storing only clean/safe water. If you have read my article on water then you have lots of ideas on how to store water <click here to read more about water>. And what I mean about “survival mentality” when it comes to water is simple, store all you can regardless of anything else. You may hear public service announcements asking to conserve water, only use what you need, don’t horde water, etc. IGNORE IT! Store all the water you can until the faucets run dry. Yes, that may mean that someone else in another part of the city doesn’t have any water because you stored/horded more than your fair share. But let me ask you this? What does “survival” mean to you? Does that mean you allow your children to die of dehydration so someone else across town lives another day or two before they die?
Survival can be tough, it can be ugly, it can mean making decisions that go against the “society norm” that you were raised with. But you are committed to survival or not. If you are not, then please don’t keep reading this article. Jump out now and be prepared to join the masses that aren’t willing to survive. So, back to water…
Let me touch on “source” for a minute. I am talking ANY kind of source of water, even if it looks nasty. A pure mountain fed stream would be nice. But I will take a muddy trash filled pond too. It is water!! You will filter and purify ALL water prior to drinking it post-event. Why? Because you really don’t know what is safe to drink and what isn’t. So don’t take the chance; filter & purify it all!
Lastly, think about security for your water. if you have a pond, stream, or municipal tank you may find yourself needing to guard it. Maybe guard it from internal abuse and/or external threat as well. Yes, in a grid-down situation, if I had a municipal water tank in my neighborhood I would break into the control room, shut the valves off and place a guard or two in the area to ensure its preservation. That is called survival.
This can be a tricky one, something that a lot of people may not think much about. But let me give you a couple of thoughts:
1 – What do you do for a family, in your group, who’s house burns down and they need a place to live now?
2 – What about vacant or abandoned houses in your survival neighborhood?
3 – What about people who show up at the gate needing a place to live because they were driven out for some reason? And you find they are a doctor, medic, Ham radio guru, and such.
4 – What about heating for homes as winter approaches?
5 – What about a single widow with a large home who offers to take people into her home?
Place someone in a position of responsibility over these kinds of issues. They don’t have to come up with all the answers themselves; they can simply be the person who works at (i.e. coordinates) coming up with the solution(s).
Man, here is a tough one. There are so many facets to the “food” priority that is hard to know where to start. And there is a huge hurdle here – sharing. I think that most people who have worked very hard to acquire food storage for their family are going to be somewhat reluctant to share with those people that haven’t prepared. Now, if you are lucky enough to be part of a self-reliance group where all the member families have been prepping then you are probably OK here.
Let me give you an example: My family has enough food stored to last long enough to plant a garden and acquire other food sources. Let’s say my drunken neighbor with the fancy Corvette and boat has three cans of soup and a box of Mac&Cheese for food storage. Do I share with his family or not? Well, my answer is “no” with zero qualifications to that answer. Why? He is a drunk, a load-mouth, overbearing and no appreciable skills. He is an insurance salesman because he got kicked off the Sheriffs department. Really? I would want to supply my food to this guy?
However, if a Navy SEAL or trauma surgeon or engineer shows up at my house and wants to barter skills for food, that’s another situation entirely. More than likely, I am all in. Why? Because they would have skills (force multipliers) that I see as having and adding value to the ability to deal with the situation.
Another aspect that might be hard to deal with is assessing how much food families have on hand. Yeah, an inventory. I am NOT going to share that information with some cobbled together neighborhood survival group. Correct, you read that right. I don’t trust them. At least not yet. So I suggest doing an inventory of food needs vs. food on-hand.
Then there is the matter of using and preserving food that people may have in their refrigerators and freezers. Solutions of using it, trading it, and preserving it should be developed. Drying, smoking or canning solutions could/should be developed and assistance provided for participants. Example: someone with a generator who can keep a freezer going should be entitled to some share of that food. A person with a dehydrator can work out a deal with the person who needs to preserve the 100 pounds of venison in their freezer. A person with a canner and jars should work out a deal with someone for fruit, vegetables or meat that needs canned. But someone needs to be put in charge of coordinating and organizing that activity. If not, how would you even imagine all that would get done? And the result if it isn’t accomplished? A whole lot of spoiled and wasted food. And people who later starved due to lack of organization.
And then there is the potential for homes in the area where their owners were not home when the event took place; they may not come back home. So what happens to the food in those homes and who is charge of it?
Then lets talk the acquisition of food. There will be sources of food for a limited amount of time post-event. What food do you need the most? Who organizes that list? Do you set-up a community food bank with food acquired from outside sources? Where is it stored? How is it parceled out?
Then there is the long-term supply of food that must be figured out. Individual gardens? Community garden? How to barter and trade with area farmers? Someone has to be put in-charge of planning that. That is especially true for gardening.
What about other sources of food such as hunting and food available in the wild? Who knows what to do? Who can organize it? How is the food divided up when they return with a single deer? What about using snares?
I just went over some of the most basic needs that must be addressed in a post-event that throws your family, group and community into a survival situation. I didn’t intend to provide you with every single thing that will need to be accomplished, or even specific roles and positions that people will need to fill. What I hope I was able to do is get you thinking. Thinking about what will need to be done and the scope of the challenges that you will face. With that understanding you now know that you will need to spread out the responsibilities. Delegation is a beautiful thing!
However, along with delegating comes the inherent need for organizing. I am not talking about some fancy bureaucratic government layered type of organization. I am however talking about an organizational structure where needs are anticipated and addressed in a way that ensures the highest degree of success. And in the coming articles I will show you how the ICS system will meet that challenge better than any other system out there.
Hang in there…you are about to learn something amazing in the coming articles!! Well worth your time and effort.
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