Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Have A Plan and Practice It

I'm holding off on the firearm selection posts for a week, to address something particularly timely: it's the beginning of fire season here in Utah, and things are already getting rough. As I type this, there is a 10,000+ acre wildfire burning in the county just to the south of me, and over 3,000 homes and 13,000 individuals have been evacuated. One home has been destroyed so far, and about a dozen have had some minor damage, thanks to aggressive efforts from local fire crews.

The evacuation was a grand mess, however. Part of this is due to the area having only one road out, and part was due to less-than-ideal planning on the part of both the residents and the municipality; the area in question has had no less than 7 major wildfires in the past decade. Some are naturally caused, and some caused by human stupidity. They happen enough that anybody but a first year resident has experienced one. Sadly, many have not learned much from their experience, but we can.

Everywhere in the USA that people live has some kind of disaster that happens frequently enough to plan for: northern blizzards, coastal hurricanes, midwestern tornadoes, fires, floods, and other events happen with regularity, enough that building codes and city planning are engineered for them, and hopefully local authorities have them as part of their public works and community response plan. Local residents also need to plan for these events.

The Basics of a Plan
  • A plan needs to be detailed and specific enough to act upon, but flexible enough to adapt to the circumstances at hand. 
  • Without details, you're left spiraling out of control, grasping for direction. While 12% of a plan beats 11% of a plan, it's not enough. 
  • Too rigid a plan, on the other hand, falls apart quickly, giving rise to the adage "No plan survives first contact with reality" or, more gutterally, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face." 
  • When Plan A fails, you need to be able to shift to Plans B, C, D, and on down the line. This may involve having several routes of travel, or a backup ending point, or allowing for any number of other variables.
Plans don't have to be huge, either. They can be as simple as a fire drill, which was something we practiced when I was a kid (being the son of a firefighter leads to certain things.) We also learned to stage hoses, buckets of water, and other supplies when we were setting off fireworks. Plans can also be as simple as knowing where emergency exits are in a building, and prioritizing which order you'll attempt them in.

Practice, Practice, Practice
Having a plan isn't enough, though. You need to practice your plan, and practicing your plan just during convenient times isn't enough, either; you need to practice in a variety of circumstances.
  • If it's an evacuation plan, run it at different times of day and evening, in varying weather, and in all seasons. Summer traffic, or schooltime traffic, or winter weather can dramatically effect travel times and available routes. 
  • If it's a bug-in plan, figure out what it takes to be comfortable in your home for extended periods in every season. If one good thing comes of the current global pandemic, it's that folks are getting some firsthand experience with this.

It all boils down to this: Make a plan, test your plan, amend your plan. Lather, rinse, repeat.


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