Practice, practice, practice!

Practice will not only get you to Carnegie Hall, but it will get you through a crisis alive as well.

“In theory, Theory and Practice are congruent. In Practice, they’re not.”

As an IT professional, we live by the maxim of “Always have multiple back-ups of your data and a plan to keep going if something fails. It saves you in case of a catastrophe. If you don’t test your backup plan or data, then you don’t have a backup.”

Do you have a fire escape plan that you and your kids practice? That’s where you trigger the smoke alarm in the middle of the night to see how long it takes to get everyone out of the house. Shame on you if you don’t. The object here is, “get everyone out of the house.” Not, “Okay, we did it in 94 seconds, let’s try it again to see if we can get it down to 80.”

So you have a week of vacation coming up. Turn off the electricity, natural gas and water at the utility connections (you do have the proper tools to do that, right? RIGHT???) and live like that for 3-4 days. Or you’re planning a trip to the Grandparents for a long weekend. Use that as a bug-out scenario. Test your EDC kit by walking home from work one day. Your spouse or a friend can give you a ride back to your vehicle if you don’t want to walk back (I would walk back to the car as well, exercise is good for you!). The trick here is to see what you use (and don’t use) in such a situation. You get to see what equipment and procedures work, and which ones might get you killed in a real grid-down situation.

Another point to consider is to practice in the harsh seasons. Do it first when the weather is nice so you don’t have the added stress of freezing or sweating to death if things don’t go right. But you do need to do this at the coldest point of the winter and the hottest part of the summer as well. Those conditions will teach you more than what you can learn during the spring. Always remember, you can turn the utilities back on if the test fails.

Now, “fail” one of your pieces of equipment. Say something suddenly “broke” on your stove. Do you have a backup for it? Either a second stove of the same type, or a different type of stove. Do you have spare parts to fix it? A backup stove that's different might mean stocking up a second kind of fuel. Your backup could be to eat unheated food. Remember, survival first, comfort seventh.

Most importantly, critique the test afterwards. Make notes on how much consumables you used, what equipment failed, what “kind of” failed (didn’t do the job as well as anticipated, etc.) and what did work. Make adjustments as necessary. The critical step is write down what you have to do. And I don’t mean on your iPad. I mean in a paper notebook. Have several copies of it, just in case one gets damaged, lost, etc. A good thing to have would be a laminated placard near any emergency system. If you have a backup generator, knowing what breakers to turn off, where to plug the generator into the house and more. Provide pictures and write it so simply and clearly a 10-year-old can do it. Because your 10-year-old kid might have to do it.

Here’s more points to consider:

  • In case of a disaster, does everyone know where the tools and supplies are?
  • Does everyone know how to use the tools?
  • Do you know how to drain your hot water tank to get the extra 40 gallons of water it holds? (hint: you don’t want to leave it in there.)
  • Have you worked out where you would put that water?
  • Do you know how to drain your water pipes so they don’t bust from a freeze?

Think about what you need to have, what you have to do and how to do it before the emergency, not “wing it” in the middle of the crisis.

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