What’s Wrong with FEMA’s Plan for You?

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With a budget of almost 14 Billion dollars in 2013, you would expect that FEMA would have the resources at its disposal to really be able to assist the public prior to any disaster. If you haven’t already; I recommend going out to the FEMA website to see what their recommendations are for getting prepared. FEMA, through their Ready.gov website is the government’s office that addresses most of the specific topics of the prepper movement so I was surprised at the information I found on their site. Actually, I wasn’t completely surprised because I did write about National Preparedness Month and how I believed that as an agency their communications left me completely underwhelmed.

Regardless, I went out again today with fresh eyes to see what I could learn from FEMA. I say that because I truly believe that our government should have the smartest people in our country in positions like this, right? I mean if you are an agency that deals with disaster you need to have the top disaster experts in the world giving out advice, right?

FEMA breaks the topics on their website down into a few categories to start with:

  • Be Informed – This is where FEMA says you can “Learn what protective measures to take before, during and after an emergency”.
  • Make a Plan – “Prepare Plan and stay Informed for Emergencies”
  • Build A Kit – “Build a kit for disasters to be prepared.”

So at first glance this seems like a good start. I went under “Be Informed” to learn what protective measures I could take and decided to start with pandemic. The first thing to notice is that they mention influenza pandemic and I didn’t see anything about Ebola, but let’s just assume that anything bad enough to spawn a Pandemic would be covered by FEMA. They mention having a two week supply of food and water, plenty of prescription drugs, copies of your health records and to talk with family members about how they should be cared for if they get sick. Lastly they ask you to volunteer and get involved.

During an actual Pandemic (this is the page that FEMA has for Pandemic information) they recommend avoiding close contact with people who are sick (Really??) staying home from work if possible and the usual suspects of covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands.

A pandemic by definition is when a disease is prevalent throughout an entire country, continent or the whole world. I am going to add my own addendum that there must be a relatively high loss of life. With that definition, the only other pandemic any living person has seen (I don’t count AIDs or SARS) was the Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1918-1920 that killed an estimated 30 to 50 million people in two years. In the United States alone over 675,000 people died in two years!! When FEMA is supposed to be informing you about what to do for a Pandemic that is the best they can do?!!!

Lists of phone numbers does not prepare you for a disaster

Maybe I am over reacting and this is sound advice? Perhaps, but look at Ebola where they say you are contagious for up to 21 days. If you are supposed to stay indoors for three weeks, you would be mighty hungry that last week if you only stored two weeks of food wouldn’t you? The World Health Organization states that people with Ebola can still transmit the disease though semen for up to 7 weeks after they have recovered. Is it possible that a two week plan might leave you seriously under prepared for the next pandemic?

Obviously I take issue with the plans FEMA seems to have for sheltering in place should that be necessary during a pandemic so I went over to their Make A Plan page and then down to the Plan to Protect yourself and your family link. The page seems worthless to me and the most prominent item on the page is a link to download their Family Communication Plan which is really just a sheet for you to write down phone numbers, a meeting place and medical insurance information. I don’t see how this is a realistic plan. Phone numbers are helpful I guess and having your dentist’s phone number would be a good thing if you are having a tooth emergency but I expected more again from FEMA.

A family survival plan is more than just simply writing down phone numbers and being truly prepared requires more than two weeks of food; especially during a pandemic. FEMA it seems has always recommended the most basic information and supplies that anyone probably already has on hand. Is this preparing or are they trying to cater to our lazy side? Is this the lazy person’s way to prepare? Just write down some phone numbers that won’t help you at all and keep the regular amount of food you probably already have on hand and no worries! But while you’re at it, FEMA does recommend some social messaging shout outs you can use.

FEMA doesn’t have a plan for you

You can go lots of places on FEMA’s website and there is some good advice, but on balance I get the sense that either FEMA is trying to lower everyone’s expectations for any real disaster to the point of leaving millions under prepared or they are simply out of touch with reality. I know people who have been without power for longer than two weeks in the winter and this wasn’t considered a disaster by any stretch. When we imagine disaster, it will probably take FEMA two weeks just to get out and do anything if you are foolish enough to believe that you only have to hold out until they get there. Once FEMA does arrive, they are no magic savior. Remember Hurricane Sandy when the FEMA office closed? They actually had the mental sharpness to hang up signs informing the public, who presumably was going to the offices for assistance, that they were closed “due to the weather”. You can’t rely on anyone else in a disaster so it’s important that you take the responsibility for your life and the lives of those you care about into your own hands.

FEMA doesn't want to get out in the storm to help you.

FEMA doesn’t want to get out in the storm to help you.

So what are my solutions since I seem to know everything? First thing is that will admit that I don’t know everything but I don’t believe there are any one size fits all plans for preppers. You can’t just say store 2 weeks of food and think that will do for just about any disaster. Everyone has to have their own plan that has been carefully structured based upon the needs, resources and skills of your family/group with a strategic consideration of the potential threats you face. Here’s my take on FEMA’s 3 points.

  • Be Informed – Make sure you know what is going on in your home, city, region, state and country. Staying informed doesn’t have anything to do with sports scores, reality TV or what the latest star is doing that has gotten her in trouble. Being informed is knowing what is going on around you (situational awareness) and what is going on that could affect you. Learn as much as you can right now about different ideas and perspectives. I like to think we cover a lot of bases on the Prepper Journal, but there are dozens of other sites out there that offer a ton of great information too. Check out our prepper resources section for a second opinion on practically anything related to prepping or survival.
  • Make a Plan – Once you have considered who you are prepping for, it then makes sense to ask what are you prepping for. Once you have the answers to those two questions you can start working on a plan that will work for you personally, that addresses the needs of your family with regard to the threats you have identified. Your plan won’t look like mine, but there might be similarities. What works for you might not work for a single mother in the city.
  • Build A Kit – I don’t think the normal supplies I would consider for someone to be adequately prepared would fit into anything I would call a “kit”. A kit sounds like a box that sits in the closet. If you want to be prepared you will need to begin stocking up on supplies and that means different things to different people. There are lots of bases to cover but the most important begin with food, water, shelter and security.





Make your plan to fit your family, to take into consideration where you live and what you are dealing with. You will make better choices than any bureaucracy and your family will be better off with you than at any FEMA shelter regardless of the disaster. FEMA doesn’t have a plan for you. They have a plan to maintain order for the masses and hopefully prevent chaos. You are the only one that is going to keep your family’s needs in the front of your focus. Take steps now to ensure you aren’t living with FEMA’s idea of what is important.

What’s your plan?

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  • usmarinestanker

    Thanks for the reminder about how useless FEMA and Ready.gov are.

    Today I’m teaching cub scout leaders today about proper 911 use and basic emergency preparedness and I had those as resources for the leaders to show their scouts when they teach.

    I’ll make sure to advise them to take the info with some serious salt.

    I’ll let you know how well / poorly it goes. I’m suspecting a good mix of thought and emotion from the participants. Hopefully it gets the gears turning.

    • What a great opportunity you have Matt, I am sure they will learn a lot from you and please let me know how it goes. I would be curious to hear what happens.


      • usmarinestanker

        Well, I’m back and I think it went well. There were six, one-hour classes scheduled between 0900 and 1600. It was a typical conference set-up where attendees could pick which courses they wished to attend from all sorts of cub scout-related topics.

        I was slated to cover the morning half, but only eight people signed up for mine, so I only had to teach two groups of four. I’m disappointed at the numbers, but those who attended hung on every word.

        We started out talking about call volume statistics from our center and segued into what they thought an emergency was. We covered the difference between 911 and non-emergency police phone numbers and had them sound off on their opinions of whether or not scenarios I suggested were emergencies. I was careful to hit home the concept that “just because you’re in crisis and experiencing something potentially very upsetting and terrible for you or your family (keys locked in car, late for work, might get fired because you have a history of doing this) that that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a public safety emergency on the grand scale of things”. I saw a lot of wheels turning as people contemplated that they weren’t the center of the universe. Pretty cool. Some people seemed shocked that the cavalry wouldn’t come rushing to the rescue at their beck and call.

        We talked some more about 911 and things to teach the children and then moved into the emergency preparedness portion. I asked them what they thought it meant to “be prepared” or “to prepare”. There wasn’t a lot of volunteering so I offered that it meant “thinking ahead about possible problems and coming up with solutions to either avoid or lessen the impacts of those problems.” They seemed to agree with that and nodded in agreement with “prepping” not being a dirty word. I reminded them that they, as functional adults, “prep” every day by saving money, shopping at the grocery store for a week or two’s supplies, and as LDS folks by having food and water storage that their church instructs them to have. There were a lot of smiles as they realized that prepping doesn’t mean hoarding shotguns and spam and fearing the government in a bunker. It was cool to see.

        One of them asked about how they can “force” parents to teach their kids this stuff, which of course they can’t, so I advised that they could lead by example and turn scout outings (hikes, camping, etc) into real-world, hands-on exercises in prepping by having the boys plan and pack their own supplies, carry their own stuff, and then discuss the pros and cons of their choices afterwards. I pushed the concepts of personal responsibility, critical thinking, risk assessment, and simply having skills to survive day-to-day. The leaders seemed to eat it up.

        I made sure to hit 72 hour kits, “bugging in”, and information to get the parents invovled (websites, cautions, ways to turn it into a game or family time, cool kid-friendly FEMA videos on natural disaseters etc). Overall, I think it was a success. Like I said, numbers could have been better, but we’ve got to start somewhere.

        • Pat

          You are starting with the best place in the world Matt… the future.

          Glad you were able to meet with these boys and share your experience and perspective with them. I know that some of these boys and their leaders it sounds like are taking what you said away with them and those experiences can change lives many years down the road. Glad you were there and I am also glad you got to explain to them that not getting your nuggets is not an excuse to call 911.


  • ptww

    I spent years in public health and would like to clarify something said above. You are NOT contagious for 21 days with Ebola after transmission from infected person. That is confusing the incubation period with the period of contagion. After exposure it takes generally from 2-21 days to develop symptoms of Ebola (incubation) if it has been transmitted, only then are you contagious. You are NOT contagious unless you have symptoms such as a fever.

    Ebola requires a sizable viral load in the body fluids to be more easily transmitted. You must come in direct contact with bodily fluid (vomit, blood, feces) to contract it. As the disease progresses the person is more likely to transmit the disease because of the higher viral load which is why health care workers are the most vulnerable, as well as family members in countries where the health care system is underfunded and the practice is family cares for a sick person and prepares the body for burial. At near death and death is the point the person is most infectious.

    An epidemic is a higher than expected incidence of a disease in one area. A pandemic affects a large number of people across international borders. Virulence, or rate of mortality (death), isn’t a factor in the definition.

    The CDC website would be a better place to find guidance on preparing for any form of epidemic or outbreak. And learning to understand what is being said by infectious disease experts. I realize that some are poor communicators but fear is not what protects us in outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics. It is knowledge, preparedness and calm.

    • Pat

      Maybe we are saying the same thing. To avoid exposure, you wouldn’t want to be around anyone who had come in contact and was possibly contagious for 21 days correct? Because if they were contagious on day 3 they could infect you when you met them on day 19 and they sneezed in your face for example.

      The whole point of staying away from people is that you don’t know who is contagious so to prevent infection you remove yourself from the possibility of getting infected for whatever the currently accepted incubation period is.

      And, I understand what you are saying about mortality isn’t a factor but in reality there is no such thing as a Pandemic of sniffles. This really only applies to diseases that are causing deaths right? Who would bother to worry about something that doesn’t do any harm? Sure we could have a pandemic of goosebumps but it wouldn’t matter. A pandemic that is killing 20% or more of the people infected is what we would worry about.


  • pantsupdontloot

    When you read this reply don’t bother to call me an s.o.b., my mother already knows it. That done, the vast, vast majority of people, no matter how many classes they go to or how much they actually prep, will never be prepared for a disaster even on the smaller scale of “jeez, what’s going on”. For most the mental factor is just not there to keep them alive. They will point a gun at an intruder into their home or bug out location after teotwawki and start verbally warning instead of neutralizing the target. They will open rotten spoiled food because they never didn’t practice fifo. They will take their dogs with them, every straggler on the street, or a thousand other things their minds can’t leave behind, but none of these killers will kill more than panic. Yes, they will panic, and then all is lost. Most have already given away their secrets by showing neighbors and friends everything they have and this is really stupid. The only friend any of us will have is ourself once teotwawki comes knocking. Teamwork won’t work no matter the circumstances because the guy or gal you trusted to keep secrets won’t, it’s that simple. The veterans the civilians trust and admire so much do not understand that the soldier comes already trained, equipped, paid, complete with left and right flanking units. The war of teoetwawki is a whole new ballgame. There will be no rules of engagement, no medic, no paycheck, no ptsd counsellor, no taxpayers to wipe their noses, it’s just you and you alone against a completely unforgiving hostile relentlessly violent world. Any prepper that is not already practicing teotwawki type living is no prepper at all. If someone has to explain, even in the slightest, what post-teotwawki living is then you need to quit prepping and enjoy life now because you will never make it and that is the ironclad truth. If it isn’t in your mind and you can’t think and act for yourself then please just party down and enjoy the fruits of your labor now because you are dead meat when the lights go out. thanks

    • usmarinestanker

      “Any prepper that is not already practicing teotwawki type living is no prepper at all.”

      Do you mean conducting drills, or living like that 24/7?

      • pantsupdontloot

        For now 24/7 is not on my agenda, but at least three days a week we are living completely w/o electricity and running water, this includes sleeping on the ground and dealing with the elements as they come, among many other things too numerous to mention in this reply. The point is so many people, in fact all that we know are doing nothing more than buying and never trying out what they buy. Case in point we have a fat lady neighbor that has very bad knees that is planning to walk 300+ miles to get to her mother’s house after teotwawki. This sounds insane, and it is, but it is typical of what we hear people say they are going to do after the lights go out. Honestly we don’t know of anyone but ourselves that actually practicing a viable plan for anything other than to sit in the dark at home and eat canned food until help arrives. There is a horrible trap in being a prepper. A prepper must love hardship and be prepared to accept without hesitation the loss of a lot of what he/she loves. But none of us are ever prepared to accept the loss of all that we love and hold dear. After a nationwide grid failure or nuclear war then all that we love immediately becomes a distant memory. Therein lies the fatal trap, for we must, now while we have time, irrevocably release forever the things of convience and completely reinvent ourselves for this horrible new world of struggle. If we do not do this now then loss of hope, shock, despair, and hopelessness will set in, and then our very lives are lost. This is no way to die, we must go the distance while the clock is still ticking. If we have to learn the hard way after teotwawki then it’s more luck than skill that will keep us alive. My wife and I have actually practiced spending the night at least one mile apart in the woods to simulate being separated after teotwawki. We have dug each others grave to simulate the death of one of us. When you lay your wife in a hole you dug yourself it’s a tear jerker even in practice. Once a married couple, friends of ours, accompanied us on a practice run and the husband broke down in so many tears he couldn’t even dig a shallow grave. I’m not belittling him, but if his mind goes into shock in post-teotwawki then in effect he has given up. Well, that is enough for tonight, but I hope you will take these things into consideration, and incorporate them into your own plans. Thanks for your article. God bless you and your family all the days of your lives. thanks

        • usmarinestanker

          That is some hardcore prepping practice. Obviously, the more one practices something the better one gets at it, and skills unused are skills lost (or never had in the first place).

          How did you come up with three days/week for doing this? Do you feel you are in a position to cut down the number of days because you’ve developed those skills? Do you do three days in a row or are they spaced?

          I’m really surprised to hear your wife goes along with this. Many women aren’t as keen as the guys for such things, particularly digging their spouse’s graves for practice. Sounds like you two have a lot in common, so good on you for that and for being prepared.

          • pantsupdontloot

            Thanks for the encouragement and yes we do have a lot in common, but even then some things, as in all marriages, could be better. I am retired, but the wife is very much gainfully employed and will probably work until she dies of natural causes or teotwawki hits and drives us into the woods. But this is good too, because her salary keeps the wolves away from the doors and my retirement keeps the prepping stashes full. We live virtually debt free also. We try to schedule our time practicing three days in a row and never less than two days out. It takes a day just to get started. My bride of nearly three decades is very much into this and that helps immensely, in fact nothing is more of an anchor and chain than a reluctant spouse. A reluctant spouse always gets their advsie and opinions from other reluctant spouses, and the rebellion then feeds upon itself. As far as hardcore practice goes, and it is the difference between success and failure, the training has to be as realistic as possible without getting anyone seriously hurt. This next statement is brutal, but it has to be addressed. All preppers with children will lose a child shortly after teotwawki. What now? Do they know and are they capable of having a ‘family funeral’ for that child? Are they capble of walking away from the body of that child without a burial if they are being pursued? Either way, can they stop the numbness of the mind from keeping them from protecting their other children? Conversely, if the parents, one or both are killed or injured beyond healing, then have the older children been trained and are they capable of taking care of themselves and the younger children? What about pregnant women, childbirth, and breastfeeding? In any crisis be it Petersburg, Virginia in the winter of 1864/1865 or Bangladesh the first victims of famine are the infants. This is a given and will not change. Preppers have minds that fill in the blanks and connect the dots to a happy ending that will never come. Their thougts become little more than whimcial fantasy. Most won’t even turn off the circuit breakers for one night. How are they going to make it when it happens for real. It’s going to be like sending untrained Marines onto the beachhead at Okinawa, or sending untrained Army troops ashore on D-Day. Could you imagine an untrained firefighter or uneducated Doctor? Yet, one second after we must become, better put, we must already be trained for all of the above, or we nor the ones that depend on us are going to be around for very long. I know i’m getting long winded here but allow one more real life situation that we personally witnessed. Let’s say for the sake of discussion that you are a married man with two teenage daughters. The local tough guy [warlord] decides he wants your wife and daughters for himself. This actually happen, and we saw it first hand, in Africa. I’ll not name the country or village. This happened while the husband was at the river trying to get fish for his destitute family. When he came home to his mud hut the three people he lived and sacrificed for were now in another man’s hut ten miles away and there was absolutely nothing he could do or ever did do because the other guy had the guns, the food, and lots of troops. This is just one small sample of what is awaiting us after teotwawki, especially if we are invaded by foreign troops. The best advise available that we can give anyone or any group of people is to prep to prevent; for nothing after teotwawki can be cured. Please keep this in mind: ALWAYS PREP TO PREVENT BEFORE IT HAPPENS: CURING IS NOT AN OPTION. There is an old southern saying, “An ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure”. God bless and again, thanks.

    • Pat

      I don’t know that I agree with you completely but on some points I do. Yes, there are a lot of people who are unprepared and even more who might crumble and give up when their world goes sideways. If we do have some TEOTWAWKI event that doesn’t kill people outright I still expect a large loss of life simply because people won’t know how to take care of themselves without the safety net of civilized society and the welfare state.

      However, humans are incredibly resilient beings and I don’t think it is going to be as horrible as you think. It isn’t going to be just you and 4 dozen other people left on the world. Could millions die? Sure, but that leaves a lot of other millions out there who will figure it out one way or another. People will band together and the strongest will survive but unless a disease or war wipes us all out there will be people around scratching for survival. Those people will surprise you when SHTF so you can’t discount them all.


      • pantsupdontloot

        You are correct Pat, in the matter of minor teotwawki’s such a Katrina or Hurricane Sandy there will always be survivors. If you live in New Orleans or the East Coast then these two events were and still are anything but minor, however they didn’t have a lot to do with the rest of the world, did they? Frankly, my parole officer [wife] and I don’t need to prep for smaller teotwawkies, it’s the large scale scare that has our prepping 360 on full bore. People just don’t understand how fast there world can go mammary glands verical. People think I’m looney but we don’t go farther than 20 miles from our own home for nothing anymore. People took vacations this summer as if they were guaranteed the drive back home over the interstate would be safe. This is no time for frollicking, now is a time for training, a time for a serious gut wrenching reality check. This very moment as we speak my 81 year old mother is in the hospital with shingles while my alzheimers ridden father is walking from room to room here in the house searching for his wife [my mother]. What the heck am I going to do with them if an emp or nuclear war, as Putin is threatening, happens tonight or for that matter anytime before their deaths? Where am I going to find my grandchildren when all four of them live in other states close to large cities. Well the bottom line is save what I can and forget as best possible those that have to be left behind. Sounds cruel, and it is, but that is exactly what I would want them to do if the rolls were reversed. These are the areas of our lives people never practice or will ever come to grips with until it is one second too late. Just some thots and your opinions and advice are always welcome. God bless and thanks.

  • It doesn’t surprise me that FEMA avoids mentioning ebola as a pandemic possibility. The motivation is purely political. The thing is that FEMA is of no use to anyone if its policies are politically motivated. It might as well shut down and let private charities step in.