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.

Food

Water

Shelter

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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15 Comments on "What’s Wrong with FEMA’s Plan for You?"

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usmarinestanker
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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.

ptww
Guest
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,… Read more »
Pat
Guest
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… Read more »
pantsupdontloot
Guest
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… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest

“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
Guest
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… Read more »
usmarinestanker
Guest
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… Read more »
pantsupdontloot
Guest
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… Read more »
Pat
Guest
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… Read more »
pantsupdontloot
Guest
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… Read more »
T. Gene Davis
Guest

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.

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