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By Major Mike Dryden USAR Ret
Senior Voice Correspondent 

Resolve, then act, to be better prepared

Alaska Older Veterans Report


With the New Year upon us, many of us will make resolutions to change something in our life for the better. The old standbys are lose weight, join a gym, stop smoking, and call your friends and family more. These promises to yourself as well as so many other well intended plans made on New Year’s Day are forgotten by March (I’m being generous here).

So let’s strive to make a resolution that may save your life and develop a good practice for the whole year. Let’s take some baby steps toward self-sufficiency in the unlikely event of a natural disaster that interrupts life as we know it.

FEMA and the State of Alaska Homeland Security have plans for every conceivable event and the proper corrective measures to be implemented in the event disaster strikes. These plans have been fine-tuned in numerous tabletop exercises, modified and customized in order to mitigate as much of the damage to the citizens of Alaska as possible.

In my many years as an Army Logistics’ Officer, I submitted many logistic annexes to major OPLANS (battle plan) in CONUS and overseas. I have dealt with reams of empirical data on previous similar events in the hopes all bases and contingents would be covered. I am sure I am not alone when I say these pre-event documents were useful for about 30 minutes after the action started.

I bring this up only to alert seniors who have special needs to emphasize that you are your best advocate. Do not count on someone else to take care of you. Most of the shelters will be in operation but maybe not yours. If you need medication, keep a “Go Bag” near your supply. The time to plan is now. Many of the steps I will recommend require little if any extra money.

As a former Army helicopter pilot, I had the pleasure of attending a Viet Nam era SERE (survival, escape, resistance and evasion) course. Among the many skills and knowledge I obtained was you can go without air for four minutes, without water for four days and without food for forty days. I say this only so you will be able to prioritize your pre-disaster planning.

You need at least a gallon of drinking water per person per day stored somewhere in your house. A two week supply is recommended. Many FDA approved containers are on the market but if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy the blue water containers, then a low cost alternative are freezer zip lock bags. You can buy one or two gallons sizes and store them almost anywhere. If you haven’t done this life-saving step then put this paper down, now, and go do it.

The same goes for food. Your three-day supply in your “Bug out Bag” should be ready to eat since food preparation facilities may not be available (smoked sardines in oil are my favorite). Dried fruit like raisins and apples are easily obtained but remember to stay hydrated. If you are staying put in your home, then you will need to have another method of cooking. For heaven sakes, don’t bring the BBQ grill inside and give you and your family carbon monoxide poisoning.

In your preparations, don’t forget Miss Boots and Fido’s needs. Most shelters will require an airline type kennel and you will be responsible to feed and care for your pets.

In Alaska you will need heat and light that isn’t dependant on the electrical grid. You hear a great deal about the Grid. Outsiders (unfortunate lower 48ers) do have a potential problem resulting from lower 48 and Canadian power generating plants’ intertie system designed to cover disaster-related power outages by re-directing power to locations without service.

In Alaska every village is a grid; that means they are not tied into another electrical system. To my knowledge the same situation exists between the Anchorage Bowl and the Interior. This is a good thing so don’t call your elected officials. Although I complain as much as the next person about my electric bill, I take comfort in the fact that our electrical company’s linemen are some of the best in the world and can operate in extreme conditions.

An ample supply of candles, matches and flashlights should be stored now. Make sure you have extra blankets and sleeping bags. Goodwill, Salvation Army and Bishop’s Attic are great sources for low cost used equipment. Try to go on 50 percent off day. Look on Craigslist and the community bulletin boards at grocery stores for deals. You will be surprised by the availability and price. Don’t be afraid to haggle.

As morbid as this may sound, have your next of kin contact information and any special medical concerns on your person. The latter precaution could save your life.

Last but not least, personal safety needs should be addressed. There is safety in numbers and a small network of friends and family should be arranged before it’s too late. Depression is as much of a killer as are people with nefarious intent and the lack of public utilities.

In closing, I believe your second amendment rights needs to be addressed. You have the right but not the requirement to arm yourself. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get some professional training if you have never fired a weapon and maybe consider a concealed carry permit. During the training you will be educated on when and where deadly force is allowed.

As for your choice of weapon, make that decision after your training. My personal choice is a pump shotgun with an expanded capacity magazine. This weapon can be used to hunt ptarmigans and Zombies. Be sure to aim for the Zombie’s head. I recommend “The Night of the Living Dead” as a visual training manual for Zombie control.

Act now while you are not under stress. Let’s start 2015 with some useful proactive preparations.

Mike Dryden is a retired Army Major and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.


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