There’s a lot of talk out there right now about “dooms day preppers” and “zombie apocalypse survivalists”. That’s not what this book is about. As much as I support the idea of being prepared for end of the world scenarios, this book is not about surviving the end of the world—though it might help.
This book is about the simple things that all families should be prepared for. It’s about the small things that anybody and everybody can do, right now, to prepare for the “minor” emergencies that you will most likely encounter.
My family and I were recently tested during a snowstorm that delayed our flight home for four days. This testing is what prompted the idea to write about some our experiences as well as things that you can do at home to be prepared in case your family gets tested.
Think about this for a moment… You wake up to get ready for work and realize the electricity is not on. It’s the middle of winter and your house has cooled to 50 degrees overnight. With sub-zero temperatures outside, it won’t take long to turn your house into a giant freezer. What do you do?
Or, you’re driving with your family late at night when suddenly, inexplicably, your vehicle stops operating. No lights, no heat/ac, no nothing. What do you do?
There are literally millions of scenarios that I could run through from a house fire to a city-wide evacuation that can put your family in danger. This book is designed to prompt ideas that will be suitable for your family to help you maintain control of any situation. More importantly, it will set you up to keep your family safe.
I’m not going to pump out hundreds of product endorsements or ask you to go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of survival gear. In fact, many of the things you need to be prepared for emergencies you probably already have at home.
I’m also not going to give you dozens of checklists to search through for each type of emergency. Checklists are great for some situations, but honestly, if your family is in danger, are you going to run to a book and flip to page 52 to learn how to safely escape your home during an emergency?
As you read through the pages of this book, watch for action items that you have the ability to start doing immediately. Practice them once or twice to ensure you have a good understanding. Then, when the emergency comes, all the information is in your head. You will already know what to do. You will know how to be your family’s hero and your children will never doubt your ability to protect them.
So who am I and why should you listen to me?
I am you.
I’m not somebody with years of military Special Forces training. I can’t run a 4-minute mile or bench press some obscene amount of weight. I am just like you. I go to work every day and come home to play with my kids before my wife and I scramble around the house trying to find something for dinner. I take my kids camping and roast marshmallows. We go on vacations with the family dog. I don’t bring home a hefty six-figure income and I don’t have some grand inheritance sitting in a Caiman Island bank.
What might make me a little bit different are the experiences that I’ve had and the decision to learn from those experiences. I have been lost in the Alaska wilderness. I’ve driven across the United States dozens of times and come across experiences like blizzards, tornados, and fires. I’ve been to third world countries and travelled throughout the Middle East, Europe, and North America. I’ve even been to a Wal-Mart and walked out without buying anything!
I spent my youth learning valuable skills in the Boy Scouts and eventually earned the rank of Eagle Scout. I graduated high school in Minnesota and enlisted in the United States Air Force. After serving 9 years in Texas and Nebraska, I literally jumped into my truck, grabbed my dog, and drove to Alaska to grow a beard and start my very own adventure.
Alaska is one of those places that get a bad reputation for being cold. Well… it is, but it’s so worth it. I earned my bachelors degree in Alaska (an accomplishment that only took me 11 years from my first college course to my last) and spent more time outside than inside despite the cold. After Alaska, I decided to change scenery and move to the east coast. My job out east sent me to several foreign countries and third world nations where my experiences kept piling up.
Finally, I decided to settle down and try the family life. I moved to New Mexico and met my totally awesome wife. Now, I reside is northern California with my wife and three wonderful children, ages 12, 3, and 1.
My family is the main reason I’m writing this book. And, I’m not writing it alone—this is a family deal. My dad actually suggested that I write about my experiences, so when I sat down for dinner with the family later that evening, I pitched the idea. My 12-year old daughter was the first to add a recommendation based on our latest family trip – a botched operation that I will talk about in the next chapter. I now have a list of ideas from the family that I will share with you in the following chapters.
So there may have been some exciting experiences that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from, but other than that, I’m just your normal, average Joe. Like I said in the beginning, I am you.
One last note before we begin, this is not a “monkey push button, monkey get banana” book. This is one of those 2% books. I’ll give you 2%. The rest is up to you. 98% of this book will take your thoughts and your actions. If you take this book and only read the words, I’ll give you a 2% chance of success when trouble comes your way. In case you’re not good at math, 2% is an utter failure! You will need to take that 2% and actually apply it to your life situations—that’s the 98%.
Let me start off by telling you about my last family vacation.
My family and I took a two-week trip away from sunny California into the bowels of a Midwest winter. We started off mild by flying into Omaha, Nebraska in mid-December. After arriving, we had family pick us up in a nice heated car (actually, it took two cars due to the size of my family). Nebraska wasn’t much to brag about that evening as the freezing rain clung to the windshield without remorse. After taking two hours to make the one hour drive to Lincoln, NE, we arrived at our destination. We had a great vacation with my side of the family and prepared to venture back to the airport to dive deeper into the arctic Midwest to visit my wife’s family in Wisconsin. We flew from Omaha to Chicago without a hitch, but we were about to learn more than we wanted about cold and snow.
Let me take a minute to explain something about my family. My wife and I were both born in Wisconsin, so we’re certainly not new to the cold. Heck, I spend years in Alaska and most of that time was camping outside somewhere under the snow and stars… but years away in warmer climates can make a person forget that a thermometer will also go in the negative direction. We’re also usually extremely prepared for whatever comes our way. Rain turns to snow, bring it on… Snow turns to ice, let me have it… Ice turns to horrible nasty blizzard, awesome! If we were home, all these truly could have been awesome. But we weren’t.
From the moment we arrived in Chicago until the moment we left, there was not one day without snowfall. Not to worry, though, we were prepared. We had our winter jackets, thermal underwear, scarves, hats, mittens, and my trusty flashlight. Yes, I just said flashlight… Give me some time, I’ll explain.
Our trip in Wisconsin was just as great as our time in Nebraska. We enjoyed family, food, and fun--despite the sub-zero temperatures and daily snowfall. Heck, we even took advantage of it and bundled up the kids for a few hours of snow sledding.
As our planned vacation came to an end, so did everything else that we could plan ahead for. From here on out, we were on our own. The remaining four days of our unplanned “vacation” acted as a classroom for me and my family. The lessons we learned and the practices we adapted to may save your life… or at least your sanity.
I allotted double the time to drive back to Chicago for our flight as a serious winter storm moved in overnight. We needed to drive south, return the rental car, check our bags, and navigate TSA security with kids in tow… And I wasn’t about to miss our flight back to the warm sunshine of California.
As we drove south and entered the Chicago area, traffic slowed to a near standstill. My wife was next to me with a map in one hand acting as my trusty navigator and her smart phone in the other monitoring the flight. Kids were buckled in and snuggled warm oblivious to the dangers surrounding them—as they should be at their age. Over the radio, we heard that only a few miles up, a tractor trailer was overturned and engulfed in flames. My wife immediately jumped into action mode and started plotting our new course. “Take this exit, turn right, and keep going straight!” We arrived at the airport with time to spare… Little did we know that we had A LOT of time to spare.
We returned the rental car, grabbed our kids, car seats, and luggage and headed for the terminal with a sigh of relief to be off the roads. By this time, we knew the flight was delayed a couple hours, but we didn’t want to risk anything. You never know when something will change and they’ll get the flight back on schedule.
Once we were in the terminal, we felt like everything was going to move smoothly from here on out. This was our first mistake. We removed the kiddo’s winter clothing and packed it in the checked baggage. Second mistake. Knowing that we would be in much warmer weather that very evening, we let our guard down. First rule, never let your guard down.
Our reasoning for making our second mistake was simple and justifiable… Who wants to trek through the airport with three kids, backpacks full of snacks and other “necessities” and carry around everybody’s winter gear? Not us… We’re smarter than that. HA!
As we monitored the weight of each checked bag to keep under the 50 pound weight limit (barely), we stepped up to the counter and waved goodbye to our jackets, hats, mittens, and spare underwear. The trip through the TSA checkpoint was certainly much easier without all those extras.
So now we sit… Waiting… And waiting.
Our original departure time came and went. The delayed departure time came and went. After waiting for almost 10 hours, the announcement came; “Ladies and gentlemen, we regret to inform you that flight 341 to Sacramento, California has been cancelled.”
The first action I took was to talk to the airline and see how many more hours we would have to wait to catch the next flight. Hours… ha!
We would not be leaving Chicago for four more days. Now all we needed was our baggage back so we could get out of there and find a place to stay.
This is where all the options start flowing in. But instead of feeling like options, they feel like traps.
If we rent a car, we could head back north to spend more time with family. That would mean many more hours of driving on the roads that had gotten even snowier and icier. And what if we were able to get a last minute flight sooner? No we needed to stay close.
We could bundle up and just stay at the airport. That would potentially mean no showers for four days. And with three urchins traveling along, that would also mean lots of boredom. And what do siblings do when they’re bored? They resort to violence against one another. Not good. No, we needed a hotel.
So now we need our luggage and a hotel room. My wife and I split up and she went for the luggage as I called hotels. We had to move quick… Flights were now getting cancelled left and right and the hotels would be filling up fast.
The first bit of good news was that we got a hotel reservation and they would pick us up from the airport in a shuttle bus. Done.
Now all we need is the nice warm jackets, hats, and mittens from our luggage to wrap the kids up and get to the hotel.
“Sorry, it will take at least 8 hours to find your luggage and pull it for you.”
Again, shock… Frustration… Anger.
Why would it take 8 hours to get my luggage? Why did we pack the warm clothes? Do we have enough diapers to even make through the night?
I won’t get into the next 9 lousy hours sitting in the baggage claim lobby fighting and waiting to get my luggage, but I will tell you that I didn’t get my luggage back until we finally arrived in Sacramento. I’ll also mention that I didn’t make my wife and kids wait with me the entire night… They got to head to the hotel about 1am wrapped up in my sweater. I made it to the hotel later that morning freezing my cahoots off in just my jeans and a t-shirt (did I mention sub-zero temperatures?).
So, pop quiz… How many mistakes did I make on my trip? We made plenty. My goal is to prepare you so you don’t make the same mistakes. As I mentioned earlier, when you’re a guy traveling alone, things are easy. Flight gets cancelled—fine. I’ll just sit my happy butt right here and sleep. Cold outside—no problem. I’ll just be cold for a little bit. Don’t have spare diapers—no worries. I don’t wear them. Flying with a family is a lot different. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t be just as prepared. Read on.