Staying Safe During These Strange Times
We are in strange times right now…stranger than any time most of us have probably experienced and staying safe is more than just staying home.
There is panic spreading across the world and we can be certain that some people will do objectionable things during such a time. As we have seen during periods of civil unrest in recent history, there are always opportunists who use fear for their own gain. Whether it is a person trying to scam money from people over the phone for a non-existent charity or the person who hoards hand sanitizer to resell, they are out there and always will be.
This short post is about measures you can take to secure yourself and your loved ones during these times.
Things To Watch Out For
People with bad intentions will use times of uncertainty coupled with emotional baiting for their own gain.
Unless the situation gets exponentially worse, I’m not predicting full-out pandemonium to occur; however, you should keep the following in mind now:
Be cautious of any person asking for donations for COVID-19 relief.
- Example: Somebody calling you claiming to be from a food bank asking for monetary donations due to a food shortage for struggling families.
Be cautious of anybody coming to your door unprompted. Unless you invited them directly, do not open the door.
- Example: Somebody coming to your door saying they need let inside to conduct COVID-19 home testing.
Verify any online charity/donation organization before sending money or relinquishing personal information.
With the tax filing deadline approaching and now the IRS extending it for 90 days, prepare for phone calls or other contacts claiming the new deadline to be false or that you need to apply for it.
Step 1: Mentally Prepare
A strong mental mindset is about as important as anything else. If you approach a situation with the mentality that you are or will be defeated, you probably will be. The first step you can take to secure yourself and your loved ones is to reinforce a strong mental mindset for yourself and them.
Here is a list of things to keep in mind:
This is not the end of humanity.
Focus on the positive.
Stay informed, but don’t get bogged down by all of the negative hype. You reflect your environment, so having a Twitter or Facebook feed full of frightening tales of a pandemic will wear you down. Only pay attention to credible sources.
Physical exercise helps with mental strength. If you don’t already, set aside some time each day to exercise.
Mental exercise is important. Read, do puzzles, write a novel — do anything that makes you actively think. This article by TheHartford.com gives a good overview.
Get enough sleep. Your mental state will quickly deteriorate if you deprive it of rest. Find out how much sleep you should have here: CDC Sleep Information
Step 2: Physically Prepare
Physically preparing isn’t just about preparing your body — it’s also about preparing any place you spend a significant amount of time.
Do you live in a house/apartment? Chances are you spend a lot of time there (especially lately).
Do you commute to work? If so, you should have a plan for your vehicle.
Do you travel in an RV on vacation? Then you should have a plan for there too.
2.1 - Your Home
The list of basic things you should have for your house/apartment will vary per person and location, but you should consider what is listed here. This is not meant to be a “doomsday prepper” checklist, but ensuring you have the following is a good start:
- Water – You should plan as if your main source of water will fail.
- Food – At any given time you should have at least two weeks worth of food.
- Medicine – Don’t wait until last minute to refill your prescriptions.
- Temperature – What can you use for heat if your main source fails?
- Toiletries – You will not die without them, but it makes life a lot easier with them.
- Defense – Whether you want to believe it or not, you should have some form of defense system in your home. This can be a kitchen knife, a frying pan, or a firearm. Consider placement of these items in your bedrooms and bathrooms.
- Locks – Have locks on every exterior door and window. Locks should be locked as the rule and unlocked as an exception. Locks will not prevent a dedicated intruder, but they give you more time to act.
- Evacuation Plan – Have a plan, even if it is just mental, on how you would escape your home in different situations such as a fire, a vehicle through your living room, a home invasion, etc. Can you escape through your bedroom window? Is there a fire escape? Can you find the stairwell in the dark? Every home will be different.
- Note: Review these plans with your family as well. Consider assigning them roles. Figuring out what needs to be done during a crisis is a bad time to figure it out.
- Medical Supplies – You should always have basic medical supplies in your home such as gauze, bandages, tourniquets, and antibiotics.
- Flashlights – Have a flashlight in every room.
- “Go” or “Bug-Out” Bag – It’s not a bad idea to have a bag filled with some essentials stored somewhere you can grab in an emergency. A bag containing some medical supplies, food/water, flashlight(s), scissors, a cutting utensil, money, and important phone numbers or other documents will aid you in case you need to evacuate your home for any reason.
- Portable Power Banks – Rechargeable power banks come in handy when the power is out and you need to charge your devices or other small electronics. Remember to keep the banks charged.
- Fuel – If you have a vehicle, ensure you have enough fuel in it in case you have to leave your home in a hurry.
- Security Cameras – If you have security cameras, periodically check to ensure they are operating and recording. Burglaries and similar crimes aren’t always easy for law enforcement to solve — having video evidence of the suspects is a huge help.
- Situational Awareness – Beware of posting your current location on social media. The less information an ill-willed opportunist has, the better.
2.2 - Your Vehicle(s)
Consider your vehicle your “home away from home” while you are in it. If you get stuck in a bad situation while in your vehicle, you will have to manage with what you have with you.
You can place all of these items in a backpack or other bag. You should not place them in your trunk if you would not have access to it if you were trapped inside of your vehicle.
- Water – You should have at least a few bottles of water in your vehicle in case you are trapped in it for an extended amount of time.
- Food – You won’t need food as quickly as you’ll need water, but you should have some snacks (such as protein bars) in your vehicle.
- Medicine – If you have prescription medications, it’s not a bad idea to have at least a few doses in your vehicle; however, consider your specific conditions. For example, leaving insulin in a vehicle during the summer would not be beneficial.
- Toiletries – A roll of, or at least some, paper towels in your vehicle helps. If absolutely necessary, they can be used for wound care as well. You can grab these at the pumps of some gas stations for free.
- Defense – I don’t recommend leaving firearms in your vehicle unless your vehicle is always in a secure place. Having a knife or blunt object available, such as a hammer, is a good idea and they can double as tools.
- Locks – All of your locks on your vehicle should function properly. Consider your vehicle a tiny home on wheels, so it should be able to be secured.
- Medical Supplies – Same as in your home, you should have gauze, bandages, tourniquets, and antibiotics in your vehicle.
- Flashlights – It gets dark outside, so have a source of light available for use (aside from your phone).
- Blankets – You should have at least one blanket in your vehicle to warm yourself with. Blankets can also double for wound care purposes, if needed.
- Power Adapters – Have one or two adapters that connect to your car’s power source (such as 12v plug-in adapters) for charging your devices.
- Fuel – If you are trapped inside your car, the more fuel you have, the longer your vehicle will run heat or air conditioning.
- Dash Cams – Having a dashboard camera is a good idea for documentation and liability reasons.
- Spare Tire – If your car doesn’t have a spare tire, save one of your old ones the next time you get them replaced.
2.3 - Yourself
Don’t forget to physically prepare yourself:
- Exercise Your Body – If you are stuck inside of your home and have no exercise equipment, make it a point to do some laps. People will be gaining weight over the next few weeks, so be more active than sedentary.
- Exercise Your Mind – If your current situation allows for more free time, use that time to learn a new skill, start a project, or read those books sitting on your shelf.
- Sleep – As with mental health, lack of sleep will negatively impact your physical health.
Try to make it a point to continue with these even after your quarantine time ends.
Step 3: Contingency Plans
Here are a few other things you may want to consider, depending on your circumstances:
If you live alone:
- If you become injured or incapacitated, how would you get help? Consider telling friends or family that they should contact you if you don’t contact them within a period of time (once every day or two). This can be as simple as a text message.
- Security devices such as Life Alert are great tools but are generally only used by older adults. Even if you are 20-years-old you can still fall down a flight of steps and become incapacitated. Who would be the next person to find you and how long would that take?
If your neighbor lives alone:
- If you have a neighbor who lives alone, especially if they are older, consider checking in on them every once in a while.
- It might be useful for you to have an Alert Word system in place. An Alert Word would be a simple word or phrase you have previously established with somebody that means call 911.
- For example, your friend knows that if you ever text them the phrase “Ignore Carl” they need to contact 911 and tell them the situation.
911 Hang-ups/Open Lines:
- If you call 911 and hang-up, they will cross-reference your phone number in their system to tie it to an address. If that does not work, they will contact your phone carrier and attempt to locate the phone. Either way, they will send law enforcement, but know that it may take a while for the phone to be pinpointed to your location.
- If you call 911 and leave the line open, they will send law enforcement regardless of what they hear. Again, if they can’t tie your number to an address, they will have to start the process of trying to find your phone’s current location.
As this entire thing unfolds over the next couple of weeks and months, you will take note of the acts of the selfish and the selfless. How people act during these times will make a lasting impression on you.
Keep informed – Keep aware – Keep calm.
Be safe – Be secure – Be human.