Survival Basics

What To Do In The First Hour When Disaster Strikes

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There is much literature devoted to what needs to be done in the weeks and months following a disaster. There is even a substantial amount of material out there on what needs to be done in the first few days of a disaster, but what we want to give you today is a concise list of what to do in the first hour when a disaster strikes. Think of the first hour as a golden hour, an hour in which you are given the opportunity to alter your fate by the actions you take – or those you do not. In fact, depending on the disaster, the first few minutes of that first hour may even decide whether you live or die.

Since we don’t know what sort of disaster could strike, we’re going to create some ground rules on the scenario. The information we’ll give you assumes a sudden, unforeseen disaster, one that just “happens” for lack of a better term. Foreseeable disasters such as impending hurricanes and things of that nature often give you at least some time to plan, yet many other disasters do not. What sort of disasters happened suddenly or with nothing more than a few moments warning? Here’s a brief list:

  • The World Trade Center terrorist attacks on 9/11
  • The Madrid train bombings
  • Fukushima nuclear disaster
  • Hurricane Katrina Levee failures (occurred after the hurricane passed)
  • Thailand tsunami
  • Northridge Earthquake

Sometimes, disaster strikes and it strikes suddenly and without warning. The event could be natural, or manmade – or both, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, which people had time to plan for. The thing is, no one planned for the radical civil unrest that followed, which took many people by surprise. Stay alert, and be ready at all times. Here’s what to do, minute by minute, for the first hour:

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