Practice Drills

The importance of regular drills cannot be overemphasized. This is particularly true for families with children. There’s a very good reason why we do evacuation and other drills when we’re in school. Quite often, the typical human response to a sudden crisis is to freeze, not unlike the proverbial deer in headlights. We can counteract that tendency by giving the mind and body instruction ahead of time as to what to do. Drills provide that instruction.

Over the weekend, we did a quick evacuation drill at home. This wasn’t anything my wife and I had planned out in any great detail. Early Saturday morning, we told the kids they needed to get dressed, grab a water bottle, and meet us in the living room. Naturally, there was a bit of “What’s going on?” and “Why are we doing this?” But, they performed much better than I’d anticipated and were all ready to go in under three minutes. Considering it takes them about a half hour to get ready to head to the beach for an afternoon, this was pretty impressive.

One thing I think helps when kids are involved is to give them specific tasks to perform. Don’t just tell them to “get ready.” Instead, tell them exactly what you need them to do.

–Get dressed, including socks and shoes.
–Fill water bottles.
–Get to the living room and wait for further instructions.

Further to that point, consider delegation. Whomever is the first to the kitchen should immediately start filling water bottles for everyone, for example. Next one downstairs grabs all the bug out bags from the storage closet and puts them in the living room.

After the drill was over, we talked as a family about different scenarios that might prompt this type of evacuation. If the house were on fire, we’d obviously just concentrate on getting everyone outside, clean socks be damned. One example of when a semi-orderly evacuation would come into play is if a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed near our home. We’re not too far from the tracks that run through town.

We also stressed the importance of leaving the bug out bags alone unless specifically told to get them. The hope is to prevent any of them from digging in the bags for spare batteries for a video game or something.

Have you done any drills with your family lately? We plan to do these on a regular basis and I’d suggest you may want to do the same.

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Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

One thought on “Practice Drills”

  1. No doubt practice makes perfect. Readers might also be interested in a set of Family Emergency Preparedness Tools that, among other things, attempt to clarify these exact questions including delegation of responsibilities in a written down format.

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