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Be Your Own First Responder!

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Why do we become firearms owners?  Some of us may own a gun because of our job.  Others may own one because they enjoy hunting or shooting sports. Some even buy guns just to collect them. However, the vast majority of us own a gun for protection, both protection for ourselves and our loved ones. We don't know when or if we will need to use it. However, we buy the ammunition and we (hopefully) practice to keep our skills sharp. In short, we are preparing for the unknown.  

The fact is, owning a firearm is only a part of being prepared for the unknown. A gun can't heal us if we are injured and unable to get medical help. It won't feed us if an outside source of food is unavailable. It can't call for help if cell phones are down. If our aim is truly to be self-reliant, our preparations must go beyond just buying a gun. 


Emergencies can strike at any moment and they can take many different forms. On the west coast we live with knowing that an earthquake could happen at any moment. Fires are getting worse every year.  The recent pandemic has shown us how quickly grocery stores can be cleared out. 2020 also showed us that civil unrest can happen with little warning.  

Statistics show that communities of color are often impacted harder when emergency situations arise.  This is compounded by the fact that we are often underprepared for emergencies. We at Oakland / Bay Area BGOA want to be the ones prepared for those emergencies.  We will be armed and trained to use our weapons if needed. We will be stocked with food and water rations when the store shelves are empty. And we will share our knowledge with our community and loved ones. In short, we will be our own first responders.  

So where do we start? Just as the world of firearms can become a deep rabbit hole, so can preparing for emergencies. Some have gone as far as building underground bunkers, complete with years of food and water, air filtration systems, communications systems, medical supplies, and huge weapons caches. however, most of us don't have the means the go to those lengths. So, what CAN we do? 


To begin with we can start with the basics. The rule of threes tells us that the human body can survive three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter (in harsh conditions), three days without drinking water, and up to three weeks without food (assuming you have water and shelter). Most people start with food and water. 


Freeze dried or dehydrated meals are readily available from outdoor stores or army surplus stores. They don't need a lot of space to be stored and last for years. Get an inexpensive camp stove and fuel to stash away with the food. If you've never used a camp stove before, be sure to practice using it a few times before you store it. Adults need a minimum of 1200 calories a day to survive, less than that is considered starvation. Take note that you are storing enough calories per day for the household. Another option is to purchase an inexpensive food dehydrator and make emergency meals yourself. This is an especially good option for those on restrictive diets. Be sure to store utensils, plates or bowls, a cook pot, and a can opener as well. Get more tips on storing food here.


The LifeStraw personal water purifier.

The FEMA website recommends that one gallon of water should be stored per person, per day. Water requirements could double in high temperatures. It is suggested that a minimum of a two week water supply is kept on hand. If you are unable to keep that much due to storage constraints, store as much as you can. Another option is camp style portable water filters. They are very compact, inexpensive, and easy to use. It is important to store water properly to ensure bacteria don't develop during long term storage. You can read more on how to properly store water here.

Storing masks or respirators may seem like an over-the-top gesture, until you consider the events of the last few years. Wildfires and smoke-filled skies have become the norm for west coast summers.  The pandemic had the whole world masking up. If there is fine debris in the air due to an earthquake or some other disaster, you'll want to keep those particulates out of your lungs. Buying disposable masks are easy to store and inexpensive. On the other end of that spectrum there are CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) gas masks. These are the types of masks used by the military and emergency response teams. They are pretty expensive but they will protect your lungs against pretty much anything you can think of. 

Now that you have air, food, and water covered it's time to consider first aid.  Basic first aid kits are available everywhere but most of them offer very little beyond small surface wound dressings.  Would you have the tools and knowledge to help someone who's been shot or stabbed?  Could you effectively assist someone who is choking?  Being prepared for medical emergencies is a huge subject. No one can be expected to become a doctor in their spare time.  But we can relatively easily bolster our knowledge and supplies. In addition to a basic first aid kit, spending $30 on a C-A-T tourniquet (get one from North American Rescue. DON'T get a cheap one and have it break when you need it) and knowing how to use is an investment that could mean the difference between life and death.  Stop The Bleed classes are free and available almost everywhere. Adding a burn kit, a suture kit, and taking a  CPR class makes you a valuable asset in an emergency. We don't want to have to wait for a first responder.  We want to BE the first responder!

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Two way radios are an inexpensive way to stay in contact with others. Just remember that they only have a range of a few miles at best.

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A GPS communicator allows you to text anywhere on earth as long as you have a clear line to the sky.  This model also allows you to call for help by pressing the SOS button. 

Lastly (for the purposes of this page), we want to think about communications.  We live in a world where we all take for granted having a phone on us at all times.  However, in so many disaster scenarios cell phone systems are disabled.  The systems get overloaded, or maybe the towers have been destroyed.  How will you communicate if you need help?  Alternative communication methods are relatively inexpensive and invaluable when cell phones are not an option.   2-way radiosCB radios, and  Ham radios are all good options.  They are all older tech, but they still work. They're also inexpensive and don't have monthly fees. The Ham radio does require a license to operate.  Newer tech options include the satellite messenger. These devices allow you to text anywhere in the world as long as it has a clear line to the sky.  Preprogram the numbers of friends and family and you can communicate completely free of cell signals.  They also have built in topo maps that let you send your location, and they have dedicated SOS buttons.  When the SOS button is pressed, it will trigger a local search and rescue team based on the device location.  The device costs $400-$700 depending on model.  Plans start around $15 a month. On the high end of the cost spectrum are satellite phones.  The units themselves are slowly becoming more affordable but monthly plans are still expensive for something most of us won't use very often.  




Obviously, it would be impossible to include all emergency preparedness options in one web page.  The point here is to get people thinking about being more prepared today then they were yesterday.  How much you choose to do is up to each person, but as the old saying goes "it's better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it". 


A small, portable solar panel let's you keep cell phones and other small electronics charged up if power is down. 

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