Today we see refugees fleeing Ukraine in droves, and, although Americans sympathize and donate, most would say, “Not me! It can never happen here.”

Really? I’ll bet people in besieged countries thought the same thing, but they ended up fleeing for their lives with only the clothes on their backs.

It can happen here.

Is there any way that we can plan to care for ourselves and our families in catastrophic situations?

 In order to survive difficult circumstances, we need a plan in mind, even if we never use it. What is the Boy Scouts motto? Be prepared!

Plans will be flexible, because situations vary.

At home, the first choice will be to have a source of potable water that can last about a week. It won’t hurt most of us to be a little hungry in dire circumstances, but we need water to drink. Here is a supply list recommended by

Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)

Food Store at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food, basically canned and dried. You can create this supply easily from the local grocery, no need to buy pricey ‘survival foods’.

Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert


First aid kit

Extra batteries

Whistle (to signal for help)

Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)

Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)

Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)

Manual can opener (for food)

Pet food

Local maps

Cell phone chargers or battery to charge.

Prescription medications

Make sure the car is filled with gas. Top it off regularly.

Okay! I can do this, and I’ll be fine!

Well, that depends. You may not be able to hunker down in your home.  You can certainly fill your car with supplies, but remember, the streets of your city will be filled with like-minded people attempting to escape and driving a car may not get you very far.

What if you had to walk to safety?

Many older people are not prepared for this. The simple solution is to work on preparing for a long walk in comfortable shoes.  This means that, if at all possible, raise your fitness level by walking daily, and plan to up the ante by longer walks every week. This is absolutely necessary because, from what I learn from the Ukraine situation, older people are being left behind because they can’t keep up. You don’t want to be left behind. Even if you never need to flee an oncoming army, you will become fit and live longer!

In planning an escape on foot, we need to consider just what we can carry for essentials, and what we need to leave behind. When traveling on foot, less is best. A light backpack filled with a blanket, a change of clothes and socks, is good.  (clothing should be carefully chosen in a cold climate, or in the desert where I live.) That, and some cans of food and bottles of water is about all an older person can carry. Legal documents, such as driver’s license, keys, passport, prescription medicine, cash and visa cards are essential and light to carry.  If power is out, the ATM or kiosk will not be available, so keep cash on hand.

Ask for help. Even if no assistance from agencies is available, neighbors are often willing to help you. You would be surprised at that. Many are just waiting for you to ask, so don’t be shy!

A specific place to store important items at home is paramount. Better to plan a place to store these essentials, instead of waking up in the middle of the night and going crazy trying to collect them all in five minutes. The old “Where are my keys??” Scenario.

No one has all the answers to a serious, life-threatening catastrophe. Media has given us a glimpse of how chaotic and terrifying it is to run for our lives to escape catastrophe. Most of us are not very organized, and that is fine during ordinary times. However, organization and a plan can save your life during an emergency. It’s far better to conceive a plan now than to scramble up whatever you can find and run out the door.  

Be prepared.