There are many things that I consider luxuries that we have the benefit of living with in a modern society. Things like electricity, running water, cell phones, air conditioning, etc. are nice, but society survived for thousands of years without them. If they all disappeared it would suck, but a good number of us would be able to find a way to function without them.
One of the things that is worth considering for your emergency preparedness planning is how you would cope without access to emergency services. There are a few reasons to give this some thought because emergency services could potentially disappear in a major series of disasters, they could be so tied up that they cannot meet demand or you could live in an area where you will ultimately end up not mattering as compared to the urban need for these services.
It can be a hard pill to swallow but it is reality. Imagine this, what if all four of the aircrafts that were hijacked on September 11, 2001, had gone to New York City and been as successful with other major buildings as the two were that hit the World Trade Center? There is great possibility that the emergency services in New York City would have been in a position where there were not enough resources to meet the demand placed on them.
Eventually, emergency service workers from other jurisdictions would have likely shown up but that would have taken time and then in turn the jurisdictions that volunteered those workers would have to do without them. There would have been a great possibility that a ripple effect could have happened. All of this would have been a great obstacle to overcome and the fact that we have become so reliant on our emergency services is a testament to the fact that if they were to become strained or exhausted, we are likely not equipped to function without them.
So what is there to overcome?
When it comes to emergency services we can ultimately break them down into four major groups: police, fire/rescue, emergency medical services and hospitals. Here are some ideas of how to operate (on the smallest of scales, your home) without assistance from emergency services.
As a nation, Americans have great dependency on the police. We don’t just call them if there is a major crime (like a murder or bank robbery) we call them for everything!
The current neighborhood that I live in had empty land behind it and as nature tends to exist, there are various critters that occupied that piece of land. When their home was destroyed to build apartments they moved on to other places and over time there have been some scary snakes that have traveled to some of the neighbor’s back yards. As a result of this, some of these neighbors have called emergency services because they had a rattlesnake in their yard! This is not an emergency and should not involve the police but that is what they have become accustomed to. Instead of waiting for the snake to move on or calling a critter catcher, just give 911 a quick jingle and your problem will be solved, right?
As a reference, The Art of Manliness has a great article on How to Call 911 and to borrow their subtitle… (No, It’s Not as Obvious as You Think).
In a society without 9-1-1, here are some things that you should be prepared to do for yourself instead of relying on the police:
Obviously if there is no fire department, there will be no one else to put out a fire but you and hopefully the neighbors that you have a good relationship with and are willing to help you. Yet another reason why having a good community around you can be so powerful.
In a society without 9-1-1, here are some things that you should be prepared to do for yourself instead of relying on the fire department:
The cardinal rule to remember is that your home and its contents are just stuff and that it is not worth risking your life or the lives of others for stuff.
Emergency medical services
It is hard imagine experiencing the worst medical emergency of your life and not have an ambulance that you can call for help. If you stop and think about it there are people who live in rural areas that have that experience but they cannot allow the lack of a resource to determine
In a society without 9-1-1, here are some things that you should be prepared to do for yourself instead of relying on the ambulance:
If all you have is the basics, you can do more than if you know nothing. Like I was always trained…
“Air goes in and out. Blood goes round and round. If nothing else, make sure that the air goes in and out and the blood continues to go round and round.”
As long as you can do those two things, you’re on your way to saving someone’s life.
Oh yeah, don’t forget that all bleeding eventually stops. Hopefully it will be because you stopped the bleeding and not that the patient ran out of blood.
In all reality, if there is a disaster and the hospital is not staffed, understaffed, or full we will all be in trouble over the long term but there
In a society without 9-1-1, here are some things that you should be prepared to do for yourself instead of relying on the local emergency room or hospital:
Plan to dispose of them deep in the ground and well covered or burn them. If you plan to bury the dead, remember to do so in a place that is far away from any food or water source of yours or your animals. If you plan to burn a body, keep in mind that it takes a lot of fuel (propane, gasoline, wood, etc.) to properly burn a human body or animal carcass.
(Somewhat off topic but a good thing to think about.)
The main thing that drives a response from emergency services is a phone call. It doesn’t matter whether it is you or someone else, without a phone call the chances of a policeman, fireman or paramedic driving by are greatly minimized.
But technology has changed and not everyone has a landline. Not to mention that those things we used to call pay phones are practically non-existent. (Except in Hawaii. For some reason there are pay phones in many places still in Hawaii. I always thought that was strange when I lived there. Maybe the coconuts only get limited reception.)
If you are fortunate enough to have reliable access to emergency services now and during a disaster, you will need to be able to call for this assistance. Without the ability to call to even see if someone will help, you will be stuck at the curb waiting for someone to drive by.
So what is the best answer to this technology dilemma?
Landline or Cellular Phone?
A landline is convenient and very reliable and for those reasons makes it a great emergency option. Many times when a cell phone might not work, a call can go through on a landline. With that said, a landline is fixed to a specific location and unless you have an old school phone that gets it’s power from the actual phone line, you cannot use it without a working power source.
On the flip side is a cell phone that can go anywhere and works in many places. Furthermore, even if there is limited reception or all phone circuits are busy, there is a good chance that you might be able to get text messages sent and received. And, believe it or not, you cannot send or receive text messages from an old rotary dial phone.
Another huge bonus to having a cell phone is that the phone itself can assist you during an emergency. Earlier this year a mother in Australia used the ‘Hey Siri’ feature on her iPhone to call 9-1-1 while trying to simultaneously save her baby daughter’s life. Having these phone features, and being familiar with them of course, can be a great advantage and should be used to such if calling for help (regardless of whether it is emergency services, family, a friend, neighbor, etc.).
Regardless of which form of communication you decide is best for you, it is invaluable to be prepared to deal with a lack of emergency services in the event that you call for help but no one answers.
It is obvious that it is impossible to cover all the potential issues, plans and contingencies here in one article (if you can even find or think of them all) but I hope that this will at least serve as a primer to get you thinking about a part of our lives that we take for granted in modern society.
Think about the September 11, 2001, scenario I mentioned above and ask yourself, “What would I do if I had to take care of myself and my loved ones without any emergency services?”
— Tom Miller
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