Firearms in Emergency Kits?

Cannon Beach, Oregon, a community in the Cascadia subduction zone, has an interesting program in which they store the preparedness kits of residents for them.  A link to the city’s program is here:  In summary, the city provides the opportunity for residents (for a small fee) to store containers (provided by the city) of emergency supplies within city-owned cache locations.  They offer 5 gallon pails (with lids), 30 gallon drums, and 55 gallon drums.  These kits are stored securely in shipping containers at the predesignated locations.

I’m a bit ambivalent about the concept.  While it certainly encourages and enables people and families to have kits that perhaps otherwise wouldn’t, it does remove these kits from their possession.  Not having the kits in your possession limits the ability to add to/maintain the kit and certainly makes them ineffective during a shelter in place scenario.  I, for one, would rather have my kit readily available to me and all family members without having to address:

1) potentially unsafe travel,

2) the ability to access the container (will someone be there to let me in?),

3) a potential state of unrest in the vicinity of the container,

4) will the container still be there (we’ve seen these things easily moved by mother nature).

Note that the informational material on their website does encourage people to also have go-bags for a combination approach, which is a good idea.

Now that I’ve warmed you up with some background – off to the main topic…  I was first alerted to Cannon Beach’s concept via a news article about someone storing a firearm in their kit.  The article states that an individual kept a firearm in their kit, which was stored by the city in a storage container which was broken into and stolen.  Firearms, by the way, are not permitted per the city’s guidance.  But should firearms (Cannon Beach’s program aside) be included in emergency kits?

Up front, I’d never recommend that firearms be kept in an emergency kit simply based upon liability.  That said, it’s an individual decision but could be a good idea.  Certainly anyone who chooses to do so should ensure that it is done legally and safely.  One must also consider why they want to have a firearm in their kit.  Is it for personal protection or for hunting?  Or both?  In the case of the article I referenced, it was a handgun, which could really only be used effectively for personal protection.

While we see very limited violence and looting during disasters, it certainly could be possible.  I would never suggest that someone not have the ability to protect themselves or their family.  I would suggest, however, that anything in your kit should have as many purposes as possible.  A handgun is less than ideal for hunting.  However, including a firearm for hunting (rifle or shotgun) will likely exceeded the physical space of your kit, so this needs to be considered.

I would also suggest that, again just like anything else in your kit, you be proficient in using it. Among the few who keep and maintain preparedness kits, many buy things and just stick them in there.  They never read the instructions or become familiar with their use.  Consider a water purifier for example.  Any brand that I’m familiar with needs to be submerged and backwashed prior to use to remove smaller particulates from the carbon filter.  If someone is keeping something as dangerous as a firearm, they had better be proficient in its use!

The bottom line is that we are not likely to see a scenario out of The Walking Dead.  While we have seen some devastating incidents, such as Hurricane Katrina, which had limited the effectiveness of law enforcement for a time, this is not the norm within disasters.  Some may be considering an extreme, perhaps apocalyptic, scenario, and wanting to protect themselves, which is fine.  Just be smart about it.

What are your thoughts on firearms in emergency kits?  How about the municipal storage of kits like Cannon Beach’s program?

Lots of food for thought…

© 2015 – Timothy Riecker

Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC


NYC Ready for Godzilla

Godzilla Movie Poster

Godzilla Movie Poster

If you’ve read some of my earlier posts, you know I love emergency management campaigns that draw on pop culture – especially post apocalyptic shows like The Walking Dead.  This article from the NY Daily News where NYC Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Bruno indicates that the impacts of an attack on the city by a creature such as Godzilla would be manageable.  In essence, they are right.  Why?  Because NYC follows a model of all-hazard preparedness.  Do they have a Rampaging Radioactive Monster plan?  Of course not.  But they do have plans that address “fire, explosions, casualties, damage, debris, bridges and tunnels being out.  Roads being out, power issues…” as Commissioner Bruno said.  He continued on, joking that they don’t have a plan for slime.  (I don’t think Godzilla leaves slime, though)

A few weeks ago I blogged about all hazard planning and included some thoughts on asteroid strike and other low probability events that we don’t necessarily need a specific plan for – we simply needs plans that address the impacts and how we will respond to and manage them.

While the article is largely tongue in cheek, even including a link to an article about the US Air Force’s capability to take down Godzilla and referencing a study conducted by the Hollywood Reporter estimating the dollar cost of the damages in NYC from the Chitauri invasion featured in the Avengers movie, it still leaves a subliminal message to the reader that we (or at least NYC) is well prepared for the impacts of disaster.

Marketing the Preparedness Message

There are some great ideas in Jim McKay’s article – The Preparedness Message Isn’t Reaching the Public, featured in Emergency Management Magazine.  Just like any good marketing campaign, we have to push with multiple strategies.  Billboards and television campaigns are great but they aren’t going to hit home with everyone.  We need to be more creative in our approach.  Our methods will resonate differently with various people.  The CDC’s zombie campaign got a lot of attention (see my blog post on it!).  Why?  Because they not only used something trendy, they considered their audiences.  Not all audiences respond to the zombie campaign; some think it’s ridiculous – but they were able to engage a lot of people.  Different people require different methods.  Once you reach an audience, then you can convey a message.  Preparedness is boring, let’s face it.  We need creative and diverse solutions to reach and engage audiences.

The CDC’s Zombie Banner




There are four major challenges we’re facing when it comes to preparedness that I speak about in presentations.  These are many of the thoughts of many folks when it comes to disasters:

1) It’s not going to happen here.

2) It’s not going to be that bad.

3) There is nothing I can do about it.

4) Government will take care of me.

These aren’t rocket science, but they can be tough nuts to crack – especially when we don’t want to be the ‘doom and gloom’ people.

Let’s look at what has worked.  McKay’s article mentions coupons to Target for preparedness kits.  This is an effective methodology that has worked well for years in California and other places around the country.  In Central New York, where I’m from, a county health department capitalized creatively on a point of distribution exercise to get the beginnings of preparedness kits in the hands of residents.  The 300 slots they had available filled very quickly.  The event got great press and all positive comments from those who participated.  Good or bad economy, people like free or discounted things.  The lesson learned here is to get preparedness underwritten.  Be it by grant funds or corporate sponsors.  If Pepsi wants to put out a preparedness kit, so be it.

The Wonders of Post-Apocalyptic TV

I love post-apocalyptic themed TV shows: The Walking Dead, Revolution, and Falling Skies are my potato chips… I just can’t get enough!  Not only are these shows extremely well cast, produced, and directed, they have fantastic character development, and the story lines are riveting.  The sociological aspects, as mentioned in my previous post – The Monster Mash – What’s With the Zombie Thing in Emergency Management? – are extremely thought provoking.  What would people do to survive?  How would they act?

In case you aren’t familiar with the shows:  Revolution is a new show this season.  It uses as a scenario a global power outage and takes place 15 years after this outage.  The cause for the outage isn’t known, and it seems that the cause continues to suppress any and all electrical power.  Falling Skies takes place present day and is about a very diverse group surviving a brutal alien invasion.  The Walking Dead, just in case you happen to be living under a rock, is about a zombie apocalypse.  If there was just one to pick, it would be The Walking Dead – which actually has a great blend of the other two, with its own twists added in.

In all three shows, government, as we know it, does not exist – or at least has not revealed itself.  That said, in two of these shows – Revolution and Falling Skies – societal groups have formed a hierarchy, supposedly for the mutual benefit and protection of the group.  In Falling Skies the government structure is a bit more benevolent and focused on taking care of its people – to the point of taking an isolationist view with the rest of the world, including the alien invaders.  In Revolution, the government structure we see is very much a military dictatorship focused on control.  If you watch both shows, it’s evident that other government structures outside of these are certainly possible and very likely.  What would happen in our world absent government?

In The Walking Dead we see small groups of people coming together for mutual benefit and survival – certainly not as large as we see in the other two shows, and not large enough to be considered any attempt at ‘government’.  Aside from the central group of characters, we’ve seen other groups – all different, but all trying to survive in their own way.  Looting is accepted practice both in The Walking Dead as well as Falling Skies – mostly for durable foods and medical supplies.  You can have whatever vehicle you see on the side of the road, but fuel is a rare commodity.  Revolution is largely beyond looting as it takes place 15 years after the global power outage.  Hunting for food is practiced in all three shows, as is some measure of farming.

Commonly across all three shows are the themes that only the strongest-willed people survive and that there is (relative) safety in numbers.  Some people are able to utilize their pre-apocalypse skills (such as medical professionals), while others learn new skills and take on completely different roles.  People need to be inventive and need to be able to survive the worst and longest camping trip ever.  What will our society do?  We’ve seen it through many disasters our country has faced.  Will there be looting – sure there will.  We saw it happen in Katrina.  Of course there were the idiots lugging large screen TVs, but most looting was for food.  I’m not condoning it, but I’d certainly do it for my family if I had to.

For as much as we complain about our government, it’s difficult to imagine having no government.  Having some civil hierarchy gives us structure and order.  There have been countless studies done on the innate desire that humans have to be part of a structure or at least being comforted knowing that a structure exists.  I certainly think that groups of people would form some measure of government structure on their own.  The scary consideration, however, is those who would abuse that power.

Would our society recover?  I think it would – although society would look nothing like it looks today.

The Monster Mash – What’s with the Zombie Thing in Emergency Management?

In May of 2011 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) unleashed its Zombie Preparedness campaign upon the world.  This campaign took off like a flesh-eating monster, encouraging preparedness throughout the nation and prompting similar campaigns in other countries.  My guess is that the CDC took a creative prompt from the current pop culture zombie craze (mostly fueled by AMC’s The Walking Dead series – yep, I’m a big fan – note: season 3 starts on October 14th) as well as from the common sense, yet tongue-in-cheek group known in Zombie Squad.  Zombie Squad, whose website says they have been around since 2003.  ZS (as they are known) “… is an elite zombie suppression task force ready to defend your neighborhood from the shambling hordes of the walking dead.” “When the zombie removal business is slow we focus our efforts towards educating ourselves and our community about the importance of disaster preparation.”

So how does this all make sense?  Actually, it fits very well.  Contrary to the other monster fad currently sweeping the globe – vampires – which seems to be intent on teenage-level love stories, this zombie business is serious, really.  The Walking Dead has spurred many conversations in on-line discussion boards and in my own home about people functioning and surviving when society has crumbled around them.  Zombieism is also a disease, so all the concepts that go with a major disease, such as transmission prevention, isolation and quarantine, treatment, vaccination, etc. all apply.

From a preparedness angle, the zombie concept works well. On the CDC website, their director, Dr. Ali Khan explains “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.”  They then further encourage people to get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared.  It’s great that we’re all using the same message!  The Zombie Squad website also encourages the same.

Now how about from the prospective of emergency response and emergency management folks?  Surely, we can’t be swayed by this pop culture silliness as well?  We sure can – and I think it’s great!  For many of the same reasons explained earlier, we can draw many similarities between a zombie attack and an actual incident.  Sure, we take some liberties and we have a little fun with it, but why can’t we?  A successful exercise is one that tests our objectives, is it not?  Drawing the scenario similar to a pandemic or hazardous materials type of incident, agencies are testing objectives related to mass casualties, mass fatality management, isolation and quarantine, public messaging, incident command, crowd control, looting, disease prevention, points of distribution, etc.  So many times I had heard from those who taught me ‘the art of exercises’, that the scenario really doesn’t matter, it’s all about the objectives.  Sure, in the past we’ve always given consideration to the scenario being realistic so that the participants buy into it, but I think many can totally get into the zombie thing.  This local exercise is using the zombie theme later this month (they are even giving prizes for things such as ‘best zombie walk’ to encourage volunteers to come for this, and yes, they are holding a ‘Thriller’ dance!), and you’ve probably seen articles on National Guard and Department of Defense units using a zombie attack as their scenario.

Bottom line, it’s fun, it’s effective, and it’s a graveyard smash!