Contingency Planning


"Umbrella" to illustrate ...

The easiest way to explain personal contingency planning is to use the common umbrella. You probably carry one in your car, or you have a slightly broken one in a closet at home. People who live in Seattle probably carry extra large golf course umbrellas, since rain is a way of life in that part of the world.

The common safety gadget

Placing a flashlight in your car for emergencies is much like the umbrella back-up plan. Flashlights offer a number of uses if your car breaks down on the road, ranging from signaling passing motorists (if you're buried in a snow bank), to visibility for mechanical work, to shining down the road if you break down in the dark. You may want to ensure you have an industrial model flashlight and extra batteries in your car - at all times - they can be that important.

You allow for similar safety contingencies at your home when you buy smoke alarms and fire extinguishers to ensure that a small fire does not turn into a large one.

Back to your car

Depending on where you happen to be driving at the time, a small survival kit filled with items you may need on the road is a great thing to have on board for unforeseen events. A small backpack filled with bottled water, cigarette lighter, and blanket could go a long way toward being useful if necessary.


A back-up plan for not running out of gas comes in two forms. The first and usually preferred method is to top off your gas tank more often than you usually would while traveling. In other words, it might be a good idea to pull in to that roadside gas station on the interstate while your gas tank still reads above half. Developing habits such as these obviously require more work, as the usual human-nature action (or lack thereof) is to wait until the gas tank is around a quarter full before stopping to get gas.

The second method is to keep an empty gas can in your trunk.

Two of everything

One of rule of thumb while planning for the unknown is to keep two each of important items on hand for if and when they break. People who roam the earth on foot - soldiers, hunters, hikers, forest rangers - often carry two compasses or navigation devices (large and small GPS) because as often as not, the compass stops working, the GPS batteries run out, or the GPS is out of signal reach.

Things just seem to happen when you're out doing stuff. That's the way it is.


Flood planning can be accomplished in a number of interesting ways. One way to avoid dangerous flood water is to not be there when it happens. For example, don't sleep in flash flood areas that are usually marked with "no camping" signs, aye? If you're back-packing in a country where dry creek and river beds are not marked, you can probably figure out where dangerously low-lying areas with some common sense. In this instance, your "contingency" plan is to not be there when water comes rushing down a small valley. It might look like a comfortable, safe spot to rack out for the night after a long hike. It's not.

As in the photos, if you're on an island where there has been a Tsunami, look for signs that indicate evacuation routes and then actually rehearse the route. I was on an island vacation in the Andaman Sea, and after checking the general Tsunami situation out, realized that if I happened to be lounging at the pool when a Tsunami hit the island, en embankment blocked the fast way to the designated evacuation route. There were also no drills organized by the hotel staff - I was there for 16 days, plenty of time to be informed about something like that - so I conducted my own drills.

In general.

All you really need while planning for contingencies is to take a look at your daily home and work situations to see where you need to improve.

Having an umbrella around when you need one is common sense (unless you're a uniformed service member; some U.S. military service regulations preclude the use of umbrellas for some reason).

Conducting a comprehensive situational-awareness study around your home, automobile, workplace and travel areas may make more sense - because you never know when Murphy will strike.

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