Pandemic Planning for Your Survival Group – Charley Hogwood

Pandemic Planning for Your Survival Group

How Does A Pandemic Affect A Survival Group?

Your survival group was created to be a cushion between you and society at large should something serious come along. As we attempt to prepare at the family level we only have so many resources to work with. So what do we do when of all things, something like Ebola pops up? Most of us already consider things like the Avian Flu but Ebola can pop up like gophers in the garden. Influenza is tracked with some predictability and we usually have a pretty good idea when it’s most active and what we should do to be ready. Ebola seems to be more along the lines of a bioterror event in that we may get very little if any warning that it’s in our community until symptoms are recognized and tests are verified. This is due to its potential long incubation period of upwards of 21 days. By then it is possible that the number of infected is cascading.

So what does this mean to the survival group?

Timing is everything if your plan is to wait and see what’s going to happen. The gamble is that if you act too soon you may have committed your resources and now what do you do if nothing happens? On the other hand if you wait until cases begin popping up randomly across the country you may get swept up in the panic or possibly something the government likes to call “containment.” An additional concern is that if your group is like most everyone else going to work and school everyday, how do you deal with the potential of introducing illness into the group once activated. Is it practical to isolate every member for 21 days? Another level of awareness to have is to understand the time the virus can survive on a surface. In the case of Ebola, the virus is said to be viable on surfaces for several days. In Africa they are trying to sanitize everything, even spraying disinfectant on the sidewalks. So in the event of a major outbreak should we be concerned with our just in time commerce system moving the virus around on boxes and vehicles? See how easy paranoia can slip in?

Let’s take a look at the potential for disruption in a pandemic event. We won’t go too far into this but just to give you a refresher. The following list will help you in planning. Some of these things may not be as high priority depending on your level of preparedness and proximity to urban areas. With that being said, there aren’t many things that will empty a city but lack of essential services and raging contagion might be pretty high on the list so take transient populations into account as you plan.

The short list of hazards to think about for contagion:

  • Panic buying
  • Civil unrest
  • Containment/quarantine/travel restrictions
  • General paranoia
  • Medical centers overwhelmed or avoided all together
  • Unwillingness to seek medical care for other health conditions out of fear
  • Workers staying home
  • Services spotty or non-existent
  • Commerce interrupted/truckers stay home
  • Food and water shortages
  • First responders affected/over worked

In the National Pandemic Strategy the US government estimates that as many as 40% of workers may stay home leading to severe strain on essential services.

So what is the plan?

First there are plenty of things you can do. Take a look at your supplies and ask yourself; can we survive for at least three months with no outside contact? Three months is the projected time a pandemic wave is expected to last in a community. Next think about your possible exposure. The best thing to do here is to promote a healthy culture of hygiene. Make hand washing a requirement for everyone you come into contact with. Now is the time to beef up your personal protective equipment (PPE). You should already have supplies or get home bags in your vehicles and work spaces be sure you have a good quality respirator mask such as a 3M brand N95 mask rated for medical procedures. Cheap dust masks usually don’t hold up to moisture and will not seal adequately. For those of us with facial hair you should know that even a 5 o’clock shadow would prevent a seal and allow sneeze droplets or splash to enter the mask. Technically, even an N95 mask should be fit tested and taught how to put on and take off correctly and safely.

Part of your supplies in each location should include disinfectant or bleach. But remember that liquid bleach begins to lose effectiveness in 6 months so don’t buy large quantities unless you think you will need it.

In a group survival location you will have many people in a small area, which could act as an incubator for germs so you may want to create a plan for regular decontamination of all living spaces and common equipment. For example, there will be a lot of traffic in the kitchen area as well as places like HAM radio rooms, guard posts, vehicles and common lounging areas. The group should have a medic who constantly monitors each member for signs of illness. The medic should work with group leaders to establish an area where isolation can be set up. As part of your planning you should have hard copies of information on how to set up a hot area for isolation and a decon area for those who care for patients. The isolation room should be away from other common areas as much as possible.

Once the group activates due to mass contagion it is essential to make every effort to prevent the illness into the survival group’s retreat location. To better secure your members, establish a security buffer around the home or buildings that you use. This buffer will need to be monitored for intrusion at all times. If an infected burglar were to infiltrate the home, disease could be introduced.  All personnel who may find themselves in contact with outsiders should carry at least the basic PPE of mask, sealed eye protection and nitrile long cuff exam gloves.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our Pandemic and Your Survival Group series, where we will talk about survival group leadership and other contingency plans for your group.

You can always check out a copy of our book, The Survival Group Handbook on Amazon at

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