Disaster Preparedness

Hello viewers,

I mentioned some time ago in this space that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (search), I was going to re-think my disaster plan. It is clear that when government gets overwhelmed in times of disaster (from the hand of man or mother nature) we will be responsible for taking care of ourselves.

I know some will say, "That Wilson, I knew he was one of them survivalist freaks." No, not really. I just think it makes some sense to stash back some water, food, batteries and bare essentials. In addition, because power seems to be unreliable in my neighborhood, I have purchased a small generator, which I can drag out of my garage in a moments notice. As long as I have gasoline — I can run my fridge, a few lights, a microwave oven, a TV — and of course — my satellite dish tuned to FOX News. I keep an extra propane tank for the gas grill in case I need to cook meals outside for a week or so. Some of the basic supplies are in giant plastic tubs that can be loaded into a car, if it comes time to "bug out."

Ever since 9/11, I have been reluctant to drive into Washington, D.C., with less than a half tank of gas. I want enough fuel to get out of the city without having to stop. This is probably folly, because, Washington is a city where roads and highways become unbelievably jammed if more than three drops of water fall from the sky — a real disaster here would be chaos.

Our "Weekend Live" question of the day on Sunday asked, "Are you prepared for a disaster?" We heard from a lot of people who have been thinking about their disaster plans:

From Wellington, Florida:

"After seeing what happened in Katrina I went out and purchased enough to sustain my family of 8 for at least 3 days. I went online to the Red Cross site and downloaded their recommendations. We have water, food and alternate forms of energy for cooking. However, our plan is still to evacuate ahead of a bad storm. Terrorist attack? All bets are off."

From Ken in Pagosa Springs, Colorado:

I think you should remind your viewers that every home hot water tank holds 40 to 50 gallons of potable water. I have never seen this mentioned on TV. Just turn off the gas or electricity to the tank. It has a valve on top to cut off the outside water supply ( if it was contaminated) and a valve on the bottom to drain the tank without water pressure. This is reliable water source for emergencies.

One of my Washington, D.C., neighbors seems to be ready:

I live 30 miles from D.C., I am prepared for a quick evacuation — say 20 minutes to load up and drive away with my pets, external hard drive, legal documents and irreplaceable photos. I am also prepared for a stay in place emergency, with canned food (and manual can opener!) and water enough for a week, maybe 10 days, battery operated radio and flashlights — I also keep a little cash on hand, since ATMs and credit cards don't work without power.

My plans seem inadequate to the preparations made by this viewer who describes herself as "a well prepared, college-educated, middle class, single, Christian woman in the heart of America":

With freedom comes responsibility. Each day I am in 'condition orange' aware and able to assess and respond to my environment and those around me. I firmly believe it is the responsibility of each and every American citizen to be self-sufficient and self-reliant whether it be on a daily basis, natural disaster or man-made emergency.

Yes, I have thoroughly prepared for an emergency for myself and my immediate family with survival items and background training in categories to include but not limited to:

Water & food x 2 months
Adequate all weather clothing & footwear
First aid and medications
Heat, lighting and fuel
Long term liquid financial means, documents, etc.
Communications (phone, GPS, radio & other)
Transportation means for all terrains and weather
Protective gear for poisonous gas and radiation
Personal self-defense and other survival tools
An alternative place to re-locate & live outside of major metropolitan areas
Alternative evacuation routes other than interstates or major highways

Wow! That's prepared!

Here's one idea I heard: Put some sneakers in your car, so you can hike out of a disaster zone if it comes down to it. I can tell you from practical experience of having covered more than my share of disasters over the years, you would not believe how many things stop functioning when the electricity goes off. Taking a few minutes to think and plan now, could pay off down the line.

We'll be crawling out of our secret bunker just in time for next Sunday's edition of Weekend Live — see you then.

— Brian

Send your comments to: weekendlive@foxnews.com.

Brian Wilson is a congressional correspondent for FOX News and anchor of the Sunday edition of "Weekend Live."