Go to any preparedness source (such as The Red Cross), and you’ll be told you need 3 days’ (or 72 hours) worth of supplies following a crisis.
Have you ever wondered why you always hear 72 hours?
The short answer is the first 72 hours following a crisis are the most critical.
If people are not rescued within 72 hours, the chances of recovery are slim.
And why is that?
There are several reasons: Utilities, such as electricity and water, may not work, and public safety services, such as first responders, may not be able to reach you during a major disaster event.
This city government pamphlet explains it more directly: “While your State, County and City will be responding to basic community needs in the aftermath of an emergency, available resources and the time when those resources will become available will vary depending on the severity of the emergency. The first 72 hours after an emergency is the most critical period. Basic infrastructure, communications and transportation systems may be challenged, inoperable or inaccessible and the steady flow of supplies such as gas, ice, water, medicine and food may not be readily available. The first line of preparedness for any emergency is planning to meet your, your family’s or your organization’s basic survival needs for 72 hours.”
The government is letting you know you are on your own for approximately 72 hours following a disaster.
You’ve seen the pictures of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and likely remember how long it took for the people there to receive help from government sources.
You do not want to hang your hopes of survival on the city, state, or national government.
But here’s the thing: It’s going to take more than a 72-hour emergency kit of food and water.
There are many reasons why people die during the first 72 hours following a disaster. Keep reading to find out more so you can better prepare yourself and your family for whatever comes your way.
Succumbing to Injuries
One of the most common reasons people die following a disaster is from injuries sustained during the event or even after.
According to Jean-Luc Poncelet, chief of PAHO's Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Relief program, “Most victims of natural disasters die of trauma, drowning or burns rather than infection.”
Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, several people died from rhabdomyolysis, which is a condition where the muscles rupture and result in kidney failure.
DW shared this sad story following the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria:
“After the massive earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, Zeynep spent over 100 hours under the rubble of a collapsed house before rescue workers were finally able to free her. ‘The woman is doing well given the circumstances,’ a February 10 press release from the aid organization ISAR Germany (International Search and Rescue), which was involved in the rescue, said. Shortly after being freed, however, Zeynep died.”
She succumbed to her injuries – even after surviving the initial disaster.
In the event of an actual emergency, you can bet you’re going to have to take care of yourself and those around you – and not rely on emergency services.
It’s critical to not only have a well-stocked first aid trauma kit but also to know basic first aid skills.
Our Prepper's Medical Handbook provides the basis of prevention, identification, and long-term management of survivable medical conditions and can be performed with minimal training. And it helps you identify sources of materials you will need and should stock-pile before disaster strikes.
Getting Caught in the Chaos following a Disaster
Sadly, many people die because of the chaos that ensues after disaster strikes.
They survive the mass shooting, but they die in the stampede of people trying to escape.
They survive the hurricane or blizzard, but they get attacked by looters.
In April 2023, the New York Post reported, “At least 78 people have been killed and dozens more hurt during a stampede in Yemen’s capital city after a crowd of people gathered at an event to receive financial aid were spooked by gunfire and an electrical explosion.”
During the recent wildfire events in Hawaii, looters began robbing people at gunpoint, according to news sources.
According to Marsh McLennan, “The 2010 Haiti earthquake offers an extreme example of this, with many reports of armed gangs targeting women and girls in displacement camps.”
While we can’t always control where we will be when disaster strikes, we can prepare for how we will react when things get hairy.
And how do you do that? You learn how to become a gray man.
A gray man is someone who can blend into any environment or situation, such as having the ability to move through a crowd or place unnoticed. A gray man knows how to hide in plain sight while also not appearing to have anything to hide.
If you learn situational awareness skills ahead of time, should you get caught in the chaos that ensues, you’ll have a better chance of blending in…and surviving.
[Related Read: Why Becoming a Gray Man May Save Your Life]
Drowning in Rising Waters
According to data from the National Weather Service, 145 people died because of flooding last year in America. That is up 145% from the 59 flood-related deaths reported in 2020.
Over half of these flood-related deaths were also car-related, meaning people drove into flooded areas and were quickly swept away.
Rising waters, such as flash floods or severe flooding, can happen quickly and overtake entire cities.
Knowing how to swim and paying attention to weather warnings is critical for survival.
Suffering from Exposure to the Elements
Every year, people survive the initial winter storm only to die later due to their exposure to the cold.
For instance, Buffalo, New York, experienced a Christmas blizzard just last year that left millions without power.
The Sun reports, “Some victims were found frozen to death in their cars, while a 56-year-old father was found dead on the streets.”
Being outdoors in the extreme cold is dangerous. But even being indoors without heat during extreme cold is dangerous.
That’s why it is wise to invest in a generator or some type of indoor stove and heat source, such as the VESTA Self-Powered Space Heater & Stove by InstaFire. Not only does it allow you to cook, but it doubles as a heater so you can warm an indoor space up to 200 square feet in size without the need for electricity.
Dying from Dehydration and Heat Stroke
People die every year when the temperatures are extremely high.
Our bodies need to stay at the right temperature, which requires water, the right clothing, and shelter.
Without these things, we die.
For example, Phys.org reports, “Deaths in Spain from heat stroke and dehydration in the hottest months of 2022—the hottest year on record—jumped by 88% compared to the same period in 2021. […] The Institute said 122 people died of heat stroke and 233 of dehydration between May and August last year when temperatures soared in a succession of heat waves.”
Last year, a family of three was found dead of dehydration in the Sierra National Forest after trying to call for help but lacking cellular service during a family hike.
The First 72 Is on You!
The real work starts before the first 72 hours of a crisis.
It is up to you to plan and prepare.
Buy the supplies. Take the classes. Read the stories. Boost your knowledge.
Plan to survive the first 72 hours on your own, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply