One of the last things on your mind when you're off at college is disaster planning. Because college is a time when you're young. You feel indestructible, so why would you even concern yourself with preparedness. You're just having a ball with all the other freshmen.
Until something goes wrong.
If something does happen when you're away from home, it's a good idea to have a plan in place, just in case. What you prepare now, could make all the difference in keeping you, and your friends, alive.
But it's not going to be easy. There are three massive challenges you need to overcome before you can even start planning.
- The lack of space to store much of anything in your dorm
- The inability to carry firearms or personal defense items on campus
- The adjustments you need to make to best understand the threats faced
Here's how I'd approach disaster preparedness if I was back in college.
Make a plan for the most likely events
The first step to take is to determine what's most likely to happen in the area where you're studying. Perhaps where you've moved to a location that has a tornado risk, or you're now living close to a fault line and an earthquake is the most likely.
Take your time and do a little research on your area, so you have all the information you need to create a proper plan. Then, figure out your best course of action should any of these occur. For me, I lived about 300 miles from my family home during college, and my plan was always to evacuate. That involved never letting the gas in my car drop below half-full, and ensuring I had enough supplies in my car to complete the hike on foot, should the situation ever call for it.
Have important information handy
One thing I'd do straight away is to setup your phone with all of your emergency contacts. In addition to basics like your mom and dad, pre-load in the numbers for the local police and fire departments, the emergency department of the closest hospital, and any contact or support numbers for the security team on your college campus.
Explore and learn your escape routes
One thing I enjoyed in my college days was wandering around campus. It's so lively, and there's always people everywhere. But I bet, that once you know your way to class, you're going to follow that same route, every, single day. It's totally normal, but it puts you at a disadvantage.
You need to explore and learn your way around the different buildings and dorms, so if there is ever an event like an active shooter, you can quickly head to the closest exit. I'd even recommend practicing using these a couple of times, so you know exactly where you're going if an emergency ever occurs.
I'd also plan out who is going to be your main point of contact, and ensure they know what you're planning to do during a disaster should it happen. They are your first call when a crisis hits. This is a basic point in a communication plan, but often your phone's signal is going to be the first thing that goes down. Your point of contacts job is to ensure the rest of your loved ones know what you're planning, and that you’re safe.
Have your go-bag ready
Even if you're sharing a dorm there will be enough space for your go-bag, so don't neglect setting this up. Again, pack light so it doesn't take up too much space, as that's one of the most limiting factors when you're living in college.
You need a small first aid kit, enough non-perishable food to last a day or two, bottled water, and a decent flashlight with a spare set of batteries. I'd also recommend tossing a good quality sleeping bag in there as well, it'll come in handy should the heat go off during the middle of winter.
Oh, and if they fit, those "under the bed" storage containers are a great way to have supplies on hand, but out of sight. If you've got a car, I'd recommend upping the amount of food and water you're hoarding so there's at least enough to last a week.
Learn basic survival skills
This isn't rocket science, but even just a general knowledge of topics like first aid can prove very useful in a crisis. You'll learn techniques like CPR, as well as how to patch up some common injuries.
I'd also recommend taking a self-defense course, just in case you ever need to fight back, being able to throw a decent punch can make all the difference. And a can of pepper spray is always a good back up for a campus that doesn't allow firearms. Oh, and make use of your student-level prices at the gym to get yourself in top shape. Your fitness may very well be the thing that helps you escape the disaster when it happens.
Finally, take the time to learn the basics of good situational awareness. The biggest threat you're realistically going to face on campus is the people who mean to do you harm. So, keep your wits about you, and don't walk around with your headphones in and your nose buried in your phone. Otherwise you're going to be the one the criminals do target.
I understand that many people are going to think that having a survival mindset while they're in college isn't really "cool." But to me, making it through a crisis unscathed is my only goal. And to be successful, you should always remember the principles of Operational Security. Keep your preparations to yourself, and never make a big deal about the supplies and gear you're hoarding. That's how to be a survivalist while you're in college.