As recent events around the world demonstrate, Mother Nature can whip up a disaster with little notice. Her list of disaster-causing events is impressive including floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, hurricanes, typhoons, tornadoes, cyclones, and more recently, volcanoes. For many of these natural disasters, we receive a warning in advance of the event. For others, none at all. With a proper warning and the right tools, you may have a chance to ride out the storm.
Living through a natural disaster involves getting through two stages, the event itself and then the recovery or aftermath. Your toolkit should be ready for both stages. Let’s start with the event itself.
Tools that aid survival during a natural disaster (1,2)
In this section we will look at tools you will need when you have noticed the brown stuff is about to hit the fan. Whether you are ordered to evacuate or decide to weather the storm in place, you will want to protect your property from damage. Drills and saws are essential here as a common preparation is to cover windows to protect against breakage from high winds or flying debris.
A cordless drill (1) with an extra battery is a boon as you do not have to fight with an extension cord and can move quickly from point to point as you install your protection. A good table saw, or skill saw (2) is essential to cut plywood to the size needed to cover your windows.
If power tools aren’t available or affordable, have a good claw hammer, and hand saw. Your saw needs crosscut rather than rip teeth since you will be working with plywood in most cases. If none of these tools are available, put duct tape over window glass in an x-pattern (usually one “x” per individual pane of glass) to hold it together if it breaks. Taping windows this way limits the number of pieces that become shrapnel if the window breaks. Even masking tape can do in a pinch.
Tools that help survive during evacuation (3,4,5)
If you evacuate, your vehicle needs some tools on board in case of an emergency on the road. You always keep the spare inflated, right? Well, in case it isn’t, a 12v compressor (3) designed to inflate tires is a great idea. They are slow but beat riding on the rim. While most tire professionals don’t like it, a can of “fix a flat” is a good idea, especially if the tire gets a puncture.
If you don’t feel like wrestling with the standard tire iron, a cordless impact wrench (4) is a great addition to your mobile kit. They are sold singly and in packages with cordless drills. Make sure it is charged and put it in the vehicle with a socket properly sized for its lug nuts. The tool may come with the proper socket.
A cutting tool is also a good idea in case you encounter tree debris in the road. You could go with a chainsaw (5), but that is going to be bulky and smelly. Probably not what you want in a passenger vehicle but okay in a pickup truck’s bed or tool box. There are small cordless chainsaws, but they are fairly limited in runtime and size of limbs they can cut. A bow saw is the best manual option. It cuts quickly and takes up very little space with collapsible versions available.
If you stop for any length of time, flares or warning signs are useful to alert other motorists that you are not moving. It is also useful for aiding emergency services in locating your vehicle. Be sure to have a first aid kit for minor injuries. You don’t need a battlefield triage kit unless you want one.
Other essential tools are 12v plugs to charge your cell phone, a map app on your phone (or a dedicated GPS unit), and paper maps. Having paper maps is always a good idea in case electronics fail. For your electronic mapping tools, be sure to update the maps before you head out if you have time.
Related reading: How To Build A Disaster Tool Kit – Tools For After It Hits The Fan
Tools to help live through the aftermath (6,7,8)
Put a chainsaw at the top of this list unless you live on a prairie or in a neighborhood without trees. Chainsaws are essential for clearing trees from your home and property. Be sure you have the proper gas mixture and saw lubricant on hand. Test the saw before the storm to make sure it runs. For the gas and oil mixture, you can purchase premixed cans in many stores. It is expensive but very convenient.
Pole saws (6) are a great addition to take care of broken branches that are still attached to the tree. These “widow makers,” in forestry lingo, are extremely dangerous and should be removed if at all possible. Do not climb a tree to remove one without training in the art of tree climbing, and it is an art. Remember, this is about getting through the aftermath alive!
While not exactly a tool in the typical sense, a portable generator (7) can be a lifesaver in many respects. If you or a family member use life-sustaining medical equipment that requires electricity and cannot evacuate, this is essential. If you need refrigeration for medicine, ditto. Being without electricity for a couple of days can be an adventure of sorts, but the charm wears off quickly. Having a generator can provide for some of the amenities of modern life. If you have to do repairs using your table saw, a generator is a must since it will provide you with all the needed power for using your tools.
Warning: It is critical to use the generator exactly the way its instructions say to protect you and others from serious injury and death!
LED lights and lanterns (8) are a smart addition. Some cordless tool kits come with work lights that use the same battery as the drills, reciprocating saws, etc. You might also opt for LED lamps that run on standard D, C, and AA batteries.
Radios are a must-have addition. Without electricity, it may be your only source of information. Just like lights, radios are sometimes included in cordless toolkits or sold as an accessory to lines of cordless tools. Like the other tools, these may use the same rechargeable battery or require regular batteries. You realize that contractors, homeowners, and DIYers like matching equipment, right? I do. That is why the tool makers offer such a broad selection of tools. Think about getting one or two survival radios and include them in your toolkit.
Cleaning up after Mother Nature (9,10)
You may face having to make repairs inside the home after a major event. You may need to gut and replace inside finishes including trim and drywall or to get rid of water and vacuum up debris. Your cordless drill and power saw from before now play double duty in repair. Chop or miter saws (9) or smaller oscillating tools are terrific for replacing molding and trim. Wet/dry shop vacs (10) are essential if you have water to get out of the basement or carpets. Powered by a generator, your tools get going before the electricity is restored.
Demolition tools like drywall hatchets, crowbars, and reciprocating saws will come in handy as might a sledgehammer. After the stress of a natural disaster, it is amazing how cathartic “busting” up some drywall with a heavy hammer can be. In this last case, I speak from experience.
If your home has natural gas or propane and that fuels your stove, you can heat up food, boil water and so forth. If you do not have this kind of stove, you should have a means of at least heating water. A camp stove or backpacking stove is very handy. Just be sure to have plenty of ventilation if you use it inside.
General purpose items and advice
Surviving a natural disaster alive is a lot easier with the proper tools and advance preparations. As already noted, some natural events come without warning. So, if you live in an area prone to earthquakes, tornadoes, or other “unannounced” disasters, you should have a disaster kit ready. Here are a few additional tips for your consideration in preparing for an unwelcome visit from Mother Nature.
- Containers for water and fuel are a must. If you have a bathtub, a Water Bob is a great alternative.
- Charge all cordless tools, batteries, and cell phones in advance.
- Have your car fueled as pumps don’t operate without electricity.
- Get cash as like gas pumps, ATMs need electricity to work.
- Refill prescriptions of essential medications if they are running low.
- Rope or parachute cord (paracord) is great to have, 50 – 100’.
- Duct tape.
- A list of important phone numbers including doctors and insurance companies.
- Your login credentials for your utilities to use online outage reporting and tracking.
- Keep vital documents like insurance policies with you in baggies.
Tools can be a lifesaver in the event of a natural disaster whether you ride it out or evacuate to a safer place. Don’t be a victim of an event, prepare and come out on top. My kit’s always ready, now it’s your turn. Now, if you don’t mind, my Dremel is calling me back complete some DIY chores.