Modified from a Waller County ARES training article
Written by Christine Smith, N5CAS (sk)

Emergency communication volunteers may become so involved with helping others that they forget about their own families and themselves. The needs of victims may seem so large when compared with your own that you may feel guilty even taking a moment for your own basic personal needs. However, if you are to continue to assist others, you must keep yourself in good condition. If not, you risk becoming part of the problem. If your family is not safe and all their needs taken care of, worrying about them may prevent you from doing your job.

Home and Family
Before leaving for a deployment, make sure you make all the necessary arrangements for your home and family.

  • Family members and friends or neighbors should know where you are going, when you plan to return and should have a way to get a message to you in an emergency – one method would be to provide them with the name, callsign and phone number of another amateur radio operator with a prearranged frequency and contact schedule. Winlink Express is your friend!
  • If you live in the disaster area or in the path of a storm, consider moving your family to a safe location before beginning your duties.
  • Make arrangements for your pets. They may weather the storm better in a shelter than in a vehicle stuck on a freeway for hours on end.
  • Gather valuables, papers and keepsakes and prepare them for transport (keep your personal ID and ARES badge with you of course).
  • If you don’t move your family, make sure their transport is up to snuff with extra fuel if possible.
  • Take whatever steps you can to protect your own property from damage.
    • Board up windows
    • Turn off power, water and gas at the mains.
    • If there is a possibility of flooding, sandbag where you can.
    • Notify a trusted neighbor.
    • Move anything that might get caught up in the wind into the house or garage.
    • Notify police that you will be gone, they might do a driveby a couple times a day.
    • Get extra cash for you and your family. ATMs might not work.
    • Plan ‘escape’ routes and destinations for your family. From Harris County I’d send them to Austin or up to College Station.

In addition to your emergency communication deployment checklists, you might want to create a home and family checklist…the list above is a good starting point. It should cover all their needs while you are gone. Here are some other ideas, yep, several duplicates, to get you started:


• Board up windows if you are in a storm’s path,
• Put lawn furniture and loose objects indoors if high winds are likely,
• Drain pipes if below freezing temperatures and power loss is possible,
• Shut off power and gas if practical and if structural damage is possible.


  • Safe place to stay if needed, preferably with friends or relatives,
  • Reliable transportation, with fuel tank filled,
  • Adequate cash money for regular needs and emergencies (remember the ATM and credit card machines may not work if the power is lost),
  • House, auto, life, and health insurance information to take along if evacuated,
  • Access to important legal documents such as wills, property deeds, etc.
  • Emergency food and water supply,
  • AM/FM radio and extra batteries,
  • Flashlight and extra batteries, bulbs,
  • Adequate supply of prescription medications on hand,
  • List of emergency phone numbers (most people rely on cell phones for phone list and do not have numbers memorized),
  • Pet supplies and arrangements (local shelters will not take pets),
  • List of people to call for assistance,
  • Maps and emergency escape routes,
  • A way to contact each other,
  • A plan for reuniting later.
  • Camping/survival gear…you never know

Should you leave at all?
There are times when your family may need you as much or more than your emcomm group. Obviously, this is a decision that only you and your family can make. If a family member is ill, your spouse is unsure of their ability to cope without you, if evacuation will be difficult or any similar concern arises, staying with them may be a better choice. If there is ever any doubt, your decision must be to stay with your family. This is also something you should discuss and come to an agreement with your spouse about well before any disaster in order to avoid any last minute problems.

You Come First – Your Deployment Comes Second
Once you are deployed, you still need to take care of yourself. If you become over-tired, ill, or weak, you cannot do your job properly. If you do not take care of personal cleanliness, you could become unpleasant to be around or develop sores that could require medical attention. Whenever possible, each station should have at least two operators on duty so that one can take a break for sleep, food and personal hygiene. If that is not possible, work out a schedule with the NCS to take periodic “off-duty” breaks.

Most people need at least 2000 calories a day to function well. In a stressful situation or one with a great deal of physical activity you may need even more. If you are at a regular shelter, at least some of your food needs will probably be taken care of. In other situations, you may be on your own, at least for a while. High calorie and high protein snacks will help keep you going for a while but you will also need food that is more substantial. You may need to bring along some freeze-dried camping food, a small pot, and a camp stove with fuel, or some self-heating military surplus “Meal, Ready to Eat” (MRE) packages.

Safe water supplies can be difficult to find during and after many disasters. You will need at least two or three liters of water each day, just for drinking, more for other purposes like the aforementioned hygiene. In extremely hot or cold conditions, or with increased physical activity, your needs will increase significantly. Most disaster preparedness checklists suggest at least one gallon per person, per day. Many camping supply stores offer a range of water filters and purification tablets that can help make local water supplies safer. However, they all have limitations you should be aware of. Filters may or may not remove all potentially harmful organisms or discoloration, depending on the type. Iodine-saturated filters will kill or remove most harmful germs and bacteria but are more expensive and you may have a faint taste of iodine to the water. Some people are allergic to ingested iodine. All water filters require care in their use to avoid cross-contamination of purified water with dirty water. Be sure to read and understand the information that comes with any water purification device or tablet before purchasing or using it.

The FDA says you can use plain Clorine laundry bleach (no perfumes, etc). After filtering out any particulate by pouring it through several layers of dense cloth, put sixteen drops of Clorine bleach in a gallon of water, mix well, and allow it to sit for thirty minutes (don’t forget to take empty bleach bottles for this). If it still smells slightly of chlorine, you can use it. If not, stir in sixteen more drops and wait another half hour. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard the water and find a new supply. It will not taste great, but it may be enough. Note that Chlorine bleach, purification tablets and boiling do NOT remove chemicals that might be in the water, boiling actually concentrates many chemicals, so be careful of the source. Carry what you think you’ll need, if possible and keep your backup purification method(s) for just that…backup. CAUTION: I have no clue what the formulation is for the new ‘low splash’ bleaches but you might want to go with Pool Shock instead (instructions can be found online).

That concludes tonight’s training. Are there any questions, comments or suggested additions to this material?

Thanks, this is (callsign) clear to net control.