While my husband studies for an exam that he is taking tomorrow (civil aviation exam – nothing military related), I’ve spent several hours putting together important documents that I will need in case of an emergency while he is deployed. Now that I have my items together and I have some time on my hands, I thought that this would be a great time to pass on information about PERSEC – personal security – which is essential in military family life, ESPECIALLY while the service member spouse is away from home.
A few months ago, I received the Navy’s NEO (noncombatant evacuation operation) packet, which I was asked to complete with my husband. The NEO packet is a compilation of forms that must be completed in order to be evacuated by the Navy in the case of an emergency or disaster. This may sound far-fetched, but consider that just 2.5 years ago, this ENTIRE BASE was evacuated for 4 months during the Fukushima meltdown. Everyone on this base was moved to Guam.
As I compiled the necessary documents to answer the questions on the forms, I began considering if I would be prepared if disaster struck while my husband is deployed. My answer was NO.
I wondered what I needed to leave the country, how I would leave the country, if I would rely solely on the military to evacuate me, and if I had everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. I wondered how I should go about compiling all of these resources. Since I do not have children or pets (I am the only person I know who is in this circumstance on this base), I SHOULD be the first person at the air terminal to leave if I am adequately prepared.
To address my inadequacies:
First, I created a binder of important information. In this binder, I compiled: my marriage and birth certificates; my social security card; photo copies of our passports, ID cards, credit/bank cards, and a bank statement; my husband’s orders; a photocopy of the census page of the NEO packet (the most important page in the packet); our general and special power of attorney docs; and all other info that I thought would be important if I needed to leave the country quickly. Honestly, I don’t want to rely on remembering to pack things if I need to leave in an extreme hurry — if all I have is this binder and my wallet, I want to be able to get out of the country FAST.
Second, I began thinking about what my “tipping-points” are for removing myself from this area or this country, and if and when I would rely on the military vs. relying on myself. What would I do in the case of a natural disaster? What if North Korea began threatening mainland Japan (for real)? What if there was a terrorist attack on base or in Japan? What if there was a major event in the United States? What if something happened with my husband, his deployment, or the carrier? What if something happened to my parents or his parents? Am I willing to empty our savings in order to get out of this country immediately? These are uncomfortable questions, but it is super important that you answer them BEFORE your service member leaves. MAKE A PLAN!
Third, I thought about what I would bring with me, and when I would bring those things. Would I pack my essentials into a backpack or suitcase (which I call a “bug-out bag”)? Should I keep those essentials on constant standby? Where should I keep them? What will go in my bag of essentials? Should I put my essentials into a backpack, and then keep a list for additional/luxury essentials to be packed into a suitcase if I have time? Where should I keep that list, and should I keep that suitcase ready to go at all times, too?
Fourth, and still to be completed, I asked myself what ARE my essential items, do I own all of the essential items, and what items do I need to buy? For example, I still need to purchase a comprehensive first aid kit, and I’d like to have more masks on hand. I need to purchase a dedicated bug-out bag.
Last, and still to be completed, I must fill-out the reminder of the NEO packet. I have everything filled-out that I need in order to exit with the Navy, but there are additional forms to be completed that ensure that our belongings are cared for after I leave. I want to be clear here — the NEO packet is a lot of work to fill-out and it forces you face hard realities of your situation, but it is essential to fill-out. If you are ever handed one of these, make sure that you do it.
The NEO packet suggests a list of items to bring in case of an emergency evacuation. Here are some of the suggestions:
Passport; birth certificates; marriage certificate; 3 days of food supplies; toiletries; critical medication; shot record; powers of attorney; wills; checkbook/bankbook; extra clothing; first aid kit; flashlight and batteries; small radio; backpack
I recommend these additional items:
Bandana and/or masks; extra contacts and glasses; portable power supply for your cell phone (which may or may not work, depending on the situation); an external hard drive that is regularly used to back-up your personal computer; photocopies of your passport, ID cards, and certificates; an extensive first aid kit; recent photos of yourself, your spouse, and your children (in case you are separated or for identification); a copy of your service member’s Orders; your social security card; garbage bags; a small blanket
I know that it may feel uncomfortable or frightening to consider what you must do to prepare for an emergency, but I urge you to begin considering it RIGHT NOW. Especially if you have children or other dependents, the time to think about disaster is before disaster strikes. Discuss your plans with your spouse. For example, be on the same page about when you will purchase commercial airline tickets or pack your family into your car and move yourselves to another location, and where that location will be. At what point will you rely on the military to move your family out of harms way? At what point will you take charge? How can you prepare together? What do you need from your service member to be prepared?
Plan now. At this moment, all I have prepared is my little binder of information and the essential evacuation form in the NEO packet. That may seem like very little, but I’m already feeling prepared because, if all else fails, I can get out of the country quickly and safely with just these items.