Let's say there's some sort of disaster that strikes the area where you live. Maybe it's a severe earthquake, or a flood. Maybe it's a prolonged power outage caused by an ice storm. Or maybe it's a raging wildfire like the one that had us preparing for evacuation a few years ago.
No matter what the catastrophe is, there should be, in your mind, a plan of action that you'll follow to make sure you do the most important things first. The time to develop that plan of action is not when you're facing the stress of the crisis — it should be figured out in advance. It's the "pre" part of "preparing."
One component of this plan of action is demonstrated by commercial airlines as they present a safety briefing to passengers before each flight. Part of that script shows what to do in the event of sudden loss of cabin pressure. The flight attendant demonstrates that a small door will open overhead and an oxygen mask will drop on a length of plastic tubing. Then they instruct that we're supposed to put the mask on our own face first, before trying to help children or others who are with us.
How harsh is that!? We save ourself before saving our child? What's going on here?
There's a lesson in that process. In an emergency situation, we need to make sure we survive before we try to help others. That sound selfish, perhaps even cowardly, doesn't it? But think about it for a minute. If you don't survive, you can't possibly help your children, your spouse, or anybody else. In fact, if you become incapacitated, you become part of the larger problem, because then somebody else needs to spend their time (possibly putting him- or herself at risk) to help you.
So, the number one priority is to make sure you remain healthy so you can help others. If you have a family, the next step (and this will probably happen simultaneously) is to save them. Think about that oxygen mask — how long does it take to put that thing on your face before you can help fit one on your child's face? Not long. Work fast, but work in the proper order. You first, then your spouse and children, then your friends and neighbors. And dont' forget your animals.
What about self-sacrifice — you know, throwing yourself on a grenade to save someone else? That kind of heroic effort works, but only once. You might find yourself in a situation where you take the bullet, or push your loved one out of the way of an onrushing bus, then take the hit yourself. If you do that, you'll be remembered fondly for your heroism and sacrifice. A job well done, but your game is over.
In a long-term survival incident, you need to stick around in good condition as long as you can so you can be a positive element in working out the problems that lie ahead. That's especially true if you have a family to care for. Nobody on this planet will care for your loved ones the way you do. Nobody else will search day and night through hellish conditions to locate your family members the way you will. So if you don't take care of your own survival, you leave your family on it's own.
Start now to develop a plan of action that covers as many contingencies as you can think of. Go over the plan with your family members, so everybody knows what to do first, then next, then next after that.
On our Special Forces A-Team, we each had special jobs to do on any mission. As we prepared for each mission, we rehearsed over and over again what each team member would do. Then we cross-trained in each other's specialties so that if some team members were lost, whomever survived could carry on the mission.
If every person in the family knows what is supposed to happen in an emergency, there's a better chance for survival.