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Practice, practice, practice! You really don’t own a skill until you have practiced it over and over again. With the winter holidays approaching fast and families beginning to gather, this is the perfect time to consider a new winter tradition—survival drills for the whole family. Here are four drills to practice, any one of which could mean the difference to your group’s survival in the event of an actual emergency.

1. Medical Drill
Very likely, this is the most important one of the bunch. Have the family take care of an “injured” member. If you have teen or middle school age family members, you could even let them perform first aid on a parent. Tell them that you are badly cut and feeling faint. Make sure they know where your medical supplies are located, and actually let them use the stuff. For the younger or more sensitive kids, you can make the drill slightly realistic by simulating a deep cut by drawing a red line on your arm with a marker, then asking them to bandage you. For the average teen who thinks the drill sounds silly, ramp up the gross factor and make up your own fake blood with kitchen ingredients. A solution of corn syrup, a little water, red food coloring, and a few drops of chocolate syrup can look disturbingly real. Beware that this can leave some nasty stains though—don’t do your drill on mom’s good rug or the new carpet.

2. Fire Drill
On average, this drill is second in importance to performing medical emergency drills. Your fire drill should have all the typical components. Each family member should low crawl out of house to rally at one meeting point once outside. And hopefully you’ll have a soft spot on the lawn to practice your stop-drop-and-roll. While you’re on topic, make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms all have fresh batteries, your fire extinguisher is charged, and your multiple escape routes are clear.

3. Active Shooter
This may hit close to home for some of you right now, but it needs to be on your mind. This drill can be more of a hypothetical discussion for your family, rather than an exercise. After you’ve been in a hectic and crowded place, sit in your vehicle and have a quiet discussion about what you should have done if there’d been an emergency like this while you were in the crowd. Discuss where you would have gone, how you could have hidden, where you could have barricaded yourself, and how you could have fought back if cornered. Yes, it’s an uncomfortable and disturbing discussion. And yes, it will scare your younger family members–but this is the sick world they will inherit and it’s your job to help them survive in it.

4. Lights Out Weekend
A grid-down exercise in cold weather will really show you where your strengths and weaknesses lie in the realm of preparedness. Kill the main breaker for your home’s electricity, and then get to work–cooking, cleaning, performing sanitation and hygiene tasks, providing alternative heat, and even figuring out how to keep the kids entertained. It should also be a high priority to keep your home from getting damaged, especially in sub-freezing weather. Drain all the water pipes, or keep a small amount of heat going to prevent freezing.

Which skills do you practice with your family? Please tell us by leaving a comment.

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