What if you had to leave, NOW! Could you do it?
William L. “Bill” Harvey
You are sitting in your home, perhaps reading a book. There is an emergency responder rapping upon your door telling you to evacuate the premises immediately, could you do it? There is no time to gather mementos, family portraits, water the plants and gather up some books to read; you are out of there now! Can you do it? We as emergency responders teach preparedness to our citizens; this is how dire we paint the picture. Go now and sustain yourself and family for a minimum of 72 hours or more is the challenge. If you are prepared fine, if not please read on. Do not even think that the government will care for you. If you believe in a ‘nanny form of government’ you will soon be in the casualty line. Preparedness begins now with everyone.
In today’s world there is a sub-culture that speaks of the ‘zombie apocalypse’. Some are referred to as ‘end timers’ and there are television shows, publications and a cottage industry dedicated to these “Preppers”. All believe that there will be a collapse of life as we know it, living on their own and totally off the power grid. Believe or not, there is some credence in their beliefs. There will be a time in everyone’s life that they will have to live out of their normal safe haven to make it. In real life there are three times when such a scenario can play out in your life and community. One is the classic natural disaster. It could be a hurricane, great winter storm, wildfire, tornado or earthquake. You will have to leave your home to go to a safe haven, live a Spartan existence for days if not weeks. This is a very plausible scenario. The second could be a manmade disaster/ criminal act or terrorism. Of course, we think of the September 11th attack on New York City, a terrorist bombing on a government or criminal act on the infrastructure of the government. The third version would be a manmade accident event, a nuclear power plant incident due to human error. Your neighborhood could be exposed to radiation or a flood gate accidently let open. In any of these three categories, you must move rapidly and decisively. If so, again could you sustain you and your family?
Now that we have established that preparedness is a real world reality, what do you need? In the United States most use the term of a Bug Out Bag when in comes to individual preparations. Many in the preparedness community prefer a military or recreational back pack to pack all of these necessary items. While many people cannot shoulder or carry the weight of a heavy laden back pack for a variety of medical or health reasons, other methods come to the table. When I lived in the Southeast of the United States, we had to prepare for seasonal hurricane evacuations. What were functional substitutes for the family were large plastic storage tubs/containers that were prepacked to place in the back of the vehicle for their immediate evacuation. At the given time, place the tubs in the car and the family could head to safety. I, for one, had to remain at the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and manage the city’s operations. Whatever form of portable storage you select, a tub or packs, you must be able to carry your needs for the duration. Planning is for a minimum of 72 hours off the grid without sustainment.
So what will you need to get out? Many may believe that they will go to a friend’s home, hotel or a shelter; where all the basic needs are provided. But, what if you were stranded on the highway? There was such a backlog of traffic or the road was blocked due to debris? Could you make it for an unknown amount of time?
This is not a complete list and it is not to be an expensive adventure. Many of the items you may already have about the home or office. If not, a trip to the camping store or the local military surplus store will have you prepared in no time at all. So in categories here is what you are going to probably require.
First you will need water. The basic recommendation is at least 1 liter of water per day per person. This is for proper hydration only. More will be required when factoring in hygiene concerns and certain temperate weather conditions. Remember that a liter of water weighs 2.11 pounds or 1 kilogram, the weight will add up fast. Therefore, you should have canteens/drinking containers and a drinking cup. It would be safe to have a water filter system/straw and/or water purification tablets as well. Remember that one person requires one liter per day, so if you are thinking of packing the water, perform the mathematics on the weight, then reevaluate.
Food is another important element in your survival plan. Remember that you may not be able to find safe food or any food that is without health risks. I learned in the US Army it is not what you eat but that you eat. Of course, you can say that I can survive a few days without calories, but why unnecessary risks? I would recommend for a 72 hour mission that you purchase some military prepackage meals, camping meals or energy/meal replacement bars. If you opt for dehydrated meals, you will need more water for its preparation. Necessary eating/cooking utensils will be needed. A camping spork or utensils, small can opener, and knife are the bare necessities, all available at a military surplus store or camping store.
Fire is a primeval necessity for man. You may need it for light (candle), for cooking or boiling water (small stove), for warmth (fire) or for rescue (signal fire). The problem is how to start it. I prefer a magnesium stick for a fire starter, waterproof matches, a disposable cigarette lighter (one per person) and signal mirror for reflected solar heat. The more methods you have for fire starting the better. You can toss a couple of candles in for good measure. While it is important to have a good flashlight they have limitations of batteries and bulbs, must have back-ups.
First Aid or Injury kit is required as well. If you are on prescription medications, have a supply for your personal well being. Have a variety of adhesive bandages, tape and ointments. Prepackage analgesics for minor pain relief. If you are in a climate with specific risks, say snakes, have a snake bite kit. Your local camping store will have some prepacked kits, review its contents to see if their kit meets your needs and you fully understand how to use the items. It never hurts to take a first aid course.
Personal needs or toiletry kit will be small but functional. First you will pack toilet paper, a bar soap and/or alcohol sanitizer, tooth brush, and other necessary items. You will not be preparing to attend a formal affair but rather survival so the colognes, shaving equipment, make-up and hair gels are not required.
Needful things or items that you will need but will never think of them until you need them. First and foremost a good knife, this can be utility pocket knife or straight blade sheath knife and add a small knife sharpener for good measure. A roll of wire, a roll of duct/utility tape, rope, paper/pencil, small sewing kit, compass, gloves, whistle, line/hooks for fishing kit and other camping survival items. I would recommend a good set of utility multi-tool pliers; these are not too expensive but have infinite uses. A couple large bandanas for slings, bandages and other uses should be in the bag. Wear a para-cord bracelet for extra supply of small para-cord.
Clothing/ Shelter work close in hand. Try to fully understand the climatic challenges that you will face. No need for heavy winter clothing in the heat of summer. Your pack will have to be adjusted to the seasonal needs. A light poncho can serve to keep off the rain, act as dry ground cover or serve as a tent fly. Where some may recommend a tent, there are other lighter and inexpensive means. Plastic sheeting or large plastic garbage bags have many uses without weight or expense. Extra socks and proper outer wear, jacket, parka are required for the colder areas of the world. Add to them warm head gear and gloves. Again, this is survival and not a fashion outing. I would stay with loose fitting functional clothing. No need for tight fitting jeans or fashion. A base layer and layers of clothing to add or remove to meet the climate needs as they change.
Comfort items – insect repellant, sunglasses, proper hat, lip balm, sun screen, and tobacco (if you abide). You know the little everyday things that you make your life easier, pack a few.
Communications- if you have a form of amateur radio, then how do you recharge it? Same if you carry your cellular telephone, the battery life is short lived. Extra batteries have a shelf life so the answer is a folding solar recharger. These can be costly but they will charge portable devices provided you have the proper connection and chargers. If you really must be communicative, research and plan the technology.
I have probably omitted an item or two here and there. Many of you are questioning how one person can carry that much material. Most of this for one person should not weigh over 60 pounds (27 kilos) and a quality pack and person in average healthy condition can shoulder this. For a family departing in a vehicle, the larger tubs are an easier answer. If it is just you and your partner, each can have a pack and make it fairly well. It is my sincerest hope that none of this preparation should ever come to pass. Should it happen, I know you will be able to stand up to the challenges with one caveat. Have regular practice sessions, as you pack for the seasonal demands, make a game of it. Have you and your partner or family practiced in getting up and out to survive yet? Hope you have and we will make it through the worst days with proper preparation and strong minds.