Continuing what has become both a repost and a bit of an expansion of some previous preparedness posts. You can find an archive of all of them here, and I would also urge you to go back and read the "fundamental" posts and -- especially -- the comments here, here, and here; and the post on walking home and the looking after yourself post. The post on room kits is here. Yesterday's post was actually a two-fer looking at car kits and power. Today's post is actually several posts, combined into one.
In an ideal world, we would be able to ride out disasters large and small in our homes. Yet, there are many things natural and man made that can oblige us to leave our castles – sometimes in a hurry. The trick to getting out with all that truly matters is a small amount of pre-planning and an equally small amount of preparation.
As I’ve noted in past articles, I keep my emergency gear in Rubbermaid boxes with snap lids. Boxes are nice because they can be easily moved and keep things together. The type of box is far less important than simply having the supplies in some form of easy to move and stack containers.
This is a major part of the pre-planning I mentioned, because if you do have to evacuate, it is easy to gather up all the boxes and have the emergency supplies packed in a hurry. The other part is to take the time and have the truly important stuff like insurance papers, documents, and other critical items in an equally easy to move firesafe or similar box. Remember, if it is an emergency you are not going to have the time to go hunting around for everything, so plan ahead and have it all together and easy to move.
When and if you ever need to evacuate, you have your family, you have your boxes, and all you have to do is grab the travel gear and go. Easy to pack, easy to do.
Yet, there is one more bit of thought that should go into this. Plan on what to do if you can’t use a vehicle.
The fact is, I can think of several natural disasters that could occur around here that would eliminate my being able to use a vehicle or to use it for very long. Consider also that Big Brother Government at any or all levels may try to force you into busses or such, or just plain block your way. So, plan your evacuation gear with the idea of staging in mind.
Staging is simple. In this case, you have the emergency gear (food, flashlights, tools, etc., see previous posts in this category) in boxes and ready to go. You load it, load the travel gear and truly important stuff, and go. Yet, you need to be prepared to abandon the vehicle and take the truly critical things with you.
To do this, invest in a good knapsack or three and/or a good backpack or two, along with some basic camping gear. Both items should have a waist/hip belt to help carry the load, and be as roomy and as rugged as possible. I have both, and both came from REI. I used my knapsack at trade shows and other events where I needed to haul stuff in and out for security purposes each day, and it also meant that I had the knapsack with me in case I got the chance to go hiking.
The packs and gear go into the vehicle with you, so that if you have to leave the vehicle, you can then winnow down the emergency gear even further, put it in the packs, and continue on.
Yesterday, I gave a quick overview on bugging out and the need to be prepared to do it in stages. There are many circumstances that can require one to abandon your vehicle, from it dying to officious orders. Be prepared for it, and be prepared to make the best of it no matter the circumstances.
A large part of my philosophy of life is not merely to survive, but to survive with comfort and style. Yes, I can still go out with very little and get by, but why do so if you can avoid it? Also, the fact is that if you are going out as a family that not all the family members are going to be able to handle that, especially children and the elderly. Think ahead a bit, and be prepared.
At a minimum, you are going to want shelter and warmth: some form of dining fly or cover that can be put up, a tent, a means of cooking, sleeping bags and ground cloths for all, and some food and water. This is indeed a lot, but there are ways to double things up a bit.
For example, that dining fly can be made out of one or more of the groundcloths. If you go for larger groundcloths, you can have just a couple handle the needs of all. You also can get five or more people in a three-person tent in an emergency.
On the tent, get a good one that is roomy, very light, and can be set-up with out stakes and such as needed. This lets you set-up anywhere from the fields to the floor of a gymnasium as needed. You cover all the bases, and ensure that you don’t have to accept official hospitality when that hospitality is a problem waiting to happen.
Individual sleeping bags are a must, in my opinion, though two can share one in a pinch. The other thing to consider with the bag is a self-inflating pad to go with it. Again, field or floor, it will provide some much needed comfort for little room and weight.
Cooking gear should be light, simple, and easy to fuel and use. Go to a good camping/hiking store and check the wide variety out. I actually have a couple of different systems that I have obtained over the years. My favorite is a two-burner system that lets me heat food and water at one time, yet you can use just one burner as needed. It is light, rugged, and reliable. I also have a single-burner system, and I even have my old-fashioned tripod stove, which uses standard propane torch cylinders both as fuel and one leg. I will bug out with all of them, but am prepared to stage down to just one of them as needed. The excess also gives me trade goods and bribes along the way.
I also have a set of light, rugged, and nice pots for use. I couldn’t quite afford to go all titanium, but was able to get some. I have a small set of cooking tools, again light and compact, and I have some other basic snivel gear that will help get me by.
Water is an important consideration, and I strongly recommend using some of the Camelback systems in addition to water bottles. Make at least one of your water bottles a water purification system, such as the Exstream systems, and I also carry a stand-alone water purification system. These are not just useful in the wilds, but, sadly, are often very much needed at refuge centers and the like as well.
I also keep on hand some camping food, so that I can eat without hunting or foraging as I go. If you are with a family or group, this is going to be a very important consideration. The newer freeze-dried and irradiated food will keep for years, so it is not a bad investment. The other thing I keep on hand, and eat and replace, are things like jerky. Allow me to also highly recommend the small bottles of tobasco and the like. Trust me on this, field or refugee center, the food will need all the help it can get.
This may seem like a lot to have, but remember that I also used to camp a good bit and want to get back to doing it again one day soon. Some of the gear is good to have no matter what.
There are two other important considerations to keep in mind.
One, have kids carry a pack with their own sleeping bag, a small first aid kit, some jerky and trail mix, and a small bottle of water. This will not be a problem for even small children, and may make a huge difference to them. It gives them a stake in things, a sense of responsibility, and it takes a load off you, literally. If you are in a group, spread the load as much as possible on the snivel gear.
Two, be prepared to cache things as you stage down, and if possible have pre-selected positions for such. You want to be able to hide valuables or other things you can’t take with you if you do stage down, so that if possible you can recover them later. Also, you are not going to be allowed to take anything that might conceivably be a weapon (nail clippers anyone?) into a refugee area and you sure don’t want to carry real valuables in either. If you turn them in to the authorities, I would not plan on getting them back, so think ahead and plan what and how you will do. Look at probable evacuation routes and figure where you might store things as needed.
For example, I know where nature or terror could take out two critical bridges on my prime paths out of here. I also have some idea where I might could cache some items for later use because I am familiar with those routes. Plan ahead just a bit, and it will make things much easier if you ever have to do them.
A final thought is that the snivel gear not only gives you comfort, it gives you trade items as well. You can trade parts of it for rides, for shelter, or more. If you have excess gear, you can and will find a use for it.
Going back to yesterday, another recommendation I will make is to look at Load Bearing Vests in addition to knapsacks and packs. These give you additional carrying capacity, and can keep truly critical items (ammo, medicine, emergency rations) on you no matter what. There are many around, and even sporting vests can serve for this in a pinch.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes. Survival with style and comfort is the ultimate revenge against nature or man.
I know many of you are rolling your eyes and that there are private comments aplenty about getting backpacks and camping gear. That is your choice, but I will make just a couple more suggestions.
One, for crying out loud get the knapsacks with waist belts for your kids. The amount of books they have to haul around at, to, and from school these days is ridiculous and the resulting back damage beyond the pale. There are some with both waist belts and wheels, but before getting one with wheels try wearing one for a while. I did, and promptly donated it to charity with an apology to the charity. Those wheels hurt and can do damage if you use it as a real pack.
Two, even if you don’t camp or even hike in the park, get some decent rain gear for your kids. Gortex and other delights are wonderful, lightweight, and can even be warm. Be sensible and get some, for that type stuff always comes in handy with kids no matter where you live.
Three, get some decent walking shoes or boots for them too. Boots can be stylish these days, and will come in handy for some afterschool or other types of activities. Good walking shoes or boots come in handy no matter what.
Four, consider the same for yourself. Face it, the kids can probably outhike and outwalk you anyway if they are over 6 years of age, but having some decent footware handy makes it less a crushing defeat than otherwise.
To stay or go is your choice, but remember that good shoes, good gear, and good clothing can make a difference no matter what.
In all my writing on practical preparedness, I failed to identify one of the most basic and needed preparations simply because it never truly occurred to me that it needed mentioning. Yet, it does because it is always the obvious that is missed.
Remember that a disaster need not be man made, and that no matter the cause one thing can almost always be assured: you will have to deal with bureaucracy. It is in the nature of natural disasters, and keep in mind that terrorists are here to hurt us, not help us by eliminating red tape, bean counters, and bureaucratic inefficiency. Indeed, if they truly wanted to hurt us and our way of life, they would have already detonated a bureaucrat bomb to increase bureaucracy 100 fold. Hmmmmmm. You don’t think…
Interesting speculation aside, you are going to need certain things no matter the disaster. You are going to need identification; you are going to need insurance numbers and related; you are going to need prescriptions and prescription information; and, you are going to need ready cash/valuables. These are things that need to be on you, and on others, during and after any disaster.
First, let’s look at who needs what. All adults need on them – not in a bag or other item that can be lost or stolen, but on them – a “master” set of documents. Given that I know far too many adults who are not nearly as responsible as some of their children, have at least one other member of the party have a master set as well.
Second, what are the needs of each master set? Easy. You need copies of each person’s drivers license and passport if they have one; a photograph or a good copy of a photograph of each person in the party; copies of critical pages of insurance records or all relevant insurance numbers, along with name of company, agent, toll free numbers, etc.; copies of bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and such; and it is not a bad idea to have copies of deeds, titles, or other relevant records in a reduced form. Each person should have a set of documents pertaining to them on them, for use and/or identification. In this way, you have every bit of information that red tape is likely to require.
Third, it is a good idea to have prescription medicine and copies of all pharmaceutical and eyewear prescriptions. This documents that you do indeed need and why you use them, and allows you to obtain replacements as needed. Remember, the odds are that you are going to have to prove a legitimate need in order to obtain medicines and the like, and that the natural tendency is going to be that you don’t need them unless you can provide overwhelming evidence. That is just the nature of the beast, and it has been seen many times in many disasters.
In an emergency, if your pharmacy is nearby and if you have time, get fresh refills before you head out. Your pharmacist is likely to be most helpful on this. Also keep in mind that even if you have to pay full price, it will be worth it and you can always charge it.
Fourth, have cash and credit cards in these packs. Use the credit cards as much as possible, but keep in mind that in an emergency many places will only take cash. My recommendation is to have a variety of bills and to spread things out. Never flash a large roll, things are bad enough without inviting attacks or otherwise making the kids hope that the milkman really was their real father by acting the fool. In fact, it is a good idea to spread things around the party, so that even the baby is carrying something. That way, no matter what, the odds are that some of it will be missed if things truly hit the fan. Having the numbers and the toll-free numbers also means that you can cancel the cards as soon as practical if they do get lost or stolen.
Another thing to consider in addition to cash is to have some other commodity on you. Gold coins come in a variety of sizes, are easily hidden, and readily exchanged for goods or money the world over. High-end jewelry can be used the same way. Think about it, think practical, and then act.
Now, this seems like a lot, but it really is not much more than is recommended for any traveler. Each of my suitcases has a page condom or two filled with this type of information, including copies of power of attorney and advanced healthcare information and directives. That is another thing you should have: blood type, allergies, and other critical information. That way, if things go really badly for you, the information is there for first responders and treatment facilities. I still wear a set of dog tags just for this purpose.
Make this a part of your normal travel planning, and make it a part of your disaster preparedness planning as well. The more you plan and prepare, the better off you are if things do go wrong, be it weather or man. The motto applies to us all: Be Prepared. And remember the wolf’s motto: That which you plan for, never happens. So plan for the worst, hope for the best, and take what comes.
More on packs and related tomorrow.