After the recent storms in VA and IL it got me thinking about what it was like without power after Hurricane Katrina. I was completely and totally unprepared. I literally left my apartment with a few pictures, some clothes and family stuff. Towards the end of August is the hottest part of the year in MS and we were without power for a little over 2 weeks. No A/C, no running water. If it hadn’t been for USM providing us with meals and 2 bottles of water at every meal I’m not sure what I would’ve done. Unlike some of the rural areas of MS who got help in the form of MRE’s and water from the National Guard, the urban area I was in didn’t see any National Guard help.
One thing I remembered thinking to myself throughout Katrina was that I never, ever wanted to be in that situation again. Today’s society has become so dependent on the infrastructure that when it goes down chaos reigns. For example, take a hurricane warning. People rush out and strip all the shelves of canned food, water, beer(!), generators, batteries, plywood, etc to the point of massive lines and hours upon hours of waiting. Once the storm has passed there is another rush of people returning items such batteries, generators, and flashlights. Why? Why return something that you will rush out to buy again when the next warning, bad storm, whatever comes through?
The title of this post is “Be Prepared”. Be prepared for what? Hurricane? Massive power outage? Nuclear war? How far do you go? I struggled with that question for a while. At first I wanted to be prepared for the next hurricane or power outage. Then I started reading about “The End Of The World As We Know It” or simply TEOTWAWKI. Something like EMP blasts, complete stock market collapse, nuclear war, etc and I was completely overwhelmed. How can one prepare for everything? Simply put, you can’t unless you are rich and/or can build an underground shelter. But then the question becomes what if you get stuck away from your shelter? Or your shelter is at “ground zero” of what catastrophe has happened? What do you do then? I decided to attack the problem in 2 phases. The first 72 hours and then everything after.
The First 72 Hours
Since I work for a living chances are good that if something were to happen I would be away from the house, probably at work. But I would be close(hopefully) to my truck. I have a 72 hour bag that stays in my vehicle at all times. You might have heard of something called a “Bug Out Bag” or B.O.B. This is just a bag that has enough supplies to get you back to your home base or at least to some place safe within 72 hours of a major event. You don’t want to put the kitchen sink in this bag..This is simply enough to get you out of the immediate risk area. I’ll go over some of the supplies and my thought process behind them in the next few sections.
I wanted a bag that had the smallest footprint but was comfortable to carry and could hold everything I needed it to. After a few trial and error tests I decided on the Voodoo Tactical Enhanced 3-Day Assault Pack. A couple of reasons for picking this bag. I’m familiar with the brand and everything I’ve gotten from them has been high quality. Being a former Army Medic a tough rucksack is essential. It has to hold up. Plan on the worst thing happening and you have to move out in a hurry through dense forest or over steep mountains you must have a ruck that won’t fall apart if you drop it or rip when it gets caught on something (trees, rocks, etc). It’s low-key. I looked at some of the more expensive hiking rucksacks stand out like sore thumbs. Again, think worst case. Moving through the woods keeping a low profile is rather hard to do with a bright green/blue/pink/purple pack on your back.
Chances are good that you won’t stop to build a fire but this is worst case, remember. So, the general rule of thumb is 3 ways to make fire. I didn’t waste my time with “waterproof” matches because I’ve tried them before and wasn’t impressed at all.
- Swedish Firesteel
- A good windproof lighter
- Know how to make fire by rubbing 2 sticks together *and* practice, practice, practice, practice. It’s a lot harder than it looks
The Essentials (Food and Water)
I went back and forth on this question for a while. Food was pretty easy as there are several options available. I went a different route that what I would normally do. Normally I would throw a couple of MREs and call it a day. I went another route this time simply because I wanted to find out what else was out there. I picked up the 72 hour suvival kit from Wise Food Company. I’ll do a more in-depth review on that later.
Water is something I else I went back and forth on how to prepare and keep. I have plenty of bottled water but bottles take up a lot of space. I found a packaged water made by Datrex that looked interesting..Since it’s in foil packets I don’t have to worry about it going bad and it has a 5 year shelf life. Now you may have noticed that my B.O.B is hydration bladder compatible. I will have that 100oz bladder packed but empty with enough water bottles in/around my pack to fill it up. Then I can ditch the water bottles and still have a fairly decent supply of water. Since I keep stressing the worst case here I also picked up some water purification tablets. I believe in the rule of three’s so I would recommend learning how to disinfect water via boiling, using a small amount of bleach or a small amount of tincture of iodine..But be *very* careful with the bleach and iodine as they can be hazardous to you if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- 100ft 550 paracord – Variety of uses such as tying up a shelter, securing a splint (be careful not to make a tourniquet).
- Canteen Cup– useful for boiling water
- Ziplock bags – Keep stuff dry
- Maps of local area – If you have occasion to use your B.O.B then chances are good that GPS is down or may be unreachable. Learn how to read a map and plot a course.Remember that straight line distance is shorter than following established routes. But the caveat is the terrain will be rougher and increase the chance of injury. Army FM 3-25.26 covers map reading and land nav. It’s a pretty dry read but very good info. As with everything so far, plot a couple of routes from your most likely locations to your home or wherever you plan on heading.
- Lensatic Compass – Learn how to use *before* you need it. The Army FM above covers how to use it. Of course any compass is better than none but this is what I’m comfortable using and therefore what I recommend.
- Survival book – The Army FM has great info but I found the SAS Survival Handbook is much more in-depth and has pics of edible plants which could come in handy. This version is also the pocket-sized version so it takes up very little space.
- Some type of fixed blade knife – This offers you a multipurpose tool you can use for cutting small branches, cutting food, and protection. I like the K-Bar knife..It keeps a good edge and can take a beating.
- First Aid Kit – Get a kit that you’re comfortable using. Usually I build my own since most off the shelf kits come with a lot junk but this kit is small and doesn’t pack any unnecessary junk.
- ChemLights – Very handy for disposable illumination.
- Water/Impact resistant flashlight – I usually make sure that the light has a push button on the end that can be half depressed for a quick blast of light. I tend to stay away from lights with a strobe function. I’ve had a few that were just too easy to activate the strobe. I recommend that you get used to moving at night without light simply because lights need batteries and batteries drain over time.
- Gloves – Gloves are a must for me. I went with Voodoo Tactical again simply because these have worked well for me. But if cost is an object a pair of leather palmed gloves from Lowe’s or Home Depot works just as well.
- ETA good stuff that Sean W added in comments Dry socks – foot health when you’re on the move is something you will have to keep a close eye on. Let’s say you work in an office and wear dress shoes, might be a good idea to add another pair of socks and a known good pair of boots into your kit. Keep your feet as dry as possible and if situation permits stop and change out of wet socks..Trench foot is a bitch!
Part 2 will cover what to stock up on at home or other safe location. It won’t be a how-to on stocking up to live for years and years but more dealing with 4-5 weeks until whatever has happened clears itself up. I’ll do another post about how to live if there’s a complete and permanent breakdown of society.