Be Prepared Part I

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.

The B.O.B

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.

Fire

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.

  1. Swedish Firesteel
  2. A good windproof lighter
  3. 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.

Miscellanous

  • 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.

Comments

  1. Sean W says:

    Couple things on this for the readers 🙂

    For fire, the el-cheapo Bic lighters work fine. The wind resistant ones work better. Avoid zippos, they dry out and are useless.

    Get training or read up on how to use everything you are carrying, particularly things like your First Aid Kit and anything you may be consuming (I assume el author knows how to use his FAK…) Red Cross first aid training is fairly inexpensive, the intro classes are mostly just teaching you to call 911 and not panic, but it gets more useful above that.

    A few things to add: Dry socks. If you work in an office where you are required to wear dress shoes, a good pair of walking footwear. Your feet are an important asset, don’t want to take yourself out early on. Maybe a deck of cards and/or some dice. Maybe some non-chocolate candy. Morale is good 🙂

    I’m a big fan of Fenix flashlights. Most of the quality of a Surefire, with none of the “scary looking” edges and much, much cheaper.

    You can buy emergency food bars, 2500-3000 kcal in a bar, throw a couple in there and you’ll be good for a few days.
    http://www.amazon.com/Datrex-2400-Emergency-Food-Bar/dp/B001CS7MBE/ref=pd_sim_gro_6
    or similar

    Nice BOB, simple, none of the insanity that a lot of people pack in there (really? You’ve no medical training whatsoever but you need to carry a full field surgery kit?), none of the stupidity of packing only a rifle, shotgun, pistol, and 600lbs of ammo and nothing else.

    Now I need to put mine together…

    1. Jake says:

      Thanks for the comment Sean! Totally agree with your points and can’t believe I forgot socks!! I think it’s a scary disservice that people can buy full trauma bags with no training whatsoever. I saw those food bars and I really need to get a few to try out..I always seem to fall back to MRE’s just b/c they’re so easy and actually pretty damn good these days.

  2. Brian says:

    I have had a zombie kit for the last few years and I have to say I have most of the items you have listed, I would add a small windup portable radio. Also stealwool and a 9v battery make a nice starter for a fire. I keep a couple of 9v’s and some led caps for said 9v’s as a backup light source. I also carry small amounts of fishing line and hooks i also hunt so that works in my favor. Knowing how to navigate without a compass is also very handy. my kit has 2 guns and a realistic amount of ammo. Also planning where to go the the event of…. helps.

  3. Jake says:

    Brian, thanks for the comment man! How do you keep up with the battery life? I do like the idea of another easy to carry light source.

    I would love to keep a gun with mine but unfortuntely I work on “gun free” campus *rolls eyes*.

  4. Sean W says:

    The radio is a good point. You’ll see a lot of the NOAA weather radios on lists, as well as the occasional shortwave or am/fm radio.

    You work on gun free campus. I live in a state where all firearms must either be in my direct possession or locked up tight. I should get one of those quick-access safes.

  5. Brian says:

    as luck would have it the hospital recognizes that people do work off hours and wandering into a parking garage is not always the safest thing. So per the on campus police officers we can keep guns in our vehicle and if they somehow make it into your bag and to your desk/locker and no one knows “we cant stop what we don’t know about”. we also have a dept that has older ladies that work a night shift and their dept has a taser and a metal baseball bat. so my .38 is small and very easy to miss in my many pocked bag.
    I am also applying for a FL CCW license that is honored in most states that i tend to
    travel.

    To keep battery life up, normally I take my kit out every 6 months or so to check on the items that would need to be replaced. I pull out the radio and charge it up and let it run, I check the batteries and replace yearly no matter what.
    I found that it not so much having the kit it making sure all is good and you pack and repack kinda like a test.

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