Some prepping definitions and concepts

In our last episode (ok, FIRST episode) of Preparedness 101, we talked about the why.  Why would anyone want to become self-sufficient?

So today let’s start to talk about the how.  First, some very basic concepts.

In some situations, like a blizzard, many of us (assuming that we are home when it hits) won’t have much of a choice except to shelter-in-place.  Whether that’s for 6 hours, a weekend, a week, or more, that’s “bugging in.”  In other words, when things go bad, we’re locking the door and staying home.

In other situations, like a wildfire, we may not have a choice other than to get out and move to a safer location.  That’s “bugging out.”  Bugging out requires more thought and preparation, so let’s come back to that one.

When you bug in, if you have electricity, it’s just a snow day like when you were in grade school.  Make some pancakes, play some Monopoly, watch Star Wars, and catch up on some reading.  No sweat.

It gets interesting if you have to do it without electricity.  I dare you to wake up early one morning and throw the circuit breakers on your house to see how long it takes you to start yelling at each other.  From my experience, that number is about 9.5 hours, even if you’ve coordinated this exercise ahead of time.

For us, we have an electric stove (ouch), so we cooked breakfast on the bbq qrill – which worked great, actually.  We have a natural gas hot water heater, so that still worked – hot showers!  But try doing that for 3 or 4 days.  Or 3 or 4 weeks.  Ugh.

Now let’s jump to bugging out.  Key #1 is have a plan.  No one can tell you what your plan should be, as long as you put some real thought into it.

I recommend a 2-phase approach: #1 is think about those things you’ll actually need when you’re away from home (food, water, shelter, cash, important documents, security, etc.), and then #2 is think about those things that you can’t bear (or can’t afford) to leave at home, particularly if there’s a chance your home won’t be there when you get back.

  • What will you bring with you?
  • Do you have some sort of a bag or suitcase (your bug-out-bag or BOB) to hold everything?
  • What about family photos?  Have you considered some sort of online backup for that stuff (like Carbonite) so that you can access those things from anywhere else on the internet?
  • Are you bringing at least a couple changes of clothes?
  • How far do you plan to travel?  How far will your vehicle take you on one tank of gas?  What if the primary and secondary evacuation routes are blocked (remember hurricane Rita?)?
  • Have you thought about where you’d actually go?  Or is “get in the car, drive for a few hours, sleep in the car” your plan?
  • How much cash do you have on you or in your BOB?  If your plan includes “stop by the ATM,” what if the ATM doesn’t work (during the hurricane Rita evacuation, how many ATMs still had money?)

Here’s another concept for you: that of the “get home bag” or GHB.  What if you’re away from home at work and there’s another 9/11-style attack?  How will you get home?  So for some of us, our plan is to first get home… then maybe to bug out.  I have a GHB in my car now, but honestly, it’s just a glorified vehicle survival kit.  But I absolutely recommend these things, at a minimum, in a GHB:

  • Emergency food
  • Some water (they sell water in boxes like juice boxes as well as water in pouches – the theory is that they’ll hold up better in the cold if the container freezes)
  • A hiking water filter
  • Hiking boots or more sensible shoes
  • A blanket or two
  • An emergency radio with hand-crank charger for your cell phone (like this one); seriously, your cell phone may be the best survival tool of all time
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Winter hat of some kind
  • Plus all your normal vehicle supplies:
    • Jumper cables
    • Ice scraper
    • Tire-changing kit
    • Etc.

But think about a) how you’d get home, b) how far you’d have to travel, on foot if necessary, c) anything you’ll need to keep you alive that long, d) anything that will help you either get rescued or increase your odds of survival.

My wife and I also keep ham radios in our vehicles in case of emergency.  For us, staying in touch will be important, particularly when information is hard to come by (think back to how you felt on the morning and afternoon of 9/11).

  • The BOB:
    • Anything you’ll need to take with you when you leave
    • Does it need to be an actual backpack?  Maybe, depending on if you think you’re going to be walking.  More importantly, for me, it’s a place to keep your stuff so you don’t have to scramble around the house if you’re in a hurry.
    • Ready.gov recommends a 72-hour kit.  3 days of survival in a bag.
  • The GHB:
    • What do you need to get home to your family?
    • How far do you work from home?
    • What if you had to walk that entire distance to get home?
    • For me, weight and size is more important than it is for my BOB – it’s more likely I’m going to be carrying it.
    • Staying warm, having water (and a filter), good shoes, and a radio are the most important for me

We’ll talk about more details (with some kit ideas) in the future.  Until then, have a kit.  Think it through.  Be prepared.

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