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Always Be Prepared

By: Tom Chatham

Never has this motto been more appropriate than it is today. With the number of natural and manmade disasters increasing, it is only prudent to always be aware of your surroundings and have the means to take care of yourself. In a disaster you may be on your own for a time and depending on the situation, it may be a long time before rescue or assistance shows up. Keeping a bag of supplies in your vehicle is a smart thing to do.

It is always a good idea to have a bag of supplies with you in the event of unusual circumstances. Some call it a go bag or a bug out bag. I actually call mine a bail out bag after the one I carried in Iraq. I always carried additional essential supplies in case I ever had to leave the vehicle in an emergency. In the case of Iraq, it was ammo, water, ammo, medical supplies and ammo. I state this for a reason. Your bag needs to reflect the circumstances you expect to find yourself in. It will change depending on where you live and the dangers you are subject to.

A quick assessment of the area you live in or are traveling through will give you a good idea what supplies you will need most. A person living and traveling in the city will need a different packing list than a person living in the country 20 miles from their nearest neighbor. This bag is best kept in your vehicle at all times. A home disaster bag should be larger and better provisioned. For a very basic bag the following items are things you need to consider. The length of time you expect to need this bag will also dictate the supplies in it.

Water – At least 2 20 oz. bottles of water should be kept for each day of emergency use. This amount will be higher in the event of high temperatures or hard work. A small water filter is good to have to reconstitute your supply in the event you cannot get potable water where you are.

Food – A supply of high energy bars and foods to maintain your physical endurance will be necessary. You need to plan for regular meals and snacks throughout the day. You will need some calorie dense foods to sustain your increased needs due to stress. Meals do not have to be large. They could be nothing more than a cup of soup.

Foot gear – A good pair of walking shoes or boots are important especially if you work in an office and wear dress shoes or high heels during the day.

Clothing – You need a pair of jeans or other comfortable pants, a good pair of socks, a tee shirt and a sweat shirt or sweater. It is easy to dress down if it is hot but much harder to dress up in cold weather if you don’t have the warm clothing. You can change out your clothing supply depending on the season. In cold weather you may even want to keep a good coat with your supplies as well. This clothing is good to have if your normal work clothes get wet or damaged in some way during a normal work day. Disasters come in all sizes.

Basic medical supplies – Some basic supplies such as bandaids, aspirin, alcohol pads, gauze, tape, burn cream, iodine, tweezers, razors, rubber gloves and a tourniquet are a good place to start. If you wear glasses or take prescriptions, you should keep these items in there as well.

Fire source – At least two ways to start a fire should be carried to insure you can keep warm or heat food.

Communications – An old cell phone is good to have for emergencies. Even if it has no service plan that allows normal calling, by law, you should still be able to call 9-1-1 on it. Some can also serve as a small flashlight. A hand crank radio with LED light and phone charging port may also come in handy if you are in a wide scale disaster and need information on the situation. A GMRS radio, in a protective metal case, may be useful if all family members have one in their kit and the normal communication system is down.

Shelter – Anything to keep you out of the weather and is easy to carry should be in your bag. It may be just a plastic poncho or a tarp or tent depending on your projected needs.

Currency – This is one thing I like to include in a portable kit. A few rolls of quarters can come in handy many times. You may just need gas or food and you have no money with you and the POS system is down. This is another one of those small disasters that you can avert easily. If your house burns down along with your checks and credit cards it may take you a few days to regain access to your accounts. A small stash of money in your bag can avert a few days of suffering. If you worry about currency collapse types of situations you can also keep a few pre ’65 silver coins in there as well.

Self protection – This could be a gun, mace, knife or some other type of defensive weapon to keep you safe. This is location specific type of stuff. A small caliber gun or mace may be sufficient in some cases while bear repellant may be better in others.

Hygiene supplies – In multi day situations you may want some soap and toilet paper handy. Women should also keep in mind their special needs over several days. Once a friend of mine was on his way to the doctor with a stomach bug and had to do a pit stop right on the side of the interstate so you never know when these items will come in handy.

Sleeping gear – A lightweight sleeping bag, poncho liner or mylar blanket should be kept to provide warmth in cold weather to prevent frost bite and hypothermia.

Light source – A flashlight, candle or chemical snap light should be in your bag. At least two different light sources should be kept in your kit.

Knife – This can be small or large depending on your needs. The primary use is to cut rope or twine or clothing away from an injury. Larger ones can be used for defense or hunting.

Beyond these items, you need to customize your bag with materials that you suspect you may need. Your vehicle bag is meant to get you home or to a safe location while your home bag may be needed for several days. Some of the environmental concerns you need to keep in mind are, urban, suburban or rural terrain, desert, mountain or woodland terrain, temperature extremes in the affected area, dangers such as human or animal, dangers such as industrial or commercial complexes that contain hazardous chemicals and natural terrain features that may cause injury. It could take a while to do a complete assessment but it should be done to identify any specialty items you may need and to identify the best and worst routes to safety. All of the basic items listed can be used as camping gear. The easiest way to identify things you may need is to go camping in your area for a few days and most of the items you might need for extended periods will become obvious. A camping trip in the heat of the summer and in the early spring or late fall will help you identify the temperature specific items you should have. The more time you spend in the environment you expect to be in under emergency circumstances, the better prepared you will be mentally and physically to deal with the hardships and overcome the challenges.