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Start With Water

WaterOf all the things you need to do to be prepared, start with water.

Water is crucial to your survival.  The first and most obvious reason is that you need it to drink.  Lack of water can kill you in three days.  If you have water, but not as much as your body needs, you may survive but are likely to experience symptoms of dehydration, which can include dizziness, confusion, weakness, heart palpitations and fainting.  You may be unable to sweat, which can cause you to become overheated, and you may have decreased urine output.  So water, and enough water, is necessary to keep you alive and well.

But you need water for more than drinking.  Think of everything you do with water over the course of a day.  You bathe with it.  You brush your teeth with it.  You flush the toilet with it and wash your hands with it afterward.  You need it to prepare food.  You need it to wash your dishes and your clothes.

I’ve read articles that suggest that you prep a gallon of water per day per person.  Considering everything you need water for, that doesn’t sound like much.  Of course, in an emergency situation, you would be careful about using water and you wouldn’t waste it.  Still, you could easily go through a gallon a day just using it for drinking, cooking and minimum personal hygiene.  But let’s start with one gallon per person per day and increase your stock when and if you can.

Water is heavy and hard to carry, so if you are facing an emergency that has you on the move, you may need to rely on uncertain water sources and use water purifiers or filters to make it safe. Out in nature, untreated water may contain pathogens that can cause intestinal distress or worse.  There are various ways of removing pathogens and all of them have drawbacks.

A rolling boil will kill most but not all pathogens in water.  Obviously, boiling water requires the equipment necessary to heat water to boiling.

Water purification tablets provide another means of making water safer.  These are tablets that dissolve in water.  They kill bacteria and viruses but don’t filter out particulate matter.  They usually leave the water with an unpleasant taste.

Handheld filters eliminate bacteria but not viruses.  They take out particulate matter and usually leave the water tasting pleasant.

Since water is crucial to your survival, it should be one of the items you take great care in planning.  Whether you are sheltering in place or bugging out, you should have a well thought-out plan for your water needs.

How have you provided for your need for water in your emergency preparedness plan?  Please leave a comment to let us know.

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What’s Your Evacuation Plan?

Firefighters fighting fireBefore an emergency happens, develop an evacuation plan.  Or rather, develop a series of evacuation plans.

Short-Range Evacuation

The first type of plan that you need is for a short-range evacuation.  Plan this for an emergency that happens to your home, such as a fire or gas leak.  Use this plan when the emergency doesn’t extend beyond your home to your neighborhood or town.  Your plan should include a spot where all family members will gather to be able to check in with each other, assess the emergency and take further action.  A neighbor’s house can be a good option, or a local place of business that is open nights and week-ends.

Medium-Range Evacuation

The second type of emergency evacuation plan is more medium-range but with the understanding that you can reach your destination on foot.  This is your plan for a fire or other emergency that extends beyond your home to other homes on the block or possibly more of the neighborhood.  It may also be necessary in times of civil unrest.  Agree to meet your family members at a location outside of your immediate neighborhood.  Plan a couple of different routes in case streets are blocked.

Long-Range Evacuation

Then, finally, make long-range evacuation plans that will get you out of town.  Rehearse with your family every step along the way.  First, you meet at the short range or medium range meeting location.  Then, once your family is together, proceed with your long-range plan.

Consider all your options.  Even if you can and would prefer to drive, research public transportation routes.  Choose two or three possible destinations.  You want to have a couple of places pre-planned in case one of them is facing the same emergency that your town is facing.  Pick homes of out-of-town family members and friends.  When you discuss your plan with those family members and friends, encourage them to make their own emergency evacuation plans and offer to reciprocate as their safety destination.

Decide on at least two alternate routes for each of your destinations.  Again, you don’t want to be trapped when a road is closed.  And don’t forget that if your town is experiencing an emergency, roads will be crowded with other fleeing families.  You should learn the routes well enough to be able to navigate them without assistance but you should still take paper maps with you in case roads are closed or you have to improvise at the last minute.  GPS systems may not work and your cell phone may go out, so be sure to have paper maps as a back-up.

Evacuation Tips

When an emergency arises, you may need to evacuate your home and move to a close-range location, evacuate your neighborhood and move to a medium-range location or evacuate your town and hit the road.  Don’t wait until the emergency arises before you decide where to go or how to get there.  Come up with alternative destinations and routes now.

Conduct drills with your family.  Drills not only teach your family what the plan is, they also help you identify deficiencies in your plan and improve it.

Get in the habit now, before there is an emergency, of keeping your gas tank at least half full.  You don’t want to have to stop and wait in line for gas and run the risk of shortages or increased prices at the moment that you need to activate your plan.

And in each case, whether short-range, medium-range or long-range, be sure to grab your bug-out bag on the way out the door.

Make a plan and work to practice and improve it.  Knowing that you can keep your family safe in an emergency brings peace of mind.

What are your experiences with your plans?  Have you made your plans, practiced them or implemented them?  Let us learn from your experiences — share them in the comments.

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Know When You Need To Bug Out

Prepared ConceptYou’ve either bought a bug-out bag kit for each member of the family or you have built one from scratch.  You have made your evacuation plans and practiced them with your spouse, children, pets and anyone else that you consider family.  You’ve got your paper maps, compass and alternative routes ready.  You always keep your gas tank at least half full, but you know that if you need to bug out, you may have to do it on foot.

So when do you need to bug out?

It’s time to bug out when the place you are in is at risk of becoming unsafe.  Don’t wait until you are actually in danger.  Leave before the danger comes.

The danger can be due to any number of things — a severe weather event, civil unrest, a contaminate hazard, a terrorist attack, or anything else that puts you and your loved ones in harm’s way.

If you live near a chemical plant, you should be aware that both corporate and government officials can and will cover up the potential harm in the event of a discharge.  Don’t wait for their advice.  Pick up and go.  And keep alert to news events.  A tanker car on a train or truck can be damaged in transit and discharge toxic materials.  Evacuate — in the opposite direction of the accident.

Leave if there is a city-wide blackout.  Criminals love to hide under cover of darkness.  Likewise, if the 911 system goes down, you should bug out.  When there is no way to communicate with law enforcement, the entire city is at risk.  Don’t wait  it out, hoping for the best.  And don’t risk your life trying to protect your property.  Take matters into your own hands and leave.

In the case of a serious weather event, bug out before government officials tell you to.  Don’t delay until the roads are congested with people who wait until the last minute to leave.  You may end up stranded on a crowded road as the blizzard or hurricane bears down on you.

Much of what I advise you to do on this blog is to plan and prepare.  You must do that.  But you also must act resolutely and unapologetically if a bug-out-worthy event is imminent.

Have you ever bugged out?  Or didn’t and wished you had?  Leave a note in the comments and let us know your story.  Or share your thoughts about your planning and preparation.

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Consider A Bug-Out Bag Kit

Prepared ConceptAlthough you certainly can create your bug-out bag from scratch, you may want to get off to a faster start and invest in a bug-out bag kit.  It can actually be more economical to start with a kit and add to it than to purchase everything separately.

When you choose your bug-out bag kit, start with a good backpack. For information about backpacks, check out What You Need To Know About Backpacks For Your Bug-Out Bag.  Make sure your kit starts with a sturdy but lightweight, watertight backpack.

Then have a good look at the contents of the kit.  You’ll want your bug-out bag to include some standard supplies, so be sure that your kit has them.  A good kit will include a first aid kit, some food supplies, a flashlight, lightweight thermal blankets and heavy duty gloves.

But even the best kits will need to be supplemented.  Your kit may include food but you may need to supplement it or change it out.  Most kits don’t include water, so you’ll need to be sure to add that.  You’ll need to add paper maps of your regional area.

Of course, you’ll need to add your own clothing, copies of your legal documents and prescription medications.  You’ll need to add your favorite past-times and entertainment items.  If you have children, you’ll need to add their food, clothing, formula, diapers, wipes, bottles, pacifiers and toys.

Then you will need to consider whether you need to add anything given your surroundings and the types of emergencies you are likely to face.  Do you live in an area with a chemical plant?  Protection against chemical leaks will be essential.  Likewise, consider whether you are likely to face hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, snowstorms or other weather-related events, then be sure that you add any specific items needed for them to your bug-out bag kit.

And, in general, review the contents to be sure that it includes everything that you consider essential.   Even a well-chosen kit may be missing a few items, such field glasses, a compass, a fold-up tent, an emergency radio, a sleeping bag or other things.   Compare the items in your bug-out bag kit to the items on my checklist in Your Bug-Out Bag Checklist.

Even though there’s no one kit that can meet all of your needs, purchasing a bug out bag kit is an excellent idea for making sure you have a good basic set of essentials. For many people the idea of gathering many items for a 72 hour emergency kit is overwhelming.  Or you may feel that an emergency is imminent and you need to get prepared immediately.

When you purchase a kit, you can get most of the items you need and only have to add a few personal or supplemental items. It may actually cost you less money to purchase a kit than it would to purchase items individually.

And when you purchase a kit, most items are designed to have a long shelf-life making them a good value. If you’re more willing to buy a kit than to collect individual items, a kit will get you one step closer to being self-reliant and prepared for an emergency.

In a disaster, you can’t count on anyone else to take care of your basic needs. Having a good basic bug out bag kit can help you to be prepared for a disaster that requires you to leave your home.

Did you begin your bug-out bag with a kit?  Leave a comment to let us know how that worked for you.

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Your Bug-Out Bag Checklist

A bug-out bag is a bag, usually a backpack, that contains supplies necessary for you to survive the first 72 hours of an emergency.  It is crucial for your bug-out bag to be prepared in advance.  The idea is to have it complete and conveniently located, so that you can grab it and go when an emergency arises.

It can take some time to gather all the materials for a bug-out bag.  While you are getting your supplies together, don’t think about what you don’t have yet.  Think about how much more prepared you are than you would be if you hadn’t started.

When you begin to gather your supplies, start with a checklist.  Make a plan to gather supplies as your budget allows.  Keep the checklist and the plan in your backpack.

The following is a recommended checklist to start you off collecting supplies for your bug-out bag:

* Sturdy backpack to hold items

* Sleeping bag

* Plastic sheet

* Tent or tarp for shelter

* First aid kit – including nonprescription and prescription medications and contraception (a three day supply)

* Children’s medications (if applicable)

* Feminine hygiene items (if applicable)

* Baby wipes and diapers (if applicable, though baby wipes are useful for cleaning up for all ages)

* Change of clothing – including pants, a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, socks, underwear, a jacket, work gloves

* Rain coat or poncho

* Emergency blanket

* Flashlights

* Camping lantern

* Batteries

* Candles

* Water-proof matches

* Flares

* Three day supply of food – such as granola bars, protein bars, trail mix, dried fruit, canned tuna, canned chicken, Vienna sausages, beef jerky, juice, candy, Meals Ready to Eat

* Three day supply of water – about four liters per person

* Manually operated can opener

* Utensils for eating

* Shovel

* Axe

* Knife

* Rope

* Duct tape

* Solar powered radio (with back up batteries)

* Toilet paper

* Hand sanitizer

* A bottle of combination soap, shampoo and conditioner (you can use it to wash dishes and clothes, too)

* Entertainment items – such as a deck of cards, knitting supplies, a book to read, paper, pen

* Personal documents – including legal documents, insurance policies, birth certificates, car titles, copies of prescriptions, etc.

* Cash – at least enough for three nights in a hotel

* Pet items – including food, water, cat litter, leash, bedding

* Other items as needed for children such as formula, pacifiers, bottles, etc.

When it comes to food, make sure you create a menu plan so that you know what you’ll eat each day. And every six months you’ll want to check expiration dates and replace food that’s near the end of its shelf life.

You’ll also need to check the children’s supplies every six months.  Be sure that the children haven’t grown out of the clothes you prepared for them and make sure that whatever other supplies (formula, bottles, etc.) are appropriate for age and size.

Don’t forget that you need to be able to grab your bag and go.  One of the things that means is that you need to put your supplies in your backpack and leave them there.  Don’t fall into the trap of using your bug-out supplies for daily use.  That will either delay you on the way out, or leave you underprepared when you get there.

You’ll need to have a bug out bag for each member of your family. Even children are capable of carrying their own packs with some essentials. This helps them to feel more self-reliant and confident during an emergency.

Once you’ve collected these items, you’ll need to keep them in an area where you can easily access them in an emergency. A bug out bag checklist can help you to keep in mind what you have and what you still need to purchase as you prepare for survival needs.

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What You Need To Know About Backpacks for Your Bug-Out Bag

Your first defense in an emergency situation is your bug-out bag, and the first consideration for your bug-out bag is the bag itself.

Size.  The backpack should be large, but not so large that you can’t carry it when it’s full.  A large main compartment is a must.  You will also need smaller compartments to store items that you need to be able to find easily.  Also look for a pack that has loops and clips so that you can attach items that will hang on the outside.  Those are handy for water bottles or tools that  you use often.

Construction.  It should be both lightweight and sturdy.  So look for fabric that is strong but made of lightweight material.  An interior aluminum frame adds to the strength but doesn’t add a lot of weight.  The frame also distributes the weight of the pack evenly over your back and helps to keep the items packed in it organized.

The truth about backpacks it that the longer you carry it, the heavier it will feel.  To alleviate that as much as possible, make sure that the shoulder straps are padded.  You’ll need the cushion to keep the straps from digging into your shoulders.

You’ll also want a strap around the waist.  Make sure the height of the pack is compatible with your height and that the strap actually hits at your waist.  And it should be adjustable.

Other features.  You’ll want to make sure there is some protection from the rain, so either the material should be waterproof or you should have a rain cover.

Some backpacks come with a hydration system.  That consists of a bladder that’s almost as large as the surface of the pack.  The bladder can be filled with water and is attached to a hose that you can use as a straw.

Value.   A good backpack can get pretty pricey.  You don’t want to splurge on the pack itself and then be underprepared with the contents.  Since preparedness is a long-term plan, it can be a good idea to start with a pack that is adequate but not better and then trade up.

Although the contents of the backpack are the keys to your preparedness, the backpack itself is also very important.  A well-chosen backpack will ensure that the pack and its contents are portable at a moment’s notice.  It will also ensure a reasonable degree of comfort when carrying a full pack a long distance.  It’s worth your time and money to invest in a good one.

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What Do You Need In Your Bug-Out Bag?

 

Now that you know that you need a bug-out bag, let’s talk about what you need to put in it.

Always keep in mind that it needs to be portable, useful in any emergency and intended to be used in the urgent, immediate 72-hour period following an emergency.  So keep urgent needs in mind and don’t waste space on less important needs, or longer-term survival necessities.

To make your bug-out bag, first, start with a sturdy backpack.  Buy the best one you can afford.  A metal frame makes it stronger and easier to carry if you end up having to hike a long while.  While you need a roomy main compartment, you also need side pockets for easy access to frequently used items.

Then you should have a three-day supply of food and water.   Foods that are good to have in a bug-out bag include trail mix, protein bars, meals ready to eat, tuna or canned meat, and soups.  Be sure that the cans have pull tabs or that you have a manual can opener.  If you want to carry it, you can also bring gel fuel to warm your food up.   Otherwise, bring food that you can eat cold.  Don’t forget formula, baby food or whatever food items are appropriate for the children in your family.

In addition to food, you will need water.  The rule of thumb is one gallon of water per person per day, or three gallons of water per person for your bug-out bag.  That’s heavy and bulky.  It can help to use many smaller bottles of water, so that you can distribute them in your backpack to try to increase your comfort as you carry it, and so that you can discard the bottles as you need them to make room in your pack.

After food and water, the next thing to think about is a compact first-aid kit.  Don’t overlook any prescription or over-the-counter drugs that you or your family members use.   Bring along small packages of toiletries and hygiene products as well.  If your babies are in diapers, add some to your bug-out bag.

The next thing to think about is clothing.  Your bug-out bag should include a change of clothes that are appropriate for foul weather, including boots and a rain poncho.  If there are growing children in your family, check the clothing in their bug-out bags every couple of months to make sure they haven’t outgrown them.

You’ll also need equipment to provide some sort of shelter.  Plan out what you need for shelter, including a tent, a sleeping bag, emergency blankets and a plastic sheet or tarp.

You’ll need safety and navigational tools, too.   A radio, flashlight and batteries, knife, rope and duct tape are all essential.  A compass and a paper map are important, too.  The GPS on your car or your phone may be inaccessible in a hurricane or blizzard.

Your bug-out bag should also include copies of important documents.  Your insurance policies, auto title, house deed, passports, IDs and any other documents important to you.

Finally, you should have a stash of cash in your bug-out bag.  My goal is to raise $500 for my own bug-out bag.  You may need to pay for three nights in a hotel, for example.  You can pretty much count on unforeseen expenses and higher prices than you budgeted for.

Pulling your bug-out bag together will take time and resources.  The best approach is to set out a monthly schedule for gathering your materials.  Month by month, as you see your bug-out bag become more complete, you will gain peace of mind.

Have I left anything out?  What do you think is essential in a bug-out bag?  Leave a comment and let us know.

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What’s A Bug-Out Bag?

One of the first things you should do when you decide to get prepared for an emergency is get a bug-out bag ready.

What is a bug-out bag and why do you need one?  A bug-out bag is a pre-packed, easily portable bag containing supplies to get you through the first 72 hours of an emergency.  A backpack is a good choice for a bug out bag.  You can carry more on your back, and for longer, than you can carry by hand.  You can also get a backpack with side pockets and places to tie equipment onto, so that you can carry more and organize it as needed.

You need a bug-out bag to take with you when you need to evacuate your home in an emergency.  If a hurricane is headed your way, your house is in the way of a wildfire, there is an earthquake in your area, or there is civil unrest or an act of terrorism, you can grab your bug-out bag and get out, depending on the contents of your bug-out bag for your survival.  If you have a house fire or another casualty, a bug-out bag can let you get out of your home fast, without the need to stop and gather supplies.

What should your bug-out bag include?  Above all, you should have a three-day supply of water and food that doesn’t need any real cooking.  A compact first aid kit is essential.  You’ll need a change of clothing.  Your bug-out bag should include what you need to provide shelter, including a tent, a sleeping bag, a plastic sheet and emergency blankets.   Flashlights and batteries are a must.  You’ll also need tools for making a fire.

Once you have the basics, you’ll need to adjust your bag according to your personal needs and the nature of the emergencies you are likely to encounter.  Women will need personal hygiene products; parents will need diapers, wipes, formula and toys for their kids.

If you live in a coastal area that can expect to be hit by a hurricane, you’ll want to have a rain poncho and a rain cover for your backpack.  On the other hand, if you live in the dry Southwest, you won’t need to protect yourself from the rain, but you may need equipment to protect yourself from wild fires or earthquakes.

You’ll need to keep your bug-out bag in an easily accessible place, so that you can grab it and go in an emergency.  You don’t need to purchase everything all at once.  Create a systematic plan to add a little bit each week or each month until you have completed it.

Your bug-out bag can mean survival in the case of an emergency.  And whether there is ever an emergency or not, knowing that it is there when needed can mean peace of mind.

Have you prepared a bug-out bag?  Leave a comment and let us know about your experiences.

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