However prepared you think you are for an emergency wildfire evacuation, when it looks like you’re driving through the outer edges of Hell, it’s going to be a scary ride.
Wildfires are a real threat every year in California, but this season seems to be especially dramatic and uncontrollable. Chalk it up to the severe drought that has caused the grass and trees to become well-seasoned fuel for the fires.
One particular fire rages out of control in Lake County, just north of the famous Napa Valley, putting thousands of acres of vineyards on the outskirts of the inferno.
That is far from the worst of it, though. Over the weekend, the tiny burg of Middletown, California was burned off the map. The flames moved so quickly that there was barely time to notify the families of the town that they had to evacuate.
When the fire hit the gas stations on the edge of town, the fuel tanks exploded, worsening the blaze. The fire traveled to the down and destroyed virtually every single building More than 1000 homes and businesses burned to the ground. Pay close attention at 1:30.
Residents literally only had minutes to evacuate as the flames approached. This was not a calm, orderly evacuation. This was families fleeing for their lives.
Do you think you are prepped to evacuate? What if you had to literally drive through a wildfire? Here’s a dose of reality. This video was shot as one family left their home for what is most likely the last time. (Some very understandable harsh language).
I know what you’re thinking: That guy waited way too long to bug out.
The thing is, this fire moved so incredibly quickly that people who bugged out within minutes of notification had a scene exactly like this. They had a soundtrack of approaching flames roaring in their ears. One minute, the fire was a plume of smoke on the horizon, and the next minute it was in their backyards.
News reports say that more than a thousand homes and businesses have been lost, and that one civilian has died in the fire. Four firefighters had to deploy their survival shelters and allow the fire to “burn over” them when they could not escape the blaze. Miraculously, they only suffered second-degree burns and are recovering in the hospital.
This is how quickly a disaster can strike. No matter how well-prepped you thought you were for a potential evacuation, if your vehicle wasn’t already loaded, you’d only have time to grab what was closest to the door in a situation like this. Some residents didn’t even have time to put on their shoes before leaving. This particular fire was fueled by drought-dried brush and pushed by 20 MPH winds, making it engulf territory faster than veteran firefighters had ever seen a blaze move. Embers propelled by the wind sparked new fires that joined the original blaze, causing even more rapid expansion.A report in the Press Democrat described the exponential growth of the fire.
Hundreds of firefighters streamed into the area to battle the blaze, which grew from 50 acres to more than 10,000 acres in the span of five hours Saturday. It doubled in size again over the next four hours, swelling to 25,000 acres by 10:25 p.m.
And this is the horrifying aftermath. An entire town, left like this.
In the event of a rapid evacuation, here are a few tips.
There may not be time to grab anything. During the fire above, people left in their pajamas to escape the rapidly moving fire.
I want you to think about disasters. While it’s certainly not a pleasant thought, but considering these things now – when there’s no fire bearing down on you, no hurricane heading your way, no chemical spill poisoning your water, no pandemic in the next town over – allows you to think more clearly and make a definitive plan of action.
Make these decisions now so that when – and it’s always “when” not “if” – disaster knocks at your door, you’re prepared to respond immediately. Learn about what to expect from others in order to keep your family safe and on-plan. Human nature isn’t as much of a variable when you can predict their behavior.
Surviving a wildfire begins well before the first spark. No matter where you live, a forest fire or large blaze can be a threat. Oftentimes, fires occur on the heels of another epic disaster.
As with any type of disaster, by being prepared ahead of time, you will handle a terrifying emergency in a much calmer fashion than those who have never considered the possibility of such an event.
We often talk about having a bug-out bag that includes a folder with important documents, but despite your preparations and efforts to protect them, sometimes disaster strikes quickly and unexpectedly, and those documents are lost.
For example, the fires last week in Northern California moved so rapidly that some people fled from their homes without even a moment to put on their shoes.
Although it’s not always the first thing people think of, in the event of a fire, flood, tornado, or other natural disaster, important documents can be lost or damaged beyond recognition.
The loss of vital documents can make it difficult to function in today’s society. Replacing documents is one of the first steps you’ll need to take. After a disaster, you’ll need identification, proof of citizenship, and proof of ownership before you can begin to rebuild your life.
Many of the major stressors after a disaster can be lessened by taking these vital steps before anything bad actually occurs.
1.) Photograph all important documents and store them securely in the cloud. (This report from Boston University provides tips on how to do so.)
2.) Keep photocopies of documents in a secure location away from your property. Consider procuring a safety deposit box for this purpose. (I have copies of all of our information at the home of a family member in another state.)
3.) Scan documents and save them on a password protected USB drive that you keep in a different location. This one is particularly secure and has an automatic cloud back-up.
There are some steps you can take to protect documents from fire and flood damage, but these are not foolproof.
Invest in a good quality fire-proof safe. However, keep in mind that fire-proof isn’t going to necessarily hold up to an inferno like the ones we’ve seen in California recently. The safe I recommend here has excellent reviews, but note the manufacturer’s classifications:
Advance fire-protection- UL Classified for fire endurance ( 1 hour at 1700 f/927 C )
ETL verified for 1 hour fire protection of CD’s, DVD’s, memory sticks and USB drives
ETL verified water resistance up to 8 inches for 24 hours
You can add an extra layer of protection by placing papers in fire-resistant document bags or case.
Vital documents must be replaced quickly and efficiently. Keep track of any fees you incur to replace these documents. Your homeowners or renters policy will most likely cover the cost. Below you’ll find the steps you need to take to replace a variety of documents. Links to helpful websites and documents are underlined and bolded.
The first thing you’ll want to replace is your birth certificate. You will need this to get your other documentation. Visit your county records office and explain the situation for an expedited copy of a notarized birth certificate.
Contact your local DMV to talk with them about your situation. They’ll let you know what their requirements are for getting your documents replaced. You may have to wait until you have your birth certificate in hand to get a new license. Some DMVs will issue a temporary license while you’re waiting.
You’ll have to apply for this in person at your nearest Social Security Administration office. This web page will tell you what documents you need for both children and adults before your appointment.
You can apply online for a lost passport. The information can be found at the US State Department’s website.
Go to any office of the Veterans Administration, American Legion, VFW, a service recruiter, or Red Cross. You’ll need Standard Form 180 (SF-180). If you have access to a printer, you can download the form HERE. If you’re a veteran, you’ll need these records for medical treatment from the VA and for your benefits.
Your insurance company will be able to help you quickly and efficiently by replacing your homeowner’s or rental insurance policy, life insurance policy, and automobile policy. As well, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction for the next steps you should take. Many policies will provide a stipend to meet your immediate needs for shelter, food, and clothing, and they’ll explain what you need to do to file a claim for your losses.
If you use an accountant, they should be able to provide copies of all of your tax records. If you do your taxes yourself, contact the nearest IRS office (find it HERE) or call 1-800-829-3646. (Often the 800 number has very long wait times to speak to a representative.) You can download Form 4506 online at THIS WEBPAGE.
If you have lost firearms that are registered to you, you must report the loss to your local law enforcement and the ATF. If the guns were not actually destroyed but were taken by someone scavenging through the rubble of your home, there could be ramifications if they commit a crime using your guns. (And let’s face it, anyone scavenging through the remains of someone’s destroyed home has questionable morals to start with.)
The ATF will have you fill out THIS FORM.
Contact the issuing sheriff’s department for replacement of your CCW permit.
Your first step should be to go to your local branch and get your debit card replaced. It may take up to a week for your replacement to arrive. The difficulty here lies in whether or not you have a relationship with your bank. If they know you, you may be able to do this without ID. Otherwise, this may have to wait until you have a copy of you birth certificate.
These are the phone numbers for major credit card companies. You’ll need to call and speak with a representative. Explain your situation and ask for an emergency replacement to be expedited to you to meet your immediate needs. You’ll be able to pay this off when you receive your insurance money.
Visit your county records office to get a copy of the deed to your property.
Marriage records are available from the county clerk’s office in which the licenses were issued. Divorce records are available from the Superior Court that granted the decree.
Contact the US Citizenship and Immigration Service if you need documents to verify citizenship, immigration, permanent resident card (green card), employment authorization, or a re-entry permit.
FEMA offers the following advice for replacing money that was damaged in the disaster.
Handle burned money as little as possible. Try to place each bill or part of a bill in plastic wrap to help preserve it. If money is partly burned—if half or more is still ok—you can take the part that is left to your regional Federal Reserve Bank to get it replaced.
Ask your bank for the one nearest you, or you can take the burned or torn money to the Post Office and mail it by “registered mail, return receipt requested” to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of Engraving and Printing Office of Currency Standards
P.O. Box 37048
Washington, DC 20013
Damaged or melted coins may be taken to your regional Federal Reserve Bank or mailed by “registered mail, return receipt requested” to:
P.O. Box 400
Philadelphia, PA 19105
To replace U.S. Savings Bonds that are destroyed or mutilated, get the Department of Treasury Form PD F 1048 (I) from your bank or at www.ustreas.gov and mail to:
Department of the Treasury
Bureau of the Public Debt Savings Bonds Operations
P.O. Box 1328
Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328
If you’ve lost everything in a disaster, don’t be afraid to accept help. Those of us who witness the loss want to assist you while you get back on your feet. While you do see the worst in people, like looters and scavengers, disasters can also bring out the best in your neighbors.
On the same venue, when disaster strikes, see what you can do to help. If you have extra clothing, bedding, furniture, or food, it can be of great help and comfort to someone who needs a hand up. Assistance need not always be limited to the practical. Items like toys or books can provide a big psychological boost to a family who has lost everything. Be generous, for some day, it could be you in that situation.
Few can deny the common sense behind preparing for something that is definitely going to happen, yet every year, an impending winter storm sends people rushing out to the store at the last minute, prepping for a blizzard that is due to hit in mere hours. Every winter, if you live in certain climates, blizzards are going to occur. Usually, at least one storm will hit that will cause you to be snowed in. Often, those storms mean you will also lose power. There is the inevitable rush to the store for milk and bread, during which people battle it out for the last supplies left on the shelves.
But you can avoid all that. You don’t have to be a bunker-dwelling, MRE-chomping, camo-clad prepper to see the logic behind keeping some extra food and other supplies on hand for something that happens every single year.
This year, avoid the last minute panic and the discomfort of being unprepared. This article is full of links to previous articles that will help you in prepping for a blizzard. Put together a at least the bare minimum kit for riding out the storm. (Camo is optional.)
Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a blizzard and power outage, the water may not run from the taps. The pipes could freeze, or, in the event of grid failure, an electrically driven pump will not work.
“I’ll just eat snow.” No, this is a horrible idea. First of all, snow is mostly air, and you’d have to eat 20 quarts of it to equal 2 quarts of water. Secondly, if you eat that much snow you will lower your core temperature and put yourself at risk for hypothermia. If you already don’t have water, you have enough problems. You don’t need hypothermia. For a small amount of money, you can have a 5-gallon jug of water sitting in your closet, instead of melting snow, crouched beside a fire in the backyard, watching the pot. You aren’t in the wilderness fending off bears. This really is not a good plan. First of all, the snow picks up all sorts of pollution as it falls through the atmosphere. The impurities can potentially make you sick. If you really get yourself in a poorly thought-out situation in which snow is your only hope for survival, boil it for 10 minutes before drinking it. Then, when the crisis is over, please store some water so you never have to do this again.
Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person. Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.
You can create your water supply very inexpensively. Many people use clean 2-liter soda pop bottles to store tap water. Others fill the large 5-gallon jugs with filtered water from the grocery store. Consider a gravity fed water filtration device and water purification tablets as well. Other filtration options are the small personal filters like the Sawyer mini.
Enough with the milk and bread already. Do you even consume milk and bread on a regular basis? This is really not the food you want to propel you through shoveling a driveway 17 times until the plow goes past, at which point you shovel it again.
There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage. One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning. Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking. This is a good idea if you don’t have an emergency stove or wood heat.
If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks. Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.
Freezing to death in your own home would be a terrible way to go, wouldn’t it? It’s pretty anticlimactic. There’s no grand story of adventure. You just basically didn’t have enough blankets and common sense to stay warm in a house. Don’t be that person.
During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in. Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth. You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm. As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.
However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.
Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater. You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. If you plan to use off-grid heat methods, pick up a carbon monoxide alarm with a battery back-up. The gas has no smell, and often people who die from inhaling it simply drift off to sleep, never to awaken.
A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid scenario is the lack of sanitation. We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet. If the pipes are frozen or you have no running water for other reasons during a winter storm, you’ll need to consider sanitation needs.
For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware. Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.) Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handling food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.
Look at your options for bathroom sanitation. Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out? Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. At our old cabin, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump was electric.
If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. At the first sign of a storm, fill the bathtub for this purpose. Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.
If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter. Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket. Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag. Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it. Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. (Here are the complete instructions.)
Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house. Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.
Candles are the first things that most people think of in the event of an emergency. While they can be a great solution, they do increase the risk of house fires. Be sure to use them safely and keep them away from children and pets.
Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. The good thing is, most folks already have the supplies on the “bare minimum” list. All you need to do is collect them and put them in one easily accessible container.
You probably won’t need a field trauma kit that allows you to amputate limbs or remove a bullet, but you definitely want to have a few things on hand. It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency. Your kit should include basic wound care items and over-the-counter medications.
This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods. If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too. The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.
Don’t feel like you are crossing over to the tinfoil hat side by preparing for all eventualities during a winter storm. This doesn’t mean you’re loading up on gas masks and decontamination suits. It doesn’t mean your house is stacked to the rafters with ammo and body armor. It’s just plain old-fashioned common sense to keep a naturally occurring event from becoming a crisis.
How prepared are you to survive a few days in the frozen wilderness with only the supplies you have in your vehicle?
A family of 6 discovered that they have what it takes when their Jeep flipped over in the middle of the Seven Troughs mountain range in north-central Nevada a couple of years ago.
Miraculously, the two adults and four children managed to escape the ordeal relatively unscathed, without even suffering frostbite. The family members included James Glanton, 34, Christina McIntee, 25, Shelby Schlag-Fitzpatrick, 10, Tate McIntee, 4, Evan Glanton, 5, and Chloe Glanton, 3.
James Glanton, a mine worker and hunter, showed true resourcefulness, and as one rescuer stated, “did one heck of job keeping those kids safe.” He immediately took charge of the situation and used his survival mentality to prevent his family from becoming victims. He adapted to the situation at hand by using what was available, and because of his decisive actions, succeeded in surviving in an event during which many would have perished.
All of the rescue workers were volunteers, who searched relentlessly for days for the family, with no state emergency funds forthcoming. Some volunteers covered more than 700 miles looking for the missing family.
This real-life story is a perfect example of how disaster can strike when you least expect it. As preppers and survivalists, what can we learn from James Glanton?
During any winter survival scenario, your priorities are:
Glanton said that immediately after the accident occurred, his first concern was to keep the family from freezing to death in the negative temperatures. He told reporters that he “knew that they had to stay warm, and the first thing he did was build a fire and he was able to keep that fire going the entire time while they were out.”
Glanton then put large stones into the fire and heated them up. He brought them into the vehicle and allowed the radiant heat to keep the family warm. (You can learn more about this technique HERE.)
Fortunately they had a supply of food and water in the vehicle because they had intended on spending a full day playing in the snow.
Rescuers agreed that in this particular situation, the family’s survival hinged upon their decision to hunker down in the vehicle instead of setting off on foot to search for help. With small children in tow, a storm brewing, and the remoteness of their location, a trek would have very likely been ill-fated. They were 25 miles from the nearest town, so walking for help was really out of the question.
They were fortunate on several counts:
The take-away from this? Always make sure someone knows where to look for you. Also, invest in some signalling devices to help searchers locate you. (This is something that Glanton did not have.) Consider adding flares to your survival kit, or make something large out of found objects to place on top of the snow to catch the attention of planes searching the area.
The family was located when a sharp-eyed searcher saw their Jeep upside down in the snow.
Without the supplies that the family had on hand, their chances of survival would have diminished greatly.
Making the best of a terrifying situation, James Glanton used resourcefulness and ingenuity to keep his family safe and warm. Because the accident took place in a canyon housing an old mining site and they were able to use some items from the site to help them survive.
The artifacts left behind Wednesday — a burned tire, rocks and snow-packed footprints — told the great Nevada survival story.
The small canyon houses ghosts of an old mining camp with bedspring wiring, a rusty stove, pipes and what appeared to be steel roofing. A bent piece of steel was used to reflect heat for the fire where the vehicle flipped, said Charles Sparke, Pershing County emergency management director.
Officials say the family was prepared for a day in the snow. Glanton even brought a magnesium fire starter, which can turn wet twigs into ready-to-light kindling, Sparke said Wednesday.
He also had a hacksaw, which he used to cut kindling, and a spare tire to burn.
The Jeep was removed from the scene Wednesday. Inside the vehicle remained an old lighter and burned doors. Officials said Glanton burned rocks and put them inside the Jeep to keep the family warm. (source)
If such an accident occurred, how would you and your family survive? Do you have all of the necessary supplies to hunker down for a few days in frigid temperatures?
Here are the minimum supplies you should have in your vehicle at all times:
Fully loaded backpacks with the basics of survival should always be handy in the even that you do have to hike away from the scene of an accident. Additionally, have cash in small denominations for other types of emergencies.
You should always have some non-perishable foods in the vehicle, and water filtration equipment as well as water, in the event that your emergency lasts for an extended period of time.
This should always remain in the vehicle:
You should always have a well-stocked first aid kit. Be sure to include the following:
Always keep spare clothing and footwear in the vehicle. Particularly in cold temperatures, dampness is the enemy. If your clothing or socks get wet, this greatly increases the risk of succumbing to exposure.
Make sure you have basic tools on hand.
If you were in the same situation as the family who survived in the Nevada wilderness, how would you fare? What items do you keep in your vehicle that would help you to survive?
“Still … in this world only winter is certain.” ― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire)
If you happen to be a Game of Thrones fan, you know the Stark Family motto: “Winter is coming.” It’s inevitable and sometimes dangerous. According to all predictions, this winter will be a repeat of last year, or perhaps even worse. Most of the country can expect extreme cold, an abundance of snow, and a longer-than-normal winter. It may be early in the season, but that first storm of the year can sneak up on you. Now is the time to double check your preparations and be certain that you are ready for anything, well before the first snowflake falls.
Many of us spend far more of our waking hours away from home, busy with work, school, or chauffeuring our kids to their various activities. Because of this, a vehicle emergency kit is vital. As an example, a couple of winters ago there was a notable situation during which a well-stocked kit would have been beneficial.
A freak snowstorm struck the Atlanta, Georgia area. Because weather like this is such a rarity, the area was completely unprepared, officials didn’t have the experience or equipment needed to deal with it, and traffic gridlocked almost immediately. Hundreds of people were stranded as the freeway turned into a scene reminiscent of The Walking Dead, with bumper-to-bumper vehicles at a standstill. Those without food and water in their vehicles went hungry, and many people ran out of gas as they tried to keep warm. No matter how comfortable you are with winter driving, in a situation like this, you are at the mercy of others who may not be so experienced.
The take-home preparedness point here is that it doesn’t matter how great of a driver you are in the snow, whether or not you have moved to the tropics from your winter chalet in Antarctica, or whether you have huge knobby tires and 4WD. Over-confidence in your own ability can cause people to forget about the lack of skills that other folks have. Many times, people end up in a crisis situation through no fault of their own and are at the mercy of other people who have no idea what they are doing. (source)
Before adding any preps to your vehicle, make sure that it is well maintained, because not having a breakdown in the first place is a better plan than surviving the breakdown. Change your oil as recommended, keep your fluids topped up, and keep your tires in good condition, replacing them when needed. As well, particularly when poor weather is imminent, be sure to keep your fuel level above the halfway point. If you happen to get stranded, being able to run your vehicle for increments of time will help keep you warm. Build a relationship with a mechanic you can trust, and pre-empt issues before they become vehicle failures at the worst possible time.
Disaster can strike when you least expect it, so now is the time to put together a kit that can see you through a variety of situations. I drive an SUV, and I keep the following gear in the back at all times. You can modify this list for your amount of space, your environment, the seasons, and your particular skill set. Some people who are adept at living off the land may scale this down, while other people may feel it isn’t enough. I make small modifications between my cold weather kit and my warm weather kit, but the basics remain the same. While you should have the supplies available to set off on foot, in many cases, the safer course of action is to stay with your vehicle and wait for assistance.
Some people feel that having a cell phone means they can just call for assistance. While this is a great plan, and you should have a communications device, it should never be your only plan. What if there is no signal in your area or if cell service has been interrupted? What if you simply forgot to charge your phone? In any scenario, calling for help should never be your only plan. You should always be prepared to save yourself.
I drive a small SUV, and I manage to fit a substantial amount of gear in it, still leaving plenty of room for occupants. The tub on the right hand side just has a couple of things in the bottom and serves two purposes. It keeps the other tubs from sliding around, and it contains shopping bags after a trip to the grocery store. You can also place purchases on top of the other containers if necessary. I have two 18 gallon totes and a smaller 10 gallon tote, with individual components in small containers within them.
I use old Altoids containers for small items like band-aids and alcohol wipes. They stand up far better than the flimsy cardboard boxes those items come in. (Also, that means we get to have Altoids.)
It’s sort of hard to see but in the photo above, the container is a stocking hat for warmth and a waterproof hat that will also provide some sun protection. Inside the container are two pairs of socks, a rain poncho, a Berkey sport bottle (it can purify up to 100 gallons of water), and a space blanket. Each of these is topped off with a hoodie in warmer weather. In the winter, gloves and scarves replace the hoodie.
Obviously, THIS is not the Taj Mahal of tents. But it fits easily into a backpack and would be sufficient for day-to-day emergencies in warmer weather. In the winter, and anytime we are going further from home, we have a bigger sturdier tent that we put in the vehicle. This would be used in the event that we were stranded but for some reason, unable to use the vehicle for shelter. Generally speaking, your vehicle will provide better shelter and safety than a tent.
All of the above mini-kits go into one big 18-gallon tote.
Also included are a few different types of rope, a compass, a road atlas (I like the kind that are spiral-bound), WD-40, duct tape, and a 4 pack of toilet paper. There is room for 2 warm blankets folded on top.
I use a separate smaller container for food and hygiene items.
Our food kit contains graham crackers with peanut butter, pop-top cans of soup, pop-top cans of fruit, antiseptic wipes, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, garbage bags, spoons, forks, a survival guide, and plastic dishes. Not shown: ziplock bags of dog food in single servings.
These collapsible pet dishes are lightweight additions for a backpack. In a pinch, they could be used for human food also.
The second large tote in the back is a lot fuller in the winter. I leave it back there year-round because it keeps the other container from sliding around and it makes a good container for shopping bags and small items that I am transporting. In the winter, I have a pair of heavy, snow and moisture resistant winter boots for each passenger, snow pants, and winter coats. Since the coats and snow pants are squishy, we can still put grocery bags and parcels on top of them.
Not every person needs every item on this list. Pick and choose the items that are important given your family situation, your environment, and your most-likely disaster scenarios. No list can be comprehensive for every person, but this one has served us well.
What’s the difference between an arm-chair survivalist and the real deal? The difference between someone who could get by for a few weeks and someone who could thrive indefinitely?
One word – action.
I was lucky enough to meet someone who is the real deal recently. Mark is a long-term survivalist, and he graciously answered about a million questions about his lifestyle. The end result was, I learned a lot, including how little I actually know in comparison to someone who lives an off-grid, non-consumer life every single day. Even better, I have permission to share this information with the rest of you in the form of a new series: Long-Term Survival.
Mark lives in the desert, and he’s off the grid. His well was dug by hand over the course of a month. His shelter is built by hand. There is no indoor plumbing and he cooks most meals outdoors over a fire. He’s a big believer in tools and skills over beans and rice.
Daisy: What does bugging out mean to you?
Mark: My “bug out kit” is tool heavy for food, shelter, and fire. Everything else is a luxury. So I would not pack a lot of the stuff others might be going for. If I was bugging out, I’d plan for it to be for the long haul. I’d want a set of tools that would make life easier and almost guarantee that you would have a roof over your head, food in your belly, and fire to keep warm by. I am going to carry tools over comforts because the comforts can eventually come from using the tools.
Daisy: Is this the kind of kit you’d recommend for anyone who is interested in building the ultimate bug out kit?
Mark: Well, you have to practice with the tool set I am going to talk about and become comfortable with them. Also, remember that your mind is tool number one and the best tool you can exploit.
Daisy: Why is your bug-out plan so different than the basic plan we see outlined on all of the prepping sites?
Mark: If you look around at everyone’s “bug out bag” and “bug out plans,” they all revolve around a 3 day disaster or getting to your “bug out location”. Not many people are set to “bug out” for the long haul. But what if you couldn’t look back? What if bugging out meant 30 years instead of 3 days, or if there was no home to come back to? If it came down to bugging out, I’d want to far far away. I’d be building a semi-permanent shelter and starting a trap line and learning all the hunting trails. Then, when its time to move south for the winter I’d pack my stuff and walk to my warmer spot, and do the same thing. I want to have a life, not always be running around like a squirrel after a nut once things really collapse, like history has told us EVERY other society like ours has done.
Daisy: So if you had to just grab one bag and go, what tools would be in it?
Mark: In my opinion, there are 5 tools you need to have, and some of these have multiple uses: a Swiss Army champion knife for your medical kit , a Leatherman crunch for repairs, a CRKT Folts minimalist hunter neck knife for small game skinning and utility (best neck knife around and it is only 25 bucks. I personally use it and also the tano one as a utility knife both on neck but one will do, the hunter), a Mora “light my fire” camp knife – it’s a utility medium game skinning with build in ferro rod, and a medium size forged axe with at least a 2lb head 2.5-3lb would be best – it’s one step above a hatchet for shelter, fire wood, large game skinning, and protection.
Daisy: Wow, you answered that quickly!
Mark: You should also add for readers that these tools are for your hands only. They mean your survival, so never lend them out to anyone, not even parents, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, or wives. They should all have their own. These are yours and yours alone.
Daisy: Okay, let’s go over these different tools. Tell me about the Swiss Army knife that you recommend. (Recommended Product)
Mark: The Swiss army knife is high grade stainless steel. This is important because it can be sterilized and has a very sharp fine edged blade that can basically double as a scalpel. There are several tools in The Champ that can lend themselves to helping in a medical emergency. There is a magnifier to look for ticks and other parasites, as well a pair of decent tweezers for tick or sliver removal . Fine scissors to cut bandaging or other types of cloth and light materials…the list goes on. Trust me when I say you will be happy you have it along in your medical kit if an emergency ever arises.
Mark: The crunch is a mini “vise-grip” with a groove in its nose to lock down on something like a sewing machine needle, if you need to use it to sew for repairs. It has some screw drivers: a small common blade (flat), a medium common blade, and Philips (cross). As well, there is a rasp, a file, a large screwdriver, and a serrated knife that is graduated in both standard and metric to measure and can cut light wire like copper, aluminum, brass, or bronze. It also has a bit driver, and all of the tools lock into place. It is one of the few tools Leatherman makes that falls under the category of “heavy duty” in their line up.
Daisy: What is a neck knife? (link to this tool – $22.82)
Mark: A neck knife is a small all around utility/skinning knife that is always right there within reach. I prefer a hunters blade. This is the knife you will be doing most of your daily small game skinning and other light camp chores with. Never leave home with out it, as you never know when and where you might need it.
Mark: I prefer having a dedicated knife that is married with a ferro rod “fire steel”. That way you have a medium duty knife for skinning, camp utility, carving, and a last ditch resort to make sure you have a fire. Mora makes a very nice and economical bushcraft knife/ferro rod set. You can shop around – several knife makers are now making hunter-bushcraft/fire sets. You want a high carbon steel blade on this knife if you can because the ferro rod will work better. Do not skimp on quality for anything less than a Mora on this item. Mora would be the low end for price, and yet still provide a quality knife that you can rely on.
Mark: The Hultafors hunter’s axe is a high quality choice. Hultafors is the oldest axe company in the world. They have been forging axes since 1697 and their axes are much less expensive than the competition’s axes. This is not the absolute highest quality axe, but it is still a good quality, forged axe. I actually have one of these, its smaller brother, and a carpenter axe from this company, and I love them all. The Hultafors hunter’s axe is in the “classic” line and is around 85 bucks, with maybe a tiny bit more for shipping vs. 150+ bucks from the competition on production-forged axes of this size. You can use this tool for building an advanced shelter, for all of your camp amenities such as table, chair, loo, etc. It can also be used for harvesting all the firewood you need, as well as skinning and splitting any large animals you may have hunted, trapped or found as “road kill”. [laughter] Also, it can be very effective as a weapon to protect yourself. I can guarantee that if you practice with an axe and follow through on a heavy swing you will damage anything wild attempting to get you in its jaws.
Daisy: I’m sure it would also deter anything human attempting to cause you harm.
Mark: You do as you wish. I don’t want people thinking I am a crazy human killer. [laughter]
These tools are tried and true, and Mark owns them all. At an investment of less than $300, they could easily mean the difference between life and death, or at the very least, comfort and misery. He also recommends the addition of a rasp or file and a short honing strop to keep the tools sharp and tuned up.
Next in the Long-Term Survival Series, Mark will talk about living without water flowing from the taps. He’ll discuss digging a well, conservation measures, sanitation, and how he does some of those things that we all take for granted with our indoor plumbing that most of us can’t imagine life without.
Mark lives in the desert in the American Southwest. He was raised in a survivalist family, and this has been his lifestyle for as long as he can remember.
What is a more uncomfortable feeling than relinquishing all of the items that are normally part of your EDC kit?
Here’s one: relinquishing those items and boarding a plane to fly across the country.
For many preppers, a worst-case scenario for us would be if the SHTF while we were traveling. If your journey is by car, you can be fairly well-prepared. However, if you are flying, the TSA has basically neutered our ability to care for ourselves in the event of a disaster situation, you know, “for the safety and security of the traveling public,” to use their own words. Didn’t these rulemakers see the movie Cast Away or the series Lost? If your plane crashed and you were stranded on a deserted island, how on earth are you supposed to open a coconut with what you’re allowed to bring along?
Remember, what you pack in your checked luggage may not be available in the event of a disaster. You can only count on what you have on your person, and that makes the contents of your carry-on bag particularly vital.
Since there’s little possibility of being able to sneak items onto a plane, you have to do the next best thing: you must work within the rules to create a bag that could see you through a variety of unexpected situations. Despite my strong personal feelings about the unconstitutional air travel checkpoints, if I want to get on that plane, I can’t carry my normal EDC kit, which reads a lot like the TSA’s current list of banned items.
Here are 20 items you can bring onto a plane (without getting tackled to the ground by 3 TSA goons while sirens blare ,lights flash, and the PA system announces that you are a terrorist who was planning to hijack the nearest 747.) To make the list, the items must be able to pass through a security checkpoint, they must be small and light, since your space and weights are limited for carry-on bags, and they must be practical in a variety of situations. (At the time of publication, this list was accurate and in compliance with the current rules, but they change frequently – always check the website to ensure that the items you brought with you will be allowed on the plane.)
Because of the stringent TSA regulations, you are very limited in what you may take with you on a plane. To stack the odds in your favor in the event of some kind of disaster, remember these practical tips:
Do you travel frequently by air? What tips do you have for flying prepared? Please share them in the comments section below.
It’s an exciting time, preparing for your child to leave the nest. Your young adult is enthusiastically anticipating the independence that is so near, but you, as a parent, are most likely running scenarios in your head of all of the mishaps that could befall your son or daughter.
As a prepper, you want your child to also be prepared for any crisis that might occur when they are out on their own. When my lovely eldest daughter graduated from high school, we put together a dorm-room preparedness kit for her college apartment. Following, you can see the list of supplies that we have assembled. Different climates will, of course, require different types of preparedness items.
If there is a long-term power outage, you want to be sure that your student stays fed and hydrated until you can get them home. Depending on the situation, they may have to shelter in place for a time. Base the length of your supply on the distance from home.
Be sure to check the rules of the dormitory and weigh the pros and cons of your solutions for this matter. This will depend upon your student and his or her level of competence and responsibility, and only you can make the correct assessment of the situation. The following recommendations will not be appropriate in all situations:
Your child should have a well-stocked first aid kit, including supplies for an illness like the flu.
During a power outage, particularly in a multi-story building, sanitation could become an issue. (Remember the high-rises in NYC during Hurricane Sandy?) The following supplies can help to keep your student healthy:
Be sure that your student has the following supplies on hand to deal with an emergency such as a power outage or other crisis:
It is vital to stress the importance of OPSEC (Operational Security), especially in a shared living environment. Your young adult should be very careful about letting others know that he or she possesses self-defense items or preparedness supplies. In a small space, it can be difficult to keep things hidden, but a great deal of food and water can be shoved under a bed. Self-defense items can be stashed in a backpack. Other supplies can be stored in the closet in luggage.
Of course, we all know that the most important prep is your mind. If your son or daughter understands the preparedness mindset, they will be head and shoulders above the rest in a crisis situation. Because my daughter has been raised in a household that values preparedness, she is well-aware of the things that can happen. She understands the mob mentality that can arise during a disaster and she is well-versed in being adaptable, of thinking things through, and making a plan. As well, she has learned many things that aren’t common for your average teenage girl today, like starting fires, cooking from scratch, and outdoor skills.
Some great courses for a teenager are:
As a family, you should have a plan for different types of emergencies. Will your young adult try to make their way home to you in the event of a crisis or should they shelter in place and wait for you to get to them? Are there special concerns in their particular area that should be planned for, like a nuclear power facility, an earthquake or tornado prone locale, or extreme climate conditions? By having a plan in place before disaster strikes, everyone will be on the same page and the response to the crisis will be automatic, saving valuable time and energy, as well as providing some peace of mind.
As parents, it is our job to prepare our children for life outside the nest. We have to let go so they can fly. By providing them with a solid base of knowledge, supplies, and advice we can rest assured that they will thrive as the begin their lives as independent adults.
You can survive:
Three minutes without air.
Three days without water.
Three weeks without food.
If a disaster has hit and you’re still breathing, then your next concern has got to be water.
Have you ever watched any of those survival shows on the Discovery Channel where people are dropped off in the middle of nowhere and left to survive with limited tools and supplies? In nearly every single episode, the biggest issue is finding and purifying water. Often, they wait so long that they become desperate and engage in risky behavior, like drinking water from a stagnant pool. In one particularly notable episode, the contestants had to be rescued because they became too weak from dehydration to seek water.
As you can see, those random occurrences that happen out of the blue can strike anyone at any time.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just go to the store and grab a few bottles,” but when everyone else in your area has the same idea, it doesn’t take long for the shelves to clear, potentially leaving you and your family without water.
Even if you are able to jostle your way to the front of the line and victoriously snag the last 24-pack of individual water bottles, if the situation lasts longer than expected, that paltry amount is not going to see you through it.
Why not? Because on average, the expected rate of consumption is one gallon per person per day. That doesn’t include consumption for pets or what you’ll use for sanitation. If the situation persists for more than a couple of days, you’re going to need to bathe, clean, and wash dishes. Not only that, but you’ll have to figure out a safe way to dispose of human waste.
The water that you store for your family should be enough to see all members of the household through a two-week period without running water. This is the bare minimum supply you should have on hand.
Sometimes, even an abundant stored water supply isn’t enough. In more dire situations, water supplies can be interrupted indefinitely.
Do you remember the earthquake that devastated Haiti? That unexpected natural disaster took place in 2010, and some areas still do not have running water five years later. Five years. There’s no way a person could store enough water to last for that long, so the people affected have had to completely change their way of life. They’ve had to learn how to acquire water for their needs, how to purify it so it doesn’t make them sick, and how to conserve the limited amount they have available.
Did you know that oftentimes, more people die in the aftermath of a disaster than in the disaster itself? And the number one cause of death? Contaminated water.
If you are thirsty—truly, desperately thirsty—it’s human nature to drink whatever is available because your imminent demise from dehydration is more concerning to you than the pathogens in that dirty water you are gulping down.
But drinking contaminated water can lead to a host of dreaded diseases like dysentery, hepatitis A, viral gastroenteritis, cholera, shigellosis, typhoid, diphtheria, and polio. Just one person handling personal waste improperly can contaminate the water supply for hundreds, even thousands, of other people downstream from them.
Whether you are just getting started in the preparedness lifestyle or you’ve been at it for a long time, there’s always something new to learn about water. There’s just so much information about water that it deserves its own book, instead of just one chapter in a general preparedness guide. Aside from air, it is the most vital element of human survival. In this essential guide, you’ll learn that:
What’s more, a water supply and source aren’t only important during disasters. It’s vital to know about the things that could be lurking in your water even if it assumedly flows safely from your taps. Municipal water supplies and wells can contain things you’d rather not consume. Sometimes these contaminants are mild and only cause issues when consumed over a long period. Other times, the contaminants can make a susceptible person ill almost immediately.
There is nothing you can store that is more valuable than water or the means to purify water. There is no greater preparedness measure that you can take than that of securing a safe, abundant source of water. Without this one vital element that makes up 50 to 70 percent of your body, you’re as good as dead.
Does your pantry contain all of the basics for scratch cooking? There are 25 ingredients that you need in your pantry at all times to cook from scratch.
More and more people are reclaiming the lost art of cooking from scratch in an effort to save money and avoid the trend toward processed food. A good pantry should have everything you need to whip together a pie, a loaf of bread, a casserole, or a batch of biscuits with no trip to the store required.
This is a list from my book, The Pantry Primer, of the things you need to go with your whole foods to turn them into delicious meals, so you won’t find things like canned goods, flours, grains, meats, or veggies. These ingredients are the supporting actors to the starring roles. If you like to think ahead, be sure to acquire these items in multiples – you should never run out of them. Many of these basics can be purchased in large quantities. One of my favorite destinations for pantry basics is Amazon, where I purchase yeast, aluminum-free baking soda, and other building blocks of a scratch pantry. I have also acquired 50-pound bags of organic sugar at Bulk Barn for a reduced price.
To build your stockpile, look through your cupboards and see what you use the most. Every kitchen will be different but below are my most-used items – the ones that I search out and buy in bulk. Links are for high-quality versions of these items, as opposed to store brands that could come from more questionable sources. Feel free to select whatever version you prefer of the items – just be sure to load up and get prepped! 🙂