Category Archives for Articles – Week 4

Is your child prepared to bug out from school?

Is your child prepared to bug out from school?  Mine is.

A couple of years ago, I posed the question, “Should Your Kids Know How to Bug Out…from School?” and the answers to that question were incredibly varied. Some parents said that the kids shouldn’t be in public schools in the first place. Others said that they absolutely had a plan in place for their children. Still others said that the very idea was irresponsible and that kids should be under the supervision of a responsible adult, particularly in an emergency situation.

In a world where kids are being immersed in a culture of fear and school officials are becoming more authoritarian by the day, it is a very real concern that a lockdown could occur and you wouldn’t see your children again until they were released at the discretion of those in charge at the school.

There are all sorts of practice runs guaranteed to traumatize kids  into submission, including live shooter drills and evacuation drills. In the latter, the children are unexpectedly and quickly herded onto buses and sent to an alternate location. (Michael Snyder gave numerous examples of situations in which schoolchildren were put on buses and sent to alternate locations without parental consent.).

During these drills kids are not allowed to phone their parents and parents are not even allowed to know where their children are in many cases.  In some incidences during which the school forewarns parents about the drill, the parents are told that they cannot pick up their children “for any reason” during the drill.  Many schools now boast of having supplies to keep children at the school for 48 hours in the event of an “emergency” during which time the children will not be released to their parents.

And it gets even worse. In the name of predictive programming, do you recall a “drill” during which the police took over a school and practiced fighting “angry parents”?  I’ve been plenty annoyed at different schools my daughter has attended, but in no way have I been compelled to attack the school, requiring SWAT teams to defend it against me and my band of likewise irate moms. (source)

This stuff doesn’t just apply to kids in the public school system.  Very rarely is a parent with a child 100% of the time, every day of the year.  Home-schooled kids go on outings with other families, go to church functions, and enrichment activities.  Whenever your children are not with you, a plan needs to be in place for their safety.

This is also not just about defying perceived authority. Another scenario could be a major disaster during which your children find themselves without a responsible adult to turn to.  Would they have the skills, supplies, and ability to get home or to a safe meeting place?

Is your child mentally prepared to bug out?

Each parent knows their own child the best. Not all kids are mentally equipped for a bug-out situation. If you feel that your child would panic, or your children are very young, this may not be a viable plan for your family.

If your kid is the independent, competent sort, then it may be time for a discussion on determining a plan for when and how to bug out from school.

If, out of the blue, the teachers just tell students to get on a bus, and there is no compelling reason for them to be doing so, it might be time for your child to use his or her own judgement on whether boarding that conveyance is actually a good idea.

This decision has to be based on factors that will be different for every household. Ask yourself these questions when developing a school bug-out plan.

Does your child have good judgment? If your kid is the type that is prone to panic and poor decisions, this might not be the best plan.  But if you have a level-headed youngster who has a grasp on the reasons why they would need to bug out, it’s definitely worth a discussion.

How does your child know when it’s time to leave? A degree of stealth is necessary to get away undetected. As well, not all situations require such drastic measures. You may feel, as a parent, that certain adults are more trustworthy and will be looking out for the best interests of your children.

What about younger siblings? If there are younger siblings at the school, your older children will need to plan how to connect with them.

Should older kids abort the bug-out if they can’t connect with the younger ones? A decision should be made ahead of time whether or not older children should stay with their younger siblings in the event that everyone can’t make their escape.

Where are your rally points?  You need to set up a primary and secondary rally point where you’ll meet your kids.  This should be within a couple of miles of the school, and it should be in a place where your children can stay hidden from the main road. The plan should always be to go to the primary rally point, but if for some reason that is unsafe or unaccessible, there should be a secondary rally point that is reached by a different route. Creating a specific route to rally points is vital so that you know where your child will be if you need to find them before they arrive at the meeting place.

How will your child get to the rally point?  It’s time for your own drills.  Practice getting there from the school.  If possible, for reasons of safety and stealth, develop a route that does not use the main road to take them there. Hike or walk this route with your child until they are completely comfortable with it.

In what situations should kids abandon the bug out plan? There are some situations in which evacuation is very necessary. For example, some places are prone to forest fires and you wouldn’t want your child out on foot in such a scenario.  If the school building were to collapse, it’s obvious the children would be relocated to a safe shelter. This is the point at which your child’s judgment comes into play. It is vital to discuss different scenarios in which evacuation is necessary.

How to build a bug out bag that won’t get your kid expelled

It is also important for your child to have the proper gear to take off on foot, as well as the ability to use all of it.  It’s important to practice things like filtering water in order for a young person to feel confident doing so.

This can be tricky, however, since schools are prone to hysteria regarding anything that might be considered a weapon.  “Zero tolerance” makes for a very restricted selection of items.

  • A hiking pack (My daughter keeps a teeny tiny fold-up hiking pack in the bottom of her school bag – it’s lightweight and would allow her to keep her hands free on a long hike.)
  • Comfortable weather-appropriate footwear (my daughter leaves a pair of winter boots, sneakers, etc., at school instead of carrying them back and forth every day)
  • Water filtration bottle (This personal filter can be used with any water container )
  • At least one full water bottle, but preferably two
  • Snacks like granola bars or energy bars (I rarely advocate packaged foods, but Clif Bars  are made with pretty good ingredients, taste yummy, and are very filling)
  • Weather appropriate clothing (snow gear, light hoodie, gloves, hat for sun or warmth)
  • A fire-starter that won’t get them in trouble – this FireSteel also has an emergency whistle)
  • Space blanket – This kind is better quality and won’t rip as easily as the dollar store kind. It can be used for warmth or as a makeshift shelter should your child be caught outside overnight.
  • First aid kit (band-aids are a must for potential blisters) Check out these instructions for a mini-kit in an Altoids tin
  • Extra socks – dry socks are vital if your child ends up having to walk a long distance or in bad weather
  • Communications – I hate cell phones with a passion. I really do.  However if your child is in school much more than a mile from home, this is a quick link between you assuming that systems are still working. If you have a rally point where you can hide a small cache, consider putting a two way radio there if it is within range of home.  Check out this excellent piece on family communication plans.

Personal defense is frowned upon

If you think your child is mature enough to bug out from school, chances are you also believe he or she possesses the common sense to own personal defense items without accidentally shivving a classmate. However, schools tend to have a different opinion on this topic. Things like multi-tools, matches or lighters, or self-defense items are frowned upon and can result in enormous trouble from a “zero-tolerance” school system that seems unable to differentiate between a tool and a threat.  These are things you must take into consideration when choosing items for the emergency kit, and you have to weigh the pros against the cons.

Only a few options exist that won’t get your child kicked out of school and served with  felony charges by the overzealous “justice system.” The key is adaptability. If your child finds himself or herself in a survival situation, a little skill for improvisation can help.

In a pinch, everyday objects can be pressed into duty for self defense.  To name of few items typically found in a classroom or a schoolbag:

A ballpoint pen


Heavy objects

Any type of aerosol spray (hair spray, spray deodorant, etc.)

While these are far from the best self defense items, they can be effective if wielded correctly. Some of these items can be kept in a locker or backpack and appear quite innocent until they are needed.

In the name of some Self-Defense Arts and Crafts, my friend Gray Wolf (check out Gray Wolf Survival) told me about the Millwall brick.  A very effective bludgeon can be created from newspaper.  This video shows you how to make one from a magazine.

Talk to your kids

Whatever your feelings are about kids bugging out, these subjects can still bring up discussion points. Talk to your children. Make up scenarios and say, “What would you do if…?”  Brainstorm and discuss things to help them build a survival mindset.

What do you think? Have you taught your kids to bug out if they are away from home when emergency strikes? Have you developed a plan?

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* Are You Prepared to Bug-Out Fast?

Bugging out.

Getting out of Dodge.


Whatever you choose to call it, thousands of Americans end up having to leave their homes due to emergencies every year.  According to FEMA:

Evacuations are more common than many people realize. Hundreds of times each year, transportation and industrial accidents release harmful substances, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes. Fires and floods cause evacuations even more frequently. Almost every year, people along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts evacuate in the face of approaching hurricanes. (source)

Despite this, many people seem to be taken utterly by surprise when they’re told to leave their homes due to a local disaster. The ensuing panic and confusion can slow down the process for everyone, making an already terrible situation far more desperate.

A few years ago, my family came very close to having to evacuate – and by close, I mean, literally, 2 miles from disaster. The King Fire was a forest fire that nearly reached 100,000 acres.  We got up on a sunny Saturday morning,  never realizing that would be the day an angry man would punctuate a domestic dispute by setting fire to a tree in the other person’s yard. Certainly, no one expected that one act of anger to set off a fire that would exceed the size of the city of Atlanta.

However, he did set that fire, and it came as close as 2 miles to our home over the almost-two-weeks that we watched with bated breath.

In the forested mountains of California, wildfires are an annual threat, and we’ve learned a lot about emergency evacuations, including how to be ready to roll in mere minutes. The speed at which you can get ready to move is key, because, in some fast-moving disasters, seconds count.

Human behavior changes dramatically during an emergency evacuation.

During the last nearby wildfire, I joined a number of local groups online so that I could get the most up-to-the-minute information, and during this time, I took lots of notes of my observations. The thing that was very clear is that those who were at least somewhat prepared handled the situation far better than those who simply couldn’t accept that this threat was actually happening to them.

As someone who has studied preparedness for many years, I witnessed firsthand the classic exemplar of human behavior during a disaster.  Tess Pennington, the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, wrote an article last year called The Anatomy of a Breakdown. In the article, she pointed out that in the event of disaster, society devolves in a predictable pattern with four distinct phases.  Her observations were accurate during our experience.  As we watched the events unfold, some people changed dramatically.

During our own experience, here are the things I witnessed. They could apply to any type of disaster, natural or otherwise:

Bug out bags are absolutely the first prep you should make. If you’re just getting started, do this one thing. You can do it without spending a penny, by just gathering up things that you already own. You may not have a top-of-the-line, ready-for-the-apocalypse bag like THIS ONE, but you’ll still be far ahead of most people.  When we first learned of the fire and realized that evacuating might become necessary, I had only two things to do. I had to get documents from the safe (the documents, by the way, were already housed in a plastic folder, so I only had to grab that one thing) and pull the pet carriers out of the shed. In less than 5 minutes, we were ready to roll. Had it been necessary, we could have left with only the photocopies of the documents, because those always remain in our bug-out bags. Having your bug-out bag ready means that you have accepted in advance that disaster could strike.

Any time one disaster strikes, several more are sure to follow. This is highly probable.  Some people in the fire zone not only stayed on the edge of evacuation for nearly two weeks, but they also lost power due to the fire.  This greatly reduced their ability to get news and information, which is vital in a disaster situation. It leads to even more worry and stress, and while you’re dealing with the potential of your home burning down, you’re also living through a power outage lasting several days. Getting prepared for a two-week power outage is absolutely vital and can see you through most regional disasters. Also, when it finally began to rain, although it helped to quench the flames, firefighters were suddenly threatened by flash floods. These were made worse because the areas no longer had the same natural obstructions to deter the flow of water.

Unprepared people panic.  Some people panicked initially. When we got the first evacuation alert (a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle.  She was rendered absolutely useless by fear. Meanwhile, my 13-year-old was fulfilling her list while I fulfilled mine and we quickly made an orderly stack of important belongings, then turned on a movie to beat the stress. Had our area actually been forced to evacuate, those who panicked would have either been the last to leave, or they would have forgotten important things as they left in a disorganized rush. It’s important to decide ahead of time who packs what, and for each person to have a list. Sit down well before disaster strikes and make an evacuation plan with your family.

Get organized.  All the lists in the world won’t help you pack quickly if you don’t know where things are. One change we’re making is that all of the items we deemed precious enough to pack and take with us will now be stored in one area so that we won’t have to look for them when seconds count.  Another friend ran into the issue of dirty clothes: he actually had to evacuate with hampers of unwashed laundry. Having your home tidy and organized (and your laundry washed and put way) will help your packing go smoothly in the event of a sudden evacuation.

You can’t be prepared for everything.  Disaster situations are always fluid and they don’t go by a script. It’s vital to be adaptable to the changing situation.

Keep your vehicle full of fuel.  If you have to evacuate, lots of other people will be hitting the road too. When you’re stuck in traffic, you don’t want to be worried about your fuel gauge dropping to the empty mark, leaving you stranded in a dangerous situation.

The criminals come out, like cockroaches. Within 24 hours of the first evacuations, we learned that the local scumbags had looted some of the homes that had been left unattended. Within 48 hours, we learned that the scourge had reached the outlying areas, with these people breaking into cars that had been loaded up with the things that families had determined to be most important to them.  Of course, if you’ve evacuated, there’s nothing you can do about what’s happening to your home. But before evacuation, or in the event of civil unrest, it’s vital to be prepared to defend your family and belongings. In these situations, the first responders are busy, and that’s what criminals rely on. You should consider yourself to be completely on your own, and be ready for trouble. Keep in mind that during the civil unrest in Ferguson recently, the only businesses that didn’t get looted were the ones at which the owners stood armed and ready to defend their property.

The longer the stress lasts, the worse some people behave. As continued stress is applied, the true nature of a person becomes evident. People who formerly seemed like perfectly nice individuals were on the local message forums saying terrible things to one another. They were verbally attacking others for imagined slights and taking offense at things that would normally never ruffle feathers. Some folks were launching tirades against the very people who were performing the greatest service: the admins of the webpages who worked round the clock to keep us informed. If it was this bad in a potential emergency, can you imagine how bad things will get in a truly devastating long-term scenario?

But then…some people are wonderful. Alternatively, sometimes you see the very best of human nature. The generosity of many of my neighbors cannot be overstated. They housed livestock, pets, and families full of strangers during the evacuation. People showed up at the shelter with food and comfort items for those who had been evacuated. Firemen who came from near and far to fight the blaze were constantly being treated to meals at local restaurants, as other diners surreptitiously paid their tabs. Watching the kindness and gratitude helped to restore some of my faith in human nature, after seeing the squabbling and crime. It was interesting to me that the people who gave the most generously were the ones who were the most prepared. These folks were calm and could focus on other things besides “Oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do!” We definitely learned who the people were that we wanted to surround ourselves with when the S really HTF.

The difference between the people who crumbled, becoming easily offended, snarling, and hysterical, and the people who were generous, calm, and effective?  Their levels of preparedness, both mental and physical.

Think about any stressful situation that has ever happened to you.  Once you accepted the fact that it had happened you were able to set a course of action. Once you had definitive steps to take, you probably felt much calmer. You took control of the things you could, and you executed your plan.  Only by taking that first step – accepting that this mishap had indeed occurred – could you take the next two.

1.) Accept

2.) Plan

3.) Act

No matter what situation you find yourself in, these steps will nearly always see you through.

Take steps now to be one of those calm people later.

Today, I want you to think about disasters. 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.


  • Check your bug out bags.
  • Organize your most precious belongings.
  • Discuss the plan with your family so that everyone knows what to expect.

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.

What to pack:

Here are the things to pack for an emergency evacuation.

  • Bug out bags
  • Cell phone
  • Address book with important contacts
  • Money, credit cards
  • Pet carriers – I prefer the hard-sided ones so that our pets are sheltered better in a crowded vehicle
  • Pet food
  • Comfortable clothing
  • Extra shoes
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Documents (identification, insurance, passports, etc.)
  • A utility bill or other proof of residence
  • Small portable safe for valuables
  • Reading material
  • Laptops
  • Water
  • A small fire extinguisher
  • Extra fuel in a safe container
  • Phone and laptop chargers
  • Power inverter for the car
  • On the recommendation of a friend, I threw our swimming goggles in, to offer eye protection in the event we had to drive through thick smoke

Your list might also include:

  • Security items for children
  • Items to entertain children
  • Prescription medication
  • Allergy medication
  • Religious items for comfort
  • Emergency food (If you go to an evacuation shelter, you may end up having to purchase meals out or make due with very small rations)
  • Bedding

Make a written checklist that you can easily access. You might include the location of items that are packed away. Decide on these things now, when you have the time to calmly think about what items are the most important.

PS: A quick tip I recently heard was to grab the dirty clothes hamper. For the price of a trip to the laundromat, you’ll probably have several days’ worth of clothing for the whole family in there.

Very important things that some lists omit

First of all, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of those sentimental items.  Because we have lost some very dear loved ones (both my father and my children’s father) we have some things that could never, ever be replaced even with the best insurance policies in the world.

  • Photographs from the days well before the digital age
  • Special gifts given to us by those who are now gone
  • Things from their childhood – I have a music box that my father played with as a little boy and my daughter has her father’s letterman jacket
  • Journals and letters

We feared that if we had to leave our home, we might never be coming back.

Identify the things that are dear to your heart and put them in a place where you can grab those treasures quickly. Insurance can’t replace these things. They can’t replace that big-headed clay dinosaur with pink sparkles that your little one lovingly presented to you.

We have all of these items stashed or displayed near a bin into which they can quickly be stowed in the event of an evacuation. We have backed up the photos digitally. You can’t imagine how awful it would feel to lose these things, so please take steps to make them quick and easy to take with you.

Secondly, if you have room, take some of your favorite things that may not be practical right now, but that you’d really miss. Do you have a favorite suit for work? A pair of shoes or a tie that make you feel fantastic and confident? Some comfy sweats that you’ve spent 7 years breaking in until they reached the perfect level of softness?  As impractical as it sounds, these are far less easy to replace than jeans and whatever t-shirt you grab first. Favorite things can help you feel more normal when your world is turned upside down. If the worst happens, and your home in destroyed, you will find some small comfort in familiar items.

If your home is destroyed.

Sometimes, despite the best efforts of emergency crews, your home is destroyed in whatever disaster you evacuated from. The first step to rebuilding your life is replacing any important documents that you weren’t able to bring with you. You can find more information on that topic here.

Have you ever evacuated?

If so, what items did you take with you? Are there any items you forgot?

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* Should I Stay or Should I Go?

When disaster seems imminent, there’s one vital decision that preppers have to make: grab your bag and bug out or hunker down and bug in?  The lyrics from the chorus of a song by The Clash sums it up – you’ve got trouble either way,  but one way will be worse than the other.

Because this song is now stuck in my head, I thought it should be stuck in your head, too.

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

~ The Clash

Bug in or bug out?

First, some definitions:

Bugging In: This is when you shut the gate, lock the doors, and hunker down to weather the disaster at home with your supplies.

Bugging Out:  This is when you grab your bug-out bag and you hit the road to go somewhere else because your home is not safe.

In all but the most desperate circumstances, my personal plan is bugging in.  Being out on the road in the midst of a disaster means you’re a refugee. It means your supplies are minimal and that the things you’ve carefully stored over the years are very possibly going to be lost to you. The personal sustainability you’ve been cultivating at your home is also lost, including your garden, your livestock, and your water plan.

But, this is not a decision that’s engraved in stone. A while back, we talked about the 3 steps to surviving any crisis:

1.) Accept

2.) Plan

2.) Act

If you are completely married to one, and only one, course of action, it limits your ability to perform the first step: accepting that whatever horrible event is out there, has actually occurred.  You have to be adaptable if you want to be able to survive extraordinary circumstances. Disasters rarely go by a script, and your plan can’t either.

The variables to consider

The answer to this question is hard to come by. There are so many different variables, there can never be a one-size-fits-all response.  Here are the major factors you have to look at.

Will you be safe if you remain at home? Bugging in is my first choice, but there are some situations in which evacuation is a necessity.  Last year, during the King Fire, we were only a few miles from the evacuation line. Had the fire leapt that line, it would have been suicidal to stay home. If you live near an erupting volcano, same thing. Storms like Hurricane Katrina also indicate that evacuation is a wiser course of action. Chemical spills, fires, biological contaminants, and extreme civil unrest can all be good cause to get-the-heck-out. You have to be willing to accept that no matter how fantastic your survival set-up is at your home, there are some circumstance beyond your control that would absolutely require a bug out.

Do you have a place to go? Bugging out to the woods to live off the land is not a good idea for most people. While there are some folks that would be just fine, most of us would not.  Are you going to go live in the woods with your children, your elderly mother-in-law, and your diabetic spouse?  Even though it’s a stretch, it might work briefly in good weather. But what about when the snow flies? What about when your food runs out? What about the fact that every third prepper has the same idea and will be out there shooting at deer, thus rendering your ability to bag one nearly impossible? If you do get one, do you know how to preserve it with only what you carried out to the woods on your back?  That list could go on and on. The point is, do you have a reliable retreat that is stocked with supplies?  Do you have a friend in the boondocks to whom you can go? Is that friend actually expecting you, and have you ponied up with some supplies before the event to ensure that you are welcome? If you have your own retreat set up somewhere, what will you do if someone hostile got there first? If it has really, truly hit the fan, your best bet for bugging out is a well-stocked retreat location where someone in your group resides full time.

Do you have a way to get there? So, you have a retreat, an awesome little compound that is up the mountain, over the stream, and around the bend.  That is a wonderful thing to have. But in a worst case scenario, how will you get to it? How long would it take you to hike there, should the roads be clogged by fellow evacuees, or in the event of an EMP event that takes out the power, including that of most vehicles?  Is it possible to get there on foot with the family members who will be accompanying you?  How far away is your secondary location?  If it is going to take you more than a week to get there on foot, your chances of making it to your destination with a family in tow are pretty slim.  Your secondary location should be less than 100 miles from your primary location if you expect to get there in a crisis.  A 25-mile range is optimal because it’s far enough not to be affected by localized disasters, but not so far you couldn’t make it on foot in a couple of strenuous days.

Can all of your family members make the trip?  It’s important to have a plan, a backup plan, and a backup to your backup. Often, in a bug-out scenario, that plan includes a difficult hike over rough terrain.  Have you thought about who you’ll be taking with you?  If there are children, are they old enough to walk on their own for long distances or will you be carrying them?  A 25-pound child piggy-backing on you will drain your energy very quickly, especially if you are going up and down steep trails.   What about elderly family members? If you have a parent who is frail, has a heart condition, or has age-related dementia, bugging out on foot is simply not an option for you unless you can rig up a sturdy cart with knobby, off-road tires, and pull it. If you have family members that can’t make it under their own steam, you must plan for your on-foot-bug-out to take far longer than it would normally. That doesn’t make it impossible – it just means that you MUST take these things into consideration, in advance, and make modifications to your travel arrangements.

When to go

When to go is every bit as important as whether to go.

If you live in the heart of the city, civil unrest is going down, and the homes around you are getting burned to the ground by rioters, you may have missed your window of opportunity for easy evacuation.

If there are only two roads out and everyone else has decided it’s time to go, you may be too late to get out quickly. For example, places like New York City and San Francisco are accessible by only a couple of bridges.  With the huge populations there, getting out of those cities would be nearly impossible if you wait too long to leave.

This all goes back to the three steps to survival: Accept, Plan, Act.  If the situation has shown signs of going South in a hurry, you need to get a move on. If you are going to go, go early.  You don’t want to be stuck in traffic, sitting in your car, when the hurricane hits.  If the local government gives an evacuation order, that means that everyone else in your area is getting that order at the same time. The roads will quickly become impassable, as traffic becomes gridlocked and unprepared people run out of fuel.

Beaumont, TX August 30, 2008--Hundreds of vehicles line the interstate outside of Beaumont, Tx. Mandatory evacuation orders were made in east Texas near the Gulf Coast in advance of Hurricane Gustav's San Antonio. FEMA is working with State,local and other Federal agencies in a joint operation in preparation for Hurricane Gustav's land fall. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEM

Beaumont, TX August 30, 2008–Hundreds of vehicles line the interstate outside of Beaumont, Tx. Mandatory evacuation orders were made in east Texas near the Gulf Coast in advance of Hurricane Gustav’s San Antonio. FEMA is working with State,local and other Federal agencies in a joint operation in preparation for Hurricane Gustav’s land fall. Photo by Patsy Lynch/FEM

If you decide to stay…

If you decide that staying home and hunkering down is the best decision, then it’s time to commit to that decision.

You should be set up with the following (at the minimum – hopefully you have these supplies and more):

  • Water
  • Necessary prescription medications
  • A well stocked pantry – you need at least a one-month supply of food for the entire family, including pets
  • An off grid cooking method like an outdoor burner, a barbecue, a fire pit, or a woodstove)
  • Or food that requires no cooking
  • A tactical quality first aid kit
  • Lighting in the event of a power outage
  • Sanitation supplies (in the event that the municipal water system is unusable, this would include cleaning supplies and toilet supplies)
  • A way to stay warm in harsh winter weather
  • Over-the-counter medications and/or herbal remedies to treat illnesses at home
  • A diverse survival guide, a very thorough preparedness book, and a first aid manual (all in hard copies in case the internet and power grid are down)
  • Alternative communications devices (such as a hand-crank radio) so that you can get updates about the outside world
  • Off-grid entertainment:  arts and craft supplies, puzzles, games, books, crossword or word search puzzles, needlework, journals

Be prepared to defend your home. Regardless of the reason you’ve hunkered down, when disaster strikes, vandals, looters, and thugs come out to play.

Defense is two-fold.  You want to stay under the radar and not draw attention to yourself. Some of the following recommendations are not necessary during an ordinary grid-down scenario, but could save your life in a more extreme civil unrest scenario or a situation that has gone long-term. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. The best way to win a fight is to avoid getting into that fight in the first place. Secure your home and lay low, but be prepared if trouble comes to visit.

Here are some tips to make your home less of a target:

  • Keep all the doors and windows locked.  Secure sliding doors with a metal bar.  Consider installing decorative grid-work over a door with a large window so that it becomes difficult for someone to smash the glass and reach in to unlock the door. Install a door bar on your front and back doors.
  • Keep the curtains closed. There’s no need for people walking past to be able to see what you have or to do reconnaissance on how many people are present. If the power is out, put dark plastic over the windows. (Heavy duty garbage bags work well.)  If it’s safe to do so, go outside and check to see if any light escapes from the windows. If your home is the only one on the block that is well-lit, it is a beacon to others.
  • Keep cooking smells to a minimum, especially if there is a food shortage.  If everyone else in the neighborhood is hungry, the meat on your grill will draw people like moths to a flame.
  • Don’t answer the door.  Many home invasions start with an innocent-seeming knock at the door to gain access to your house.
  • Keep pets indoors. Sometimes criminals use an animal in distress to get a homeowner to open the door for them. Sometimes people are just mean and hurt animals for “fun”.  Either way, it’s safer for your furry friends to be inside with you.
  • Be ready for the potential of fire. Have fire extinguishers mounted throughout your home. You can buy them in 6 packs from Amazon Be sure to test them frequently and maintain them properly. (Allstate has a page about fire extinguisher maintenance.)  Have fire escape ladders that can be attached to a windowsill in all upper story rooms.  Drill with them so that your kids know how to use them if necessary.

If, despite your best efforts, your property draws the attention of people with ill intent, you must be ready to defend your family and your home. Firearms are an equalizer. A small woman can defend herself from multiple large intruders with a firearm, if she’s had some training and knows how to use it properly. But put a kitchen knife in her hand against those same intruders, and her odds decrease exponentially.

  • Don’t rely on 911. If the disorder is widespread, don’t depend on a call to 911 to save you – you must be prepared to save yourself.  First responders may be tied up, and in some cases, the cops are not always your friends.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some officers joined in the crime sprees, and others stomped all over the 2nd Amendment and confiscated people’s legal firearms at a time when they needed them the most.
  • Be armed and keep your firearm on your person.  When the door of your home is breached, you can be pretty sure the people coming in are not there to make friendly conversation over a nice cup of tea.  Make a plan to greet them with a deterring amount of force. Be sure to keep your firearm on your person during this type of situation, because there won’t be time to go get it from your gunsafe. Don’t even go to the kitchen to get a snack without it. Home invasions go down in seconds, and you have to be constantly ready.
  • Know how to use your firearm. Whatever your choice of weapon, practice, practice, practice. A weapon you don’t know how to use is more dangerous than having no weapon at all.
  • Make sure your children are familiar with the rules of gun safety. Of course, it should go without saying that you will have pre-emptively taught your children the rules of gun safety so that no horrifying accidents occur. In fact, it’s my fervent hope that any child old enough to do so has been taught to safely and effectively use a firearm themselves. Knowledge is safety.
  • Have a safe room established for children or other vulnerable family members. If the worst happens and your home is breached, you need to have a room into which family members can escape.  This room needs to have a heavy exterior door instead of a regular hollow core interior door. There should be communications devices in the room so that the person can call for help, as well as a reliable weapon to be used in the unlikely event that the safe room is breached. The family members should be instructed not to come out of that room FOR ANY REASON until you give them the all clear or help has arrived.

Even if your plan is to bug in, you must be ready to change that plan in the blink of an eye. Plan an escape route.  If the odds are against you, if your house catches on fire, if flood waters rise, if the levy breaks…devise a way to get your family to safety.  Your property is not worth your life. Be wise enough to accept that the situation has changed and move rapidly to Plan B.

If you decide to go…

Nearly everything to do with bugging out needs to be done ahead of time.  When the time comes to evacuate, you want to be able to put your plans into motion quickly and flawlessly, This reduces stress tremendously.

  • Have bug-out bags prepared . They should contain all of your important documents  in case you have to grab and go.  This is the best bug-out bag article I’ve ever seen – it’s only 25 pounds and has everything you need to survive.
  • Have a list.  Make a written checklist that you can easily access. You might include the location of items that are packed away. Decide on these things now, when you have the time to calmly think about what items are the most important. When we got the first evacuation alert during the King Fire(a notice that evacuation was highly likely within the next 24 hours), a woman who lived down the street was wailing and sobbing as her husband tried to pack up their vehicle.  She was rendered absolutely useless by fear. Meanwhile, my 13 year old was fulfilling her list while I fulfilled mine and we quickly made an orderly stack of important belongings, then turned on a movie to beat the stress. Had our area actually been forced to evacuate, those who panicked would have either been the last to leave, or they would have forgotten important things as they left in a disorganized rush. It’s important to decide ahead of time who packs what, and for each person to have a list. Sit down well before disaster strikes and make an evacuation plan with your family.
  • Get organized.  All the lists in the world won’t help you pack quickly if you don’t know where things are. One change we made after the fire is that all of the items we deemed precious enough to pack and take with us are stored in one area so that we won’t have to look for them when seconds count.  Another friend ran into the issue of dirty clothes: he actually had to evacuate with hampers of unwashed laundry. Having your home tidy and organized (and your laundry washed and put way) will help your packing go smoothly in the event of a sudden evacuation.
  • Have multiple evacuation routes planned. Don’t rely on GPS, either – have physical maps on hand in case you need to set out on foot.
  • Have a destination.  Please don’t think you are going to go deep into the woods and live off the land. It’s one of those movie-of-the-week ideas that will get you killed.
  • Keep your vehicle full of fuel.  If you have to evacuate, lots of other people will be hitting the road too. When you’re stuck in traffic, you don’t want to be worried about your fuel gauge dropping to the empty mark, leaving you stranded in a dangerous situation.
  • Get fit.  If you aren’t in shape, bugging out on foot through the mountains isn’t going to go so well for you. When is the last time you hiked even 5 miles?  Did you have a pack on? How much did it weigh? There is a large contingent of armchair preppers who have this idea. However, they don’t exercise regularly. This is a classic recipe for a heart attack, by the way. Extreme over-exertion. High-stress situation. High-sodium, easily packable food. Out-of-shape person. A few miles into the journey, particularly if it includes a steep climb, the person will experience a pounding heart, dizziness, and faintness, as the body tries to shut down to protect itself from the unaccustomed demands.  If the physical stress continues, the heart won’t be able to keep up with the demand to pump blood. This can endanger not only you, but the people making the trek with you.  What if you have a heart attack half way up the mountain?  What if you have an asthma attack? What if you injure your out-of-shape self? Who is going to help you? If the situation is bad enough that you’re bugging out, you aren’t likely to be airlifted to a hospital for medical care.

These actions are not last minute actions. No matter what Plan A is, you need to have all of the above components in place long before any potential disaster occurs.

So….all of this and I didn’t answer your question

That’s because there is no answer.

Hopefully, the information provided here has pointed out the important variables that will allow you to make good decisions based on the variation of circumstances should the need arise.

The biggest part of preparedness is being able to adapt to the situation at hand. For us, bugging in is our Plan A. That doesn’t mean we have disregarded Plans B and C, which are bugging out to a friend’s place by car, followed by bugging out to the same friend’s place on foot. We also have a second location should the first one be unavailable, which I suppose would be Plan D.

Don’t just make one plan. Make at least 3.  Try to figure out the shortcomings of all of your plans and solve those issues ahead of time. Whatever your plan is, strict adherence to one course of action is extremely dangerous and short-sighted.

You may get through life never needing to evacuate or hunker down, but if you do, the speed at which you make your decisions could be pivotal in saving the lives of your loved ones.


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* Organizing the Bug Out Bag

An important consideration when assembling your bug out bag is how it should be organized. There are two elements at work here–your choice of containers and packing order.

The only thing worse than just tossing everything into a sack without forethought is not packing the bag at all. It makes little sense to go to all the trouble and expense of putting together a bug out bag if you can’t find what you need when you need it.

Organize with interior containers

One of my preferred methods for packing items is to use small containers to keep like things together and organized. Often, this involves simply using ziploc plastic bags. One bag contains my Altoids Tin Alcohol Stove and fuel, another has food items. I don’t go to the trouble of labeling these bags because, well, they’re clear so it isn’t a mystery as to what’s inside. Using these bags also keeps the contents from getting wet.

Packing cubes have become very popular among world travelers and can be a handy addition to your bug out bag. They are simply a set of matching, zippered containers of varying sizes used to pack like items. This set has received excellent reviews and with mesh top panels you’ll be able to see if the “cube” contains toiletries, a spare set of clothes, or items for sanitation purposes.

Though they can be pricey, I also like using hard plastic cases, such as those made by Pelican. These types of cases are available in a wide range of sizes and colors and work very well at keeping your gear both dry and protected from being crushed. I use one such case for my primary fire starting kit.

Another product I dearly love and heartily endorse is the Grid-It Organizer. It consists of a hard, flat board of sorts covered with a mesh of elastic bands of varying lengths. This is a truly awesome solution for organizing little odds and ends in your bag, keeping them secure and within easy reach. Many backpacks today are equipped with a flat pocket for use with tablets or small laptops. Those pockets are great places for a Grid-It Organizer.

A wet sack comes in handy for storing wet clothes, a damp towel, or anything messy. It would make a good container for a set of toiletries and a wash cloth.

Whatever tools you decide to use for organizing your gear, the overall idea here is to keep things from just floating around in your pack and to keep like items together. You want to know where everything is so you can find it easily, even under stress.

Packing Order

This, of course, leads us to packing order. Give some serious thought as to which items in your pack you’ll likely use most often and items that you’ll need first when stopping for the night. These are the things you’re going to want readily available, either in side pockets or at the top of your pack.

For me, I want these items within reach at any given moment:

  • Flashlight
  • Cash
  • Handgun
  • Multi-tool

You shouldn’t have to dump out your entire pack just to get to your first aid kit. Your fire starting gear, too, should be easy to access.

From there, I pack, starting at the bottom of my bag, items I am less likely to use and that are heaviest. Interior pouches and pockets are used to store small items, such as matches.

Now, that said, it is best to keep the heaviest items close to your spine and/or towards the top of the pack. Keep those items centered as best you can, so as to not adversely affect your center of gravity. If you keep the heavy stuff too low in the pack, it will feel like the pack sags. Too high and you’ll feel off balance. Ideally, if packed correctly, the bug out bag will feel balanced and stable.

The person who will be carrying the pack is the one who needs to make decisions as to where everything will go. It may make perfect sense to you that a pocket knife go in the left-side outer pocket, but if your teenager will be carrying the bag, he or she may have another preference. Ultimately, the contents and their locations should be memorized through actual use or an occasional session of unpacking and repacking the bag.

Add an itemized list

Eventually, one person or another will need something in their bug out bag. It may be an extra flashlight during a power outage or the first aid kit when all the other bandaids in the house are used up! Whatever the cause, an itemized list of every bag’s contents will help insure that it continues to hold the most necessary items for emergencies.


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Packing Your Pet’s Evacuation Kit


Do you own one (or more) of the 69 million pet dogs and 74 million pet cats in America? Or the 8 million pet birds, 4 million horses, or 2 million pet turtles? For some people, these are merely animals, but for 60% of Americans they are beloved furry (or feathery, or scaly) family members. For some families that decide not to have children or to postpone having children, the pet is the child.

Some preppers only keep animals if they can protect the family, protect the food, or be food themselves. I think animals serve a broader function as companions. A disaster is by definition a stressful event, and an animal companion can relieve stress and provide comfort, especially for children.

Plan ahead for the logistics of evacuating with your pet. Does your dog get carsick? Do you have a secure carrier for your cat? Do you have a trailer for your horse or can you borrow a neighbor’s? How will you clean up the droppings from your pet goat? Does your pet iguana attack people it doesn’t know?

In general, shelters for people do not accept animals except for service dogs. The Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act was enacted after Hurricane Katrina and mandates that communities include animals in their disaster planning, but that doesn’t guarantee that there will be housing for your pet. Local animal organizations may set up animal shelters adjacent to human shelters (called “co-sheltering”) but you will be responsible for feeding, watering and walking your pet.

Each pet who will be evacuating with your family should have its own 72-hour kit. In it you should include:

  • Food: Dry kibble in labeled zip-top bags, or cans (check the expiration date and don’t forget a can opener). A few companies even make pet energy bars; these aren’t nutritionally balanced for long-term feeding but for the short-term they provide calories and nutrients. For a horse, you’ll need to transport hay and grain or know a source to buy them at your destination.
  • Water: Just as you plan one gallon per person per day, you should also plan one gallon per pet per day for dogs and cats. If you have a large animal like a horse, they will need a much larger amount. Industrial garbage cans can be used to hold water for large animals.
  • Important papers:
    • Description of the animal (name, species, breed, color, sex, age, distinguishing features).
    • Proof of vaccinations. Shelters will typically require vaccinations, and immunizations will keep your pet safe from contagious diseases. Talk to your veterinarian about recommended vaccinations for your pet; these may include distemper, parvo and rabies for dogs, distemper and rabies for cats, and West Nile and rabies for horses.
    • Proof of a Coggin’s test for horses (a test for equine infectious anemia, a contagious blood disease).
    • Registration and licensing papers.
    • List of shelters, boarding facilities, equestrian centers, stables, and pet-friendly hotels within a 50-mile radius.
    • Current photos of the pet. Ideally, include photos taken from both sides (see photo), the front and the back, with the animal standing in good lighting. Also include photos that show you and your pet together, to help establish ownership.
    • Bedding, towels, blankets.
    • Bowls for food and water (light-weight, collapsible bowls are available in pet and camping stores).
    • Cage, carrier or kennel for each pet. Collapsible kennels might be easier to store, or you can use the carrier to hold the pet’s 72-hour kit until you need it.
    • Litter box and kitty litter for cats. Look for a small plastic litter box that can fit in the cat’s carrier/kennel.
    • Trash bags, paper towels.
    • Can opener.
    • Muzzle. Even gentle pets can become aggressive if they are stressed or in pain. Soft cloth muzzles are available at pet stores.
    • Brushes for longer-haired pets.
    • Leash, extra collar, harness, etc.
    • For large animals: hoof care tools, fly spray, halters, lead ropes, pans, buckets, twitch, leg wraps.
    • First aid kit:
      • Bandage material and nonstick wound dressings.
      • Scissors.
      • Claw clipper.
      • Styptic powder to stop bleeding (e.g., from a torn claw).
      • Diphenhydramine for allergic reactions (liquid or tablets).
      • Eye wash (sterile saline, not contact lens solution).
      • Cortisone cream.
      • Triple antibiotic cream.
      • Syringe with tsp and ml markings.
      • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) to induce vomiting in case of poisoning.
      • Any current prescription medications (such as for pain, inflammation, seizures, heart, etc.).
      • Probiotic. Many dogs get diarrhea from stressful events and a probiotic (the “good” intestinal bacteria) can prevent this. You can use a probiotic meant for humans, such as Lactobacillus (1 billion cells per day for dogs).
      • Pepto Bismol for diarrhea.
      • Meclizine for motion sickness.
      • Flea/tick preventative medication.

It’s also important to make sure your pet has positive identification at all times. This will help ensure your pet is returned to you if you get separated, and will be proof of ownership if the animal is stolen. Identification might include:

  • Tags on the collar for dogs and cats.
  • Tags on the halter for horses or other large animals.
  • Microchip: A microchip is a tiny RFID chip that transmits a number when scanned with a radio frequency scanner. The number links in a database to your contact information. Microchips are about the size of a grain of rice and are implanted with a syringe and needle (under the skin on the back of the shoulders in cats and dogs, in the breast muscle in birds, and in the neck muscle in horses). Any species of animal can be microchipped.
  • Ear tags for cattle, which also utilize RFID technology.
  • Permanent marker on the shell or scales of a turtle or other reptile.
  • Spray paint on the hooves of large animals.
  • Leg band on birds.
  • Tattoos.
  • Brands for large animals.

Finally, you should take your pets with you any time you have to evacuate. Even a small-scale, supposedly short-term evacuation, such as a gas leak in your neighborhood, could turn into a larger scale or longer term incident. You may not be allowed by authorities to return to your home to collect your pets if the evacuation is prolonged.

*Be sure to print out the Pet Emergency Kit Checklist in Printables.

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2 Types of Emergency Evacuations: Urgent & Planned

Before you begin packing that emergency kit, you need to first consider why you might need to evacuate. If you have specific scenarios in mind, and then one of them suddenly becomes a reality, there’s a good chance that your brain won’t lapse into normalcy bias, causing you to waste precious minutes or hours.

Reasons to evacuate generally fall into 2 camps: urgent evacuations and planned evacuations. You should be ready for these 2 types of emergency evacuations but the type of planning and preparation you do will be a little different for each.

Planning for the urgent evacuation

An urgent evacuation is one in which you have zero time to think; you can only react. If you’ve considered this scenario, have planned for it, and have a routine that you’ve rehearsed, your brain will most likely revert to those memories and your actions will become automatic.

The smell of smoke and realization that your home is on fire is not the time to inform the kids how to get out of the house, run around scooping up family heirlooms, cash, and vital documents, and then yell at everyone to meet you in the front yard! Fire spreads too quickly to allow for any of that.

When I was taking a CERT class a couple of years ago, the Fire Marshall told us that if we see a fire and know we can’t put it out in 5 seconds or less, it’s time to get out. That, my friend, requires an urgent evacuation!

Planning for this particular urgent evacuation, a house fire, is simple because you won’t have time to do much of anything! Take time now to stash valuables in a fireproof safe, train the kids and other family members to get out of the house ASAP, and have a pre-planned meeting place. Make sure that each room has an exit point that can be accessed by everyone, even if that means keeping a step stool or a sturdy chair in the room. My daughter’s bedroom has one window whose bottom ledge is a good 4 1/2 feet from the floor. In her case, she’ll need to stand on something to get out.

What other urgent evacuations might you need to plan for? Tornado warning? Natural gas leak? Wildfires or a chemical spill? All of these events will require you to get out of the house as quickly as you can. A few others are:

  • Avalanche
  • Earthquake
  • Explosion nearby
  • Landslide
  • Floods
  • Nuclear event
  • Riots
  • Terrorist attack
  • Tornadoes
  • Tsunami

Here are a few tips to help you plan and prepare for urgent evacuations:

1. Have a packed supply bag for your pets, complete with food, bedding, and food/water bowls. If your pet will be transported in a crate, place all supplies in the crate. Everything will be in one place when you need it.

2. Create a “Last Minute Bag” with things like prescription medications, cash, small valuables. You’ll find a checklist for this in Printables.

3. Store emergency kits in an easy to access location, such as by the backdoor. They can also be stored in the trunk of your car, along with a case or water.

4. Be in the habit of having your vehicle ready with at least half tank of gas and emergency supplies.

5. Have some sort of signal for the family members, so they know it’s “Get serious!’ time. Kids, in particular, have a way of tuning out their parents, so establish a code that sends the message of, “Urgent! This is not a drill!”

6. Practice this evacuation drill and keep track of how much time it takes to get everyone out of the house. Emphasize that getting people out is far more important than any belonging, or even a pet.

7. Have written lists of what must be grabbed. Prioritize so that no one is searching for something that isn’t strictly necessary.

8. Talk with the kids about their pets, since there’s a real possibility they may have to be left behind. No one hates that thought more than me, but that’s the reality. Many kids, when asked, will automatically say, “I’ll get my dog…or the bunny…or my turtle.” Make plans so the animals can be quickly evacuated, but if the situation is too dire, make sure your kids know their job is to get out first.

With urgent evacuations, the longer you wait, the more likely you are to endanger yourself and your loved ones. It also increase the chance that you’ll run into major traffic issues as panicked people also try to get away from harm.

The planned evacuation

Not every emergency is one that requires great haste. In many cases, you have several hours or day in which to make your plans and put final pieces in place. A planned evacuation requires a different mindset — one that emphasizes checking and double-checking and keeping a constant eye on developing news.

The planned evacuation is one of prepare and wait-and-see.

For example, a hurricane is a scary natural disaster that can bring with it an enormous amount of damage, but thanks to modern meteorology, we can track these storms. We know, with a fair degree or accuracy, when and where they will make landfall.

These scenarios allow us to time think, review our plans, and get to safety, beating the crowds as well as the expected disaster. Examples of these are:

  • Earthquake — If your home isn’t too damaged, you may want to plan to evacuate, just in case.
  • Epidemic or pandemic
  • Rising floodwaters
  • “Storm of the Century” — Blizzard or otherwise, you may want to get out to avoid the worst.
  • Volcanic eruption — Usually these give some warning before erupting.
  • Wildfires in the area

Along with the tips for urgent evacuations, here are a few to help you plan for a more leisurely escape:

1. Make a date on your calendar to review and refresh all emergency kits every 6 months.

2. Have at least 2 different ways to get information, in case of a power outage or if telephone/cell phone lines aren’t working. A shortwave radio and ham radio are both good choices.

3. If you have a smartphone, install phone apps that provide alerts for inclement weather, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Red Cross makes several, and they are all excellent.

4. If you have larger animals, contact at least 2 locations that could provide temporary shelter as part of your emergency evacuation plans.

5. Give careful consideration how your home can best be protected while you’re gone. You have time to board up windows, drain pipes, etc.

6. Get phone numbers from neighbors, so you can keep in touch and update each other with news. This will be especially important if you do evacuate and want to know how your home and neighborhood are faring.

7. During the school year, contact your child’s teacher and ask for a list of their assignments for the coming week or two.

8. Make sure your vehicle is filled with gas and is ready to go. Pack it with any supplies or gear that you won’t be needing, just in case you decide to leave.

Prep for one, prep for both

The good news about both these types of emergency evacuation plans is that preparation for one is preparation for both. The major difference between the two, other than the actual event, is your mindset. You must be the one to make the call to get out now or wait to see how things unfold. Ultimately, it will be your call. It’s better to err on the side of a quick evacuation if there’s a chance the event could escalate. By then, you might be trapped and unable to get out.

Know which events are most likely in your area and begin planning and preparing.


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* Make an Evacuation Checklist

You wake with a start in the middle of the night. Someone is banging on your front door. A gas main has broken one block over. You have 10 minutes to get out of your house. What do you do? If you have a up-to-date checklist for evacuations you can be ready to go in minutes, if not moments.

How you respond to a scary scenario depends on a wide variety of things, but comes down to one key factor: How prepared are you to leave your house?

During a wildfire event several years ago out west, our friends had to evacuate their home. They initially believed their home would be safe but an unexpected shift in the wind required them to leave very quickly. They were not at all prepared but loaded up their minivan, drove out of harm’s way, and to a community shelter. Fortunately, their home was spared and they were able to return two days later. When they unpacked their car, they realized that what they took out last was what was packed first.

What was it that they, in their panic, decided to put into the car first to save it from wildfire?

Their bowling balls.

You know what never made it into their car?

Their important paperwork that was in a filing cabinet, which wasn’t fireproof.

They simply weren’t prepared to evacuate and when suddenly told to get out, they weren’t in a proper mental state to make the best decisions.

With some events, like a hurricane, you may have hours or days to plan how to leave your home and to get packed up. Other incidents like a broken gas main, nuclear power plant incident, or a chemical spill require you to leave quickly and usually come with no advanced warning. Being told suddenly you must leave your home is no time to be making important decisions regarding what to put in your car.

Make an evacuation checklist

Below is our list (made more basic and a little less personal for this article) that we’ll use upon deciding to evacuate our home. Since we have teenagers, all items on the list can be performed by anyone. If you have younger kids, you may want to have a separate list of things they can do.

Our plan is that one person controls the list and assigns the tasks. When a job is complete, the person gets the next task. Each action is placed in order of importance in case the entire list can’t be completed. If time has run out, we drop to the “Final Actions” portion and go.

Evacuation To Do List
Shoes on
Animals in crates
Bug out bags in car
Pet supplies in car
Emergency binder in car
Purses/wallets/cell phones/chargers in car
Fireproof safes in car — (In a house fire, leave the safes where they are and just get out!)
Supply bins in car
Water bottles in car
Pack additional personal items and put in car
Pack additional clothing items and put in car
Pack additional food items and put in car

Optional Actions Based on Situation
Water off
Gas off

Final Actions
Animals in car
Lock all doors (pins in sliding doors)
Set security alarm
All people in car

Each family member has a list of three or four “personal items” that they want to have during the evacuation. This not only helps packing go more quickly (again, because the decisions have already been made), but also ensures that if someone isn’t home, the others can grab the correct items. For my family, these items include specific photo albums, laptop computers and external drives, stuffed animals, and prized possessions.

Be sure the list is somewhere accessible to all. We keep ours laminated and attached via a carabiner to a bug out bag.

“Evacuation Drill!”

As with any preparedness activity, running through a practice drill is the only way to know if your plan will work. Set aside some time when your family doesn’t expect it, and announce, “EVACUATION DRILL!” Go through the entire process of actually loading these things into the car just as if you are actually leaving your home.

Set a timer and see how long it takes to get through the whole list. You may discover that moving a supply bin is a two person job, or that items must be placed in your car in a particular way in order to fit everything in the trunk. You don’t want an emergency to be the first time you test your list and your family.

“If the generals don’t panic, the troops won’t panic.”

Not only does an evacuation list provide you with a pre-determined plan that will ensure you have what you need when you leave your home, but it will also help alleviate panic in the process. As you lead your family to safety, you’ll be doing so in a more calm manner, which will help everyone around you remain calm as well. Evacuating your home will be a stressful time, but with a bit of preparedness, it doesn’t have to be a time of chaos.

*Be sure to use the checklist from this article found in Printables!

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Build a Workplace Emergency Kit

While few of us would relish the thought of having to spend a single minute more than absolutely necessary at work, it is conceivable you could end up stranded there overnight. If severe weather rolls in, such as a major blizzard, travel could become treacherous, at best. Civil unrest, flooding, or a terrorist attack could all result in being stranded at work and far from home.

Rather than roll the dice and take your chances on hazardous roads, or worse, you may be better off just hunkering down at your desk.  By planning ahead and assembling a workplace emergency kit, you can turn such an event into nothing more than an inconvenience.

Going back to the 6 S’s of Survival

Whenever I begin making survival plans, I keep 6 categories in mind:

  1. Sanitation
  2. Sustenance
  3. Survival
  4. Shelter
  5. Security
  6. Sanity

In a workplace setting, these items could occupy an empty drawer, closet space, in the company vehicle, or just shoved under your desk. It will be up to you to figure out how and where you can securely store these items. And, just in case you’re able to head home, these should be in a backpack, messenger-style bag, or some other bag you can easily transport.

Sanitation and Sustenance

Depending on your job situation or where you might find yourself on a typical day (on the road, for example), you should pack a roll or two of toilet paper, some Clorox wipes, a few a few plastic trash bags and Ziplocs, and hand sanitizer. The TP can be vacuum packed using a Food Saver to greatly reduce the amount of space it takes up in an emergency kit. In my vehicle emergency kit, I keep a dollar store plastic tablecloth that I’ve used as a drop cloth to help insure that a picnic table or other area is clean enough for eating. It has multiple uses.

You’ll want to include some food, in case you’re not able to get to a fast food joint, the cafeteria, or a restaurant. This food should have a decent amount of protein and fat, to provide energy and that stick-to-your-ribs feeling. I buy high calorie energy bars, such as the S.O.S. Ration Bars. Keep on hand a package of those and by eating 3 per day, plus some dried fruit, maybe some jerky, your daily calorie intake will be well over 1200.

If the power remains functioning, you might want to hit up the vending machines so toss some cash and coins in your kit. Just $10-20 will probably be enough. Make sure the bills aren’t too wrinkled to be recognized by the machine!

Survival and Shelter

Don’t forget to pack a few bottles of water, too. We have no way to reliably predict what the situation might be and the disaster you end up facing could result in water not flowing from the bathroom taps. In that case, you might have to get water elsewhere, and it might be questionable as to its safety. A LifeStraw comes in handy for that and since it’s low-cost and very lightweight, you could easily keep it stored in a desk drawer. The Sawyer Water Filtration System is also portable and very popular.

All too many emergencies include power outages. If you have to remain at work for whatever reason, there’s a very good chance there will be no lights, heat, or air conditioning. A good flashlight with extra batteries (or perhaps a dynamo powered flashlight, where turning a crank provides the power) will make you a hero at work, should the power go out. Many of us work in office buildings where the bulk of the work space has no exterior windows. If all the lights go out, it gets mighty dark in there. Do you really want to take a trip to the bathroom using the Braille method? If your flashlight uses batteries, store an extra set or two nearby.

Your workplace has now become  your shelter, so you’ll need to think through what that means in terms of maintaining a safe, indoor temperature. Hand and foot warmers are a good start, if you live in cold country. Mr. Heater is a very popular and highly efficient indoor heater that requires propane to operate. If you’re able to also stash a small propane tank and you live where cold weather is a serious concern, it would be worth finding a place to keep this little gem.

Without air flow, office buildings are famous for becoming stuffy and uncomfortable very quickly. A small battery-operated fan will take care of that.

If your job requires you to wear business attire or, conversely, you end up dirty and sweaty from working in a factory, a change of clothes would be nice to have on hand. Comfortable jeans, perhaps, and an old flannel shirt, as well as thick socks and sneakers.  The idea is to have clothes you won’t mind staying in for hours on end, rather than spending the night in a skirt or dress slacks.  A hooded sweatshirt might also be desirable, and definitely think in terms of layering your clothes. A change of socks and underwear will be mighty welcome, as well.

It’s very possible that you might have to do some walking to get home or to another shelter. Sturdy, warm, waterproof shoes with wool socks are an absolute must. Shoe Goo can be used to create a waterproof barrier if need be. Again, if you live in cold weather country, consider what clothing you would need before venturing out.

Many workplaces have first aid kits in the break room or perhaps the Human Resources office. Often, though, these are poorly equipped and rarely maintained. Either buy a small first aid kit or assemble one with supplies you have at home.  Adhesive bandages, pain relievers, and meds for stomach ailments should all be included.  If you regularly take any sort of prescription medication, keep in your kit enough to last a day or two, at least.

Security and Sanity

Of course, many of us are guilty of catching a cat nap here and there while we’re at work. But, given that you may end up spending a full night or two at the office, a small blanket and inflatable pillow will be welcome.  Emergency blankets are all well and good, but honestly, they aren’t all that cozy when you are just looking to snooze for a bit. A couple of yards of fleece fabric makes a warm, frugal blanket, although on a chilly winter night, you’ll need something more.

A few hygiene items can help greatly with morale if you have to spend one or more nights hunkered down at work. These include a toothbrush, toothpaste, a small bar of soap, and a hand towel.  If nothing else, having these things in your kit will help prevent people standing further and further away from you during conversations.  Another thing to keep in your kit is your preferred feminine hygiene supplies.

Finally, count on the fact that you’ll probably get bored after a while.  You work with the people around you every single day, you’ve already heard all of their stories and you likely don’t want to listen to them again.  Something to help pass the time will be of great benefit.  A book to read, maybe crossword puzzles or word search puzzles, if that’s your thing.  A deck of cards could be fun, whether you play poker or solitaire (you do know you can play solitaire without a computer, right?).  I would refrain, though, from chewing up your flashlight’s battery to engage in these activities.  If an office has a window, and thus light coming in, great.  Otherwise, save your flashlight for when you truly need it.

A final item, to help insure your cell phone and other small electronics remain operable, is an external battery pack, like the Jackery. I own 2 of these, and they are worth their weight in gold. Just plug them in until they’re fully charged, and then keep one in an emergency kit, your desk drawer, purse, or briefcase. Whenever your electronics need a charge, just connect them to the Jackery!

Your workplace emergency kit will likely fit into a small duffel bag, which can be stashed under your desk or in your locker.  While most of us have our bug out bags or get home bags in our vehicles, having this separate kit at your workplace will prevent you from having to leave the building at all until it is safe to do so.

If you are a business owner, I would encourage you to give serious thought to ways you can be prepared to assist your most valuable assets–your employees–in the event of a disaster hitting during working hours.

If you work from home or stay at home during the day, consider putting together one of these kits for a spouse or other loved one who does have to go to work each day.

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Real Life Survival: Could You Stay Alive in the Frigid Wilderness with Only the Supplies in Your Vehicle?

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?

Identify your priorities

During any winter survival scenario, your priorities are:

  1. Shelter (including a means of staying warm)
  2. Water
  3. Food

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.

Decide whether to go for help or stay put and wait for rescue

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:

  1. People knew where they were going and when they were expected home.  When they did not arrive home as planned, search and rescue was alerted that they were missing.
  2. Rescuers were able to triangulate an approximate location from cellphone signals, even though the family was out of range at the accident site. This helped to narrow down the search area.

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.

The right supplies are vital

Without the supplies that the family had on hand, their chances of survival would have diminished greatly.

  1. Glanton had a magnesium fire-starter and hacksaw in the vehicle – this allowed him to make a fire with the damp wood they found in the area.
  2. They had food and water, which they carefully rationed.
  3. The family was clothed for a day playing outside in freezing temperatures, so they had the right clothing for the environment.

The ingenuity of how they survived

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)

Are you ready?

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:

Bug-out Bags

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.

Food and Water

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.

  • Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned stew or chili
  • Canned baked beans
  • Canned fruit
  • Cookies
  • Granola Bars
  • A few gallons of water
  • A portable filtration device like the Sawyer Mini or Berkey-to-go

Vehicle Emergency Kit

This should always remain in the vehicle:

  • Backpacks -if space is an issue, these fold down very small but expand to hold a lot
  • Escape tool
  • Sleeping bag specific to your climate
  • Small tent selected for your climate
  • Lightweight emergency tent
  • Lighter, magnesium fire starter, waterproof matches
  • Lighter fluid (this can help start a fire even in damp conditions)
  • Candles – long-burning tea lights don’t require holders and still hold their form if they melted in the summer heat
  • Survival knife
  • Compass
  • Pocket survival handbook
  • Signal flares
  • Space blankets – don’t go cheapo on this. The better quality could save your life.
  • Up-to-date road atlas
  • Flashlight
  • Police flashlight/taser combo
  • Extra batteries
  • Lantern
  • Mirrors for signalling
  • Signal whistles for making noise to help rescuers find you
  • A few gallons of water
  • Berkey-to-go for each family member (or other portable filtration device – I also like the Sawyer Mini)
  • Collapsible pet dish
  • Pet food
  • Weapons and ammo of choice

First Aid Supplies

You should always have a well-stocked first aid kit. Be sure to include the following:

  • Bandages
  • Gauze
  • Pain relief pills
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Allergy medication (Benadryl) and an Epi-pen (My daughter has a food allergy)
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide

Extra clothing and footwear

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.

  • Snow pants
  • Coats
  • Long underwear
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Sturdy, comfortable walking boots


Make sure you have basic tools on hand.

  • Basic automotive repair tools
  • Heavy-duty booster cables
  • Tow straps
  • Hammer
  • Staple gun
  • Prybar
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Hacksaw
  • Rope
  • Paracord
  • Bungee cords
  • Duct tape
  • Lubricant like WD-40

What do you keep in your kit?

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?

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Winter is Coming: Here’s Your Vehicle Emergency Kit Checklist

“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.

What’s in my vehicle emergency kit?

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.




First Aid

first aid

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.)

altoids tin


The police flashlight is also a taser.

Individual Kits

individual kitIt’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.


shelterObviously, 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.

Emergency Kit

All of the above mini-kits go into one big 18-gallon tote.

Emergency kit

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.

portable dog bowls

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 shown: My vehicle has space beneath the back seats, where we store tightly rolled sleeping bags. If I didn’t have this space, I’d be able to put them in the tote that holds the shoes.
  • Because of extreme temperature fluctuations throughout the year, the food should be rotated out of the vehicle every couple of months so that you always have fresh food available.
  • In cold weather, your water bottles should have about 2 inches of the water removed to allow room for expansion when the contents freeze.
  • Always have a backpack for each family member.  If you are forced by circumstances to leave your vehicle on foot, you want to be able to carry as much of your gear as possible.
  • Depending on the laws in your state (and your interest in complying with them) weapons and ammunition can be very useful additions to your vehicle kit.
  • Your kit should change with the seasons.  Snow pants won’t do you much good in the heat of summer, but extra water will be invaluable.
  • When taking a longer trip, add more food and water to your kit than you might normally keep in it.
  • Don’t forget about communications: you can summon help with a cell phone or a two-way radio.

Vehicle Emergency Kit Checklist

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.

  • Backpacks -if space is an issue, these fold down very small but expand to hold a lot
  • Escape tool
  • Sleeping bag specific to your climate
  • Small tent selected for your climate
  • Lightweight emergency tent
  • Lighter, magnesium fire starter, waterproof matches
  • Lighter fluid (this can help start a fire even in damp conditions)
  • Candles – long-burning tea lights don’t require holders and still hold their form if they melted in the summer heat
  • Survival knife
  • Compass
  • Pocket survival handbook
  • Signal flares
  • Space blankets – don’t go cheapo on this. The better quality could save your life.
  • Up-to-date road atlas
  • Flashlight
  • Police flashlight/taser combo
  • Extra batteries
  • Lantern
  • Mirrors for signalling
  • Signal whistles for making noise to help rescuers find you
  • Crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned stew or chili (Be sure to either stock pop-top cans or pack a can-opener)
  • Canned baked beans (Be sure to either stock pop-top cans or pack a can-opener)
  • Canned fruit (Be sure to either stock pop-top cans or pack a can-opener
  • Can-opener
  • Cookies
  • Granola Bars
  • A few gallons of water
  • Portable filtration device like the Sawyer Mini)
  • Collapsible pet dish
  • Pet food
  • Bandages
  • Gauze
  • Pain relief pills
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Allergy medication (Benadryl) and an Epi-pen (My daughter has a food allergy)
  • Motion sickness medication
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Basic automotive repair tools
  • Heavy-duty booster cables
  • Tow straps
  • Hammer
  • Staple gun
  • Prybar
  • Assorted screwdrivers
  • Pliers
  • Hacksaw
  • Rope
  • Paracord
  • Bungee cords
  • Duct tape
  • Lubricant like WD-40
  • Seasonally appropriate clothing
  • Snow pants
  • Coats
  • Long underwear
  • Socks
  • Gloves
  • Hats
  • Sturdy, comfortable walking boots
  • Weapons and ammo of choice

PDF: Vehicle Emergency Kit Checklist 

PDF: Prep Your Vehicle for an Emergency

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