Monday, March 14, 2011

Bug Out Bags

Also known as go bags, get out of Dodge bags, earthquake kits, hurricane kits.

I've had a few requests for information on how to put one together, so here's the list.

Food: Often found in the form of food bars, MRE's or backpacking meals.

Although people think of food first, its really not the top priority.  The average person needs between 1800-2400 calories per day, but can get by for three weeks without food. 

Many people go with the survival food bar option, but children may not eat them. They're not very tasty and people with allergies might have trouble with the standard ones. 

For instance, my son has celiac disease and almost all of the standard bars have wheat, so we have to find alternatives to that.  

MRE's are all right, but again we see the allergy thing.

Backpacking meals are an option, but many need to have the ability to cook them.

Make sure that whatever you use are palatable as well as portable.  You might be best off with three days worth of granola, trail mix and dry fruit that you can actually eat, than weird calorie bars that you can't choke down.

Water: Water is the biggest priority. Dehydration is, quite literally, a killer.

Store enough so each person has a gallon a day for 72 hours, preferably for one week. Realistically, you might only be able to store one or two five gallon jugs in the trunk of your car, if you're evacuating.

Store in airtight containers (aformentioned five gallon jug) and replace it every six months. Store disinfectants such as iodine tablets or chlorine bleach, eight drops per gallon, to purify water if necessary. Or get yourself any of the nifty backpacking water purifiers. Note that purification only works for viruses and bacteria, not pollutants. Stay away from using water that is known to be contaminated with chemicals.

First aid kit: Make sure it is well stocked, especially with bandages and disinfectants. Make sure you know how to use everything you store! Whatever over the counter medications you might normally take should go in there. If you are a coffee junkie, you might also want to think about caffeine pills to prevent headache.

Fire extinguisher: Your fire extinguisher should be suitable for all types of fires. Teach all family members how to use it.

Light sources: Keep flashlights beside your bed and in several other locations. Do not use matches or candles until you are certain there are no gas leaks. Glow sticks are also very handy for go bags. If you have kids, store a lot. They make a great non combustible night lights.

Weather Radios: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio, with battery backup: Telephones may be out of order or limited to emergency use. The NOAA weather radio, portable radio or portable television may be your best source of information.

For Sleeping:  Tent(s) that will house all members of household.  In a pinch this can be a couple of blue tarps (one for the shelter, one for the ground) and a rope.  

Sleeping bags and extra bedding. You may have to sleep at a shelter. You may need to sleep in your car or in the tent.  Ear plugs for if wherever you end up is noisy.

Clothing: At least one full change of clothing for each member of the party. Extra socks and underwear if you can.

Wear sturdy shoes just in case you need to walk through rubble and debris. If you are someone whose footwear is often on the impractical side (dress shoes, pumps, sandals) put some sneakers or workboots in your kit.

Cash: Assume your credit/debit cards won't work.

Special items: FEMA says to have at least 72 hours of medications and food for infants and those with special needs. You're better off with two to four week supply. If you end up at a shelter long term (think Katrina evacuees) these things will be in very short supply. 

If you have medication that must be refrigerated, make sure you have cold packs and a small cooler.

Hygiene supplies: Diapers, sanitary pads, tampons, toilet paper, baby wipes, bar soap, and any disposable medical supplies like insulin needles or colostomy supplies.

I also keep a bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap in my kit.  When I was in Haiti, I found that it worked very well when I had to wash my clothes by hand in cold water.  It has the advantage of not being able to tip out into my pack as dry or liquid detergent did.

Tools: Have an adjustable or pipe wrench for turning off gas and water, and a shovel or broom for cleaning up.  Work gloves, in case you have to move stuff.

Pets: Assemble an animal emergency supply kit and develop a pet care buddy system with friends or relatives to make sure someone is available to care for or evacuate your pets if you are unable to do so. Be sure each of your pets has a tag with your name and phone number. Whether you decide to stay put in an emergency or evacuate to a safer location, you will need to plan for your pets.
Optional items: Think of your needs and your climate.  Are you likely to need mud or snow boots?  Do you need insect repellent and sunscreen?

M&M's or other candy that doesn't make a mess goes a long way to normalizing a situation.  This is absolutely invaluable to keeping one's wits.  If you have children, doubly so.

A little bottle of scotch or whatever you favor can calm the nerves of the adults.  Please note I said a little (I mean a shot glass full.  For the whole day). Anyone who gets drunk in a disaster deserves a Darwin Award

Weapons: If you are trained in it and own it legally, go for it.  If you are not trained in a weapon, it is only dangerous to you.  Unless you spend time at a shooting range, leave the firearms at home.  The same goes for Tazers and pepper spray.  

Better protection is always going to be other people you trust.  Stick with your friends.  

If you must have a weapon, go out and get trained in it.  Now.

Documents copies:  Birth certificates, passports, etc.  If you have time to gather the original documents, great, otherwise, they're a lot easier to replace if you have copies.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are other supplies you might want to have on hand for special situations.  But this is a start.

Best of luck.


Gabor Por said...

Great list, thank you. This is what we have in our cars. The only item there that I didn't see on your list is "Respirator Dust Mask" and "deck of cards" for entertainment. I think both are good idea.

mythago said...

Thanks for this. Living in an earthquake zone, I've been slowly picking away at disaster prep - buying a crank flashlight here and an emergency blanket there as money allows, but as the designated Dealing With Crazy Shit person of the household, I worry what will happen if disaster strikes while I'm at work - particularly since I have to cross water to get back home. I just ordered water storage and some emergency MREs and am planning on the go-bags next.

Ceredwyn said...


Do you know the evacuation plans of the work/school of the other household members? Schools and workplaces should all have them.

With schools, they should have both a shelter-in-place and evacuation plan with at least 2 places the children could conceivably be evacuated to. You might have to go get them from some evacuation center.

Hmm...I feel another post coming on...