Emergency Preparedness for Beginners
By Brett A. Fernau
Part 2: Bugging out – what it means and what you need
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at ways in which you could help yourself and those around you in a disaster scenario. Let’s image now that you’ve handled the immediate dangers and are ready for your next task. You have a decision to make at this point. Do you stay where you are and continue to help any victims in that area or do you try to get home or to some other safe location? “Bugging out” is what you do when you leave your current location and go somewhere else. You could also call it “bugging in” if you are going home.
Depending upon the nature of the disaster, you may or may not be able to drive or take public transportation to go home. What you will need to get there on foot will depend upon how far you have to travel, the weather conditions at the time, and the nature of the disaster. If the disaster involves some sort of civil unrest, looting, riots, and that sort of thing, there will be additional obstacles to overcome in getting home. You will need to be prepared for a variety of scenarios, and you will need knowledge, skills, tools and supplies that will help you get where you want to go.
One of the most important things you will need is a body that is up to the task. You will need to be physically fit enough to carry your tools and supplies the distance you need to travel. If you are not fit enough to walk home, you will have to stay where you are. Even if you do that, you will need to have achieved some level of fitness to be able to survive wherever you are. Start training for that now. Walk. Walk a little each day; and then a little more. Build up your strength and endurance so that you are an asset in an emergency and not just another victim. Do whatever it takes to get yourself healthy. If that means losing weight, exercising, and changing your diet, then get started on that right away.
Not long ago, I had Type II Diabetes. I was dependent upon prescription medications to keep my blood sugar levels in a normal range so as to prevent neuropathy, blindness and other damage from that disease. I decided that being dependent upon those drugs was not a good thing in a disaster situation where the pharmacies might be closed down for a while. So, I did what I had to do to get off those drugs. I changed my diet and lost a lot of weight. I got myself off of all prescription medications. Do what you can to make yourself independent of doctors and medications. Some conditions can’t be handled just by changing your diet and increasing your exercise level, but you’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel if you get yourself fit and ready to handle whatever comes your way. You’ll not only feel better physically, but mentally as well. Preparedness is a lifestyle. When you are prepared, a great many things which you are worried about now will cease to concern you.
The equipment, skill and knowledge that you will need to get home will be an expanded version of your EDC (every day carry), plus a few extra items that will aid you in the journey. If circumstances are in your favor, you’ll simply be able to get in your car and drive home. However, if things go wrong and you have to walk home, you’re going to need some things to help you get there. What you need will depend upon several factors: distance to be traveled, current and future weather conditions, the nature of the disaster, and the current state of mind of the other people you are likely to encounter on your journey. In other words, if you have a long way to go in bad weather after a major disaster where the civilian population has run amok, you will need gear, skills and knowledge to solve those specific problems you will encounter along the way. On the other hand, if you are just a few miles away from home when a disaster of lesser magnitude occurs in moderate weather where people are scared, but not panicked, then you will likely have an easier time getting home and be less dependent upon your equipment and such and will rely more on your level of physical fitness and your knowledge of alternate routes to your destination. Plan for the former and hope for the latter and you will be as prepared as you can be.
The kit you assemble to get you home from wherever you are when the disaster happens is called a “Bug-Out Bag.” What you put in that bag will depend upon the factors mentioned above. At the very least, you will need water, food, a first aid kit, a map, a compass, and some decent hiking boots or shoes. Beyond those basics, you can add fire starting tools, camping gear, cooking gear, communications equipment, binoculars, paracord, personal hygiene gear and whatever else you think you might need to get you home, plus a supply of whatever prescription medications you will need.
You’ll notice that I mentioned water first. After air, water is what your body will need most. Carry as much water as you can. You’ll be drinking it, perhaps cooking with it, and possibly cleaning wounds with it. Carry something with which to purify water so that you can create some potable water when you use up what you are carrying. Water purification can be done with tablets or filters or both. You can use coffee filters to do the initial clean-up of dirty water and then add tablets or run it through your filter system. Again, your need to clean up dirty water will depend upon the nature of the disaster and the distance you have to travel to get home where you have the majority of your supplies cached. Your supply cache at home is a subject which I will address in greater detail in the next article in this series. For the moment, think about what you might need to have at home if the power is out and the water is off for several days. Start putting a few things aside in case you need them, especially water.
To create a bug-out bag, place all the things you think you’ll need to get home in a back pack. Keep that back pack close at hand wherever you are. If you’re out shopping, it should be in the trunk of your car. If you work in an office, you might consider having one under your desk and another one in the trunk of your car. What if you can’t get to your car? Do you use public transportation to go back and forth to work? What if a disaster occurs on your ride? Think about what you would need if you’re a long way from home and the bus or train can’t get you there. Do you know the route and how you would get home if you are stranded at any point along the way? Make a map and carry a compass. If it would take you more than one day to walk home, you will need to create a bug-out bag to accommodate your needs for that sort of journey. You will also, possibly, need to adjust your gear for the season of the year, depending upon where you live. Each person in your family will need to have his/her own pack tailored to their skills and stature. Include carrying your pack in your exercise regimen, or another pack of the same weight. Make sure it is comfortable to carry. If it is too heavy, figure out ways to make it lighter without sacrificing too much in the way of equipment.
The most important things that you will need are knowledge and skills. Learn how to read a map and guide yourself with a compass. Map out your routes home and have alternate routes should your regular ones be blocked. Learn about situational awareness and practice it when you are walking and getting in shape. Find out what plants are edible in your region and learn how to identify and prepare them. Learn a number of ways to start a fire and practice them. Learn to cook over a fire, or a camp stove. Learn how to stay warm and dry outdoors. Learn first aid including CPR. Get C.E.R.T. trained. Learn how to tie useful and effective knots in ropes and cords. Learn how to build a temporary shelter. Learn how to free someone trapped by a heavy object. Learn how to travel through an urban environment safely and quickly. Learn to defend yourself and your family by whatever means you are comfortable with. There are a wide variety of books available on outdoor skills, and a nearly unlimited number of videos available online demonstrating everything you will need to know. Educate yourself, learn the necessary skills and practice them. In a disaster scenario, you won’t have time to look up anything in a book. Read the books now; understand and apply what you learn. If you do, when you are confronted with an emergency situation, you will have the ability to act rather than panic, help instead hinder, and survive instead of become a victim. If you can survive, and you have taught and encouraged your family, friends and neighbors to learn the same skills you have, you will have a relatively safe place to go to when you Bug Out. Once you get home, you can reassess your situation and figure out what to do next; and that will be the subject of Part 3 of this series.