Transitioning to Seven Day Bug-Out Bags, by Firefighter Charles

Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010

I was standing in the living room, watching CNN.  I saw the devastation of Haiti.  I listened to how help is coming and arrived almost immediately.  Logistical issues hampered “helps” immediate aiding of the people in Haiti.  Weeks later, Chile was hit by a massive earthquake as well.  With Chile’s government not wanting any support at first, watched how Chile succumb to riots and looting in just three days after the quake.  Haiti broke down as well after five days of no food, water, or shelter.  Many people in Chile had to sleep in the streets due the unsafe conditions in their homes, uncertain if the structures of their homes were sound.  Many of the Chileans who stayed by their homes, slept outside in makeshift tents that were made out of blankets, sheets and plastic tarps.  In Haiti, hundreds of people made shelters out of wood, clothes, and cardboard boxes.  Needless to say both countries were unprepared.  At least the people in Haiti have an excuse.  Most of the people are poor and or uneducated.  The people in Chile have no excuse.  They live in earthquake country and [since they are more prosperous and better educated] they should have been better prepared.  In the case of Louisiana, people had time to get prepared and chose not to.  I guess most people in Louisiana figured it wasn’t going to get that bad or decided at the last minute to take whatever they needed.  Either way, “help” did not come for them for four long days, in some cases longer.  Many people died from dehydration along with other things such as drowning, infection, and medical complications.

Three Day Kits are Obsolete:
It hit me that the 72-hour Emergency Kit, 72-hour Bug Out Bag, or Bail Out Bag or whatever you call it is obsolete.  I am now convinced that the 5 or 7 day Bug Out Bag is the way to go.  Hurricane Katrina was a huge lesson to the American preparedness community.  We watched while a lot people struggled, died, and became victims.  Our financial situation here in the U.S. is crumbling.  Programs are being cut, resources running low, and politicians don’t ever think a disaster can happen to us or they might not care.  Either way help will be a long way off from three days.  Even if your Bug Out Location is only two days away by car.  Running into unforeseen problems could extend that trip (will discuss later).  For those who have flee on foot, vehicles, and boats having a 5 to 7 day bag might have extended some of these individuals’ lifespan.  Having more is a lot better than having less especially in a disaster situation.  Like many people say: "It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it."

    
The Scenario:
     Now FEMA’s response times as we all know is pitiful.  FEMA’s response time also varies from situation to situation. But for our purposes, let's give FEMA the benefit of doubt.  The scenario i san unlikely yet devastating a 7.5 earthquake in New York City (Manhattan).  I’ll play with the numbers in their favor.  It might take them 8 to 12 hours to figure out logistics and if the area is safe.  It may take them another 10 to 12 hours to mobilize and get to the disaster area.  Then once there, they set up outside of the disaster area, which might take another 8 to 12 hours.  Also having engineers come in to analyze the tunnels and bridges, will further delay the rescue.  Depending on the bridge or tunnel they decide analyze, that only can take up to another 12 hours.  That would be an estimated FEMA’s response time.  You now exhausted your 72-hour bag.  Keep in mind that each disaster warrants a different approach.  Also understanding that getting to the disaster zone would take time because of the possibility of compromised bridges and tunnels, hence the engineers.  The total estimated time would be 62 to 84 hours.  Not including the process time to get into a FEMA camp.  A 5 or 7-Day Bug Out Bag is starting to look real good at this point.

     Now once FEMA has established itself in, near, and or around the disaster area.  It could take another 12-24 hours to receive one-on-one assistance.  Considering that thousands to Hundreds of thousands will also be on line waiting for “help”.  Now, picture yourself being on line for your favorite band and waiting 10-24 hours to get their tickets.  Now translate that to a disaster relief line.  You exhausted your 72-hour bag and now have to wait in a line for hours maybe even days to be sheltered and fed.  You will be beyond hungry, thirsty and tired.  Knowing that you are so close yet have to wait for hours more, will really agitate you.  Note: That waiting for FEMA support on a line of hundreds of thousands will bring out the good, the bad, and the worst.

     Using an earthquake scenario in New York City is one of the ultimate crises for usage of a 5 or 7-Day Bug Out Bag.  You will be using your tube tent, emergency blanket, emergency sleeping bag and or tarp for shelter and warmth.  Collapsed or compromised building will have you setting up a temporary home in Central Park, Van Cortland Park, Prospect Park, Yankee Stadium (Being the only sports arena in the five boroughs) or a safe clearing near the home.  Compromised water lines, the aqueduct, and sewer lines will have you depended on your hydro bladder and emergency water packets in your bag.  Along with using your purification tablets to purify possibly tainted water.  There are many other scenarios like a Nuclear Attack (which is less likely), Hurricanes, Civil Unrest, and other disasters that would make a 5 to 7-Day Bug Out Bag desirable.  Keep in mind that you should be sheltering in place for the previously mentioned disasters and have food storage but if you don’t, that’s where your Bug Out Bag can also come in handy.

      Now, on the early mentioning of running into problems while you are Bugging Out to your determine location.  You had already picked out your escape route.  Once on the road, you start running into multiple "road blocks".  Which now alters your escape a few times.  Now the three-day trip has turned into a 4 to 5 day trip.  Again, your 72 hour Bug Out Bag is now depleted.  Having your 5 to 7 day Bug Out Bag during an evacuation will sever you well in the case of major detours.  Keep in mind if you are a responsible prepper your Vehicle Bug Out Kit’s inventory should sustain you for a few days without having to tap into your Bug Out Bag.  I, myself have enough in my Vehicle Bug Out Kit that I would most likely not break into my Bail Out Bags, Start Up Supplies or Bug Out Bag.  Planning ahead with your supplies in your Bug Out Bag will go a long way if you go past your 72-hour mark.  Having more is better.  Having less is foolish.

Is It Really Too Much?    
     Some people might think that having a 5 or 7-Day Bug Out Bag is over the top but in the field of preparedness.  When being faced with uncertainties nothing is over the top, as long as you keep level headed and use common sense.  You are only adding a few more items to your already existing bag.  If you don’t have a bag of any kind and don’t have a lot of money to build a 5 or 7 day bag out right.  Start with a 3-day bag and build from there.  Make sure you end up with a 5 or 7-day bag, at the very least a 5-day bag. 

This or That?
     Some people are going to say “Why not just have a 7 day Bug Out Bag instead of a 5 day Bug Out Bag?”  It comes down to how much you are willing to spend on the items in the Bug Out Bag and how much you are willing to carry.  Trust me adding four more 4.222 oz of water packets add up in weight (you’ll feel a slight difference).  Three more (field stripped) MRE meals or canned goods add in weight.  I’m a weight lifter and a firefighter and am use to carrying heavy weight for long periods of time.  For some this kind of weight is not acceptable or doable.

Somewhat Of A History:   
     The Bug Out Bag was designed for evacuation purposes.  The Bug Out Bag is portable equipment full with survival to sustain you for 72 hours.  The typical items such as food, water, emergency blankets, flashlight, shelter, weapons, et cetera could be found in most bags.  The Bug Out Bag goes by a few names such as G.O.O.D. bag (Get Out Of Dodge), SHTF bag, Go Bag, Bail Out Bag and the 72 Hour Emergency Kit.  Nobody is sure where it started but some say that it was derived from those used by military aviators.

The New Idea (Somewhat):
    My Bug Out Kit is different from most people.  My Bug Out Bag is actually inside of my Bug Out Kit, which is a military duffle bag (sea bag), which also contains my Bug Out Rigging System.  My Bug Out Rigging System is a tactical vest with a 6x6 tactical pouch (emergency blanket, water proof matches, paracord, emergency poncho, food bars, flexible canteen and disposable lighter), fixed blade knife (mounted on the back), folded knife (on front left chest), a copy of the personal document kit (inside the vest behind the ballistic plate), and some items I don't discuss.  Inside the sea bag is a change of clothes, boots, tactical vest (Bug Out Rigging System), 6 – 0.5 liter bottles of water (to fill the hydro-bladder in the Bug Out Bag), Personal Medical Kit (thigh rigged, part of the Bug Out Rigging system), Main Personal Document Kit (everyone in your family), and a dump pouch (Folded up on my belt).  The Bug Out Bag is the 5.11Tactical brand 72 Hour Rush Backpack (trust me you can fit way more than 72 hours worth of gear in that bag).  Compartmentalize bags are the best option to go with.  If packed right you can get to anything you need without having to dig through it or dumping the entire bag just get one item.  When bugging out, you want to keep moving and create distant between you and the disaster.  So, knowing where the item is or having accessible is important.

     A Double Bug Out Bag system can be another option if you’re strong enough and packed correctly.  A Double Bug Out Bag can extend your bug out time.  It also allows you to carry more food, water, ammo, medical supply and or clothes.  The double bail out bag system does not have to be two big bags but a small and larger or two medium size bags.  Recommendation:  For the second Bug Out Bag I use Maxpedition’s Jumbo Versipack, which is medium size and pack a lot of extras.  Or Condor Outdoor’s Modular Style Deployment Bag, which is small but can pack a lot of extras.  I use the Condor Modular Deployment Bag for medical gear.  Plus, the Modular Style Deployment Bag can be “married” to one of your Bug Out Bags.

     A Vehicle Bug Out Bag/Bin is more like a kit that stays in the vehicle and is kept in the back.  It’s a back up kit to your Bug Out Bag.  While you are traveling in the vehicle, you utilize the bag or bin.  The difference in this Bug Out equipment is that most of the contents in that bag or bin will have vehicle related items like jumper cables, road reflectors, tire patching kit, flashlights, flares, ponchos, [12VDC] electronics charger, et cetera.  Not to mention water, food bars, and a back up weapon of some kind.  I own a small one in the back of my SUV.  It’s a bag not a bin.  I do store water and food bars under the rear seat of the last row.  I own a 2004 Ford Explorer so I use every inch of the vehicle. 
Recommendation: If you build a vehicular bin, make sure you also add crucial auto parts like a serpentine belt, water hoses, a good set of tools and things of that nature.  Note: Make sure you check your spare tire every six months.  Also have a realfull-size tire as a spare and not a "mini spare" donut.

     A Bail Out Bag is what I have design to be for the extreme case that I have to bail out of my vehicle and can’t grab anything else but that.  I keep my kit on the middle console.  My girlfriend’s bug-out bag is on the back of her seat.  In there I have 3 days of energy bars, 3 days of water (if used sparingly), packets of water soluble vitamins, mini flashlight, folded knife, paracord and a map.
Recommendation: I use Condor Outdoor’s Tactical Messenger Bag.  For those that carry firearms this bag is very compatible to those who carry rifle and side arms.  Since I don’t carry and can’t have a firearm here in New York City (Liberals).  With that in mine I have more room to store other items.

     A Bug Out Rigging System is a tactical vest and a thigh rig with items that will help during your bug out phase.  As I mention before my vest is more design to the standard of the state/city I live in.  For those who can own firearms strapping magazines to your vest with other survival items is key and adds more ammo to your firepower.  Having a thigh rigging system is also part of the Bug Out Rigging system.  Keeping a personal medical kit (for yourself), sidearm, fix blade knife, collapsible baton, or a 6x6 pouch full of “stuff” will help when needed.  Plus carrying extra food, water pouches, and or ammo always help.
Recommendation: I keep my thigh rigged Personal Medical Kit opposite my baton.  Using a 4x4 or 6x6 pouch would be the biggest I would go with on a thigh-rigged pouch.  Anything bigger will just get in the way.

[JWR Adds: In my experience, gear that is strapped to one's thighs tends to be fatiguing, when walking long distances. A small "fanny" pack or MOLLE pouch worn in front is far more convenient. They can be re-positioned if you ever need to low crawl.]

    A High Speed Kit/Bag is a bag I built with heavy tools, weapons, and a comprehensive medical kit for the small chance of an earthquake, building collapse, or bad hurricane here in the city.  The bag was built to help others.  In the bag I keep a mini axe, Stanley FatMax Xtreme [Halligan Tool], 200 ft nylon climbing rope, fixed blade knife, folding knife, hydro bladder, food bars, and emergency blankets (for trapped people).  The bag I use is Condor Outdoor’s Level 3 Assault Pack.  I came up with the idea to start my own bag after 9/11.  After experiencing not having my own equipment available, I now keep one on deck.  Recommendation: If you build your own bag, make sure you know how to use the tools and that the tools have a multi purpose use.  Pack enough according your area and the distance you are willing to travel to help.  Note:  A Good set of “irons” (Halligan bar and a full size [firefighter's] axe) goes a long way.  Carrying them around will tend to weigh after awhile but they are worth their weight in gold.  Note: There are other companies that make the Level 3 Assault Backpack.  Some are less expensive.  Some fall apart easily.  Some are just no good.  You have to choose the right one.

Carrying The Load:
     Carrying a Bug Out Bag can be heavy.  Let alone carrying a tactical vest, thigh rigged pouch, Bug Out Bag, and a second Bug Out Bag/Kit.  If you are on foot this stuff starts to weigh after a while.  Keeping in shape like Robert Neville in [the movie] I Am Legend is necessary.  I know working out is not a major “to do” on your list but it has to be done in the interest of family and self. Keeping in shape is key to allowing your body to deal with extra weight you might be carrying.  By working out and lifting weights, that allows me to carry a Double Bug Out Bag system.  You have to keep your core tight.  By strengthening your abs, back, and legs, you can do more without risking injury. Recommendation:  For workout tips read Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Health, or Flex magazine (keep in mind Flex magazine is more for the body builder but they do have good tips from time to time).  You can also read the recent two-part SurvivalBlog article: Fit To Survive.  It’s not a bad read and has good tips on going about getting strong.

Why Do It To Yourself?:
     One Person Bug Out Bags are your best choice.  Buying one of those Multi-person Bug Out Bag is somewhat for novice preppers.  Even so novice preppers should actually know better.  You can also look at it as being irresponsible.  Having all your belongings, food, water, shelter, et cetera in one bag is foolish.  Lets say you buy a 72- hour Bug Out Bag built for four people.  You have everything in one bag.  Now a disaster strikes & you have to bug out of town or the city.  What happens if one of the four family members gets separated?  Or the lead person carrying the 72-hour Bug Out Bag built for four gets separated?  Now, the other three family members are SOL. Or the one family member who got separated is now cold, hungry, and alone.  Recommendation:  Every able body should have their own Bug Out Bag.  With children under five years of age I would split their stuff between the adults’ Bug Out Bag.

The Personal Document Issue:
     Keeping personal documents safe is another priority all on it’s own.  Make sure everyone in your family has a Personal Document Kit on them & in their Bug Out Bags.  You (the head of the Family) keep everyone’s Personal Document on your person and in your Bug Out Bag.  Everyone in your family should have two full copies of Personal Documents, one on their persons and the other one in their Bug Out Bag.  If you have an infant then try putting on one on them.  Of course, they won’t have their own Bug Out Bag unless they are Spartan.  In any case, the extra copy of the infant’s Personal Documents will be in the mother’s Bug Out Bag.  The reason for putting one on a small child or an infant is in the small chance that you get separated from one another.  Some may say that keeping so many copies of personal documents is unnecessary but in a time of crisis things as we all know never go according to plan.  Having a main copy in your bag is good but with thieves lurking in every corner.  If your bag gets stolen, then at least you have a copy on yourself. Recommendation:  For every Bug Out Bag, Bail Out Bag, Vehicle Bug Out Bag, & Bug Out System you should have copies of key personal documents in each bag or system.

Conclusion:
     The Preparedness field is forever changing.  There is no “set in stone way” of doing things.  Whatever works for you is what you stick to but never be afraid of new and approved ideas.  The different Bug Out Bag systems might work for you.  It works for me and still keeps my hands free.  It might seem overboard but again in the face of disaster, you’ll need as much help as you can safely carry.


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