There’s plenty of talk on this and other internet sites and blogs about get-home-bags. What’s in yours? What’s in mine? What should be in there, what should not. All of it good information and some quite thought provoking. I really don’t understand the folks that need fishing hooks and line in their get home bag (GHB), but then again everyone's circumstances are different. Just like "bugging out" implies a sense of urgency, to me getting home is just as urgent and I'm probably not going to stop and do any fishing. I have no plans to “bug out” without a place to go. But wherever I am, I will need to get home. In addition to my get-home-bag, I need a plan.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers. What I have are a lot of questions I hope will encourage you to formulate your get-home-plan. I hope my hypothetical situation and queries will cause you to think of things and begin formulating decision points now, before you have to decide.
Consider that things are mostly normal. Your two parent two children, 1 dog family is as typical as can be. Both parents work and both children are in school. You’re both preppers and you’ve got your bug-out-bag and your get-home-bag. You’ve got food, water, fuel and the means to defend it. Then on a random and typical Tuesday at 2:00 pm the world changes when a series of high altitude EMP detonations occur. Now, I’m not expert in EMPs, and I can’t seem to find a definitive answer either. Some say that an EMP will “fry” all electronics. Some say cars and trucks will with electronic ignition and computers will be dead. Others contradict this. Others will add that the cars and trucks will be immune from the EMP if they weren’t running. Some say airplanes will fall from the sky. Others disagree, and say the planes will be fine but air traffic control, radio, and radar failures will be the cause of air disasters. I don’t think we really know, and I don’t think we’ll find out till it happens. Let’s assume the worst. Let’s consider for now that after the EMP, everything electronic is dead. The lights go out, the computers all crash at work, the heat or air conditioning is down. While everyone wonders what happened you look at your cell phone and it’s blank also. You pickup the phone in your office and there is no dial tone. Someone in the workplace turns on a battery powered radio and if it works at all, it only picks up static. You look out the window and cars are stopped and the traffic lights not working. As co-workers are asking “what happened” you know that we’ve suddenly been plunged into the 1860s.
Now what? Here you are at work. Your spouse is at work. The children are in school. How do you get home? How do you get in touch with your spouse? Who goes to get the children? Will the school hold the children till someone comes for them? Are the children in the same school or different schools? Do you go for one child and your spouse the other? Did you pre-arrange this? What about the teachers at school. They want to go to their home and family. They’re as confused as everyone else and want to just get home. Do you expect them to stay at school and maintain custody of your children? Will the teachers divide them into groups and take them home? How would you know? How would you know where your child went? Would the school turn the children out and hope the big kids will take the little kids home? Can you imagine the panic?
Before we go on, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the 10-80-10 statistic. This statistic asserts that in any given disaster or crisis, 10% of the people will perish because at a critical moment they either made the wrong choice, or were so gripped by panic and indecision, as to hasten their demise. Eighty percent of the people are looking for direction. They know things aren’t right, but because they’ve never been in this situation before, they don’t know what to do. These folks are looking for leadership. The final 10% assess the situation, pull themselves together and implement a plan, direct others, and survive.
Let’s continue. Are you going to walk home? By yourself? Or are you going to posse up with others at work that live in your direction? Will you leave now, or wait awhile to see what happens? Will you wait for the weather to improve? How far home is it? How long does that take in ideal conditions? How long will that take under these circumstances? How does the time it takes to get home, impact your thoughts on the children and the school? Will you walk part way and stay at a co-workers house overnight? Can you do that with the unanswered questions about the children and your spouse? What about the weather and time of year. If it’s in the winter, darkness comes early and you’ll be walking in the cold and dark. In the summer it may be a long hot walk. Do you leave or wait? Will it be safe for you to leave now, or wait until dark? Until 2 a.m.?
Do you shelter in place at work? Could you stay there not knowing what the status of your spouse and children is? Do you have any provisions in your desk or locker at work to eat or drink? What if an “authority person” (a manager, principal, security guard, etc) told you to stay in the building. What if they said something to the effect: “You’re safer here than outside. We should shelter in place until we have more information. We’re waiting on instructions from the authorities.” Would you defy this advice? It might be advice given in such a manner as to intimidate you into compliance. Is this the leadership and advice that 80% of your coworkers were waiting for?
What about your car? Are there things in your car you may need going home? Extra sunglasses, a hat, a flashlight, sneakers from your gym bag, etc. Your canvas grocery bags would make extra totes for the walk home. Will you need them? Are there things in your car that you should remove? Things that have your name, and address on them. Do you need to “sanitize” your car before you abandon it?. Do you leave a note in the window that you left on this date and started walking home? Are there things in your workplace you can borrow to make the trip home easier? Fill your water bottles, grab some toilet paper, grab the coat out of so-and-so’s office. Some trash bags from the office will make an emergency poncho. Do you need one? Will you need one on the walk home? What about that posse you formed to walk home? Who’s in the group? You know that the pregnant young woman is going to slow you down. Can you turn your back on the pregnant 28 year old and head for home? Her husband left last month on his second deployment to Afghanistan. Is she still on her own? The man weeks from retirement that works with you and lives a few miles away is also going to slow you down. Are they on their own? If some of the lesser-prepared members of your posse want to loot a more comfortable pair of shoes for the walk then would you agree with that behavior? Do you wait for them or keep moving?
What will you encounter on your walk home? Some cars will be stopped in travel lanes. Others will have drifted to the shoulder. Others will have crashed. Will people be hurt? Will you stop and help? Are they legitimately hurt or is it a trap? People may be stranded along the road confused wondering what happened to everything. Will you walk on by or have them join your group? Will you walk the same route you drive or take short cuts through parks, power line right of ways, railroads, and neighborhoods breaking away from your group? What is your walk-home from work route? Can you walk it in the dark?
What do you do when you arrive home and although 20 hours after the event, and you are the first one from your family there?
Now, replay my series of questions with this assumption: My car is fine and it will take me home, however, all power and communications are dead. Stores are dark and without power. Gas stations closed and without power. Cell phones and land-lines are dead. Do you keep enough fuel in the car to get home? What about the lack of traffic signals, will there be crashes and massive congestion? Do you have a different, perhaps longer or slower (but less likely to be congested), route home?
Replay the scenario again, but this time you're on vacation with your family, starting about 500 miles from home.
I have lots of questions and no answers for you. Your answers are different than mine. Your situation is different from mine. I'm working on finding my answers to my own questions, hoping it's all a mental exercise, fearful that it isn't.
I hope you’ll reflect on the circumstances I described and begin developing your plan. In closing, I’d like to add that getting home might be a secondary objective. It could be that it makes more sense for everyone in your family to get someplace else first, a rally point, and as a group head home from there. Explore your situation. Look for solutions. Talk it out. Formulate a plan.