As I watched this past weekend several different television shows chronicling the events of September 11, 2001, a thought crossed my mind. Sometimes events happen so fast in our lives that we don’t have any time at all to prepare and all you are left with is what you have on you and what you know. Most often that “event” is not life-threatening but more of an inconvenience than anything else. There have been lots of times when having something as simple as a safety pin would have made all the difference in the world.
As I watched people not only pouring out of the World Trade Center’s but also those that we already on the streets of New York that day with only what was in their pockets or purses I began to wonder what would be some of the minimal necessities.
Let’s start with the men only because I can relate to them better…I am one. Our options are really limited to what is in our pockets, in our wallets, on our wrist, or on our waist. If you had to get yourself to safety or just take care of some minor emergency, we had better choose wisely considering size and weight. If some gadget you have chosen is too heavy or bulky, you are not likely to have it on you all the time. For instance, I am a typical accountant and it would look so out of place for me to be walking around with a multi-tool hung off of my belt. However, it you were an IT professional, it might just blend in with your normal attire and thus give you many more options. I’ll list out the items in order of importance should the need arise.
The first thing that ever man should consider and choose wisely is a good pocket knife. I am not talking about a cheap knife that just will not hold an edge but neither am I talking about some type of collectible either. Personally I have been carrying the Victorinox Executive. This is of the Swiss Army variety. The knife is about 3” long, ¾” wide and only 3/8” thick. I have switched back and forth between this knife and just about every other brand and type on the market. Because of its size though, I always go back to this knife within a couple of days. Wenger also makes a good brand and I would recommend you stick with either one of these brands.
The Victorinox Executive comes with both a 2” blade as well as a 1-½” blade. They are razor sharp right out of the box and are easy to sharpen when that time comes. You couldn’t skin an elephant but it will tackle most everyday task you’ll run across. It also has a 2” nail file, a set of scissors, tweezers, and a toothpick. In addition to that, it has a unique blade to Victorinox that they say is an orange peeler. In over twenty years, I have never peeled and orange with it, but I have used it a miniature saw and it works wonders on light stuff. The point of the file can be used for Philips head screws and the point of the orange peeler can be used as a flat-head screwdriver. Without a doubt the scissors get used the most in my urban environment. I can tell you this though; I feel in love with this knife when I watched a guy work on the carburetor of his lawn mower and then file and gap the spark plug using the nail file. Obviously he used something else to get the spark plug out, but I was hooked for life. I have personally used the orange peeling blade to “knife” open a janitors closest to get toilet tissue and then the file to open the toilet paper dispenser in the restrooms at church. It was way easier to just go that route than to hunt down the janitor. The uses for this little knife are limitless. As with any pocket knife never use it to pry anything open as you will more than likely snap the blade into two pieces. I know what some of you knife guys are thinking…I carry a big this or that with a pocket clip that I’d rather have for the tight spots. Don’t get me wrong, when I am in the woods or out in the yard, I carry a different blade as well. What I am talking about here is our everyday carry knife that you will forget it is there until you need it. Swiss Army knives have gotten a bad rap for all of the cheap knock-offs that we all see at guns shows and hardware stores for a couple of bucks. But you will not regret carrying either of these brands and you too will find hundreds of uses.
The next item you should always carry is some extra emergency cash. Make sure it is not all in either small bills or large bills…mix it up a bit based on how much you want to carry and how thick you can stand your wallet. We do have to sit on it all day you know. Lots of things can be had and small conveniences can be purchased with cash. Maybe as a general rule, you should carry enough to file the gas tank up plus a quick meal. The trick here is to hide it your wallet, never forgetting it is there but not looking at is as mad money when the next “deal” comes around. Never let anyone know you have it or friends all over the office will be hitting you up for a few bucks here and there. If you do spend it, put it back as quickly as you possibly can. It would really suck if you found yourself in a situation that a few extra bucks would ease the stress a hundred fold and your wallet was empty.
My next critical item is a fully charged cell phone. I have placed this below just below the emergency cash for a reason. With extra cash, you could buy a few minutes of cell time from a co-worker or even a stranger. You could have a trunk full of cell phones but you can’t trade that for a bottle of water or gas in the car. With this you can let loved ones know you are okay or headed to the hospital. In the time of a crisis, information will be critical…both getting it and giving it. Cell phones have all kinds of extra features that may help you. The greatest one is the contact list. About a year ago I was faced with a situation that could have been life threatening and I was shocked at how hard it was to dial 911 in the midst of the crisis. I can’t imagine trying to remember an out-of-state contact person for a regional emergency, so store all your numbers there. Also remember that you can almost always get a text message to go through before you can get an actual phone call to work. We just experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on the East Coast and we were a state away and the cell phone circuits were jammed from all of the traffic, but my text to the house made it fine.
Another key item comes in the form of two key pieces, a paracord keychain with an attached Photon II Beta light. This serves a couple of purposes. I have some cordage if I ever need it but also don’t send out any “alarms” from others as you leave your keys lying around. The Photon II Beta light is of the button variety about the size of a quarter. Be sure and get the one with the locking one switch because sometimes you need both hands. You can lock it on and lay it down. You’d be surprised at how much light these little buggers put out in the pitch black dark. You never know when the power will go out but you can calm down a lot of folks just by providing a little light.
The next item is something that I am sure almost everyone wears every day. That is a belt. It could serve as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding or something to secure a splint with. Let’s not forget that keeping your pants up while you run for cover in mission critical.
A watch is another invaluable item and one most of us wear every day. Most cell phones have a clock feature but imagine talking to the 911 dispatcher on you cell phone while attending to a woman in labor. It is so much easier when you can look down at your watch. In the event of a disaster, there will be all kinds of reasons to monitor the time and you’ll want to save your cell phone battery for more important tasks. In a real bad situation, you may not want anyone around you knowing that you have a working cell phone, but no one will question your watch.
Lastly for men, I carry a Fresnel Magnifier in my wallet. It is the same size of the credit cards and you will forget it is even there. This is good for seeing small splinters in children’s hands, reading small print, or starting fires. Doesn’t take up much space but provides lots of opportunities. Once could also carry a miniature BIC lighter for fire starting. I have one in the desk drawer and one in the car and choose not to carry one in my pockets. I want to be prepared but not over-burdened every single second of the day. One last item that I see older men carrying that us younger guys is a handkerchief. This would be a handy item as many of the folks running away from ground zero were covering their mouths. Wet it and it keeps out smaller particles and might help you escape a smoky room. It could be used as a quick bandage or something to use for signaling. This is another item that has so many uses it is hard to list them but you’d be glad you had one.
While these ten or so items may not be what actually saves your life or the lives of others, they will in fact form the basics of any survival kit you put together. It will give some comfort in knowing that you have these items on you at all times. Ask around at how many men you meet that don’t even carry a pocket knife…it will surprise you.
Now for the women. We have saved the best for last because they have so many more options. I am obviously not a woman and really look forward to reading their responses as it could help to better dress out my own wife’s purse.
The very first item to consider is the pocket book or purse itself. If it is too big, then you are not as likely to carry it or keep it with you as best you can. If it is too small, it will not serve much of a purpose. I will acknowledge that there are several instances when a huge pocket book will not work and something slim is more befitting the circumstance. But again, we are talking your everyday run-of-the mill purse. After you decided to carry what you like, let’s put a few helpful items in it.
I will still stick to the pocket knife as being your number one item to add, only because of its usefulness. My wife also carries the same pocket knife mention above in her purse. It is big enough to handle all we ask of it but not big enough to have her flagged as someone to be worried about. Both of those brands mentioned above also have pocket knives in all kinds of colors, so you may want to choose the pick one for Breast Cancer Awareness. Then if you have to pull it out, you’ll also earn bonus points for caring, as you should.
Just as stated above, extra emergency cash should be our second item again for all those same reasons.
Add to the pocket knife and extra cash would be thirdly the fully charged cell phone. I can’t say enough about being able to get info in and out for everyone involved in a tense situation.
We’ll also stick with the Paracord key chain and attached Photon II Beta light. You’ll need to be able all of the goodies in your miniature BOB. I noticed at the last gun show we attended that there was a booth that had all sorts of items made from paracord. And guess what they had…key chains made with the same pink colors as that used in Breast Cancer Awareness products. Bonus points again for caring while maintaining OPSEC.
This is where we’ll mix it up a little since we have a little more room to work with. I would add a very small first aid kit. What I have in mind here is something along the lines of the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight .3 or .5 kits. I think one is around $9 and the other around $15 or so. You could put together a similar kit for a lot less so it comes down to convenience. Either way though, is very familiar with what is in the kit so you’ll know if you have whatever item you’d be looking for. If you use a band-aid out of it, be sure to replace it as soon as possible. To this first aid kit, I would add several safety pins of various sizes. In either of the Adventure kits, they’d be enough room.
Separately but in the same location I’d add a very small sewing kit, such as those often given away by hotels. This will not be a life saver but could very well save you from some embarrassing moments if something breaks and you are stuck with it for a while.
Now we are down to the miscellaneous items. As in the above section, a watch is something we take for granted until we don’t have it. I would also be sure to throw in a miniature BIC lighter and either a handkerchief or small packet of tissues. To round out this very basic kit you could toss in one of those flat ACR whistles that’s US Coast Guard approved. Let me tell you those things are loud. Most women already carry some Blistex or some other type of lip balm. Top this off with several pieces of hard candy for comfort and you have the makings of a miniature BOB that will take care of most minor emergencies as well as possibly get you from point A to point B with a little less stress.