Yes, we all know that an end of world event could happen at any time. However I look at things statistically and realistically. I think I have a greater chance of getting into a car accident than getting hit with an asteroid or meteor. So I first focus on my little corner of the world. Even if there is a catastrophic event you still need to get to your "go" bag and/or vehicle with your G.O.O.D. bag and perhaps onward to your home or retreat depending on each situation. So what do you need for day to day survival? Because the world can come crashing around you and you alone. It may just be your end of the world event like an accident or illness. It may not be you but a close family member or dear friend. It may be a local isolated event like a flood or power outage or a fire – who knows? As a former boy scout, “always be prepared”.
While surfing the net, I have come across some sites talk about a list of 20 or 25 things you should always have with you – some ideas were good and some not so good and some not even considered. So I decided to come up with my own list. I generally have most of this with me at any given time – it drives my wife nuts. She always asks why I have so much schumer in my pants pockets and on my keys. As a city resident it this may be slightly urban oriented. So here is my version of 25 or so things that you should always try to have with you and my thoughts comments and explanations on each with some additional helpful hints I have adopted over my years:
- $100+ in cash plus small bills, $3 in quarters & a few new dollar coins.
$100 is the bare minimum, I try to keep $250 to $500 with me at all times. This is obvious – we are still in America where cash is king. You can buy your way out of a lot of situations. Even a fender bender, “Hey here’s two hundred bucks, let’s forget about the insurance paperwork!” No cops, no insurance and no wasted time. Remember, when the lights go out so do the credit card machines. You can spread it around so if you get robbed they don’t get it all. If you are really worried about a sudden economic collapse you can even keep a 1/10th-ounce or 1/4th-ounce gold coin or more in your wallet. And even though nobody likes or wants those new dollar coins, a lot of vending machines now take them and you can reduce the quarters you are carrying. Prices are going up for everything including water, soda, snacks and parking, all available via coin operated equipment. Hey, did someone say inflation?
- Credit/debit card with at least $1,000 available on it and a telephone calling card.
You can only carry so much cash safely, so have a credit/debit card with at least a thousand bucks available to buy your way out of stickier situations. Here in New York City on 9/11 cell phones went out of service so you may need to use one of the few remaining pay phones, so have a $5, $10 or $25 calling card in your wallet and make sure it is up to date.
- Pocketknife / multi-tool.
This goes without saying – the Leatherman I carry has a bunch of tools – I can fix nearly anything with it. I will not get into a debate on which is the correct model. I prefer the Leatherman Flair because it has a corkscrew. That has saved me on many an occasion
- Cell phone with camera – keep it charged!
For many of us now our phone is multi-functional tool. For others it is their entire world. It is our contact list with phone numbers and addresses, appointment calendar, memo pad, our watch, camera, video recorder, voice recorder, GPS, Internet/e-mail access, MP3 player, radio, alarm and even a phone. If we lose it or the batteries die, it may really seem like TEOTWAWKI. Charge your cell phone each night! Again, you don’t know when it will be your emergency. As I have said TEOTWAWKI may just be your world and the rest of us will be continuing normally. When you need it most to communicate your cell phone should be charged! Keep a charger in each car, and use it! And when you’re bored at the dentist’s or doctor’s office or wherever just killing time, the same magazines you’ve read before are still there, so you surf or play a game on your phone. When the battery gets down to 50%, stop and put it away. It is just like keeping your car’s gas tank filled. You don’t know when you may really need it.
- Laminated list of phone numbers of people you can count on in a real emergency. Don’t use an ink jet printer – when it gets wet your numbers may be unreadable when you need them most. List both cellular and hard line numbers on the card! – Cell phones might not work in a crisis, or your phone is lost or dead. For some strange reason some federal agents I know, are required to have a hard copper phone line in their home, I do the same. And back to 9/11 when cell phones didn’t work. My point about having a calling card – these two go hand in hand. Have an out of town contact for you and your immediate circle to communicate on. You can also use an answering machine at your retreat to leave and retrieve messages in a crisis via a touchtone phone. Keep the answering machine commands and access number hint on the phone list.
- Small flashlight - long life LED type also an LED key fob.
Again my wife tells me I have too many keys and key fob gadgets. You always have your keys – right? So keeping some critical essentials on it is a good idea. One of these is the little LED keychain lights – they are cheap and disposable. As often stated “one is none” so the key fob light is a backup to a quality flashlight. My personal favorite primary light is the SureFire E2D LED Defender. It is expensive but well worth it. I have had this light for three years now without fail. Its small size fits well in your pocket with all that other stuff. The Surefire has two power settings, to save battery life. The high setting can temporarily blind someone at night. There are times when this could be your only means of defense and it has the ability to shed light onto another sticky situation and additionally impale the skull of an attacker. The downsides are the initial cost and that it needs CR-123A batteries.
- Lighter and matches
I don’t think I have to go into detail on the many reasons to have these. And I additionally keep a flint & steel on my key ring. (“two is one and one is none”)
- Tactical Pen, pencil and paper
I love my tactical pen. I have never had issue on any flight or security check with this pen. Again it could be a last line of defense in addition to a quality writing instrument. Again “one is none” and a pencil never fails. A few pieces of paper for quick notes, thoughts etc…
There is something to be said for low-tech. The US government spent a ton of money on designing and inventing the “space pen” so they could write in outer-space, and the Russians used a pencil. Let us be reminded to learn, keep and pass on old world common sense, simplicity and skills. Low tech is sometimes the best.
- Band-Aids and a few butterflies bandages (keep in wallet) these are always handy for minor cuts, scrapes and scratches. I even keep a few character Band-Aids for the kids. It is amazing how quickly a tragedy can be turned around with the distraction of a picture on the Band-Aid.
- Aspirin and Necessary medications - Aspirin is good to chew and swallow if you think you are having a heart attack. I always have a few packets in my pocket for that pounding headache, sore muscles or heart attack.
- Firearm and ammo, where legal - Know and Follow Federal, State and Local Laws!
This again is obvious – this is a topic unto itself. I will say take a good class and practice, practice, practice! Learn the color code of awareness, and learn to avoid confrontations so you don’t end up like George Zimmerman.
- Wet Wipes and/or antiseptic wipes – I always tuck a few in my pocket from restaurant leftovers when I order ribs. They are great for cleaning hands and wounds - but the alcohol stings. Freshening up your hands, neck and face in a tough situation can bring a minor sense of comfort that can help you collect your thoughts and find the strength to carry on. Sometimes it is the little things in life. A tiny bottle of hand sanitizer is also not a bad idea. [And most hand sanitizer gels also double as fire starters.]
- Sunglasses and reading glasses (if needed)
Again this is self-explanatory.
- Whistle / compass combo keychain fob (small)
Again my love of key fobs. We all know the importance of signaling for help and knowing where we are going.
- USB drive (encrypted, [such as Ironkey]) again it can be on your key fob.
Tons of information can be kept here securely, depending on the encryption you use.
Additionally I keep an unencrypted text file on it with contact info for the honest individual to return it to me should I lose it.
- Spare house key kept in wallet – this is what you need as a backup when you lose your keys and all the goodies you now have on your key ring. So it is a good idea to keep at least one of those grocery or pharmacy customer appreciation barcode tags on your key ring in the hopes of getting them back from another honest individual.
- Rubber bands – keep a few on your wrist. This is another thing that drives my wife nuts. But how often I use them to fix, bind or secure things for her. A Para-cord bracelet is not a bad idea for the other wrist since we don’t need watches anymore because most people have cell phones.
- Safety pins - again it can be on your key fob. There are tons of emergency uses for these. Including quickly fixing your clothes and perhaps preventing a wardrobe malfunction ;-)
- ID (Passport if outside country) again in your wallet. This is self-explanatory. (The only thing in this country you don't need ID for is to vote - go figure.)
- Floss (Glide in a tiny, flat dispenser). Did you ever have something between your teeth driving you nuts? It can also be used as string to fix, repair, and secure things. A tiny sewing kit from the hotel is also not a bad idea.
- Food (candy and/or energy bar) a few mints, hard candies, chocolate, or a granola bar. This can help take the edge off a physically and mentally challenging situation.
- Bandana – a hundred and one uses. Trauma bandage, tourniquet, A wind/dust mask, Soaked in water to use as a neckband to keep cool, Pre-filter water, Headband, For magic tricks, Blow a nose, Clean glasses, As a sling (with the safety pins), Wrap a sprained ankle or wrist, To secure a splint on a broken arm or leg, Wrap around snow or ice for an ice pack or to wipe a tear. And the list goes on. You can use it in a restroom as a washcloth and towel to freshen up – perhaps making you feel better in a difficult situation. Again, sometimes all it takes is a few moments of simple comfort to feel human again and provide the strength to go on and forge ahead.
- Medical info (allergies, med history, med list, doctor's name and number, etc…)
This again is self-explanatory.
- A bottle of water – water is life! Don’t discard the bottle – you can always refill it from a faucet, water fountain or water cooler. I prefer this over the concept of a condom in your sock as a water carrier. Although there is nothing wrong about having a few condoms along – just make sure it is not expired, dry rotted of damaged from being in your wallet forever, regardless of what you are using it for.
- Recent family photos for ID purposes. God forbid your family member is lost, separated from you or just missing. A recent picture in your wallet could speak volumes. Whenever my family and I go on a trip, before we leave the house, I take a picture of the wife and kids with my phone. So when you are panicking because they are missing, you may not remember what color shirt, pants and jacket they were wearing. Additionally with the technology today you can text that picture to law enforcement in an instant.
This list can go on and on. Some may say I have missed items, they may feel the list should be 30, 40, or even 50. Please make your own list with the adjustments you feel are appropriate. And it will most likely be adjusted each day, sometimes more than once a day. I am not getting a man-bag, or an everyday carry bag, I’d end up losing it – so I keep the stuff in my pockets. I guess it’s a guy thing. This may be the beginning of a justification for an everyday carry bag . But, like I say that can be left and/or lost especially in a panic, or stressful situation. What about clothes? Unless you’re living in your swim trunks you got pants with pockets, cargos have even more pockets, and most ladies have a purse with this and more. Weather appropriate clothes is obvious including hat and rain gear. The better we are prepared in the short term the better we can get ahead on the long term. Being prepared should bring about a certain sense of calm and comfort. If we prepare for life’s little hiccups, daily problems, major events and total catastrophes we will know in our hearts that we did what we could, and try not to agonize over the should of, could of, would of, and leave the rest in the Good Lord’s Hands.
For some, this may be the start of more serious prepping. But it is a mindset that comes over years, it is a part of situational awareness and flexibility. Be resourceful with what you have at your disposal to fix a situation. When you fix a kid's toy with a rubber band or help you wife’s wardrobe issue with the safety pin, or comfort someone’s grief by offering your clean bandana it will help you build your confidence for perhaps more troubling times ahead. I hope this is found to be informative and helpful, and perhaps inspires and starts some on the road to preparedness. The more people that are prepared the better it will be for all!