Emergencies come in all forms and can happen at any time. Many people have a single type of emergency in mind when they think of a home emergency. For some, it may be a home fire, a gas leak, or maybe a natural disaster like a tornado. For others, it may be civil unrest. For some, it may be something as severe as direct assault of your home from a malicious outside human force. Are these things likely? Not particularly. Can they happen? Yes. All of these things can happen at any time, with little to no warning. What will you do when they do? Will you be ready to go at a moment’s notice? Will you be prepared? The world is an unpredictable place. A simple online search will return millions of articles relating to various forms of disaster, from home invasion, to natural weather disasters, to disease epidemics which, time and time again, flood the world with fear of a mass pandemic. These things happen all the time. If you aren’t aware of the frequency of horrible events the world over, you are simply ignorant and you have been ignoring the world around you. Now, I’m not saying something terrible will happen to you. I’m not even saying that it’s likely. I don’t claim the world to be a terrible place, but you need to realize that terrible things do happen and you must be prepared if they do. So many people agree with the saying, “Better safe than sorry,” but don’t seem to see how it applies to emergency preparedness.
Many disaster events may necessitate the evacuation of your home, and even the region, on very short notice. Many disaster relief organizations say that it may take up to 72 hours (three days) to reach affected people in a disaster situation. This indicates that you should have the ability to get out of the house with three days of complete supplies for every member of your family and you should be able to do it in mere seconds. Could you do that right now? How long do you think it would take to gather all the food, water, food preparation tools, hygiene items, clothing, medication, and more needed for 72 hours of survival, all in one or two bags that could be carried on foot? I think it would probably take me well over an hour to track down all those things in my house, and if there was already an emergency happening I would likely forget many necessities. Enter the Bug-Out-Bag…
A Bug-Out-Bag is a generic name for a some form of (preferably able to be carried on foot) bag or container which is pre-prepared with all the supplies you and your family would need to survive for 72 hours. The Bug-Out-Bag (BOB) is the ultimate in preparedness for any situation. Everyone has their own opinion on how the BOB should be set up. Personally I believe that my philosophy is the most tactically sound and it is shared by a number of experts and survivalists. I believe in having one large duffel bag, which can be worn on your back, as the primary BOB. This bag should contain all of your bare necessities for your family to SURVIVE. There should be no luxury items in the base BOB, as they add too much weight to what will be a very heavy bag already. You can then have as many subsequent bags as you wish, containing comfort and convenience items. The idea is that you put all the bags in one place and number them. Bag 1 is your BOB. It is the bag you take if you need to bug out on foot and have no time for anything else. If you are able to bug out in a vehicle the subsequent bags come into play. They should be numbered Bag 2, Bag 3, etc. You load your bags into the vehicle starting with Bag 1 until you’ve loaded them all or run out of time.
Lets paint a scene for you. It’s 2am and you’re asleep. You suddenly wake up but you’re not sure what woke you. You look around in the dark, mildly confused, and then you hear a sound. ‘CRACK-CRACK….CRACK-CRACK-CRACK’. Gunfire? You live in a safe neighborhood miles from the city. Why would there be gunfire? Must just be kids setting off firecrackers. A minute later you’ve lain back down but you’re wide awake with that nagging feeling that the sounds you’re hearing are not firecrackers. Then you hear sirens and your heart begins racing. Those are gunshots! You wake your family quickly and go to the TV. You turn on the news channel but all there is, is an emergency broadcast message stating that there is mass rioting happening across the region. You can’t imagine why this could have happened. There were no signs it was coming, but here is the message on your TV screen. It states that you should stay inside and lock your doors. You know better. If the riot – slowly getting louder – reaches your neighborhood, you know a simple lock is not going to protect you from looters. You decide to bug out. You run downstairs and tell your family to get in the car. You grab Bag 1 and load it in the car in a place where you could quickly get it out if you had to continue on foot. You run back in the house and grab Bag 2 and Bag 3. When you bring them to the car, the gunfire has gotten louder and you can tell you’re running out of time. You lock the doors and get in the car, leaving Bags 4 and 5. They were just warmer blankets and some small electrical appliances for if you find a place to stay. You don’t need them. You leave, scared and confused. You don’t know where you’re going to go because your friends’ houses will be unsafe too. It’s alright though because you have the Bug-Out-Bag and the supplies you need. Even if you’re going to be living in the car until the unrest is controlled.
This is somewhat of a worst case scenario. Many a time, you may be able to go stay somewhere else if the disaster was isolated to your house. Even if this happens, you may need the food or some of the other items in your BOB. If you are forced to flee to a motel and stores are shut down due to a state of emergency, you may not be able to buy food. That’s ok because you have three-or-more days of it on hand. The BOB is meant to cover all the bases, regardless of how unlikely the need. It should contain everything you would need if you were to need to break contact with society all-together. It should ideally also contain a few items that will help you replenish your supplies when you reach 72 hours (if help hasn’t arrived). If you are forced to flee on foot to the woods for safety (referred to by experts as a “head for the hills” scenario), you should have basic weapons or trapping tools to catch small game, as well as fire-making utensils, and iodine or filtration for rendering water you scavenge biologically safe.
So… What does Bag 1 contain? Start with the basics. Food and water. There should be 3000 calories worth of food per person per day. “But I only need 2000 calories per day,” you say. Try hiking for the better part of three straight days with a giant duffel on your back and then tell me that; This is worst case scenario preparedness. All foods should have indefinite or near-indefinite shelf lives so you don’t need to change out supplies. Canned soup is a great option. It keeps for years, decades, or more, contains a lot of water, and can be eaten unheated if you don’t have ready access to fire. For water, you need to have a gallon of water per person per day. Again, if you’re having to be active you will need all of it in order to stay hydrated. Another thing to keep in mind is that if you have a pet, you should also be packing for them as you will likely take them with you.
After food and water, you should look to medication. If you take any prescription medication, you’ll need a week supply of it, since even if you’re relieved within three days, you may not be able to return home. Maintaining this could be tricky as medication does not have an indefinite shelf life. You should have a medium-sized first aid kit, including bandages, sterile wipes, basic medications, etc. It’s best to assemble your own, but you can purchase good pre-packed kits at stores like REI. With medication sorted, you need to turn to shelter. Even if you’re able to sleep in a car or building, you will likely need blankets. Two Mylar emergency blankets per person is a good idea, as these can also be used in building a shelter. You should also have one warm, but light blanket per person. You should pack at least one good sized tarp for building shelters and at least 500ft of para cord. A small tent is also a good idea if space permits. If the tent doesn’t fit in Bag 1, definitely put it in Bag 2.
Fire starting tools are essential, as you may need heat or may need to resort to cooking hunted game. One of your fire starting tools may be a consumable like waterproof matches, but one must be reusable, like a flint and magnesium block.
Positive ID is essential in case you need to cross borders or military checkpoints in a state of emergency. Your BOB is a good place to store your passports when not traveling and copies of birth certificates are a good idea.
Be sure to pack a minimum of one pair of clothes per person. Jeans are fairly durable, making them a good choice for pants. A few pairs of socks are needed to prevent having wet feet, leading to foot fungus and trenchfoot. Shirts should be cotton, or another non-synthetic material, and a wool fleece is a good idea for everyone as they still insulate when wet.
One very important BOB item set that many people take for granted is expert survival guides. Even most avid outdoorsmen do not have such a complete knowledge of true survival that they could do it with minimal supplies and no guide. You need a detailed first aid quick reference for injuries and medical emergencies and you should have guides covering all forms of survival, including animal trapping and shelter building. With the combination of these guides and your Bag 1 contents, you should have little trouble surviving for 72 hours.
Next there are a number of miscellaneous items that you would want in your survival kit. This list can be rather long and I will not detail all of it. It would involve things like duct tape, ziplock bags, trash bags for wet clothes, etc.
The final item that should be in your BOB, but may require licensing you don’t have, is one or more firearms. Lets face it… in a situation where you need to get out of your home or the region in a hurry, there are likely to be some people looking to capitalize on the chaos and discord. You need to be able to defend yourself. There are many schools of thought on what firearms should be contained in your BOB and it is a hotly debated topic amongst the well prepared.
Personally, I would tend to pack three weapons. I would pack some form of assault-type rifle for personal defense in a situation where it is imminent that you will need to defend yourself. While many guides state that this rifle should have at least 1000 rounds packed for it, I think that is far too much weight. I would recommend more like 500, with at least 200 rounds pre-loaded into magazines. The second weapon would be a semi-automatic .22cal rifle. This can be used for personal defense if need be, but is very useful for game hunting. It also works as a spare weapon in the event that your assault rifle fails or you need to hand a second defense weapon to a family member. The advantage of going with a .22cal rifle is that the rifle itself will be smaller in size and the ammunition is light weight, small, and cheap. Pack 1000+ rounds. The last weapon is your primary defense weapon when you aren’t facing imminent danger. Pack a defense pistol. This is totally a matter of personal preference, as everyone prefers various pistols in various calibers. If you are licensed to do so, I suggest the pistol be carried in a holster on your person. This way even if you are separated from your BOB, you will be armed and able to defend yourself. If it were me, I would wear my pistol on my person even if I wasn’t licensed to, in the event of an extreme emergency. Such situations can necessitate bending the law for the sake of safety. I don’t advocate this or suggest anyone break any laws. I for one would rather run into legal trouble than the bullet from an aggressor’s gun. I would never practice this during normal life, but in an extreme emergency, things are different. [Legal Disclaimer: I have never done this and do not make any guarantee that I would do such a thing at any time]. In terms of the specific pistol, I’m partial to the Glock 23. It’s compact but has a 15-round magazine. It is chambered in .40cal, which has a great deal of stopping power, while allowing for greater penetration and magazine capacity than with a .45.
The thing to keep in mind is that the BOB is a worst case scenario preparedness strategy. It doesn’t matter how unlikely any of the above is. If it happens and you’re unprepared, you and your family may very well not survive the crisis.