Bug Out Bag (BOB) Urban Survival
A bug out bag for each family member and a PLAN is needed whether you evacuate (hurricane, flood or fire) or shelter in place (snow storm or electrical outage).
A bug out bag for each family member makes good sense.
Why? As we’ve learned, natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, fires and flooding can hit at any time anywhere in the world with little or no warning.
Halloween 2013 flood waters broke records when Onion Creek in Austin, Texas rose 11 feet in just 15 minutes. Over 600 families were displaced. Winter 2014: Buffalo, NY suffered 7 feet of snow and then flooding, and again in 2015, we have suffered terrible flooding in Texas in places such as Blanco, Austin, Wimberley, and Houston.
Technological Disasters such as black-outs are always a possibility, as well as pandemics (disease outbreak such as the Ebola virus), biological threats, and terrorist attacks.
An urban survivor faces unique challenges:
Cities are impossible to evacuate quickly and safely during large scale disasters. We have all seen the movies. Unfortunately, the way the highways are depicted in the movies is realistic. Mass exodus will leave roads impassible. Overcrowding and chaos make it almost impossible to connect with family and friends, especially if our cell phone service goes out.
Hopefully, you will be able to stay in your home after a disaster. Keep in mind that large numbers of people will deplete their available resources in a matter of hours. Most people don’t have food and water stored in their homes. Sewers, trash services, and sanitation become major concerns. Rioting, looting, and armed violence will sky-rocket.
The short-term survival of you and your family during any type of disaster will depend primarily on having a plan, avoiding injury, conserving energy, and having a source of water.
No matter where you live, maintaining a bug out bag (BOB) makes sense. Some type of natural disaster is possible anywhere, not just in Tornado Alley or hurricane country. A bug out bag isn't used only when evacuating. It's just as useful if you are able to stay in your home.
One example of why you need your bug out bags packed and ready in your front hallway is the fast-moving wildfire in Northern California in October 2014 that forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.
Many areas are likely to experience earthquakes, hurricanes, or tornadoes. Some may suffer ice storms or flooding, and drought-prone areas are susceptible to wildfire. All these natural disasters will likely be accompanied by a temporary loss of services.
Help protect yourself and your loved ones by packing a bug out bag (BOB) for every member of your family, including your pets.
Everyone will find something helpful in this article about bug out bags and preparedness in general. I am slanting this toward a family's needs, because there are already hundreds of articles on the internet that speak about guns and knives and ammunition, para-military gear and how to survive in the wilderness in case of a disaster. Many of those articles are comprehensive and quite helpful and I encourage you to do a search for “disaster preparedness,” “bug out bag,” and “go bag.”
Being responsible for the safety of children, pets, handicapped persons and elderly persons changes everything.
Most men that I know are already well prepared in terms of guns and ammo, but there are many other issues that must be addressed. Women and men who are faced with protecting and caring for children and pets as well as themselves need all the information they can find to help them do this.
There are many circumstances that might cause you to either leave your home (bug out) or stay in your home (shelter in place).
Out-of-control wildfires were all around us here in central Texas in 2011, in Bastrop, Steiner Ranch, and Spicewood. We could stand on our deck and see the fires burning. We packed a bag for each of us and kept them in the front hall in case we had to suddenly evacuate. I packed a bag for our dog, with some water, dog food, bowls, leash and harness, and I kept the portable crate in the front hall.
You may never need to rely on your bug out bags. I hope you don’t. But if you prepare one, and you never use it, you won’t lose any money by being prepared. You can use almost every thing in a bug out bag in your everyday life.
Bug out bags are personal to the person preparing them, and geared to location and circumstance. Some might be needed in the desert and others in the mountains, and some in the winter and others in the summer. For that reason, I would prefer to build my own instead of ordering one already packed.
When planning your bug out bags, consider weight, and select the items with the lightest weight while still performing the function. Your backpack, sleeping bag, and shelter make up the majority of your pack weight.
Some people have a destination to "bug out" to. Other people have no idea where they might go if they are forced to leave their home.
There are many people who think that preppers are "odd." They think it's laughable or foolish to be prepared. They may be in for a rude awakening. Other people think they will prepare a bug out bag "someday." They may think that preparing a stockpile to be ready for a disaster is something they can put off.
Most people are not prepared, and they don’t save money. After a disaster strikes, they rush to the grocery store and strip the shelves of bottled water, flashlights, and canned food. That's a good reason for you to prepare ahead of time.
You do not want to join the chaos, trying to gather up food and water. You want to be a step ahead of the chaos.
You do not want to be herded into a FEMA camp and you want to make sure that your family has water to drink and won't go hungry.
I recently re-read "The War of the Worlds" and this quote stood out (just after the Martians landed and the humans began to panic): " . . . this was no disciplined march; it was a stampede . . . without order and without a goal, six million people, unarmed and unprovisioned, driving headlong." Can you imagine being a part of such a nightmare?
Keep in mind that gas stations may run out of gas or start to ration it. After Katrina, the price of gas went up 300%. Keep your gas tanks full. Never let your gas tanks drop below half a tank. Keep your cell phones and other gadgets charged. Keep as much cash on hand as possible. ATM machines may stop working during a disaster.
Don’t keep your cash in one place. Spread it out among the adults in the family and keep some in your bag, some in your shoe, and some in your pocket.
Women, wear your purse with the strap across your chest, not over one shoulder where it is easy for someone to grab. If you have to evacuate your home, dress in drab, loose clothes and comfortable shoes. Do not draw attention by wearing bright colors or tight clothes or shorts. I say this because you must protect yourself from becoming a target if you are in a situation where there is no law and order.
There is a “grey man” concept that applies to both men and women if you are out among others where there is chaos. According to the Urban Dictionary, a grey man is “A man who can blend in to any scene or situation without standing out, hiding his skills and qualities.” Men and women both, you don’t want to appear overly military, heavily-armed, or expensively equipped. You should prefer to pass by unnoticed.
The backpacks I used were left over from previous school years. I also found a small backpack at a Goodwill thrift store, still new with tags.
I filled the backpacks with items from the list below, a few at a time. Every six months or so, I unpack all of them and rotate out food, water, and anything else that has an expiration date. Until I started doing this, I didn’t even realize that items like toothpaste and eye drops had expiration dates.
If you are able to stay in your home, the electricity or running water may go out and not come back on for days. I lived through a major earthquake in Alaska where we had to evacuate our homes, and the place where we sheltered had no utility services for almost two weeks. Imagine it: Thirty or more women and children, some babies, packed into a small mobile home; no refrigeration, no heat, no cook stove, and no bathroom facilities that worked.
I tuck away containers of tap water under the kitchen and bathroom sinks to use in case the electricity goes off. Sometimes, when one utility goes off, other things quit working as well. It’s all tied together. For instance, we are on a well. If the electricity goes off, we won’t have running water, because the pump that pumps the water to the surface is electric. Our stove top uses propane, but the igniter for the burners is electric.
The milk we buy comes in heavy-duty plastic containers with screw on lids. When one is emptied, I wash it well and then fill with tap water, label it, and put it in the cabinet under the sink of each bathroom along with several others. If you no longer have running water in your house, you can still flush the toilets as long as you have water to pour into the toilet tank. Eventually the septic system will fail, since the pump won't be working, but we are talking short-term here.
Please don't assume that you can't prepare for a disaster because you don’t have any extra money. Yes, you can. Just start now, and do what you can.
Start with buying just one case of bottled water. Then, buy just one extra jar of peanut butter next time you get paid. Next time, buy a couple of foil packets of tuna. Every time you grocery shop, add just one or two small extra items for your bug out bag: a pack of batteries, a packet of mixed nuts, etc. When you buy a 6-pack or 12-pack of toilet tissue, allocate one of the rolls to your backpack.
Shop at Goodwill. Look for suitable clothing. You can research online and then find the same items at Goodwill for a fraction of the cost. The new backpack that I found at Goodwill cost less than $5. Goodwill usually has lots of small candles for sale, many still in the original packaging. I found a brand-new Colman Pack-Away Personal Size lantern with four 4D batteries included there for almost nothing.
Extra socks and underwear are much more important than changes of clothing. Pants and vests with pockets are desirable because you can distribute the weight of items and not have it all concentrated on your back. Durable, light-weight comfortable boots are probably going to work better for you than sneakers, and sneakers are better than sandals.
Go through all your stuff and sell some of it on Craigslist or eBay. Many communities have a Swap page on Facebook where members post stuff for sale. Use the money to help fund your bug out bag.
I have read these comments in discussion forums many times, "I don't have room to store any extra provisions." "I live in an apartment," or "we don't have a basement" and most of all, "I don't have the money to become a prepper."
Research ways to get creative and make room to store at least some extra provisions. I read somewhere that a college girl in a small dorm room stacked cases of shrink-wrapped bottled water 3 high and 2 wide, covered them with a cloth, put a square of plywood on top, and called it her nightstand. Brilliant. Buy bins that slide under your bed and fill them with food and water. Use the floor of your closet for storage bins and stack your shoes on top of them.
Important: A Plan. Come up with a "Bug Out" plan for the whole family. If disaster strikes and the kids are at school and you’re at work and there’s no cell phone service, where would the family meet? What is the policy if there is reason to evacuate the schools? Do the children ride the bus home as usual? What about the children who are not bus riders? Does the school allow them to walk home, or keep them there to wait for their parents to pick them up? Make sure they understand what the plan is.
If you are at work, should you carry a small "get home" bag? Would you keep it in your office, or perhaps in your car? If the family is separated when a disaster happens, will your plan be to first try to meet at home? And if your home no longer exists due to flood or earthquake, then should you all try to meet at the children's school? A relative's home?
What if the roads are blocked, which alternate way will you travel and what is your destination?
If you don't have an ideal destination, such as a remote cabin on an acreage with its own water source, you still must come up with a plan. If you have to evacuate, don't just get on the highway along with hundreds of thousands of other people and sit there until you run out of gas.
While I don't obsess over our bug out bags, I periodically rethink them and repack and learn new ways of doing things. If you have to leave your home, it is important to use common sense when preparing your bags. Distribute the weight and constantly re-evaluate. There are formulas out there on the internet for determining how much your backpack should weigh. IF you are in excellent condition, I believe that carrying 25% of your body weight OR LESS is a good formula. For most people, a bug out bag should probably have a limit of around 20 pounds.
Since you want to be prepared in case of a disaster, now is a good time to consider toning up, getting in shape, and losing weight. That's another reason why bug out bags are personal to the person who will carry them. Allowances must be made for age, health limitations, and so on. The person who is the strongest will carry the most weight, while at the same time, it is important to distribute items so that each person has access to necessary items if members of the group become separated from each other.
A little practice, like a trial run, might be a good idea. The family could go on a hike, each carrying a backpack and wearing the shoes they would most likely wear in case of an evacuation. Is someone's backpack too heavy? Does one of their shoes rub a blister? Imagine cooking outdoors on a makeshift grill. This will help you to refine your list. For example, you need to include some cooking oil in your backpack.
If you are interested in gaining some knowledge about surviving in the wild, watch survival shows on the Discovery Channel. Fascinating.
Do your research now, before anything happens. Test any equipment you have on hand in case of power outages, and learn how to use it. For example, there is more than one way to hook up a generator to your home. In your search engine, type in "Hook up generator to home," and do the research. This can be dangerous if not done properly. There are codes to follow to prevent injury and fire.
An awesome survival vehicle is the Mercedes-Benz Hunter X6. Since most of us can't afford a custom-built escape vehicle like this, we need to work with what we've got and keep our cars in good shape and make sure we have a good spare tire and plenty of gas.
Below is our list of items for our bug out bags, some I have already accumulated and some I have yet to acquire, or may never be able to afford. For example, I wish we had a generator, but we probably won’t get one.
Some are “must-haves” and some would be nice to have. Pack your bug out bags with items that you would need if you had to leave your home, and keep the rest in your pantry, in a closet, in your trunk, or in a sealed new garbage can on wheels in your garage or shed. Pack a bag for each child and space out the heavy stuff like bottled water among all the bags.
Include multiples and alternates of "must-have" items such as fire starters. Pack a BIC lighter, matches, and some other type of fire starter. Pack more than one flashlight and knife.
Clearly, I don’t plan to pack all this and lug it around in backpacks.
I have tried to make a comprehensive list that you can add to and subtract from. If we had to leave our home on foot, a lot of it would be left behind. If we were able to leave in the van, some of it would be packed in the van. And if we were able to “shelter in place,” it would all be helpful to have on hand. Just don't forget to rotate the items back into your daily lives and replace with fresher "use by" dates.
Before winter, plan for alternate sources of heat. Make sure your heater, such as a portable propane heater, is approved for indoor use. Buy extra propane tanks. Buy thermal underwear and clothing suitable for skiing. Stock up on food, water, flashlights, batteries, and candles. Consider oil lamps and don't forget lamp oil and extra wicks. Before summer, pack sunscreen, insect repellant, and change out warm clothes for lightweight clothing.
Unfortunately, most of us don't have the financial resources of the few who are able to hunker down in survival condos like the ones in Kansas. The Raven Ridge Survival Condos are in a converted nuclear ballistic silo and cost around two million dollars each. The concrete is 9 feet thick and the condos can withstand a nuclear shock wave, an asteroid hit, chemical warfare, and disease. These are long-term state of the art survival units with windows that are actually HD monitors, spas, modern kitchens, and a top notch facility security including a 25,000 volt security fence. Oh, and they are sold out. So the rest of us need to concentrate on our bug out bags!
Items for our Bug Out Bags
- Aluminum foil
- Antibiotic cream
- Anti-diarrhea medicine
- Baby food
- Baby formula
- Baby wipes
- Baggies (Zip Lock bags, freezer bags are best)
- Baking soda
- Band-Aids plus antibiotic
- 9 volt battery* and fine steel wool for starting fires -- see safety note below!!
- Beans, dried (heirloom preferred)
- Bounce laundry sheets (repel bugs)
- Bowls, small Corelle-type
- Can opener, both Swing-Away manual and punch
- Cans of beans
- Cans of fruit
- Cans of tomatoes
- Carrier for pet
- Cat food
- Charcoal – lighter fluid
- Coleman lantern, fuel, mantles
- Cotton balls
- Clothing, change of clothing for each person, appropriate to the season
- Including extra underwear and socks
- Dental floss
- Diapers for baby
- Dog food
- Dryer lint for kindling
- Eye drops
- Feminine napkins
- Fishing lures and fish hooks
- Fire starters
- Garbage bags
- Gas containers
- Gloves, mittens
- Graham crackers
- Ground sheet
- Hand pumps, siphons
- Harness and leash for dog
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Insulated ice chests
- Liquid detergent (blue Dawn)
- Mirror, signal
- Mosquito repellent
- Nail clippers
- Nail file
- Nuts – large quantity
- Paper plates, cups, forks
- Paper towels
- Peanut Butter – several jars
- Pepper spray
- Percy medicine for stomach ache
- Plastic garbage can on wheels for storing in shed or garage
- Pots and pans, small
- Prescription medicines
- Rod and reel telescoping combo
- Rubbing alcohol
- Sanitary supplies
- Shovel, folding (from REI, made in USA)
- Sleeping bags
- Steel wool, fine
- Sunscreen spray
- Toilet tissue
- Tooth brushes
- Toys (small, light weight, one for each child)
- Tuna in foil packets
- Vegetable oil or olive oil for cooking
- Vitamins, Multi- and B-1
- Water containers, hard-clear-plastic
- Water purification tablets
- Water filters (Lifestraw, Sawyer Mini Filter)
- Wood stove
Envision you and your family walking, sleeping, eating, and drinking.
For walking, everyone needs good comfortable boots or tennis shoes and socks. Extra pairs of socks and underwear are much more important than changes of clothes.
For sleeping outdoors, you will need a ground cover, blankets, tarp or tent. The ground cover and sleeping bag are more important than a shelter overhead.
For eating, pack food that is lightweight, easy to prepare, and nutritious. Having water is much more important for short-term survival than food.
For drinking: Water is the most vital thing to have, yet the heaviest to carry, so distribute the water among everyone's backpacks.
Use old children’s backpacks and distribute the weight among all the family.
Store items in shed, house, and van. Small rolling garbage can in the shed, backpacks in front hallway and duffle bag in the van.
* Never let two 9 volt batteries touch! Never allow the posts on a 9 volt battery to touch any other metal. This can start a house fire. I keep them stored in their original pack. If they have already been removed from the original packaging, then cover the posts with electrical tape. Do not carry them in your pocket. They could rub against car keys or other metal. Do not store them loose in a junk drawer or in a bin in the garage.
To use a 9 volt battery to start fire: Have kindling ready, rub the posts of the battery against fine steel wool, and you will have instant fire.
Added 1/30/14 -- just HAD to come back in here and add this amazing tidbit. Saw it on Facebook. An incredible easy way to heat a room in your home if you have a power outage (or to heat a greenhouse or garage overnight to keep plants from freezing). For each heater, you will need:
One bread pan (meatloaf pan), two bricks, a grate (like from a toaster oven), four UNSCENTED tea light candles, two UNGLAZED clay flower pots, one smaller than the other, and a nickel. Here's how to set this up:
Here's an interesting little side note.
The five-star Vivos Europa One shelter, in the German village of Rothenstein, boasts swimming pools, theaters, gyms, restaurants, custom apartments and its own helicopter service. It can withstand a nuclear blast, chemical agents, earthquakes, tsunamis - and virtually any other disaster or attack. It is a planned survival complex valued at around $1.1 billion. Each family in the complex will have a private 2,500-square-foot apartment, access to a hospital area, several restaurants and a bakery. Other common area amenities will include roadways, a wine cellar, prayer rooms, classrooms, a television station and a detention center.
In addition to its catastrophe-proof features, the bunker will include a stock of zoological species, an artifact and treasure archive and a DNA vault. In the event of a disaster, families will fly to nearby airports before lockdown. They will then be transferred to Vivos Europa One by Vivos helicopters. The shelter, which was originally built by the Soviets in the Cold War as a fortress for military gear, is currently in 'turnkey operational condition'. It is among a network of underground survival shelters - including 'economy class' bunkers - being built by Vivos, which is based in California.