Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

Should I stay or should I go? Those were the words in some weird song from the 80's or 90's (it's all a blur anymore). The question is a serious one, however, when you consider your options in an emergency. Should you stand your ground or should you "bug out"? Already, in early 2009, people in areas affected by major flooding had to assess their situation and answer that question. What happens next is a matter of preparation, expectation, and whatever Mother Nature has in mind.

In the Pacific Northwest area (Puget Sound Region), the ratio of chances of needing to "bug out" vs staying put are 1:1. I shall use my circumstances as an example. I live in the shadow of Mt Rainier, and it is no coincidence that I am also on the leading edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire. I also live within 10 miles of two major military installations: Fort Lewis and McCord Air Force Base. I also live within 30 miles of Bremerton, where there is a Naval Base. We also have sub pens at Bangor, which isn't much farther than that. Aside from geological and military infrastructure, we also have Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Olympia; major shipping ports for goods coming from overseas. This is also a sensitive area because terrorists always have the possibility of dropping things such as dirty bombs right on our doorstep.

When I put together a survival kit/bug-out-bag (BOB for short), I had to identify what threats I am preparing to survive. I put a lot of thought into what I might run into. Following Captain Dave's model of what to prepare for, I identified a few questions that needed to be answered before a kit was assembled. After all, it would do me no good to pack N100 masks if a dirty bomb was blown up just two miles from my house. On the other hand, having a gun doesn't help me if a volcanic eruption spews poisonous gas over us all and kills us. What would I do? Shoot the ash as it falls down around me?

In the interest of preparation, I modeled my research based on what I found online. Hey, there is no sense in making it up yourself if you can use online resources. That's the beauty of the Internet. After pouring over my regional situation, I identified 5 major problems that would mostly likely occur; these are the dangers I need to prepare for the most. Note: these are the events that would be most likely, but not necessarily be the events that will occur. There may also be variables that I did not think of, but I believe that preparing for these 5 higher risk probabilities leave me in pretty fair shape to asses and survive just about anything. My survival list includes 5 major sections that are addressed individually and augment each section after it.

First on my list: What Do I Prepare For?

1. What natural disasters or extreme conditions are my family and I likely to face in the next five years?

a. Earthquake
b. Volcanic Eruption/Lahar
c. Power Outage (large scale)
d. Fire
e. Flooding

In addition to these 5 disasters, I also identified other situations that I could face in my lifetime:

2. What other disasters or emergency situations might I face?

a. Civil Disorder (increased crime)/riots/political uprising
b. Economic Crisis (can follows natural disasters)
c. Terrorism
d. War
e. Tsunami

Now that I've identified disasters/emergencies, I needed to identify the ramifications of each event: (I have included the top three for example)

3. What are the ramifications of each item on my list?

Potential Disaster: Earthquake


Infrastructure Destruction (roads/bridges/railways/Buildings)
Travel impediment
Supply line cut
Business shut down
Looting/Civil unrest

Potential Disaster: Volcanic Eruption/Lahar


Ash disbursement over wide area
Air Quality compromised
Power outage
Travel impediment

Potential Disaster: Power Outage (Large Scale)


Utilities non-functional
Perishable food spoilage
Civil unrest

While flooding is something that the State of Washington has dealt with a great deal of in recent weeks, and is number 5 on my list, it's number 5 for a reason; it is the least likely of the 5 disasters to affect me. I live on top of a hill; I have for many years. If I was still living in the Puyallup/Orting Valley (in the shadow and destructive path of Mt Rainier), then it would likely be number 1, with a Lahar coming in a very close second. But I was prepared for that when I bought my house (and also with the houses I rented in the past). I took that into consideration. It could still flood up here in Tacoma, but my house is also about 4 feet higher than street level, so it would need to flood 4 feet up here before it got to my house. While possible, that likelihood is highly improbable.

The second part is your home. It's where you live, and in all logical likeliness, it is where you will make your stand in most survival situations. Consider: You do not necessarily abandon your home in a power outage, and that's number 3 on my list. You do not necessarily abandon your home after an earthquake (unless it's been destroyed), and it's number 1 on my list. In reality, traffic will be so bogged down that "bugging out" will be all but useless. You'll waste precious fuel and in the end, you won't get far. Plus, you will be separated from your own personal infrastructure and family. I have a generator at home with enough fuel on hand (gas cans and vehicle fuel tanks) to last weeks. I have enough food at home to last months, and Western Washington has no shortage of fresh water to purify and drink (it's raining now as I type). I also have all my guns here, ammo, cleaning supplies, vehicles, clothing, boots, blankets, and a working furnace that will supply heat as long as gas lines and electricity work. Having a b.o.b. is no good if you do not have a headquarters, so to speak.

Now, onto number three on my list: Vehicles. Your survival in a desperate situation depends on your ability to be flexible. And flexibility is all about mobility. Between us (my wife and I), we have three vehicles at our disposal. Each has different capabilities and allows us to maximize survival efficiency in a situation. If the power goes out, and I need to resupply my stock of candles or kerosene, a four wheel drive isn't always necessary. The roads aren't destroyed, and traffic is there whether I drive the Ramcharger or not. Added to that, the first 24 hours of a major power outage don't often necessitate driving over curbs and through people's yards. My wife's Saturn Ion is plenty vehicle for this situation. It is fuel efficient, so as to not rob my generator's supply as much as my Ramcharger would. Now, let's say the roads are biffed, and offroad capability is mandated. I think you get the idea here.

Now to number 4: Supplies and Kits. This is anything and everything you think you will need to survive the catastrophes that you would likely see in your area. The supplies you carry are highly personalized to each situation and cannot be stretched too much into another area. But there are your basics: food, water, gear, and protection/procurement. Of course, you need food and water to survive, and I keep enough on hand to be comfortable while in a situation. Keeping variety is necessary to keep moral up (as moral is just as important as your gear). I have a shitload of tools that I can use at home (I'm a mechanic, remember?). So stocking up on wrenches and stuff is not necessary for me. But it may be for you. You need to be self-sufficient and fixing stuff might be necessary. I also have camping gear and various items on hand to protect against different threats: masks for volcanic gases, first aid kits for wounds, water purification to make it potable, candles, lamps, batteries for power outages, knives and multitools for on-the-go problems, toilet paper (don't forget the TP!), fuel for generators and cooking/heating, etc. Now, many of these items are in various places. I've identified what would stay and what would go. To that, I keep a small toolbox in my Ramcharger with some of my more basic (and necessary) tools. Lindsay and I also have what I call "go boxes". If I need to suddenly "GO", I already have everything I may need in a few lockable boxes that I can quickly get into the Ramcharger (or truck) and we can "GO"! Things like camping gear are in these boxes. I have batteries, flashlights, some food, etc that goes into them. Basically, we take our "go boxes" camping because camping is essentially what we'd be doing if we had to leave suddenly. This way, we also go through our stock and keep it updated regularly. If guns need to "GO" with us suddenly, I know where they are. The gun cases are close by, and I know exactly which ones to bring and which ones to keep in the safe, where they would hopefully be safe from looters. If the safe is bolted down to the concrete floor, the handle removed, and the battery taken out, it should keep looters at bay - note the keyword here:should. You take a big risk leaving your house and you should only do it if your chances of survival out on the road far outweigh your chances of survival if you stay home; and it should not be considered lightly.

The last and fifth section of my survival plan is just that: a plan. Do we stay? Do we go? Where do we go? How do we get there? Where do we assemble? Do we have a cache of supplies elsewhere? AHHH! Didn't think of that? Neither did I until I read Captain Dave's Survival Guide. I haven't had the resources to do so, but I plan on getting some of my family together on a storage unit about 100 miles away and storing up some supplies, ammo, and possibly a weapon or two there. That way we can assemble somewhere plausibly safe and equip there. It would add greatly to the "bug out bag" or "go boxes", or whatever you call it. I call it "cache augmentation". Yeah, it sounds big and that's the idea; it is big. Basically, you cannot survive without a plan, so plan and plan. Practice. Drive to your rallying point to see how long it takes. Drive there during rush hour and get a better idea of how long it will really take. Drive there during Thanksgiving weekend and you will have a new respect for how far you can get on a tank of fuel. It took me 2 and a half hours to drive just 30 miles on Wednesday night before Thanksgiving weekend. Yeah, I worked overtime and was on the road at 4:30 PM and got home at 8 PM.

So, here it is: The short version:

1. Identify
2. Prepare your home
3. Prepare your Vehicle(s)
4. Assemble your Kit
5. Make a Plan


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