Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Michael Wilhelm. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.
WHY I PREP
My interest in prepping started nearly 20 years ago as a volunteer firefighter. During heavy snow and rain storms, the area my station serviced could become isolated from the rest of the district for days. This was mainly due to downed trees and power lines, flooded roads or heavy snowfall that made the roads impassable.
During these events, electrical power and phone service for the area could be out for days, we were basically on our own. As the station officer it was my responsibility to provide emergency service to the surrounding community, knowing that there would be no backup support. If someone was injured, got sick or if a house caught fire I was the person everyone was looking to, to take charge of the situation and provide not only the first response but likely the only response. So I had to have my station geared up and my firefighters trained up to do it all.
To ensure the station could support my crew. I had food, water, and extra fuel stored at the station. I had the district install a heavy-duty military grade generator that was large enough to provide more than enough power for the entire station.
It was in prepping the station that got me thinking about how well I was prepared for a prolonged emergency as home. I remember during an earthquake drill, discussing with my crew how the area could be cut off from the rest of the world for weeks. My station was geared up, but what about our homes? How would our families survive?
Originally my prepping efforts centered around the gear needed to respond to an earthquake, “the Big One”. I bought a generator, purchased extra canned goods, flashlights, batteries, and up scaled my personal trauma kit.
As a volunteer firefighter I had a “regular job” that had nearly an hour commute. The long commute to work got me to thinking about what would I do if the quake happened while I was at work. How would I get home? If I had to walk how long would it take? What route would I take? If it was to take more than a day did I have the necessary gear in my car to make such a trek?
So I put together an emergency car kit for each of our vehicles. At first it was just some beef jerky, an old pair of pants and a tee-shirt and a bottle of water in small day pack. Over the years I have refined my emergency car kit to support a two-day walk during the winter (worst case scenario).
Additionally, in considering the lack of warning that comes with an earthquake I started to become more aware of my everyday surroundings. Imagine you’re at the mall or in a school or at the movies, or in a downtown high-rise. Suddenly the place started to shake and before its done shaking, all the lights go out and you find yourself in darkness with a bunch of frightened people. And all you have to help you to survive is what you have in your pockets.
Again this got me to thinking about what I could carry on my person that would help increase my odds of survival, short of a backpack full of survival gear.
So I thought about what tools I could carry in my pocket that would help my chances of immediate survival. Here’s what I came up with:
- Flashlight – It not only can help you see in the dark. It can also be used signal for help.
- Knife – A cutting edge is a basic survival tool dating back to went people lived in caves. You may have to cut your seat-belt!
- Lighter – The ability to make fire is another basic survival tool. It can provide warmth and comfort and also a means of signaling for help.
- First Aid – I carry a small packed size first aid kit. You never know when you or someone you’re with will get a cut.
As with my emergency car kits this to has evolved. Today I don’t leave the house without the following:
- Flint & steel fire starter
- BIC Lighter
- Small Multi-tool
- Emergency blanket
- Military chemical fire starter
- Small LED flashlight
- Couple of Wet-Ones hand cleaners
- $5 in quarters
- 2) Antibacterial hand wipes
- Pepto-Bismol tablets
- Several different size bandages
- A piece of mole skin
- Tylenol extra strength tablets
- Sterile wipe
- Aleve tables
- Carmex lip balm
- Tube of Neosporin (Now you know why I always wear cargo pants)
This may look like a lot to carry around, and at times it is a pain. But after carrying these items in two pocket organizers for over 10 years I feel naked and vulnerable without them. These items go with me anytime I leave home. I also carry a 1911 Colt .45ACP Combat Commander and 14 rounds of ammo, my reasoning is…I would rather carry a gun and never need it than need one and not have it. For me a gun is just a tool that has a specified purpose that there is little or no substitute for.
When my daughter was a little kid I put an “Ouch-Pouch” and a flashlight in her school backpack. One day the power went out at her elementary school and she was the only person with a flashlight. So she got the job of escorting classmates to the restroom. To this day (she’s now 26) she still cares a flashlight along with a knife, a means to make a fire and an ouch-pouch.
To “be prepared” means that you not only have the tools and supplies at hand to help you survive but you also have the knowledge and skills that will aid in your survival. I my option everyone should learn how to start and maintain a fire without matches, should take a first aid class, and how to tie at lease 5 knots
So what are emergency kits and how are they different from survival gear? Damn good question. Below is my definition of both.
We have two types of kits, home and car, both are geared up with items focused on what we would need after a major earthquake.
- Emergency Car Kit: Our car kits are packed with items that you would need if we had to walk for two days in the snow to get home. We purchased military style patrol packs and filled them with items like water, food, a change of clothes, matches and fire starter, a first aid kit, a poncho, emergency blanket. Each of our Emergency Car Kits contains over 50 items.
- Emergency Home Kit: Basically an emergency home kit contains enough food, water and medical supplies to keep you and your family safe and feed for a minimum of 3 days (72 hours). Depending on the size of your family this could be a kit the size of the medium day pack or as big as a full size backpack.
Over time our emergency home kit has morphed into survival gear. We have amassed enough food, water and supplies to support Janice and I for 6 month period at our home in Mukilteo and enough to support are needs for a year in Ocean Shores. Not counting food, our survival gear at Mukilteo consists of over 250 items. Not counting food our survival gear at Ocean Shores consists of over 5000 items. If you think about what you would need for your family to survive a year without the means to be resupplied it’s a lot of stuff.
Survival gear priorities are based on the “prepper” mantra of Bullet, Bandages & Beans (The Three B’s).
- Bullets: Meaning security, the ability to defend yourself and protect your family and resources. Having all the gear in the whole won’t save you if you’re not able or willing to keep it from being taken. So firearms and ammo are the common solution for protection. The general rule on firearms is that you need two basic types, a rifle and a hand gun. The rifle is for making contact at a distance. The hand gun is for when things get up close and personal.
- Bandages: Meaning anything to do with protecting your health. We have both first aid and medical kits. Our first aid gear is a system based on a model used by the army. The first aid you carry is only used for when you are injured. You do not use your first aid kit on others, everyone carries their own. Our medical supplies are more geared for treatment. We have meds, suture kits, trauma dressing, and the means to perform minor surgery and to treat broken bones.
- Beans: Meaning food and anything that has to do with preparing food. The challenge with food is to making sure that don’t spoil before you need it. We have elected to purchase prepackaged survival food buckets. In general each bucket has enough food to provide one adult 2000 calories a day for 30 days. The buckets are vacuum sealed and have a 25 year shelf life. For the most part to prepare the food only requires heat and water. Additionally we have an ample supply of canned goods.
One of the most important aspect of having emergency kits and survival gear is to make sure the stuff is ready when you need it. Buying a bunch a food and survival stuff and putting it in contained and shoving it on shelf in your garage and forgetting about it is just a false sense of security. On a regular basic you need to inspect, resupply and upgrade your kits and gear. I do this annually. In March around my birthday, I go through all the car emergency kits. I cycle out the water, check food for expiration dates, upgrade or add new gear, and check batteries for signs of corrosion. The car kits I put together 10 years ago are gone. Over the years I have upgraded all the gear to include the packs and clothing. In September, around 9/11, I inspect our survival gear and both locations. Given the amount of gear we have this that’s the better part of a weekend, at each home but the peace of mind is well worth it.
The secret to being prepared is to be proactive. It like anything in life you only get out of it, what you put into it.
Besides having the gear and knowledge needed to survive, more importantly you need to develop a Family Emergency Plan (FEP). There are several sites and the internet that can help you with this developing a plan. Our plan is very detailed and I review it with the family at least once a year. Developing a FEP is a great exercise in discovering how prepared you and your family is for an emergency.
The bottom-line, if you’re not prepared you can’t help yourself nor can you help your family.