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How to bug out when SHTF (and what to grab)

Disasters can happen at any time.  If an event forced you to evacuate your home with only a few minutes to get out the door, would you know what to grab to put into your vehicle?

At the time this article was written, we’ve just faced multiple fires here in Southern California like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Ventura which are getting hit hard with fires forcing many individuals to evacuate.  Even recently we had a fire spring up just 5 miles from our home which has fortunately been contained.  While my plan A is to shelter in place during a catastrophe, you may not have that choice and be required to bug out.  Could you evacuate your home within 10 minutes with everything you would need to survive?

In this article we’ll discuss the following:

  • Creating a checklist
    • Important documents and items to have organized and ready to go
  • Water
  • Food
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Mobility
    • Aka bug out bag
  • Security
  • Power source
  • On the ready
  • Pets
  • What to do when leaving your home

Before we get into the details of this article, let me stress that ultimately the key in a situation like this is to keep as calm as possible and to think clearly.  By following the steps I detail in this article, you’ll be in an excellent position.  Also remember, you can replace “stuff” at any time, but keeping you and your family alive is your top priority.

So let’s start with discussing what you’ll want in your checklist.  You can obviously change the checklist to match your specific requirements, but think of this as a framework:

  • Checklist
    • Documents
      • Now the items I’ll list here are things you can put in a folder or scan and put onto a USB thumb drive or even upload to cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox.  Just be to sure to encrypt the files before storing them in the cloud in the event they fall into the wrong hands.
      • Here are the items you’ll want to have prepared:
        • The deed to your house
        • Insurance documents like home, vehicle, and life insurance.
        • Vehicle titles
        • Marriage certificate
        • A list of personal contacts printed on paper both locally and out of state
        • Family ID information:
          • Current photos of each family member.  And while discussing photos, make sure any sentimental photos are scanned and backed up as well.
          • Fingerprints from each family member
          • Birth certificates
          • Passports
          • Medical records
          • Social security cards
          • Veterinary records for your animals you take with you
      • Kids
        • For your kids make sure they have a printed list of phone numbers to call with the names of individuals and family members both in and out of state they can call in the event you get split up.  It’s a good idea to put critical information on a piece of paper you laminate or put in a ziplock bag for them.
        • Notebook/IPad
        • Books
        • Games
        • Small toys
        • Coloring books/paper pens
        • Snacks, sweets
    • Here are additional items you’ll want to have ready and also on a checklist of things to grab and probably a good idea as well to document where you typically keep these items:
      • Your driver’s license along with your wallet
      • Firearms
      • Food
      • Water
      • Bug out Bags
      • Backup power source
      • Phone chargers
      • Medications
        • Medicine ______________
        • Medicine ______________
        • Medicine ______________
      • And a medical handbook.  Personally, I keep a copy of the Survival Medicine handbook which I’ll provide a link to in the description below.
  • Water
    • For water, you’ll want to take 1 gallon per person per day.  Ideally, you have at least 3 days worth of water at a minimum.  Obviously, this can add up quickly for a family of 4, but if you get stranded, it will be good to have this at the ready to go.  I personally store water in 5-gallon containers in my hallway closet next to our garage so I can grab them in the event we have to head out.
  • Food
    • For food, I like having freeze-dried food on hand.  It’s easy to store and only needs hot water to prepare it.  Some people prefer MRE’s to have ready for emergencies.  Honestly, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy but instead just something that is easy to prepare, store and transport.  It’s also nice to add comfort foods especially if you have children.
  • Miscellaneous items
    • Box with camping gear on the ready
      • Stove
      • Small propane tanks
      • Utensils / plates / cups
      • Small tent
    • You might want to consider other pieces of gear to bring as long as you have the room in your vehicle.  Having storage bins in your garage that you can quickly grab with items important for you will be very important to already have set up and organized.
  • Be sure to have a go bag, aka bug out bag for each family member.
    • My primary plan of bugging out involves traveling in my vehicle, but in the event we’re forced to walk, having these bags ready will be critical.  Bug out bags contain essential supplies for survival.  I’ll walk you through very quickly some of the highlights of what you’ll want in your bag at a minimum.  There are so many ways you can set these up and I’ll provide a few links if you’d like to check out my particular setup for me and my family.  Again, the goal of these bags is to have a simple way to have items for survival on the ready to grab and walk out your door.
      • Water storage
        • I have a couple of bladders in my bag
      • Food
      • First-aid kit
      • Matches or lighter
      • Garbage bags, plastic ties
      • Small stove
      • Eating and cooking utensils
      • Rain gear
      • Work gloves
      • Dust mask
      • Duct tape
      • Paracord
      • Whistle
      • Hand crank radio
      • Water filter
      • Soap
      • Toiletries (toilet paper, toothbrush, toothpaste, feminine hygiene products)
      • Cash & Credit Cards
      • Change of clothes and socks
      • Multi-tool
      • Tarp
      • Map
        • Identify several places you could go in an emergency such as a friend’s home in another town or a motel. Choose destinations in different directions so that you have options during an emergency.
      • Walkie-talkies
      • Firearm (show with few extra mags)
    • Next to the bag:
      • Clothes
      • Boots
        • Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and a hat.
      • Sleeping bags/blankets
  • Security
    • It’s up to you as to what you want to grab.  Having your firearms along with ammunition at the ready to toss into a case and then into your vehicle will be a smart idea.  Depending on the level of the disaster, security for you and your family during a time of chaos may be a reality you’ll have to face.  Remember that your state laws are still in effect in regards to how you travel with your firearm.
  • Power source
    • Having a way to power your electronics like phones or other electrical devices will be important.  There’s a lot of small-scale solar and hand-crank generators currently on the market which is great for on-demand power.  I personally took things a big step forward and picked up a Kodiak solar generator which is lightweight and portable providing me with power as long as I have the sun.  I’ll post a link in the description section if you’d like to learn more about my setup and you can also click on the link in the cards that will show here.
  • On the ready
    • Car
      • Never let your car’s gas tanks go below ½ full.
        • If an evacuation seems likely, be sure to fill up your tanks ASAP.  As a general rule, I always keep my vehicles with no less than a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages.
      • Make sure you have a portable emergency kit in the car.
    • Many of the items that we discussed in this articles should be in a place where you can quickly grab them and go.  If after reach this article you realize you’ve got stuff spaced all over your home, now might be a good time to organize these items near or in your garage so you can quickly grab them and go.  I have a hall closet next to my garage where I store a lot of items and other items are kept in the atrage on the ready.
  • Pets   
    • Animals sense tension and can be easily affected by the disaster in a number of ways. Keep in mind when pets are properly evacuated the stress level is decreased.
    • You’ll want to make sure they’re micro-chipped and have I.D. collars.
    • It’s a good idea to create 72 hour pet grab-and-go kits that include leashes, medications, meal bowls, and three days worth of food.
    • Having a properly sized kennel will be helpful to have.
    • It’s not a bad idea to keep a list of phone numbers to animal hospitals in your area.  Also having proof of animal ownership is critical if your animal is not chipped or has no identification.
  • What to do when leaving your home
    • Call or email the out-of-state contact family member your communications plan. Tell them where you are going.  Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
    • Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding.
      • Be sure to know your utility shutoffs. Learn now how to safely shut off your electricity, water, and gas.
    • Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
    • Be sure to check with neighbors who may need a ride, especially the elderly.
    • Before returning home, be sure to remain evacuated until further notice by authorities.  Return safely after your property has been deemed stable to enter by officials.

While there’s a lot that was covered in this article, having a plan in place and knowing what to do if you’re forced out of your home during a time of crisis, you’ll be in a much better position to be able to protect you, your family and valuable assets.  Remember: “If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail”.  Leave no room for complacency as your best form of action is to stay prepared and ready.

As always, be safe out there.

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