Get Home Plans: When Disaster Strikes Away from Home by Rob Richardson:
When planning for disasters, one of the most overlooked areas is often what happens in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Even more problematic – especially if you’re not ready to deal with it – is what happens when you find yourself away from home when disaster strikes. Since a majority of us spend so much time away from our homes, having a get home plan is an extremely important part of the preparedness puzzle.
“Every survival kit should include a sense of humour”
I resent having to carry a first aid kit. I have never used anything from my first aid kit and, when it comes to packing it, a reckless little devil on my shoulder whispers to ‘leave it at home’ and ‘save the weight’. I don’t listen and (albeit begrudgingly) stuff the kit into my bag.
Personal Survival Kits (PSK) and first-aid kits have a couple of things in common – 1) hopefully you won’t have to use them and 2) if you make either kit too small they become practically useless: a first aid kit consisting of a couple of band aids isn’t really a first aid kit…it’s just a couple of band aids (UL trekkers take note!).
However, PSKs have an almost universal appeal – the idea that everything you need to survive can be packed into an Altoids tin is a satisfying one (although the reality may be far less satisfying).
As I get older I find myself getting lazier and less tolerant of carrying around stuff I don’t use. I certainly don’t want to duplicate items and have, for example, a PSK with a lighter/firesteel/purifying tabs/whistle etc in a tin when I have the very same items in my pack. In truth, if you can guarantee that you will never be separated from your main pack (or lose your parang) the PSK concept becomes redundant as your main pack and parang are in themselves a PSK.
So this begs the question, how likely is it that I should end up lost in the jungle either without my pack or separated from it? My view, in the jungle at least, is that this is an unlikely scenario but far from being impossible. Anyone who has been ‘turned around’ in the jungle will know only too well how easy it is to get disorientated if you’re distracted and not paying attention.
I see newbies always looking for a laundry list of gadgets to pack in the BOB/GHB. IMHO that is the wrong way to think about it. You should build your own from scratch and in the process you'll learn something.
First you have to define the mission. For me the mission is to get home from work whatever distance I am unable to drive. Worst case scenario is 50 miles in August. Other people's worst case scenario would be different. The GHB is going to be different in Montana than in Florida than in SoCal. No reason the bag can't evolve, the summer bag will be different than the winter bag. Bag for a family is different from a bag for a 70 year old. Of course everyone thinks in terms of what a young athletic male fresh out of the Marine Corp would want and that is silly - and vain.
If you are serious about this get out there and hike a day in the summer sun or winter cold or rain. You will know after that exactly what you'll need. If you aren't serious, don't make the post.
Having defined the mission you define the requirements. To cover 50 miles in August on foot I will need certain essentials. That's 2 days of walking, fortunately no big hills en route. From my own experience I know I'll need 2 gallons of water, rock bottom minimum and more would be better. I can carry some with me and identify reliable sources and be prepared to treat it. From experience I know what kind of food and how much I'll need. There'll be no hunting or scavenging as that would just slow me down. I also know I'll be doing a lot of night hiking and sleeping during the day. This doesn't match my current biorhythm so I might need some concentrated caffeine to keep awake. From 10-4 in the day the heat could easily be in the triple digits and there isn't a heck of a lot of shade. So I will have to either bring shade with me or identify reliable shade that is off the track.
The big obstacle in getting home is time, not distance. I've identified and driven alternate routes to maximize the utility of whatever vehicle I have. I will stick with the car as my #1 option right until the tank is almost empty. Climate control, communication, fuel, physical protection, stocks of food and water and tools. Cutting my hike by even just a few miles save a lot of hoof time and you won't know how far you can get until you try. By cutting across some farmer's field you might just be able to pass a bottleneck. I'll leave the vehicle in as safe and out of the way location as practical as I intend to come back for it.
Another way to shorten the transit time is a second stage vehicle. Bicycle is good and cuts transit time to one day. Even a little motorized scooter would be useful. (Unfortunately my car is small enough there is no good place to permanently store such a thing. Still looking for an easy way to implement this. Theft is not an option.) Biking uses different muscles than hiking while a motorized scooter does not require much fitness, something else to think about.
Last step is to mentally game out the trip home. You are wearing your regular work clothes. Are they suitable for your bug home environment? What kind of emergency are you dealing with? What physical hazards are there along the way? How do you determine which of your alternate routes you'll take? Where might bottlenecks occur? Bad neighborhoods to avoid? How can you contact anyone at home and communicate your situation? What kinds of injuries are most likely on a long hike with a pack on your selected routes? When might it be better to shelter in place until the smoke clears or possibly head to an alternate location?
Answer these questions and you won't need to have someone spoon feed you a prepared list. You'll make your own list, know exactly what is in it, why it is there and when to use it. And probably be just as irritated as I am when some newbie posts (without having put any thought into it), "What should I have in my BOB/GHB?"
Last Edit: Apr 29, 2014 15:31:16 GMT -5 by TMcArthur
"Getting Home" is not the same thing as wilderness survival. You won't be starting a fire on a sidewalk, or pitching a tarp on the side of the highway, most likely. In the immediate aftermath of something requiring you to leave your place of business, traffic is gonna suck, but there's still enough coherent LE attitude to get in the way of people playing "survivor" on the roadside. That's where you have to be clever, and the most clever thing I can think of is a mode of transportation that doesn't require the clearing of gridlock. Stashing a cheap bike at work, even if you don't ride it every day (my routes to work, for instance, are simply not bike-friendly on a normal day) but if all the cars are jammed up, a bicycle could easily get you 50 miles in a day, even if you're not in peak fitness.
I generally ride a motorcycle, so I cheat and combine the best of both worlds, having something Interstate-legal, and capable of unorthodox routes as well. I chose a dual-sport, and keep knobby tires on it, not because they're best for the majority of riding I do (flat pavement) but because every now and then, there's a soggy median that needs to be crossed, or a hill climbed, that road tires just won't perform on. I got bogged down once in my own yard, after a good rain, with street tires. Being off-road capable is a choice I make, and it works for me here around DC.
For those thinking about moving on foot, in an urban environment, the needs are different. As was mentioned, water, good footgear (and an extra change of socks), a snack, a filter, light rain gear, and cash to buy a ride, or buy a nap somewhere safe and sheltered... those are the priorities that can get you home safe and sound when everyone's freaking out. Stealth camping skills help, but that's not a standard tarp pitch with a campfire. If you're holing up in a backyard or hedge row, "hobo camping" skills come in really well. Cold camp, low impact, vegetated area with broken sight lines, and access to drinkable water can make a difficult journey smooth.
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