05 August 2009

Survival - Phase 4 - Leaving Home

If we follow James Burke's idea in Connections that, without power, an elevator is a metal box with buttons on the inside of it, then your home is the largest container of your stuff that you can't carry with you.  It is so large that you can sleep in it, raise a family in it and, generally, be protected from the elements and wilds of nature within it so as to not have to be constantly on guard against the vicissitudes of weather and wild animals.  Either rent or own, there is no place like home, and only in the modern era can one actually be a tramp and continue a high tech lifestyle with low tech necessities.  That lifestyle is totally dependent upon 'the grid' which is that matrix of systems far beyond power that keep modern civilization going: clean water, sewage treatment, road maintenance, bridge maintenance, the electrical system, gas mains, and so on.  This grid reaches far further than electricity and deeply into modern society, to the point where it is not maintained as we assume it will always be there for us.  As we reach the maximum design capacity limits of these systems, however, we find them failing and lack the political will to keep them up.  Thus even as the last few miles of the interstate highway system are now being built, other sections, mere decades old, are being ripped up and out and replaced by new road going over the same place the old one went because the old one had crumbled in place.  As we pile 'nice' services on government and eat up the maintenance budget for necessary public infrastructure, that infrastructure becomes weakened, brittle and frail over time.  Now that it does fail in many places, fingers are pointed at political rivals and that ignores the fact that in the two party system, BOTH parties have been at fault from the local level on up to the National.

This frail system has many weak points and is also liable to catastrophic failure at all levels from the local, to the regional, to the State level, to the multi-State level and even to the National level and beyond to interconnected Nation State entities.  A sewage main failure can only get to some neighborhoods and be a purely 'local' crisis effecting mere thousands of people.  A polluted water system from biological or chemical hazards can effect an entire metropolitan region.  One substation in the power grid having a relay that kicks in when too much power comes through that line will then do what it is supposed to do and shunt the load to other lines... which then fail, in turn... and the entire northeastern seaboard of the US and Canada is thrown into darkness.  An earthquake in the New Madrid Fault Zone will destroy not only buildings, but bridges along the Mississippi, sink or disable or beach barges and watercraft, possibly cause earthen dams to give way, destroy railroad bridges and yards, cause ground subsidence at airports making them useless, take out all water and sewage systems, break up the electrical grid, destroy main natural gas and other critical pipelines along and crossing the region, and displace millions from homes in an event that will take months to see the ground finally stop shaking... and that is without the dis/appearance of lakes, shifting the course of the Mississippi river, causing sand-blows that look like sand volcanoes, and open up giant cracks in the ground where none were before... that will take months to end and millions will be displaced from St. Charles, MO all the way down to Memphis, TN depending on the epicenter location(s).

That last is horrific, no?

The electrical grid will be broken up by it, and possibly damaged far beyond the immediate zone with shunted loads racing in all directions from the region back into other regions unprepared for it.  The northeastern US and Canada may face a winter without natural gas, or even gasoline and diesel fuel as the major off-loading ports tend to be further south and on the other side of the NMFZ.  That is one of the Top 5 events that is certain to visit North America in the future, and out of my Top 5 list we have only partially prepared for #5.  If our government cannot prepare beyond a moderately regional happening which is just worse, in scale not type, from what has been seen before in that region, then what does that say about the Nation as a whole?

FEMA is a joke: multiple hurricanes in FL and the NOLA event demonstrated that.  It hasn't even gotten the barest concept that the NMFZ is far deeper and harder to cope with than ordinary earthquakes as it encompasses multiple high level quakes, thousands of aftershocks of normally felt and disruptive magnitude, and a host of issues reported the LAST time it went.

No one will 'rescue' you in any except, if you are damned lucky, a few places in #5.  Even there a magnitude 9 earthquake lasting over a minute in the San Francisco basin and, possibly, Los Angeles, is nothing that California can now cope with.

On top of those events the sun could burp for a few days and charge our upper atmosphere causing ground currents on more than just a local level, as was seen a few years ago in Quebec.  If that event had been just a bit larger and longer, to last a day or two, failing electrical systems would be a global phenomena... and still not be a major event for our sun.  Just a poorly aimed and timed one, and odds are they have happened before when we didn't have electrical systems to worry about.

Leaving home, or 'Bugging Out', is something that must be addressed by everyone who takes their survival seriously.  Any of these events could happen in a moment.  Some would last only for 90 seconds and be over, leaving ruined infrastructure around it.  Others could last for minutes, or hours, or days, or months.  The top of my list isn't survivable as it is decades long in its effects and requires something a lot more than 'bugging out' or even basic survival skills and is a very humbling thing to think about when examining what we currently 'do' via government and what we can and should prepare for.  It doesn't matter if you get a short reprieve and have to leave, or even a long one: when the time to leave is apparent and you must leave then you must have the 'basics' prepared to go.

In previous parts of this I have looked at You, Your Vehicle, and Home: in each case the basic and fundamentals of what you need to survive for even a short period of time must be prepared for, which means you do it now when the doing is good and you are willing to think about it.  Each stage must have its survival components in it, and your home is the greatest of all of these as it is the container for most of your worldly goods... your 'home' at this point is your last resort, major place you will live that you have prepared for survival in an emergency.  It may be your actual home, a cabin, a motorhome (saving that if electrical systems have been fried it must be an OLD motorhome, pre-computerized) or the place that you have otherwise scouted out, prepared and made ready for a day when you will need it the most and you can and WILL get to it.  If a disaster strikes that takes out your home or makes you unable to get its, say by washing it away as a massive tsunami along the eastern seaboard of North America, then you are stuck with what you have on you and, if you are lucky, your vehicle.

What needs to be covered is that your staged retreat during disaster has gotten you home, or finds you at home, or has happened and home now becomes unlivable and you MUST leave.  That might be the decision of 10 seconds or 6 hours or more.  The 10 second one is the easiest: you remember what you packed for your vehicle and have a subset of that as a second set of purchases for yourself, removing those items that you only need for your vehicle.  Plus whatever is on your person.  But even that decision can be better prepared for than a standard 'Bug Out Bag'.

At this very lowest end of time frames you can and should prepare for multi-season survival.  A few emergency blankets and such are 'core' items and absolutely necessary in all contingencies.

So is water, which is a gallon per person per day.

Medicinal goods to cover your a wide range of problems, and should include things like Quickclot bandages for deeper wound types.

Your medical needs should be in that contingency as you may not be able to get to your medications.  This can be a horror with some medications that are deeply expensive and prohibitive to get on a pre-buy basis.  That is something that each individual must deal with as there is no catch-all to determine what is best for each circumstance, save that 'some' is better than 'none' in the way of critical medications that will not allow you to survive for a few days without them.

Food in the way of USCG/SOLAS emergency bars.

A change of underwear or three, depending on needs.

Emergency shelter, like a simple emergency tent with rope and stakes.

All of this packs into a very small space, save the water, on a per-person basis.

Core functions are those which keep you immediately alive in a given situation so you can start leaving home with them.

After that comes the idea that what you need will vary on season and expected near-term weather, and you will not be able to take an entire wardrobe with you.  And if you don't live alone, you now have the rest of your loved ones to think about.  Thus the 'lone wolf' can easily deal with their needs, but children and those not present at the leaving time must be considered.

Before you do any of this, make sure everyone who you are preparing for has the NEXT staging point in the leaving known and in mind.  This is the place you will all get together if at all physically possible and be prepared to wait for at least a day or two for others to arrive.  This can be a park, an empty field, a mall parking lot, an abandoned structure or facility... any place that everyone will know, know how to get to and will be some distance away from home.  It is the place where the next major decisions must be made if everyone is not present and accounted for when leaving home.  The less inhabited the better, and the more open the better, also for security reasons, but having access to concealment and shelter if possible.

With your core needs addressed per person, next comes the wardrobe and longer term items.

Here the concept is that you do NOT want JUST a central large carryall pack.


You have to take it off and open it to get rid of things or put things into it.  That said you can HAVE a central pack as the destination point for many things and the military large ALICE pack is near perfect for this.  The system is not complex and easy to understand and requires smaller sub-load units.  These units are of uniform size, large enough to carry a number of small items or one-two small bulky ones, and have pre-existing straps/loops or other method to string them together.  Basically they will take one change of clothing per person per season.

These bags/sacks/pouches will ALSO take your medications, per person, plus small first aid supplies, per person.

Filled canteen or water bottle per person can be separate or attached or in a pouch but must have strap/loops or other way to be strung together.

Any item or part of survival you can think of that you will need for more than a few days MUST fit in that standardized container size or be pre-packed even if you don't need it at all times of the year.

Each container will have a loop of wire or rope or other item to string them together run through it and tied off with a name tag on each loop clearly visible.

Items per person to deal with each season will have a different color tag and their name on them.

In an emergency with time enough for an orderly leaving, each person can quickly, and easily, grab up their items with a single pass of their hand and carry them out.  If they have their own packs, then that is fine as a travel packing on the go.  If not it gets swept into the larger pack that is open and waiting for them, probably in a storage closet or other nearby place, but coat closet is near ideal for this.

Anyone who isn't there gets their stuff put into the pack by the last person who is the pack carrier.

You leave.

This system allows for separate packs to be tightly packed into a carrier for off-loading the main pack as you travel: each person gets their named material which includes the smaller pack.  When you are done all central survival needs are in the main pack along with that person's particular needs, possibly stored in the outer pockets.

You know have a complete kit of packs, storage pouches, and all necessary survival gear, per person, so that each person has the ability to look after themselves if they get separated from the group.  Plus if you got nice, connectable braided wire to do the fastening, you now have everything from a white-out rope to hold on to during blizzards to a quick to put up drying line for wet items.

Anyone who cannot make the main rallying point requires a decision by those who do get there.  If your group has had some pre-planned final destinations in mind, then taking the missing person's equipment may be a good idea.  If not, or if you have a range of options, then concealing that equipment with which point you did decide upon left with it or nearby is the other way to go.  Or breaking their equipment up and distributing it if worse comes to worse.

It is obvious that a single bag for a single person is best, but perhaps not a good, overall, way to address a 'Bug Out' when it is more than one or two people.  A modular system allows quick, visual identification of what to do: color coding the visible end loops to equipment strings then allows for core and necessary climate and weather to all be picked up at one go... and the rest is left.

If you stick to a shirtsleeve environment core pack of clothes, then augmenting that requires only one single pack per season, and as fall and spring tend to have similar climates, you are down to core, spring/fall, winter... summer requires such things as taking off clothes along with insect repellant.

There are a million and one solutions as to what to pack, how to pack it and what to take with you.

A modular system to be swept into a large pack means that you get the benefits of massive carry load AND individual carry loads and better, overall survival for then adapting to your environment.  Individual small pouches/sacks/carryalls serve a variety of uses from temporary water transference items, even if they leak badly, to berry picking bags, to fish storage bags... to the million and one things humans use storage capacity for.  Empty capacity can be FILLED with vital goods.  Packed to the brim storage means you must LEAVE something behind if you want to pack MORE.

Once every individual has what they can carry, there should always be excess carry space left, per person.


None of this is particularly costly unless you have to bring it all together quickly.  I am doing so and it is costly, to say the least, but then I am doing the suite from vehicle to home to leaving home all at the same time.  The concept that I ran across on various military surplus (and industrial surplus, office surplus, etc.) sites is that you can get multiples of just about anything at a reduced cost.  As you are NOT buying for fashion, NOT buying for good looks, and ARE buying for reliability and ruggedness, the idea of pre-used means that you can see how the wear of use has impacted various goods.  I have seen large ALICE packs, sans frame but with shoulder straps, at 2 for $20.  Small packs that were once gasmask bags go for $2@ for 5 at a time.  Ditto canteens, containers, rain ponchos, tents... often at lower cost than their 'emergency' counterparts although not fitting as tightly.  There are a few companies that, I believe, manufacture ONLY to surplus directly, thus removing marketing overhead and reducing cost and increasing throughput.

The lingo of the sites is not hard to pick up:

New - Newly made.

NOS - New Old Stock, meaning it was made years ago and is still in original packaging or unpacked but went unused.

Used - Someone has used it, usually a military organization and it is either being replaced due to wear, changes in stock for that military, or it has reached its military EOL (End Of Lifecycle) and so its maintenance cost, to them, is higher than buying new.

Antique - Really old stuff, used.  But some times just really old NOS.

Repro - Reproduction off of original pattern, made new with modern materials often at old specification.

Vintage - Old style, newly made.

Retro - Looks like an old style, but is a new style on new material.

Mil-Spec Equivalent - Newly made, passes quick visual inspection when assembled, probably not when your Sergeant gets to you, however, for a detailed inspection.

Excess - Usually a form of NOS or Used that has been sitting in a warehouse for decades, available by the pallet load, WYSIWYG.



They invented the term 'Bug Out' and have been doing this since the invention of the first company of soldiers needed to utilize the same sorts of goods at the same time, and that makes the ability of military goods to survive multiple 'Bug Out's under combat conditions a prime requisite for consideration.  The military has made the entire process of leaving, re-arranging on the fly, moving, temporarily laagering, counting noses, deciding on a new course, and setting up again a fine art.  Roman soldiers would actually dig and make NEW a full, temporary ditch fortification with spike palisade before they had dinner. And then break the place up when they left so no one else could use it again when they left.  As the modern military invented modular systems to keep everything together, you get the bonus of their knowledge for free by getting the equipment and can double bonus it with thinking in a modular way.  Also, having one day a week to get everyone together to pack one change of cold weather gear allows everyone to decide what they have and will not miss sitting on a shelf and may reveal some items of pure essential need that are now missing or worn out.

Also the stuff is cheap.  Yes you can and probably will spend a decent amount to get your home ready, but no more than 2-3% of the cost of your home, most likely, and probably far less than that.  My needs and expectations go up as I have observed, first hand in the wilderness, what the necessities are and made the list of 'what the hell you really need if you do something damned stupid' up some time ago.  Buying emergency lighting (candle and other lanterns, plus flashlights), a securable storage place for the vehicle, the small but ever so handy items with which to augment one's survival capacity (wire saw, e-tool, collapsible saw, flares, flare gun, etc.) means the entire soup-to-nuts of water to waste and food must be gone over completely.  All for things that may just sit on a shelf for years and never be used.

Which means it either gets passed on as an 'heirloom' or the next person will find it at a rummage sale as damned nice stuff just barely used... don't mind that some of what you got started out life prior to WWII.  Or in the 1890's.  It works, right?  I mean you ARE depending on it to save your life, it had BETTER work, now, hadn't it?

There are some pitfalls of buying MILSURP, particularly in things like gas cans, where a few Nations (France to be particular) made a similar looking to NATO jerrycan, but it has a wider, raised mouth to which no one on the planet makes a spout for it... not anymore, at any rate, and the old ones are gone.  Also you get some pretty battered stuff, like small packs that have one arm loop detached or has more than a cosmetic rip to it.  Glad you got a sewing kit, huh?  Also you have your choices in color between Olive Drab (OD), Forest Green, and more varieties of Camo from 3 color desert to Flecktarn to ACU to MARPAT to snow camo which isn't just white.  When you mix'n'match and buy the lowest you can get, you get a strange and often disconcerting melange of colors and patterns.  With camo spray paint you can re-do it all with a new base coat and new over coats... mind you a lot of those are temporary.  If you love the history of camo, then you can be a walking museum AND well protected.  The final problem, such as it is, is that the synergy between components can often be lost between multiple modular systems.  The old style ALICE clip is still venerable and extremely useful, but we now have MOLLE clips, MALICE clips, PALS clips, and on and on as various manufacturers try to do something 'new' and yet relatively different while staying cross-compatible if they can.  I've had the experience of finding 'helpful' clips from niche manufacturers that were unlike all of the above and damned near useless.

On a personal note I also choose systems I have used before.

I have had the experience of Duluth packs in my youth, and they were capacious!  I could fit a full medium ALICE pack on my front and have a Duluth pack and a canoe and hike ten miles with that load.  I appreciated the ALICE system, even in my youth, as it allowed me to segregate equipment via pockets, pouches, loops and keep wet away from dry.  That elder Duluth pack allowed me to carry more, but as a jumble that wasn't easy to segregate.  The next time I went out, it was with a full ALICE pack to carry my load and that of two younger kids (most of their stuff fit in the pockets which they loved as they could get to it on the fly).  That early appreciation for early post-Nam ALICE packs stuck with me.  I like the overall modularity of the MOLLE system, especially for tactical loads: it is truly a wonder.  The difference between long tactical and short, but permanent 'Bug Out' is vast, however and the equipment needs likewise vast.  I can rig up a large Eberlestock all-gun case to the side of an ALICE pack to carry more than one firearm...and all my long-term survival needs plus that of my loved ones in an ALICE pack.  As I'm the one with the strong back, that is essential.  I could find a full, large ALICE pack with frame for under $30, new... I have problems touching  small size MOLLE system at that price. 

Starting from scratch I go with what I know and rig up the rest.  As my old geology survival gear got stolen some years back, and I was working at a desk job, my needs varied and I stuck with Buffalo survival which depends on your ability to do for yourself.  Getting hit by an illness then made changing plans impossible as I could not even do simple long-term pre-preparation due to lack of stamina and energy.  Recovering just some and now more with newer medication allows me to start afresh, with only a few odds and ends from my old kit left: an old utility pistol belt, an old compression sack (just used still not that damaged), pocket knives, and the remains of an old first aid kit.  I do have a new sleeping bag that I got for at-home emergencies, plus my old Buffalo bag that really needs to go as its pretty much falling apart...that meant new bags for the car and instead of expensive and lightweight I went MILSURP and cheap, and got compression sacks for them.  Buying damned near everything, even matches, means a large purchase overhead over the past few months as I am addressing things I couldn't really do for years... after my old gear went away and I did spare survival packing for metropolitan work.

From that I worked outwards from my known carry capacity and my preferred system, but changed how to do the internals greatly from doing it solo.  I didn't like the jumble of stuff when I was a youngster and still don't, thus the modular internal stocking system is mandatory.  While you lose some room due to the material of the sub-load, what you gain is the ability to widely vary across a whole range of expected circumstances quickly and easily.  A closet would be ideal, but there are other storage arrangements just as good for this.  Cabinets, shelving, all sorts of ways to make sure what you have is readily available and yet not an eyesore for every day house guests or yourself.


I will be handling the last part of all this, Personal Defense, as a final piece, but it, as with everything else, needs to integrate from top to bottom, from personal to 'Bug Out'.  It gets easier to pre-plan when you move away from your direct person, but the ideas presented so far are the guiding ones, and defending yourself and protecting yourself are core ideas.

Like the American Express Card, don't leave home without it.

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