A few weeks ago, I went on a hike in Southern Utah. It was a warm day, but not unbearably hot. I carried nothing but my cell phone. The hike was only about three miles, but by mile two I felt like I was going. to. die.
It didn’t help that half of the hike was through a sand wash (I had to empty my shoes at least four times because they were too full of sand for my feet to fit!), or that the steepest hill was toward the end of the hike. Either way, it got me thinking: What if an emergency had happened unexpectedly and I’d been forced to “hike” my way to safety in those same conditions, but carrying a 20, 30, or 40-pound bug-out bag?
I’d say I don’t want to think about it, but I have to think about it—partly because it’s my job, and partly because I really am invested in getting prepared. I hate to think that in spite of all my other preparations, skills, and gear, I’d be up a creek without a paddle simply because I’m not fit enough to hike to safety while carrying my emergency kit.
So, I’m committing to a series of survival tests this summer: once a month I’ll do the same hike (one that’s more local) with my survival pack on my back, and I’ll see how far I can go.
Between tests, I’ll be working to build endurance and strength so I won’t have to worry about “getting out of Dodge” if or when the time comes.
How about you? Have you ever done a test run with your emergency pack on? Care to join me?
If you’d like to join me for my Bug-Out Survival Tests throughout the summer, watch the blog and our other social media channels for announcements, and use the hashtag #eesurvivaltest to share your photos and experiences.
Target shooting Did you know that by July of 2012, 20 fires had been started last year by target shooters, including the Dump Fire, which burned 5,507 acres and cost $2.1 million to fight? The heat of bullets mixed with the hot, dry earth can be a very dangerous mix. Consider either visiting indoor shooting ranges or taking a couple months off from target shooting during the summer.
Another tip includes having an evacuation plan. Your plan should include an emergency kit, bug out bag, or go bag, as well as a meeting place away from the house where everyone can meet in case of an emergency evacuation.
Maryn McKenna shared her first-hand experience with an unexpected fire via Wired Magazine in her article, The Risks You Don’t Think of: A Plea to Pack a ‘Go Bag.’ She and her husband packed for a possible evacuation from their home because of a tree that had fallen on an electrical transformer next to their house. They packed their bags, and ultimately didn’t need them. Here’s what she said about her packing:
To be honest, I give myself a C. I grabbed the cat’s food and dishes, but didn’t think to take the medication I give her twice a day. I took all the devices that access my stuff in the cloud, but didn’t recall that I keep some things out of the cloud for security; I should have taken the external back-up that sits on my desk. And, if things went very bad, I might have had a hard time dealing with the details; I relied on having web-based banking, but I didn’t think to take the phone or account numbers for any of the utilities. And I committed those fails despite minimal things to distract me: my spouse (aviation engineer) and I (epidemics and disasters journalist, pilot) are pretty accustomed to emergencies; we had only one pet to wrangle; and we didn’t have any small children or mobility-challenged elders to keep calm. And, most fortunate of all, we ended up not having to run.
In the case of a large-scale evacuation, you will most likely have a few minutes to pack (versus a home fire where you need to evacuate immediately), but only a few. Keep emergency kits, important documentation, and precious keepsakes or photos where they can be packed quickly; that will help ease the stress of an evacuation and leave you with the assurance that you got everything vital out of the house.
Think you’ll be able to “wing it” when an evacuation order comes knocking at your door? Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge, a video created by the Insurance Information Institute, shows the difference planning ahead will make—because those ten minutes will go by a lot more quickly than you’d expect:
P.S. I have my own tip for you. A couple of years ago we had a kitchen fire at my house (and no, I’m not the one who started it). We started chatting with the firemen who came, and they said that many house fires are started by toasters that short out in the middle of the night. So keep those electronics unplugged when you’re not using them.
My wife and I recently celebrated our 18th anniversary at a local bed and breakfast. While eating breakfast we met a very nice lady from Santa Barbara. She is a ballet dance instructor at UCSB and was in town for a regional dance competition. I asked her if the current fires were close to her home, and she said that she had been evacuated the day before. (The fires have completely burned 77 homes and damaged an additional 22. 30,000 people were evacuated and have now returned, but they are to remain ready to leave again at a moments notice.) She said that she was given about 5 minutes to get what she needed and leave– possibly never to return.
This got me thinking about how can we prepare for this type of emergency. If you were given only 5 minutes to go through your house for the last time, would you be prepared to do so? I asked some of our seasoned employees here at EE what they would recommend doing to be prepared for a situation like this.
They consistently mentioned the following 3 recommendations (click on the hyperlinks to read more on each topic):
3) Preserve and protect your valuables, such as important documents or special family photos. You need to decide what is most valuable to you and your family and then come up with a way to protect it.
Here are some excerpts from a letter we just received from one of our customers:
Dear Emergency Essentials,
I just wanted to thank you for your company and the great products you provide. I decided about two months ago that our family should purchase 72 hours of MRE food…It arrived about a week ago. Little did I know the timing couldn't have been better.
In the past three days we have experienced six fires in our valley. Sunday, we got our 72 hour kit and food ready to go in our car. Monday, half of our ward in Saugus and part of the adjacent Stake in Canyon Country was evacuated. We were only block away from the evacuated area. Luckily our area did not evacuate and the others in our ward were able to go home the same day. But, a few in the other Stake lost their homes. Then later on Monday, another ward in our Stake a few miles away in Stevenson Ranch had to evacuate immediately with a new fire. The fire went by fast and the fire department was able to protect all the homes. Then on Tuesday a fire started just down the road from us, but was put out quickly with two helicopters…
…It was so comforting to know we had our kit, food and a safe place to go.