How to Evacuate in a Matter of Minutes

car-tripAs much as I’m a “shelter in place” kinda guy, I do recognize the need to be able to evacuate your home should the need ever arise. There are many, many reasons for doing so, including natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wildfires to man-made ones such as a natural gas leak, and chemical spills. The question, then, is how to do so as effectively and efficiently as possible?

Well, to me it always starts with a plan. And plans often include lists; in this case a list of the items and gear you intend to take with… assuming, of course, that you’re bugging out by vehicle and not on foot. Anyway, your list doesn’t have to be anything fancy but it should be well thought out and readily accessible to all family members. I like to keep a “bug out” binder but you could just as easily post it on the refrigerator.

That said, I prefer to have my checklists broken down into multiple levels of needs, such as those items that are high, moderate, and low priority needs but you can and should do whatever makes the most sense to you. For example, I might say that my firearms and extra cash are a high priority need whereas extra blankets and my wife’s memorabilia are a low priority need. Got it?

In addition, I also like to develop my checklists around the time frame that I would expect to have to evacuate. For example, I might determine that I’ll only have 15 minutes or so to evacuate from a gas leak, one hour to evacuate an approaching wildfire, and perhaps a full day to evacuate a far-off hurricane. With this is mind I can then begin to determine precisely what items I can and will take with me given their perceived need/usefulness as well as the amount of time I have to gather them. To make my life easier, I actually created a PDf file to help me do just that called my “Priority Checklists” file. It happens to be one of many parts to my Pathway 2 Prepaerdness e-course, here’s an example screenshot (click to enlarge)…

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Again, it doesn’t have to be this elaborate but I like the layout quite a bit and suspect you will too. Once you have all of your decisions made you should then consider the ultimate question: will it all fit? Chances are pretty good you’re going to need multiple vehicles to transport your gear along with family, pets, and who knows what else. So, I strongly encourage you to give it a test run and see not only how it all might fit (or not fit) but also how long it actually takes you… you might be highly disappointed in both answers but it’s critical to know so you can adjust and make more realistic plans.

The other major part of being able to evacuate effectively is to have an actual written out plan as to where you will go, how you will get there, what happens if family members are separated, and so on. This is actually A LOT of work. Before I actually tried to develop my own plans I always assumed that the few places I intended to be able to evacuate to would be ok and accessible. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that I could very well be forced to evacuate in directions and places that I really didn’t want to go. Hence, I had to develop a plan to evacuate in all directions (north, south, east, west) and to multiple places and distances. Yeah, it’s a lot of work but well worth the effort should I and my family ever need to fall back on these plans.

In fact, I went ahead and created another document titled “Evacuation Procedures” which is also a part of my e-course to help you develop your own evacuation plans. Here’s a few screenshots (click to enlarge)…

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Really, it’s all about attempting to plan as best as you can before you ever need to evacuate. Granted, I know that plans aren’t always going to work out perfectly and there will be inevitably be snags, but I firmly believe that I would rather have to adjust my original plan(s) as I go than to have no plan at all. Feel free to learn more about these files and others as well as my 12-week Pathway 2 Prepaerdness e-course if you like.

Wilderness Survival Skills to Keep You Alive – Part 2 of 2, by Jerry Ward

[Editor’s note: Today we finish up our feature post by one of our sponsors, OzarkMountainPreparedness.com. If you’re anywhere nearby Arkansas then I encourage you to attend a class to brush up on skills or even learn new ones like me. You may read his author bio at the bottom of this post.]

Shelter

Shelter is needed to protect and regulate core body temperature; 98.6F. The inability to regulate core temp will lead to death through either hypothermia or hyperthermia. Without spending a lot of time on these conditions, suffice to say that a body temperature swing by roughly 10 degrees in either direction will kill you. Look for a shelter location that is safe and the most conducive to comfort and survival. Avoid areas on ridges and in canyons due to weather conditions such as lightning and flash flooding. Always look overhead for aerial hazards like widow makers and loose rock. Choose the geographical aspect that will offer you the appropriate temperatures for the season. South facing slopes offer more sunshine and warmth whereas the north face tends to be shadier and cooler. Adding a large trash bag, USGI poncho, space blanket, or small tarp to your kit will go a long way in getting you out of the elements. One hundred feet of 550 Cord rounds out a way to secure your tarp/poncho. Another recommendation is to always have a wool or fleece jacket and a poncho liner in your pack/bag; even in the hot, humid summer. If you are unprepared or have the inclination, constructing a debris hut, wikiup, or leanto is an option. These shelters rely on natural material for the structure and the thermal insulation needed to regulate body temperature. The more leaf litter and pine duff, the more insulation and weather resistance. Whatever shelter system you choose, ensure that it will be effective in staving off the wind, rain, intense sun, and other weather phenomena that can compromise life.

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Medical

Medical concerns need to be addressed in the survival kit as well. A medical emergency can happen at any time and may be the reason for the survival situation in the first place. Couple that with the usual bumps and knocks from living outdoors and can see why it is so important to prepare for injuries. Therefore, a well-stocked first aid kit is a must for anyone heading to the field. Most pre-packaged first aid kits are basically just a few adhesive bandages, some tape, and a packet or two of pain reliever. Skip them and assemble your own using high quality components and tools that will actually perform should the need arise. First aid supplies to treat trauma and deal with the everyday injuries of blisters, sprains, minor cuts, burns, etc. should be included. Don’t forget to add prescription medications if there is anyone in your party that requires them. If you are dead set on purchasing a premade kit, there are a few outfits that specialize in backcountry medicine and offer quality kits tailored to emergencies in the field. The two that come to mind are Atwater Carey and Adventure Medical Kits. In conjunction with a quality first aid kit, I highly recommend seeking professional wilderness medical training. There are several national organizations that offer courses in wilderness medicine and nationally recognized certifications. The two most popular are NOLS and SOLO. The Advanced Wilderness First Aid certification is the minimum standard I recommend.

Signaling

Signaling is an often overlooked component of survival education and survival kits. It’s all fine and good to have a plentiful wood supply stacked neatly next to your roaring fire, a lake full of clear water and easy to catch fish, a veritable garden of edible plants, a picture perfect debris hut and tarp shelter, and be in good health with no injuries. But this is a survival situation and you want to go home! You need to have the means to signal for help and let people know you would like a little help getting out of the predicament you are currently in. I like low-tech devices/methods to get someone’s attention. Signal mirrors, whistles, hot pink surveyors tape, smoke grenades, flare pistols, etc. Spreading your collection of gear out around the camp will also draw attention to your location. It was once common knowledge that anything in a cluster of three meant “Help”, but not so many people adhere to that practice anymore. Give it a try though because the aviation and marine communities are still packed with the proverbial old guys who abide by those standards. Three whistle blasts, gunshots, mirror flashes, signal fires, etc. all indicate the need for assistance. Do anything you can to attract attention and lead a rescue party in.

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That about covers the basic techniques and equipment needed to make it through a short-term situation. Combining those skills and tidbits of gear with a positive mental attitude and a good knife ensures a high probability of coming home alive. Of course this has been a very condensed view into the world of wilderness survival. There was no talk in depth talk about knives, dangerous wildlife, seasonal weather patterns, navigation, xyz gizmo whizbang gear, etc. Don’t fret because this is just the first of many articles to come in which I’ll delve deeper into the many facets of survival and bushcraft; from foraging for wild edibles to brain tanning hides. I’ll discuss the good and bad of certain pieces of equipment, fire by friction, land navigation techniques, flint knapping, water procurement and purification, and other topics of interest to folks looking to lead a more self-reliant and prepared lifestyle. If you’d like to participate in professional survival training, please visit the website of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC for more information at www.ozarkmountainpreparedness.com. Until next time, take care and God Bless! Jerry

Jerry Ward Bio

Jerry Ward is the owner and operator of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC located in Berryville, Arkansas. He has been teaching survival skills since 2004 and opened Ozark Mountain Preparedness in 2010. Before becoming a full-time survival skills instructor he worked as a rock climbing guide, wildland firefighter and gunsmith. Jerry studied wildlife biology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is an avid fur trapper and student of history. His outdoor pursuits have taken him all around the United States and abroad, including fur trapping in Alaska, fighting wildfire in the American West, researching primitive cultures in the Desert Southwest, trekking the rainforests of Belize, and exploring the Highlands of Scotland. He has been featured in numerous publications, including Currents and American Survival Guide magazines. Jerry is a member of The Wilderness Medical Society and The Society of Primitive Technology. He can be reached via the web at http://ozarkmountainpreparedness.com or phone at (870)350-6995.

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Wilderness Survival Skills to Keep You Alive – Part 1 of 2, by Jerry Ward

[Editor’s note: Today and Wednesday we feature a post by one of our sponsors, OzarkMountainPreparedness.com. I will attend one of Jerry’s wilderness survival classes in Arkansas this coming March as my wilderness survival skills need A LOT of help! If you’re anywhere nearby Arkansas then I encourage you to attend a class.]

Wilderness Survival! The phrase conjures up visions of plane crashes in the deserts of Africa, shipwrecks in the South Pacific, tragic miscalculations of direction in the South America rainforest, and expeditions gone wrong in the Arctic. While these situations are all found in the annals of history and plausible, the bulk of survival situations befall folks in less exotic locales under less glamorous circumstances. Usually Work-a-Day Joe and/or Jane get lost on a hunting trip, stumble and suffer a mechanical injury while out for a day hike, has car trouble on a back road, or has any other run-in with Mr. Murphy. These events can turn a simple afternoon of recreation into a potentially life threatening situation. Hopefully Joe and Jane have had some professional survival training and have with them a kit to help them deal with the priorities of survival.

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Statistically, you have an 80%-85% chance of being rescued within 72 hours here in the lower 48. The two major factors of contributing to those numbers are the invention of the helicopter and the cell phone. The helicopter came into its prime during the Vietnam War where it was used heavily as a platform to extract and evacuate wounded military personnel. Pilots and Search and Rescue (SAR) units here in the civilian world realized there was a place for that same mobility and speed during SAR operations. Cellular phones, love them or hate them, have also led to the advancement of rapid rescue these last few decades. The “smart” phones of today can not only be used as a communication device in order to activate SAR, but also as a navigational tool capable of providing rescuers the exact location of the party needing help. That being said, neither of these tools should be relied upon or used as a crutch. SAR teams need notification of a rescue situation. Team members are human and are prone to mistake, illness, etc. Helicopters and other mechanical machines are just that, mechanical. Anything mechanical has limitations and will fail eventually. Cell phones in particular are prone to all sorts of mishaps; loss of power, little or no coverage, a dunk in the creek, breakage due to a fall, and loss. They are nice to have on station and fun to play with, but not something to count on when the chips are down.

Because you can’t count on others for your safety and security, I recommend seeking formal survival training and carrying a basic survival kit that has been cleverly thought out and stocked with practical components. This kit is designed to mitigate the hazards to and help in the preservation of life. It covers the Big 5 of survival: Fire, Water/Food, Shelter, Medical, and Signaling. Let’s take a brief look at each of these categories.

Fire

Fire is a simple chemical reaction called oxidation in which the oxygen in the atmosphere reacts with the molecules of a substance to produce energy in the form of heat and light. Fire requires three components to begin and sustain that reaction; an initial heat source, fuel, and oxygen. I’ll save the deeper explanation for a future article, but basically when all three of these components are in the right mixture you have a fire. In a survival scenario, fire is a critical element that cannot be overstressed. It provides a way to purify water and cook food, is an instant signal from the flame and smoke, is a tool to process wood and create containers, provides light at night, helps to maintain core body temperature, and is a companion requiring interaction and providing feedback. I recommend my students carry a minimum of three ways to make fire in their kits and on their person. The methods I prefer are the ferro rod, flint and steel kit, and a Bic lighter with a piece of bicycle inner tube wrapped around it. Toss in a waterproof container with a half dozen petroleum jelly covered cotton balls and you can be sure of a fire in almost all conditions!

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Water

Water is critical to life. You will die in about three or four days without it. That being said, being able to find water and render it safe is a definite need in the kit. Natural water sources include the obvious: creeks, rivers, ponds, etc. There is also precipitation, transpiration, condensation, sub-surface water pooling and the like. Here again, the source of a future article. Treat all collected water as suspect and purify to ensure safety. There are all sorts of water purifying devices on the market today. I have two I’d like to recommend. The first is some sort of chemical treatment that will kill the microbes swimming around in the drink. Chlorine and iodine are the most common and easy to obtain. Unscented chlorine bleach and 2% tincture of iodine from the pharmacy are the two I prefer. Add two drops per quart of either the chlorine bleach or 2% iodine tincture, shake thoroughly, and wait 30 minutes before drinking. Medical note- if you have a shellfish allergy do not use iodine. The second method I recommend is the Lifestraw. The Lifestraw is a straw you simply place down into the contaminated water source and drink through just like a soda straw. When you are finished, simply blow through the straw to remove the excess water, close the caps on each end, and toss back in your gear. The Lifestraw filters down to a size of 0.2 microns and has a service life of 250 gallons. It weighs mere ounces and is built to withstand the rigors of life in the field. Boiling is always an option, so be sure to include a stainless steel container to place in your fire.

Food

Food is another thing to consider when constructing a survival kit. The human body can make it for around 30 days without nourishment, but why be hungry when you avoid it. After just a few days without food, your energy level will be greatly diminished. A decreased energy level will manifest itself as a decrease in work around camp; which could lead to your demise. Always include some high-fat/high-calorie foodstuffs in the kit. Things like peanuts, meal replacement bars, trail mix, chocolate, etc. will give you an energy boost and help with the overall morale of the survivors. Also, a little training in primitive trapping techniques and wild edible plants will increase your chances of survival should the situation go from short-term to Robinson Crusoe.

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Wednesday we focus on shelter, medical and signaling. Stay tuned!

Jerry Ward Bio

Jerry Ward is the owner and operator of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC located in Berryville, Arkansas. He has been teaching survival skills since 2004 and opened Ozark Mountain Preparedness in 2010. Before becoming a full-time survival skills instructor he worked as a rock climbing guide, wildland firefighter and gunsmith. Jerry studied wildlife biology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is an avid fur trapper and student of history. His outdoor pursuits have taken him all around the United States and abroad, including fur trapping in Alaska, fighting wildfire in the American West, researching primitive cultures in the Desert Southwest, trekking the rainforests of Belize, and exploring the Highlands of Scotland. He has been featured in numerous publications, including Currents and American Survival Guide magazines. Jerry is a member of The Wilderness Medical Society and The Society of Primitive Technology. He can be reached via the web at http://ozarkmountainpreparedness.com or phone at (870)350-6995.

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