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November 15, 2004

Real emergency preparedness
Posted by Teresa at 03:19 PM * 125 comments

A “jump bag” or “go bag” is a pre-stocked fanny pack, backpack, etc., which you keep next to your front door, or in a desk drawer at the office, or in the back of your car. It’s for moments when the world has just gone to hell around you, and you need to grab what you can and get out fast.

One of the regulars here, Jim Macdonald, has put together a page of sample inventory lists for urban, wilderness, and first aid jump bags, accompanied by terse comments. It would do you no harm at all to put together jump bags for work and home. Here’s part of how Jim explains it:

There is no perfect kit.

What you have in your head is the most important survival/first aid equipment of all.

It’s better to carry general-purpose items than specialized equipment.

Modify the contents of kits for your personal situation. Inventory and repack each kit quarterly. Make seasonal adjustments. …

In a survival situation, you live as long as your feet do.

In an ambush, the killing zone is narrow. Get out of it.

You can live to be ninety without a Rambo knife, but hypothermia or dehydration will kill you deader’n dirt by this time tomorrow.

A terrorist attack is just a badly-placarded HAZMAT incident.

Brush your teeth, wear your seatbelt, wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet, and look both ways before crossing the street.

It’s good advice. The only thing I’d add is that in the summer you should have a little tube of that zinc-and-petroleum-jelly ointment they use to keep babies from getting diaper rash. It’s very effective protection against the kind of chafing that’ll peel your skin so raw that you can’t bear to walk.

Jim’s advice is very much in line with that contained in the esteemed Words of Wisdom About Gas, Germs and Nukes by SFC Red Thomas, Armor Master Gunner, U.S. Army (ret), quoted here from The Senior Engineer. It’s about keeping chemical, biological or nuclear warfare in perspective. SFC Thomas wrote the piece during the terrorism/WMD/anthrax/eeeeek!/etc. thrash period that followed 9/11. It spread like wildfire. This seems like the right moment to bring it up again:

Since the media have decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf, I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.

Lesson number one: In the mid-1990s there was a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack, less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died. CBS-Television’s 60 Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one drop of nerve gas could kill a thousand people. He didn’t tell you the thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff is to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too).

Forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (Read this sentence again out loud!).

Alas, all too often true. Some writers get this stuff right, but far too many don’t. (This is one of the big reasons I do things like go out to firing ranges and learn what it’s like to fire Tommy guns, .45 pistols, and assault rifles.) Books and movies and TV succeed if they tell lively, engaging stories. There’s no penalty assessed for giving bad emergency response advice.
These weapons are about terror; If you remain calm, you will probably not die.

This is far less scary than the media and their ‘experts’ make it sound. Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood, Blister, and Incapacitating agents. Contrary to the hype of reporters and politicians, they are not weapons of mass destruction. They are means of ‘Area Denial,’ effective to keep an enemy out of a particular zone for a limited period of time: terror weapons that don’t destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost always leave the risk. That’s the difference; You can leave the area and the risk. Soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it, and that’s why they need all that spiffy gear. …

(He discusses the characteristic hazards, and responses to those hazards, of chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare.)

… Overall preparations for any terrorist attack are the same as you’d take for a big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one. I know this stuff and I’m not getting one, and I told my mom not to bother with one either (how’s that for confidence?). We have a week’s worth of cash, several days worth of canned goods and plenty of soap and water. We don’t leave stuff out to attract bugs or rodents so we don’t have them.

These terrorist people can’t conceive of a nation this big with as much resources as it has. These weapons are made to cause panic, terror, and to demoralize. If we don’t run around like sheep, they won’t use this stuff after they find out it’s no fun and does them little good. … This is how we the people of the United States can rob these people of their most desired goal, your terror.

Which is absolutely true, no matter who these wicked people are. Common sense and a fast, alert reponse to a changing situation are what will get you through.

Leave the overelaborate fantasies about terrorism, and responses to same, to the people living in areas where they aren’t in any particular danger. They can afford to be unrealistic. It’ll help keep ‘em busy and amused. We, on the other hand, just want to increase our chances of a positive outcome next time everything goes to hell.

A few more words from me on the subject of emergency communications. First and most obviously, get out and get safe first. Your loved ones would rather hear days later that you’re alive and well. Don’t go phoning them from any collapsing buildings unless you can’t get out anyway.

It may well happen that you and yours will be in different places when the bad stuff starts happening, and you won’t be able to get in touch for some time. It’s a good idea to agree on a specific location outside your immediate urban center where you’re going to meet. If you get to your rendezvous, find no one waiting for you, and the local situation isn’t good for a long-term wait, leave a note and move on.

Another thing to decide on in advance is a third party living some distance away who can act as your message box. You and your household may not be able to phone each other directly, but if you both know to phone Great-Aunt Genevieve when you can, she can relay messages between you. If you can get a call out to anyone, give them Great-Aunt Genevieve’s phone number and ask them to relay your message. People can be remarkably kind and helpful when there’s bad stuff going down.

A useful thing I learned in fandom during the Loma Prieta earthquake and other disasters is to keep lists of the names and whereabouts of people you’ve heard from. Whenever you run into someone new, swap lists with them. This is best handled by person-or-persons outside the affected area, in which case it becomes like having many people phoning to leave messages with many Great-Aunt Genevieves and Matildas and Adelaides, and the great-aunts copying each other on the info in the meantime.

The best version of this I ever saw done was by Bill Shunn. On the morning of 9/11 I gave him the same suggestion I’ve just made here, but what he did was put together a web page where people could check in, say they were alive, and leave a brief message. It was a simple thing, but a huge amount of interpersonal communication ran through it that day until the message traffic forced him to shut it down so his ISP wouldn’t crash.

One of my other favorite stories from that day was the shoe store owner who stood in his doorway, handing out free running shoes to Wall Street women who’d otherwise have had to walk out of the zone in heels. I’ve been through my share of NYC disasters, and it’s true: you really do last as long as your feet.

Really, NYC disasters are a good model for the kind of thing we’re talking about. You have the people caught in the middle of the attack. There’s not much you can do for them, except help carry out the wounded survivors. For everyone else, it’s a matter of getting safely away from whatever it is that’s gone bad, and avoiding becoming a problem yourself until order is reestablished.

Comments on Real emergency preparedness:
#1 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 07:44 PM:

Very good suggestions ( I'm a big fan of the nitrile gloves, myself )....

My jump bags also include communications equipment, for those times when the local amateur radio operators get tasked to support search and rescue operations, etc.

#2 ::: David Sucher ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 07:51 PM:

You seem to have a bad link, (in the second paragraph.)

#4 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 08:58 PM:

To paraphrase you in an email to me: Should I feel paranoid that you're reminding us of this now?

#5 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:05 PM:

I've had an extremely basic "bogue bag" hanging from the doorknob for years. Toothbrush and paste, sanitary supplies, change of clothes, TP, flashlight, space blanket. It needs updating, because its contents assumed I'd a) be departing in my car, which b) would have my camping gear in it (where I used to store that stuff.)

Thanks for the reminder to do that this week.

#6 ::: Kelly Saxman ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:17 PM:

Thanks for the reminder that I need to do that for my new home... a few more suggestions:
* If you can take the time and afford to, get your basic Red Cross training in first aid and CPR. If you really can afford it, get as much Red Cross first age/emergency training as you possibly can, and keep it updated (a great way to do this is to volunteer to teach classes; it cuts the cost of your training, and the teaching keeps it fresh in mind).
* If you have pets, keep carriers, blankets, extra food, etc around for them, and practice getting them into their carrier and out of the house quickly. It's nice to have extra pet supplies on hand, too - there are always animals needing help in a disaster. (Yes, this will sound weird to some people - but people often risk their life to save their family pet. It's better to just have it taken care of up front.)


#7 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:19 PM:

Y'know, I used to have one of these in the car when I lived in Colorado -- you never know when you might get stuck when you're in the mountains. I'm overdue to rebuild the car kit. Thanks for the reminder.

#8 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:22 PM:

OK, this is just ungawdly creepy you would post this tonight because just today, down there in the Pre-blast Zone (that would be the Wall Street area) I was just thinking about this sort of stuff. I have since about September 12, 2001, carried my trusty Smoke Hood in my little belt pack. I don't even take it off at work. But I started thinking today that I really should give greater consideration to other stuff I should do. Not two hours ago I was re-reading the SFC Thomas piece. I was thinking about how much cash I could comfortably carry with me at all times in some sort of not-in-my-wallet arrangement. A flashlight in case my only escape from the Wall Street area would be through darkened and dead subway tunnels.

No, I'm serious. Really.

My next depressing project is to figure out the 1/2-mile blast radius from where I generally am down there. What are the (impossible to predict) chances that the blast would occur outside that circle so that I would at least survive the immediate catastrophe. I don't know why I want to know that, but I do. If the WTC was still there, and they set one of these low-yielders off in the middle of the plaza, my constituent atoms would shortly be drifting through the Solar System.

This is so creepy you brought this up today. I got a bad feeling about this. I hope people don't think I'm kidding, cuz I'm not. Being there on the morning of September 11, 2001 has a tendency to make you believe in the possibility of the fantastic.

Now off to find a map of the southern tip of the island...

#9 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:36 PM:

Without a traction splint, a femur fracture is 80% fatal. With proper traction splinting, it's only 20% fatal. Learn to make a field-expedient traction splint.

I broke my right femur and left clavicle at the same time when I was seventeen, and when I woke up from surgery, one of my friends shared a similar factoid with me, which coupled with the vague haze of Bill Clinton discussing health care costs on TV, was my first brush with the concept of mortality.

Only about a year ago, a friend of a friend broke his leg in an off-roading accident, and died from the shock before his friends could go get help.

So, yes. Traction splints GOOD!

#10 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 09:45 PM:

Argh. I've been meaning to put together a survival kit for forever, and I keep not doing it.

Not for terrorist attacks, though. L.A. may be a more potential target than most other places, but what I'm far more worried about is, you guessed it, earthquake.

Being without at least some of that stuff in an earthquake would SUCK.

*has mental image*

Eek. Shopping trip this weekend, I think.

#11 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 10:00 PM:

I'm guessing Teresa may have read the same item I saw today:

CQ HOMELAND SECURITY - INTELLIGENCE Nov. 12, 2004 - 3:26 p.m. Ex-CIA bin Laden Expert Will Warn of Nuclear Terror Threat on '60 Minutes'

By Mickey McCarter, CQ Staff

Former CIA al Qaeda expert Michael Scheuer, who resigned from the agency this week to publicly criticize what he says are flaws in the government's war on terrorism, will tell CBS' "60 Minutes" news magazine on Sunday that Osama bin Laden now has the approval of religious leaders to use weapons of mass destruction - including nuclear weapons - in his campaign against the United States.

Or maybe she was just looking, as I was, at photos from Fallujah that haven't been in the mainstream press much. The little kid who was missing a leg is about the age of my daughter.

#12 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 10:12 PM:

I'd also add a tube of sunscreen, some cortisone ointment and a floppy hat to the list. Then again, to quote Woody Allen, I don't tan, I stroke.

#13 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 10:34 PM:

I like having tools - Swiss Army knives, Leatherman tools, real tools - stashed everywhere: cars, briefcases, office.

I work in a high-rise. One summer back in the halcyon days before September 11th, the power went out. We were evacuating the building down the stairwells when the back-up power went out, too. A couple thousand people, stumbling down the stairs in the dark ....

So ever since, I've carried at least one flashlight ON MY PERSON.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 10:39 PM:

Maybe it's creepy to think about it, Michael, but if it turns out to be unnecessary, I'll be happy.

Adamsj, I've been thinking about this for a while, and hadn't seen that newsbit. I have seen the picture of the kid from Fallujah, though.

Larry, I'd add the same. Jim's kits are calibrated for ten miles south of the Canadian border, way up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

#15 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 10:49 PM:

Teresa -

It's not so creepy to think about the thing itself since I feel better thinking about it than not. What creeped me out was that you brought it up just as I was starting to think about it seriously. Not that I believe in Omens or Bad Signs or Magical Thinking or anything. It's just that -- oh, wait, excuse me a minute, my elbow just knocked a little mirror onto the floor and it seems to have brok --


#16 ::: betsy ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 11:33 PM:

so, how does a person find out how to make a traction splint?

#17 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 15, 2004, 11:47 PM:

The house that my wife and I have lived in for 16 years, since a few months before our son was born, has endured: several major earthquakes (starting with the 1931 Long Beach quake, which we considered opur Beta Test), the billion dollar Altadena-Malibu fires, the Rodney King riots (a.k.a. biggest "Civil Unrest" since the Civil War), and some major floods/mudlslides. So we take emergency preparedness VERY seriously. Problem is, our normal weekdays are split between 3 different college campuses and some other workplaces. So we are stretched thin with multiple kits in multiple cars and buildings. When our boy was in Public School, there was a risk that we would not be able to get to him, so we had a mandatory kit prepared and stored at his school, plus a letter to be opened by him in case of an emergency in which we advised that we might not have survived, and included our draft obituaries with notes on how we hoped he'd handle his responsibilities in rebuilding civilization. Writing such a letter makes one think very deeply.

#19 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean Durocher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:09 AM:

These additions aren't absolutely necessary - they just may make your life more comfortable after a disaster. One is to add a crossword puzzle book, or a traveling game set, or a deck of cards, to your go bag. What I really remember about Mt. St. Helens' eruption was how bored we were by about 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

The other is add some documents. A copy of your home insurance policy is a good idea. A list of your financial accounts with addresses. Certified copies of birth certificates & marriage certificates.

If you don't want to keep them in your go-bag then make sure that relatives or friends in another area have copies. A safe deposit box in your area won't work - you may not be able to get to it, depending on the nature of the emergency. (Earthquake country thinking, here.)

And, if you're an artist or a writer, consider sending copies of your work (slides, CDs, whatever) to the same friends or relatives. It seems every year I hear about an artist whose studio burned down and they lost everything - not just the stuff they were working on, but all the files they used to make prints, advertising, etc. All the records of their work.

I used to work in computer ops at company where I was on the business recovery team. Under certain circumstances my job would've been to grab a couple of boxes and head for our warm site where I'd be putting our network back together, so I suppose that's why I think of information.

#20 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:12 AM:

I have LED flashlights on my keychain and my outdoor jacket's zipper pull. (The keychain one is a few years old and the battery is going...time to replace it, or buy another light.) I normally belt-carry a Victorinox Cybertool, though after 9/11 I no longer carry it on trips, grr....

I should put together a couple of go bags, though. I have the good news/bad news situation of living near work, which means I can walk home when the power is out, etc...but if something takes out this part of Cambridge, I'm in trouble.

#21 ::: L. G. Booth ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:37 AM:

Living in Florida, we are very familiar with emergency preparedness. Anyone who has lived here very long has a "hurricane closet" stocked with canned goods, containers to store drinking water, and so on. My closet has five can openers so that I can help out any neighbors who forget that their electric can opener will be useless. I have a lot of non-electric gadgets, and cookware for outdoor cooking. And after being run over by two of this year's four hurricanes, I was glad I had a big supply. My neighborhood has a lot of retirees and families with kids, so I always keep extra to give away.

#22 ::: Janice Gelb ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:54 AM:

Here in earthquake country, they also recommend keeping a pair of comfortable shoes under your bed so if an earthquake hits at night and the windows shatter, you won't cut bare feet.

I have an earthquake kit outside on my open deck in two layers of plastic lidded trash cans. I also have a smaller kit in the trunk of my car. (Believe it or not, they now have the kosher equivalent of MREs :-> )

One caveat: Don't forget to *change the water* in your kits every couple of years. The plastic in some water bottles can leech into the water and make you sick if you drink it.

I also, fangirl that I am, have a wheeled suitcase in the closet nearest my front door that is packed full of family photos and past copies of my SFPA apazines (which serve as my diary) going back *ahem* over 25 years. When I finish a zine, I put a copy in there.

#23 ::: Rachel Brown ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:55 AM:

You can get a miniature Swiss Army knife which attaches to your keychain. Squeeze the bottom and you get a flashlight: a tiny one but useful in an emergency. I've gotten plenty of use out of mine.

I also echo Margaret's advice. Your emergency kit should have a couple of paperback books, ones you'd actually want to read in an emergency. My emergencies have all involved lots of excruciatingly dull sitting around and waiting.

Tampons and pads are also essential if you're female. And power bars or granola bars or something like that.

I keep the backpack in the house next to the cat carrier, and the one in the car is in the trunk, so one or both will almost always be nearby. I also keep some supplies in my purse, like tiger's milk bars, painkillers, travel toothpaste and toothbrush, tampons and pads, etc, because where I go, it goes.

Why yes, people have said I'm paronoid. I've been doing this for at least seven years through, even before I spent a year doing disaster relief with the Red Cross. Lots of the stuff has come in handy, even though I've never been in a _huge_ disaster.

#24 ::: risa ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:57 AM:

as someone who has lived in and around NYC for many years, i now always carry the following items in my regular work bag:

a mag lite or LED flashlight, leatherman or swiss army knife, comb, sanitary supplies, a week's supply of vitamins and medication, lip balm, band aids, a tweezer, a notebook and pen, and Ricola cough drops. most of the reasons for each are obvious, but i want to extol the virtues of cough drops in a crisis situation. they're important because they soothe thirst really well in a pinch, and they're far lighter than carrying a bottle of water. after the blackout i was extra grateful i had them.

#25 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 01:32 AM:

What you have in your head is the most important first-aid/survival equipment of all.

With that in mind, I for one would be very interested in tips from anyone here about information and skills that one can learn in advance that could be useful in an emergency.

First aid seems the most obvious, then self-defense.
Swimming and driving seem like two that most people assume but not everyone does know.
What else?

#26 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 01:42 AM:

Just to add my worthless thoughts to this...

Last year we had the big blackout in the Northeast (I was in Toronto), and because I insist on driving my car until it is running on the fumes of fumes, I was caught with an empty tank of gas. Of course, I couldn't get gas for three days after that because a) gas pumps run on electricity, b) the lines were up to three miles long to get gas when power was restored, c) gas stations ran out of gas quickly because of those line-ups, and d) the gas refineries were behind because of the power outages.

One of the more clever things I heard about the whole affair was that a few hearty souls went through some of the parked cars on Toronto's streets and siphoned the gas out of them. I wish I'd thought of that. Bottom line? Don't drive on fumes.

#27 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 01:46 AM:

I grew up in the Strategic Air Command. My father was a B-52 pilot and we were living near Barksdale AFB (Shreveport, LA - well within IRBM range) during the Cubam missle crisis. I knew that there was a chance that I and other military kids could be picked up from school one day (there were specific forms authorizing this in our school files) and evacuated to Arkansas. One got used to having go bags packed and in the car.

I still have the habit. I have several small stuff sacks with the various items ready to drop into a suitcase or pack.

One note. I also have a kit with extra water that goes into the back of the Element when I am going more then 10 miles from "civilization" which includes the obvious things. One note for your car kit -- railroad flares are not just for highway use. I have managed to get a pretty decent fire going in a rainstorm with a flare.

#28 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 03:08 AM:

Two possibly worthwhile (and very compact) additions to most any such kit: a whistle (for attracting attention if your voice is not up to it), and a space blanket.

#29 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 03:13 AM:

Thanks. I just reviewed my quake kit and will be shopping this weekend.

By the bed: Work gloves and a prybar/pipe-wrench.

Taped to underside of lid of quake kit (medium sized as you may have to lug it plastic container): a high intensity light stick, and an envelope of cash. I may tape another one on the bed frame. Use that instead of turning on a flashlight until you are either outside or certain that the gas is not leaking.

I'll implement the go bag, but keep the quake box.

I'll work out phone tree and rendezvous strategy with Cynthia.

You want a good regional map in your car as well. Don't assume the interstate will be intact after a big quake. Costco sells these.

One carrier for each cat. In the carrier keep a harness and lead. The quake box has an aluminum foil casserole dish, cat sand, a ziploc bag of cat food.

Keep copies of critical documents/manuscripts/source files on a USB keychain drive. You can get a 512mb drive for $25 or less. Those use file systems that Mac, Windows, and Linux can read. Remember that ASCII or HTML (UTF-8 encoding) can be opened in nearly anything. Keep it on your person or in the by the door go bag.

Weekly backups. Keep the backup drive in a bag with cables, power supply, and a current install CD for your operating system so you can rebuild your environment on a new box. .Mac members get a nice backup application that's smart about what files to backup (don't worry about imaging the whole drive.)

#30 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 03:21 AM:

There's a burn/bandaging kit that lives in my suitcase (though it can be moved to other bags if needed). It's an unfortunate fact that nothing usably sharp can be carried on a You Know What. (I sometimes think about packing a pair of plastic kiddie scissors, which would cut gauze, but if they got found they'd only tick off You Know Who.)

My daily briefcase has a Swiss Army Cybertool 40, so I can flip DIP switches in the gravest extreme (it also has an excellent multitip Allen wrench), glucose tabs (though those are technically for me, along with the glycogen injector). Walgreens sells glucose tablets (in two flavors) cheap in 50-tab bottles and somewhat more expensively in reusable 10-tab tubes. B-D (uh, that's Becton-Dickinson, not, you know) has rather more expensive tabs that come sealed in individual popouts, which might be better for long-term storage.

The most immediately relevant things in the daily bag are a CPR mask (in a little zippered holder with an attachment clip), a pair of gloves, and some paper tape sterile 4x4s in a ziplock. After brooding over carrying some kind of 24/7 kit, I decided that the two things I would most likely have to deal with without warning, that equipment would actually help with, were a CPR situation or a serious bleeder. This obviously assumes a small local crisis -- coronary, MVA -- in which the real paramedics can be expected to arrive.

Forgive me if this has been mentioned, but Kendall/Curity makes a thing called a "Multi-Trauma Dressing," a 10"x30" slab of cotton in a sterile pack, which is inside a 9/12 plastic envelope that keeps it from getting beat up/torn open before time. You can obviously bandage a lot of area with this, or cut it up for multiple injuries; it can also be used for big penetrating wounds, and even as a minimal cervical collar. It's not something you'd carry in your shoulder bag, but it'd make a good addition to a serious kit.

I get all my first aid and biosafety stuff from an industrial supply house, which is cheaper, more complete, and easier than the average drugstore. They also sell preloaded kits in every size from pocket to footlocker. I've been dealing with these folks since I had large requirements for such stuff (another story), and they're very efficient: (Note that I live about 200 miles west of their hq, so I get my orders really fast; ymmv.)

#31 ::: Anne KG Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:02 AM:

The only thing Id add is that in the summer you should have a little tube of that zinc-and-petroleum-jelly ointment they use to keep babies from getting diaper rash. Its very effective protection against the kind of chafing thatll peel your skin so raw that you cant bear to walk.

There's also a product called Body Glide that you can get in most track and fitness stores. Runners use it. If you're facing walking or running long distances or in warm weather or whatever might cause you to chafe in bad places, I highly recommend it. I first heard of it in a newsletter about the apalachian trail in an article about a girl who hiked the trail in a skirt.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:25 AM:

Food is usually a needless waste of space and weight; most people can live three weeks without it. (Y'all know the rule of threes, right? You can live three minutes without air, three hours without clothing/shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food.) The situation should have sorted itself out long before you starve.

But, if you really must carry food, carry things that you don't like. Chocolate energy bars? They'll be gone before you're fifty yards down the trail. Pick something that sounds loathsome, that'll still be in the bottom of your backpack when the pine needles start looking good. One item that some people choose is Gainesburgers (dog food). They're small, light, individually packaged, and contain lots of protein.

On vacation, especially near wooded areas, you might consider having your kids all wear whistles around their necks, and teach 'em to stand still and blow the whistle if they're lost or frightened. That might help prevent things like this.

Whistles are small, light, cheap, and useful. Put one on your keyring.

#33 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:29 AM:

Tampons and pads are also essential if you're female.

Pads are also great as improvised field bandages, I hear. But for their intended purpose, menstrual cups would take up significantly less space for both storage and disposal, since you only need to keep washing out the one cup. I ordered mine through the web from the UK and Canada, but they may also be available at your friendly local crunchy-granola feminist co-op sorta place: the Keeper (latex rubber) or the Lunacup/Divacup/Mooncup (silicone rubber).

#34 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:29 AM:

If you carry sanitary pads rather than tampons, they can double as "multi-trauma dressing" as needed -- the modern individually sealed kind stays sealed and sterile and is a multi-use absorbent gauze pad.

I tend to carry quite a few of the things people here have mentioned, and have been laughed at for it, sometimes by people who were being helped by the existence of it at that very moment. The two things I don't carry are water -- water is heavy, I take it if I think I'm going to need it but not routinely -- and cash -- I'm rarely sufficiently in funds to be carrying spare.

#35 ::: Jim Millen ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:36 AM:

Vassilissa said:

With that in mind, I for one would be very interested in tips from anyone here about information and skills that one can learn in advance that could be useful in an emergency.

Keeping up the theme of incredibly obvious things, I would say that practising walking in the clothes you are likely to have on is possibly one of the most important things you could do. Too many people these days struggle if they have to walk more than a few miles.

Other than that, I personally think that it's good preparation for disasters just to try and be more self-sufficient in everyday things. Like repairing stuff rather than throwing out, improvising other stuff to do the job rather than buying a new thingy and so on. In other words keeping your ingenuity on its toes so that if you really need it, it'll be there.

#36 ::: JamesG ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:42 AM:

Most of my kits are filled with things that I picked up when I was in the Army. I keep one bag in my jeep, one bag in my house and I also keep a bag in my office. Because you just never know. I have some pocket charcoal purifiers for water, but I found that I prefer using a solar still (provided we are not emersed in a continuous cloud of dust from some big bombs). I just can't get used to drinking out of the purifiers, never could. I also still have two injections of Atripine and 2-pan chloride, just in case.

#37 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 08:44 AM:

As an outdoorsy type, and a ski patroller, I have most of the basics ready. My patrol pack usually lives in the car, I have a little belt pouch with gloves (purple nitrile in my size), breathing barrier (MDI microshield), flashlight, pen, paper, packet of aspirin (in case of heart attack -- yours or mine), some drugs for me (high blood pressure and lactose intolerance). The pen and the lactase get used all of the time. There is food and water in the car (yes, I can live for a couple of weeks without food, I don't want to), as well as basic overnight stuff (small camp stove, sleeping bag, emergency bivvy sack). There is usually a day pack for hiking in the car, and I could overnight with it for a couple of nights if I had to -- I mostly hike alone.
For emergencies at home I could do better, I'm not prepared to evacuate my house on short notice -- loading all those books will take a lot of time, I need to look into fast-evac bookcases.
Interior New England means my disasters are likely to be hurricane/blizzard/ice storm and the resulting loss of infrastructure. Water is gravity fed froom the water tower, so I don't need huge amounts at home, I've got 24 gals of drinking water plus the hot water heater tank.
As for training, I'm a Red Cross CPR instructor, a Red Cross disaster responder, a wilderness First Reponder, a ski patroller, and I'm becoming a National Ski Patrol Outdoor Emergency Care instructor. I last practiced a traction splint on Sunday. Outside. On the snowy ground. I had a Hare traction splint, but I can improvise one. A femur fracture is life threatening because of the secondary damage from the bone damaging the femoral artery. The traction splint (and knowing when it is appropriate) is important first care, but they need definitive care as well. Cannon bone fractures are rare, despite the fact that I've seen two of them (and neither got splinted at the scene, one was misdiagnosed and the other was a passenger ejected from a car -- with multiple trauma, and getting her on the way was a priority). Wear your seatbelt.
If I was seriously worried about massive biochem attack, I would volunteer with the regional response team, and would then have auto-injectors of Atropine and Epinephrine set aside with my name on them. For the more likely hazmat incident, the general stores will suffice.
The safety of the rescuer is more important than the safety of the victim. Fools rush in.
Your local Red Cross chapter, and their web site have lots of info on disaster preparedness.
Make a plan. Volunteer. Give blood. We're in this together.

#38 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 09:22 AM:

Jo, if you have no spare cash and the power grid goes down, you're penniless. I learned that in the last blackout. A hundred dollars is good, but any money is better than none.

#39 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 09:31 AM:

The best specialist site on survival gear (and the site includes a disclaimer saying the author's not a survivalist), is "Equipped to Survive". I found the link on Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools page. There is much good advice on personal kits that are amazingly small. The smaller the kit is, the more likely you are to continue carrying it.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 09:34 AM:

Consider that in an emergency where you have to leave home/work to go somewhere safe(r), that you should assume that cell phones will be down, that ATMs will be down, and that gas pumps will be down.

If you're carrying a kit in your car, have a smaller kit inside of it with the most essential of the essentials in it, in case you have to bail out of your vehicle and proceed on foot.

#41 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 11:20 AM:

The thing that I haven't seen mentioned yet: spare pair of glasses.
(also, those cheap cotton tube hold-glasses-on-head things. Important in circumstances where one must scramble up the embankment, etc.)

My own practice is to figure out how unhappy I am going to be if I want something and don't have it; this is why I normally have a survival bag (=space blanket body bag) and a couple of space blankets with me, this time of year.

It's highly unlikely I'll ever need them in Toronto, but if I do, I am going to really need them.

The only thing I feel an active need for that I haven't found a good solution for is a canteen cup -- the kind one can heat water in -- for Nalogene bottles; someone must make them, but I haven't found one.

#42 ::: veejane ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 11:47 AM:

I am like Jo inasmuch as I carry a number of "emergency" items with me all the time -- just ordinary oh-this-might-be-useful thinking. (I won the Instant Mom Award when I was 22 for having safety pins on me at a graduation where none of the hoods would stay properly on their own.) This includes a all-kind-of-tool doohickey that includes a tiny flashlight, pliers, and screwdriver heads.

My one concession to serious justified-paranoia is knowing three different ways to get out of my work building if the elevators aren't working. At (regular) fire drills, we're only ever directed to one exit, and I feel safer knowing where the other stairwells are.

#43 ::: Grant Barrett ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:04 PM:

gas pumps run on electricity

So does a lot of water in NYC. Is it above the fifth floor that the natural water pressure is insufficient to force it out of the pipes? Something like that. During the blackout, none of the toilets in our office flushed--very nasty very quickly--the faucets didn't work, and even the water cooler didn't give out water. No juice, then no H20. Even if the pressure had been sufficient, there still wouldn't have been water or flushing many places because they use electric switches.

I'd add a small AM/FM radio to your kit if there's not one there already.

My kit is currently very small, but it has all my life documents--birth certificate, passport, leftover foreign currency, immunization records, etc.--a flashlight, a Leatherman, a small bottle of water, pen and paper. I do keep dried pasta in the house at all times--a conscious choice due to remembering Sept. 11 and last August--because it packs well, has high calories, doesn't spoil easily (except when wet), and can be chewed if water is unavailable. Also, like the Gaines burgers mentioned above, it's not something you can gorge yourself on without taking time to prepare it. I am also aware that we have usually have a large bag of cat food. Not that tasty, but damned near the perfect food (as long as you don't consider what's in it).

This conversation reminds me of The Stand and Lucifer's Hammer, both which have little moments where a character makes a pre-disaster assumption that reveals how little what's happened has penetrated their mindsets. King describes the older woman that the motorcycle rider hooks up with in Manhattan trying to walk in sling-back sandals. (I think: It's been so long since I read it.) Niven and Pournelle write (again, if I remember correctly) about one of the main characters coming home to his wife, who is dead, and seeing that she's packed as if going away for a holiday rather than forever.

#44 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:34 PM:

Wow. I'm really going to die. I don't have ANY of this stuff.

Maybe I'd better look into it. Right after I claw my way out of my current crises, that is.

#45 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:39 PM:

Thank you for the reminder and a lot of good ideas. Here in Minneapolis, the disaster I have to be most prepared for is blizzards. I've lived through several. The first one, I was lucky - the water stayed on, the electricity was only off briefly, and I had just gotten groceries the day before. Now I always keep supplies on hand. I don't have a bug-out kit, but I think I will assemble one.

I have to replace the car kit, because we are driving to Oshkosh for Thanksgiving, through some fairly isolated areas. Blankets, check the flashlight that lives in the car, put in the candles, etc. etc.

Any ideas where to get a canteen that won't freeze? I used to have one but I can't find it. The new plastic ones, even in a insulated case, can't stay in a car up here - they freeze and leak.

#46 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:40 PM:

Brookstone makes a micro Multi-tool which includes LED flashlight, knife, pliers, small saw, screwdrivers, can opener and knife, which retails for $20 now:

LED Multi-tool

(which is I believe the same one that veejane alludes to, since IIRC I gave it to her.). It costs little enough that if you forget and it gets seized at an airport you're not out of a lot of money. They make good Christmas/Holiday gifts.

Another preparation for long-term blackouts at home: battery-powered smoke-detectors, one on the ceiling of every room. This is because in a prolonged blackout, you're more likely to have candles, kerosene-fired heaters, et cetera going, with the attendant fire hazard... and if your regular smoke detectors are wired to your electricity, they're not going to go off.

You should have one in every room, really -- smoke gathers up in the ceiling, and takes time to get thick enough to travel into another room through doorways -- a fire can grow to unmanageable size before the one tiny smoke detector in a central hallway picks up on it. In addition, doors that are =closed= will prevent smoke from travelling at all.

A lot of people skip having smoke detectors in the kitchen, because they'll go off when the bacon gets burned. Get the more expensive model, one with a "panic button" feature that you can use a broom handle to push 'off'. Quite a lot of fatal fires start in the kitchen!

A dear friend of mine got a rather hefty insurance settlement because the landlord of her mother's apartment had non-working smoke detectors. Unfortunately this was discovered after her mother had died of smoke inhalation -- my friend would much rather have had her mother live. Don't kid yourself that it can't happen to you.

#47 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:42 PM:

This is more than a bit peripheral to the main conversation, but I'm reminded of a videogame for the Sony PlayStation 2: Disaster Report, a quirky adventure game with a survival theme. You're a reporter on assignment to a city built on an artificial island. Unfortunately, your character has the misfortune to arrive on the day a massive earthquake hits, leaving you to make your way across the island to a helicopter pick-up spot for survivors.

It's an interesting twist on the "survival horror" genre, which generally involve arbitrary puzzles (i.e. "Exactly why does a police station have secret doors that can only be opened by placing the Lion Emblem into an indention in the Greek statue on the second floor?") and being attacked by zombies. In Disaster Report you aren't directly threatened by anything except the environment, and, instead of a life bar showing how much damage you've taken, there's a hydration meter; as an occasional Burning Man attendee, I'm all for any game centered on having enough water. This also sets up some nice details, such as save points represented by clean sources of water or the need to find clothing (say, wide-brimmed hats) to protect you from the elements. And, instead of picking up random items to solve convoluted puzzles with ("Hey, it's a bobsled. Better grab that, it might come in handy."), Disaster Report is fairly logical, with your character looking for things like gauze bandages, Zippo lighters, and perhaps a crowbar. The game also allows for a bit of inovation; you can take all the stuff I just mentioned and make a dandy torch out of it.

On top of that there's an inventory system (which is to say a backpack) that you have to carefully manage. The end result is a bit like Tetris, with you occasionally shuffling stuff around in your pack to try to make room for that water purifier you just found. A large part of the game also involves interacting with survivors, both by trying to find them (including a button on the controller simply for yelling "Hey!" on the off-chance anyone is listening) and by working with them to get past obstacles.

Disaster Report is a flawed game - the graphics aren't up to par and it has a few camera angle issues - but it's certainly an interesting one and can be had for a song...assuming an exchange rate of roughly $15 per song. I'd recommend it to any video game enthusiasts with a PS2.


#48 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 12:48 PM:

Y'know, I thought that I was paranoid to worry about stuff like this (okay, I do live in a REALLY low risk area) but there are lots of little things I do that often get my strange looks: I never wear shoes I can't run in. Ever. I used to always carry a pocket knife with me, although that's iffy now with security checks. And I get worried if the gas tank drops below half a tank.

I'm not sure if I'm reassured or worried that other people think about this stuff as well.

One thing I recommend is keeping *any* kind of blanket in the trunk of your car. If you break down or something (hitting a deer is common in this area) and you're stuck waiting, or have to walk out, it's a good thing to have.

Also, if you're like me and keep a flashlight in the car--CHECK the flashlight regularly. We recently discovered that ours had gone bad--luckily it wasn't an emergency when we discovered it. And I second carrying a pack of cards and a book.

The money is something I never thought about. I tend to write checks or use the credit card for everything (if I don't have cash, I can't spend it) so thank you for that tip.

#49 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 02:41 PM:

I like Graydon's suggestion of a spare pair of glasses, but, failing that, a glasses repair kit (available either at supermarkets or optometrists' places) is a MUST. While you can get the tiny screwdriver easily enough elsewhere, the glasses-sized screws that come with it are nearly impossible to get on demand anywhere else.

Space blankets are also in there; they fold up really small but can be lifesavers.

I think I'll go buy a thumbdrive now, and make sure all my documents are on there.

#50 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 02:46 PM:

Oh dear, I really feel like an idiot. I've been living in earthquake country for 15 years; I have several meds without which life would be unpleasant very quickly and I have not made a practice of caching some somewhere reasonable.

I shall tend to that this week. Along with putting together an emergency kit. I shall I shall I shall.


#51 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 02:54 PM:

This conversation reminds me of The Stand and Lucifer's Hammer

I'm reminded of A Matter for Men, in which the protag's father has a very well thought out survival plan. He tells his son that, no matter where you live, you can expect to bugout at least twice in your life. Sound advice.

#52 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 02:55 PM:

Here's a tip for having a stash of meds that aren't expired - use two of those day-by-day pill keepers. Place one in a bag you normally carry, keep the other where you normally keep your pills. When you refill a pill keeper, swap it with the one you've been carrying, this way your backup is always fresh.

Thankfully, I don't have to worry about this anymore as all I take on a daily basis is a vitamin and a low-dose aspirin.

#53 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 03:01 PM:

I take meds that they won't let me accumulate a backup supply of. Nothing life would be impossible without, but I would be seriously impaired and possibly immobile (emotionally) as soon as I ran out.

#54 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 03:08 PM:

Connie's smoke detector comment reminds me that I found some great ones at Home De(s)pot: they run on house power, with battery backup. You still should change the batteries regularly, but you get some redundancy; if the power goes out, the batteries have a chance to cover you. I don't remember the brand offhand. Ours also let you wire them together so that if one goes off, all of them make noise.

I've also seen models that let you use any handy IR remote control to turn them off; good for the kitchen.

#55 ::: Catie Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 04:38 PM:

the shoe store owner who stood in his doorway, handing out free running shoes to Wall Street women whod otherwise have had to walk out of the zone in heels.

I hadn't heard that story. What an incredibly decent human being.


#56 ::: veejane ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 04:58 PM:

LED Multi-tool (which is I believe the same one that veejane alludes to, since IIRC I gave it to her.)

You are right! And a wunnerful tool it is. (I keep it on my set of spare keys.) I also have a set of tools that is the size of a deck of playing cards -- allen wrenches, tiny spanners, a couple of tiny screwdrivers -- but that is full of parts easy to lose, so it stays at home. When the Liliputians invade, they'll invade me first.

I had no idea that smoke detectors could be wired to the house's electricity -- I thought all of them ran on batteries. Clearly, I have always lived in really old houses.

#57 ::: Laurie Mann ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 05:20 PM:

Have your medicine (and, heck, even prescriptions) on you. And whatever painkiller you use (Alleve for me). I usually do have a pocketknife with me, or in my luggage.

Practice walking down many flights of stairs. I work on the 27th floor. Whenever we have a fire drill (which is supposed to mean "going to a designated area"), I walk down all of those stairs and outside. I can do it in 5 minutes if there's no crowd.

I usually also have a deck of cards with me.

#58 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 06:00 PM:

Gee, and I thought I was a girl scout. Wow. I mean, I do have a desk drawer full of tools at work, and my purse holds all sorts of miniaturized goodies like flashlights and hard candy and sewing kits, but serious go-packs I don't have.

My "stuff" is more geared to having to spend an extra night in an airport or being snowed in at work -- two days worth of my most essential medicines in my purse, my PDA stuffed as full as it can get with books and games, a change of pantyhose and an extra blazer in my office, a couple of finger-tip "toothbrushes" again in the purse. The toiletries kit in my suitcase is set to go at a moment's notice -- I just have to refill the meds. But I do have beef jerky and power bars and water bottles and a space blanket in the car.

But at home, after living through a couple of ice storms and too many electrical outages and pump failures, we keep a porta-potty which is set up ready to go after each use, several containers of water in the garage (having the pool now, though, makes this a little less urgent -- we can siphon water for some uses), and a generator we test every week or two. I don't worry too much about urban disasters -- my concern is more the sort of problem that cuts you off from town for days at a time. So my rule for staple groceries is "use the next-to-last one, put it on the list." When you open the last jar of peanut butter in the house, well, who knows what might happen? Best not to tempt fate.

#59 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 06:10 PM:

I have to assume that anything that requires more walking than to my car is going to kill me, so there's no use in planning that.

However, having grown up in typhoon areas, I keep (and update) a good kit in the car and an "emergency shelf" of extra food and water in the house -- I usually use it when it snows and I'm stuck indoors for a couple of weeks.

And since I'm seriously ill, I keep an emergency pack for the hospital. All I need to add to it is meds, which are in a medium bag on my vanity.

In case of fire, I have the cats trained to come to a whistle and at each door/window I have bags for them to get into (and snackies for when they do it). Every so often I practice going out the bedroom window, which has a chest I can sit on at the same height as the sill, so I can sort of just slide out.

veejane, when I bought this condo 13 years ago, the smoke alarm was *only* connected to the electricity. I mentioned to a neighbor that I was going to have to buy one that worked off both electricity and batteries and see about getting it put in, and he decided they should switch, too, and did the shopping run and the putting up. The smoke detector got too old about 10 years ago (the stuff that makes it go off wears out) and I got another one and this one can have the *first* alarm turned off by a TV remote, for those times when you burn the popcorn.

#60 ::: Carrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 06:24 PM:

I lived near Weyauwega, WI when the chemical train derailed. People had to leave NOW and weren't allowed to bring their pets. They thought they'd be gone for a matter of hours; they ended up being gone three weeks. Some pets made it, some didn't. The difference was water access. The houses where the toilet seats were up had live cats and dogs. I leave mine up whenever I leave the house now, with four cats and a dog I'm responsible for, because I live near train tracks. I also leave the bag of dry food accessible with effort, though I can do it because my pets aren't the type to get at it on an average day.

#61 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 06:49 PM:

Living near both the Sierra (Yosemite 2 hours east) and the coast (Monterey/Carmel 2.5 hours west) we get used to people traveling in areas they simply aren't prepared for. For example, I routinely travel both I-580 over Altamont pass into the Bay Area and I-5 over the Grapevine to Los Angeles. The Grapevine is the most heavily traveled mountain route in the world and Altamont can't be far behind now that it is a major commuter route. Neither are what one would call Alpine areas, but both are far from tame. In particular, the Grapevine gets closed by some winter storms and it passes through the Santa Clara unit of the Angeles National Forest, which meets the standards for wilderness area in many areas. But you regularly see overpacked minivans pulled over with mechanical problems, with passengers woefully underdressed for the conditions. People seem to think that since they can get there by car, there is no difference in how they shoud prepare to travel through Los Angeles or the Los Padres Mountains.

When I travel in the Sierra, or down PCH, or over the Grapevine or Donner Pass, I operate under the assumption that I am going on a car assisted backpacing trip and plan accordingly. One of the better starting lists (in this case from REI) is the 10+ essentials list which has been around in one form or another for more than 40 years. I would like to reinforce two items on that list -- water supplies and maps, especially here out West. There are now collections of not only all the road maps for, say, Northern California, there are reatively inexpensive bound versions of all the topos as well -- just check B&N or Borders. And consider water purification supplies as well, both filtration and chemical.

#62 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:07 PM:

Xopher, I'm dead, too. I used to keep a sort of semi-kit back in South Korea when I was in high school. There was some US Army pamphlet or other that had a list of recommendations in case the armistice went kaputt. I haven't done that in years. My current excuse is that I'm with in-laws, have no independent transportation, and leaving for home on the opposite coast in a week and a half.

I think a shopping trip may be in order when we get home. Where to stow stuff where the baby won't get into it (11 mos. old and disturbingly mobile), that's another problem. It's not a large apartment...

#63 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 07:31 PM:

We're reasonably prepared for what we might expect up here - grab bags in the house, the car's stocked. My biggest worry is the cats (reinforced by a fire two houses down about a month ago!).

On the subject of good things to have -

I'd recommend the Fox 40 Classic whistle above any other. It's LOUD, cheap, nearly indestructible plastic, and comes in a million obnoxious colours. Accept no substitutes.

I do fall into the current vogue for keeping track of my keys with a carabiner - but I make a point of getting the Gen-U-ine article. One (or several) carabiners that can take some serious weight can be a godsend in wide variety of emergencies. They make great anchors, great ways to link things (and people) together - should you be in a not-so-nice urban area, they also function as brass knuckles. In combination with some strong lightweight rope, you can do a pretty implausible number of things with them. Since my usual "purse" has removeable webbing straps, it also means an instant way to rig carry-straps (although it's usually applied to getting groceries home).

A compass really can be useful.

There are a number of different types out there, but a water bottle with a built-in filter, or a full blown filter can be the difference between some really unpleasant (and potentially fatal - dehydration from either end is nasty) experiences, and bad tasting water. At a minimum, get iodine tablets. Up here the problem isn't usually a total lack of water (or sea water), but a lack of clean water.

The camping stove in our go-bag runs on every fuel stoves are known to run on - and we keep fuel for it as well.

A largish plastic sheet can mean the difference between being wet and miserable, and merely miserable - and also folds down into a tiny package.

On the subject of being wet and miserable, drybags are a marvelous invention. If you're in an area where things get wet, they're a great thing to have in/as your go-bag.

Hmmm. I suspect that I could go on about this for far longer than anybody cares to read, so I'll finish up with this suggestion. In my first aid kit (a wilderness kit that's kept reliably up to date), I also include a copy of the SAS Survival Guide, Pocket Edition. It's small enough to be a negligable burden, but has a ton of useful information for all sorts of situations. Well worth adding in. The Collins First Aid Book is probably better for medical issues, but it misses out on general survival.

[I was going to suggest this book on self defense as being the best easily portable and practical one that I've found yet - but it's out of print. I know it may seem a bit odd to mention self defense in this thread, but human interaction, especially in emergencies isn't always reasonable - and it's wise to have some idea of how to get yourself out of a bad situation.]

#64 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2004, 08:02 PM:

I keep a spare change of underwear in the self-contained life support pod of my atomic-powered giant triphibian robot, because it takes two damn days for the auto-loom to make a new set from tree bark and scavenged vinyl siding.

* * *

Seriously: I've carried an overnight bag, rope, a hatchet and a blanket in my car for over a decade, since a stint as a travelling sales-trainer. A box of food, tent, first aid kit and camp chair found their way in there last summer, thanks to a camping trip that never got off the ground. (Never went back into the house because I hate clutter.) All I need now is water and I'll be set.

#65 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 01:31 AM:

Two is one; one is none.

I had a connection with kids who met the fool killer in the snow as much because they were in Levis as anything else.

Tires, especially with gasoline, may burn well.

It's harder and harder and harder to do but I keep a little cash in two separate banking systems on 2 coasts.

I used to think I could tough out the easy stuff and worried too much about the low probability disaster - now I carry more toilet paper and fret less about NBC. I can dramatize by calling sun-screen flash paint.

A verbal shorthand in the family for now might come in handy -

#66 ::: Peter ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 11:02 AM:

A long time ago, I used to be infected with survivalist fever. The 6 months of freeze dried food in the basement was originally rationalized as "bomb shelter" supplies (oh yeah, I lived 11 miles from the nearest missile silo, like I would have survived, not), then after moving to FL, it was "hurricane supplies" then Y2K supplies, then after getting laid off for more than a couple months in the dotbomb, it was food. Every box had a can opener stuffed into it (I think there was an old twilight zone episode where the last man on earth had tons of food and no can opener, there was another where the last man on earth broke his glasses and could no longer see). I also threw out the 20 or so decks of cards and 30+ can openers that I had been saving as currency for the post apocalyptic future. Yes, you may laugh.

If you're interested in all sorts of interesting things, there is a magazine called "American Survivalist" that can scratch that itch.

After Hurricane Andrew devastated South FL, the company I worked with got other similar businesses to send relief (enough that we would get 1 UPS truck fully loaded every day). The most well thought out packages were in large picnic coolers. Toilet paper, can openers, batteries, Paper towels, bottled water, cans of food, 1 or 2 flashlights. When the temperature is in the 90s all day long, a cooler (especially the kind with wheels) can keep any food you forage up out of the hands of rodents and make it last a little longer. And when you are driving through those neighborhoods handing out stuff, you know that you can just hand out the coolers without a second guess.

When I was a field engineer for GM, I got stuck in snowstorms on several occasions. Looking back, I was lucky that I was able to reach a motel in time, blankets, a shovel (many folks with their car stuck in a snowstorm die from carbon monoxide poisoning when their car gets covered) and some munchies would have made a huge difference if I wasn't. I also got laughed at for carrying shampoo and cologne in a bucket, but if you've ever had either open up in a suitcase, you're whole business trip is ruined until you can buy new clothes.

I guess what got me into the survivalist mindset back in the 70s was a British TV series called "The Survivors." The plot was something like a biological weapon killed off over 95% of the human race. What did the survivors do, to survive. It got me thinking about what would I need to live, if [insert tragedy here] happened. I never could get a reasonably priced horse-drawn plow (too many folks use as a lawn ornament, driving their prices out of sight), which is just as well.

#67 ::: Richard Boye ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 12:26 PM:


>>the shoe store owner who stood in his doorway, handing out free running shoes to Wall Street women whod otherwise have had to walk out of the zone in heels.

I hadn't heard that story. What an incredibly decent human being.

I beleive that was actually done during the blackout. Or, it was first done on 9/11 and others replicated by several others during the blackout. Last summer (blackout) my sister received a pair of black reeboks, and went back the next day or two to pay the guy who gave them to her. His store was full of flowers, bottles of booze and gift baskets of muffins and cheeses and golf stuff.

Another amusing episode was Brooklyn Borough President (a rather meaningless office) Marty Markowitz (who realizing the first parenthetical, considers himself Cheerleader-in-Cheif and Morale Officer) standing in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge, with his staff, handing out bottled water and band-aids to people who were walking home over the bridge(no trains), saying "Welcome Home." A nice gesture, but a tad insenstive for those who have another seven or eight miles to go....

#68 ::: Dave Weingart ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 01:45 PM:

What's possibly sad is that, as a suburban boy, I don't have a go-bag or anythng similar to it.

I'd likely carry my leatherman, a flashlight and spare batteries and a small radio and spare batteries. Space blanket I have, and I should probably start squirrelling away spare currency.

It's not like anything is going to happen in Levittown, but if NYC has a real problem, Long Island is in REAL trouble.

Maybe I should get that pilot's license sooner rather than later.

#69 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 01:54 PM:

Xeger, I've used a carabiner for my keys for 30 years, I was surprised when they became popular.

#70 ::: Aiglet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 01:55 PM:

I realized looking through my bag yesterday that I've managed to accumulate a number of these things just as part of the "stuff I carry around."

I've got moisturizer with sunscreen, lip balm, breath mints (sugar!), a knife, a flashlight (thank you for reminding me to check and replace the batteries), string, books, pens, pencils, a bottle of water, painkillers, sudafed; (in my desk drawers) a raincoat, an umbrella, a stuffed frog, a battery powered radio, paper, more candy, tissues, tea, an eyeglass repair kit...

I think my reluctance to accumulate the rest of the "personal kit" is that I can't carry any more stuff in addition to the stuff I already have and still do my 3-mile-a-day hike back and forth from the train station to work.

Any ideas on how to make the kit lighter without necessarily sacrificing stuff that has to be there?

#71 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 03:58 PM:

Well, Aiglet, maybe the stuffed frog can stay in the desk drawer...of course, people DO tend to give The Man With A Duck On His Head a wide berth, so it may have its survival value in certain types of disasters..

#72 ::: Aiglet ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 04:09 PM:


I was thinking that in a high-stress situation, something that is lightweight, funny, cuddly, and can double as a pillow in a pinch might not be such a bad thing to have.

Of course, I also donated most of my stuffed animals to the local fire department when I went to college, so perhaps I have an over-inflated idea of how calming it is to have something silly to hug during a stressful situation.

#73 ::: Bob Devney ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 04:50 PM:

I'm amazed nobody in THIS assemblage has mentioned packing a towel or recalled the useful phrase, "Don't Panic." Does no one read the classics anymore?

By the way, that self-defense book recommended by Xeger upthread does seem out of print here in the U.S., but recently reprinted and available in the U.K. It's SAS Self Defence (Collins Gem S.) by Barry Davies. Seems to be offered by Amazon UK at:

And at Magellan's Travel Supplies from California, you'll find a handy little item they promo thusly: "What's on every packing list but can't be found anywhere?"

A little pocket-sized roll of duct tape, of course. That's at:

Stay alert, everyone ...

#74 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 06:31 PM:

Not much to add, save that Chem-lights ought to be replaced every year or so, as some part of the reaction starts to break down.

For those who worry about food (I can't survive for three weeks, I run to about 6 percent body fat, perfectly normal, and healthy, but it means I have little in the way of reserves) finding out what's local, and edible. Some parched grains will go a long way (a lb of barley, oats, or wheat, will make a tolerable porridge, be more work than it's work to just snack on and last for about a week, if one is going on just maintanence level eating).

Space blankets too need to be replaced, as they insulator tends to fall off the folds.

For most things a decent rule is to stay put. I don't know how many accounts I've read of people who struck out for help, only to be found dead, because no one knew where they were when the wreckage was found. If you must leave, have a way to keep to one direction, and leave a note.


#75 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2004, 09:59 PM:

Aiglet, I don't generally discuss my bear in public.

Terry, I know striking out for help can be a bad idea. Where I grew up, you got your annual quota of stories about snowbirds whose cars had broken down in the desert, and who'd decided to either walk back to town in the heat of the day, or walk to the settlement they could see in the distance. I was always mildly surprised when these stories ended with the snowbird surviving to be hospitalized.

On the other hand, I read a lot of WWII-era accounts of this-and-that when I was a kid. No matter when the protagonists decided to take off and head for the border/coast/American lines, there'd always be people in their neighborhood who weren't leaving. I got the impression that those neighbors tended to fare badly. I've also read first-person accounts of Chernobyl, and observed that almost all of the people in them would have had better lives subsequent to the event if they'd stood up from the dinner table, grabbed their overcoat, and started walking away from the breached reactor.

Eugene Hassenfuss should have stayed put. No question there.

It's situational. NYC imposes a stern reality test on such questions: How far are you willing to walk?

#76 ::: paul ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 01:54 AM:

My back-up supply of several gallons of water saved my ass the other day when my town's water department decided to do some work on my street about the time I needed to shave and go to work.

My key chain biner (the real thing) has been put through innumerable uses as well.

Another note on cyalumes and other chemical lights - they go bad fast if the foil packages have even a tiny hole in them. An alternative is a brand called a Krill, works for days on a couple AA batteries.

#77 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 04:26 AM:

I was talking with a Brit I know who has lived here in the Bay Area--was here for the 89 quake--and his comment was, "What makes Americans Americans is the self-reliance".

You may wish to join or organize a Community Emergency Response Team. These CERT groups have become more prevalent in California because of our enormous earthquake risk, but they do exist in New York (more about NYC CERT) and many other areas, such as Detroit

Most of my disaster-preparedness thinking has to do with earthquake or honkin' big fire that "seeds" into my neighborhood. It happened 2 summers ago. Evacuation is less likely so I organize for me to stay put and ride out what is going to happen.

FEMA runs CERT trainings:

The purpose of this section of the FEMA Web site is to provide information which will help you to establish and maintain an effective CERT program, and to allow you to network with people throughout the United States and its territories regarding CERT activities.

The deal is, the emergency is going to happen when you are not prepared and not in place.

I got involved in our local CERT because it dawned on me (1) most of the residents on my road were elderly--was I going to dash away and leave them to their fate? and (2) what if the BIG one struck, and I wasn't home but my daughter was?

More ideas to add to the many excellent above:

1. Store water in your freezer (if you have one)--doesn't go bad, and makes the freezer more efficient, plus helps if your emergency is a power outage

2. Do try to have about 3-5 days worth of food for your dependents, anyway, of stuff that is palatable, nutritious, and doesn't require water to prepare. Rotate twice yearly by donating to a homeless shelter and buying new for yourself. (while I feed my cats dry food daily, the emergency supply is canned.)

3. If you use a car: the no-emptier-than-half-gas-tank habit. I blow that one all the time, but just a reminder. A car survival kit in a backpack (include shoes and sox!) is a good idea.

4. Solar powered radios have become quite good--I use the one in my car kit all the time.

5. Solar powered lights of all kinds have become quite good. I am particularly fond of the long (80') string of LEDs. Frontgate is selling them as Christmas lights for $99.00. I fouond thm through Skymall:

5. Uhhm, I don't mean to get all personal here, but if you sleep in attire you would not like to be seen in, maybe keeping something more modest by the bed, in addition to the shoes AND SOCKS, would be a good idea.

6. My personal favorite for chafing in delicate areas is A&D ointment, but Desitin (or a house brand)

has zinc oxide and is therefore ALSO a good sunscreen.

7. One thing we have discovered from some of our CERT drills is you can never have too many big markers--for leaving notes on doors, for marking "this house searched" etc etc etc.

8. Socks & u-trou. Lots of socks that are clean and fit. If you are going shank's mare, clean socks are your friend. Dirty u-trou are demoralizing.

9. (for a home-based kit, and car too): Bleach. Bleach is your friend. It makes skanky water safe to drink. It will make your toileting facilities less of disease sink.

10. Stuff I keep in the Earthquake Shed or the freezer (rubbermaid shed I got at a demolition site) in addition to food and tents and what not: a big roll of plastic sheeting, I think it is 10 mil.; a roll of polyester fleece (insulating when wet) lots o' batteries of all kinds, a roll of butcher paper for notes; a couple of trenching shovels (give-aways at a demo site); a couple of boxes of matches in wax; a bunch of cloth towels sealed one of those vacuum extractor thingies; a couple of toilet seats (demo site freebie); two big soup kettles (gimmies from our local restaurant cause they got a new chef who bought new); a couple of "mass feeding recipe" pages laminated; some kind of "how to do everything" book (I don't remember which one, it was one of my Dad's); and various hanks of what we call OSHA rope out here. I'm pretty sure there's more stuff in there, I haven't completely inventoried in over a year as I was out of town for our last drill.

We in the San Francisco Bay Area are guaranteed a catastrophic quake....sometime. It is only sensible to be prepared.

#78 ::: Cindy Londeore ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 04:34 PM:

One more useful thing to have on hand is a radio. Grundig makes a nice one that can be operated by hand crank. seen here
and if you buy it from this link it supports NPR!

I got one for becoming an NPR member a couple years ago and they don't take much cranking to get you vital information.

#79 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 04:55 PM:

Some additional thoughts, maube not all portable, maybe not all quite sensible...

Disposable dust masks. Will they do you much good against a "dirty bomb"? Not much. But all the dust around on 9/11 wasn't good for anyone, and it it makes you feel a little less panicked (or somebody else, carry a spare or two) it may be worthwhile.

Fuel cans: it's still hard to beat the 20-litre jerrycan as a safe store for fuel It may not be legal everywhere, sometimes on a technicality such as the cap design, but if you're going to have a portable generator it needs fuel.

You can get them with a food-grade plastic liner for water.

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your vehicle?

A map, even a tourist street-map of town. And a compass Though if you can see the sun and have an analogue wrist watch, you can get a rough north from that. With a street-grid and the map, you don't need a very precise north.

A head-scarf sounds silly, but it's essentially a rectangle of cloth, and it has a lot of potential uses. Keep the sun off your head, or use it as a sling for an injured arm.

Do you know where the local ER facilities are? What frequencies do the local radio stations use?

Vehicles in general: if you need to rely on one, at least know enough to check oil and water levels, and top them up.

#80 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 08:27 PM:

Regarding water, you can get high-quality filtering water bottles for not a lot of money. I don't recall the brand we have, but they'll even make toilet water safe to drink and were about $20. Depending on the types of emergency you're likely to face and what sources of water you would likely have, they could provide a very light alternative to keeping fresh water in your go bag.

#81 ::: Kristine ::: (view all by) ::: November 18, 2004, 08:45 PM:

On storing stuff out of reach of kiddies: until they're old enough to read, cheap plastic toolboxes can be locked with a combination lock--just write the combination right on the box with ye olde Sharpie. My kids were horribly mobile (found my 15-month-old on top of the refrigerator once!), but combination locks are really hard, even for smart critters.

#82 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 12:54 AM:

On top of the fridge???? Yikes!

#83 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 03:32 AM:

Wilderness Alert markets a thorough guide to first aid in the back of beyond, most of which is useful anywhere.

Transport options: bicycle, anyone?

#84 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 02:18 PM:

For the benefit of anyone else thinking of ordering that handy dandy Grundig wind-up radio referenced above by Cindy L, it may be useful to know that the Red model (which is the default choice when you order from the NPR website) is, as of today/Nov 19, backordered until mid-December.

Most of the other colors (Metallic Sand, M-Bronze, M-Blue, M-Pearl) are in stock for immediate shipping. Although they'll now have one less Bronze and one less Sand. (I've always wanted to Impress a bronze. . .)


#85 ::: John Kelsey ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 03:40 PM:

For people like me with a serious caffeine habit, you want to have some kind of easily-accessed caffeine. Coffeebags or instant coffee or tea bags or No-Doz, any of those will work, but otherwise, you may spend the first couple of days fighting off a really unpleasant headache.

Also, because we hardly ever use the fireplace and aren't real familiar with the kind of propane heater we have for emergencies (it's alleged to be safe for indoor use), we have a battery-powered CO detector.

One last nitpick, which may or may not be useful--I think in a large-scale evacuation situation, that irritating donut tire most cars come with (instead of a real spare tire) could be a problem. I know it says you shouldn't drive fast or far with it, but I don't really know what the parameters are; I'd just hate to be needing to drive a couple hundred miles with a couple hundred thousand other people on I-70, and need to find someplace to replace my tire before I could go on because I ran over some nails or something.


#86 ::: Jack Heneghan ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 05:48 PM:

I picked up some Red Cross Winter Survival Kits for our cars several years ago. You never know when you will get caught out in a real blizzard here. Seems to happen once every four-five years.

The kit contain candles, matches, stove, cup, some dried food, a blanket. Just what you need if you get stuck in a snow bank overnight. It's small and it sits in the trunk, out the the way, along with a full set of replacement winter weather gear.

Maybe I should check out the food in the kits and replace it. It's probably getting old by now.

#87 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 06:40 PM:

Some years ago, after Hurricane Andrew, our local Girl Scouts put together some packages to send to Girl Scouts in Florida. What we put together in each kit was:

AM/FM/Weather Band transistor radio, with batteries and spare batteries
Tin cup
Box of tea bags
Sanitary napkins

Why tea bags? Because that's an effective way to make sure folks boil their water before drinking it. (And tea takes some of the curse off chemically disinfected water.)

#88 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 07:11 PM:

It may have been mentioned already, but a bunch of pre-stamped postcards, perhaps pre-addressed to relatives and such, might be a good thing to have in an emergency kit.

#89 ::: Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 07:11 PM:

The only thing Id add is that in the summer you should have a little tube of that zinc-and-petroleum-jelly ointment they use to keep babies from getting diaper rash. Its very effective protection against the kind of chafing thatll peel your skin so raw that you cant bear to walk.

My favorite brand of this is a proudly home-grown product from back in Louisiana: Boudreaux's Butt Paste. Works like a charm, and it's fun to say, too.

#90 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 07:29 PM:

"a bunch of pre-stamped postcards, perhaps pre-addressed to relatives and such, might be a good thing to have in an emergency kit."

Er, that does presume that the USPS is still in existence post-Apocalypse.

#91 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 07:46 PM:

This didn't strike me as a survivalist thread; it's preparing for the Big One / volcano / hurricaine / terrorist strike kind of thing.

#92 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 08:06 PM:

Apocalypse? No, more on the order of "A train full of chlorine derailed, the firefighters came by and said, 'Get out now!' -- so, what do you grab on the way out the door?" sort of thing.

The first aid bag is for someone shouting "Bill's been hurt, and it looks bad!"

The wilderness bag is for when you hear "volunteers are needed to help search for a lost hunter...."

The urban bag is for "what, another blackout?" when you're at the office and have to get home.

Apocalypse has a whole 'nother set of problems.

#93 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: November 19, 2004, 08:27 PM:

Y'all are right and I was overwrought, although there once was a P.O. in Kalapana, before the volcano took it (along with a lot we had a mortgage on).

#94 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2004, 04:22 PM:

James D. Macdonad said:

Apocalypse? No, more on the order of "A train full of chlorine derailed, the firefighters came by and said, 'Get out now!' -- so, what do you grab on the way out the door?" sort of thing.

While we were out of range of the Mississauga Train Derailment, my family did play host to friends who were evacuated in just that situation. Were you one of the ones affected? It seems an odd coincidence that you mention it...

#95 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2004, 05:13 PM:

No, I wasn't affected by that one. But I am in public safety when I'm not writing novels, and I have an interest in these things.

The jump kit is for those times when you don't have the leisure to pack, but the crisis is going to be short-lived and local.

#96 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2004, 06:12 PM:

James D. MacDonald caused so many things to become clear by writing:

No, I wasn't affected by that one. But I am in public safety when I'm not writing novels, and I have an interest in these things.

Ahhh! That explains so much! Speaking of public safety disasters, I'm curious to know if there's a cannonical site-or-two that does disaster analysis. I help with enough large events that it's interesting reading.

#97 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 10:01 AM:

James D. Macdonald,

Have you come across this site?

My dad is a professor in safety and environmental management, and uses pictures like those in his classes all the time.

#98 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 12:32 PM:

Naval Safety Center has been running stuff like that back since forever -- before there was a web, they had a monthly magazine that was distributed free to the Fleet.

Someday, for a thrill, get ahold of a copy of Ammunition Saftey, Its Origin and Necessity, a NAVORD pub that's required reading for all gunnery officers annually.

#99 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 03:06 PM:

Hi everyone -- this is my first time posting here, though I think I know a lot of ya'll from elsewhere online.

I live in a rural area and routinely travel in remote areas. One thing I highly reccomend is an inverter for your car. You can use it to turn 12volt DC into 110 volt AC and run most power tools and household appliances off it. Need to vaccuum the water out of your house? Plug your shop vac into your car. Need to run a skill saw and drill to repair your house? Plug it into your car.

Inverters are cheaper than a generator by far, and a good substitute for emergencies where you're primarily going to be using the generator for power tools, communciations equipment, etc.

Also, I keep clothing in my car that's suitable either for hiking or working on the car -- a jacket, good sturdy shoes, jeans (heavy work jeans, not lightweight cheap designer jeans) a hat, etc. I can speak from personal experience in saying that it is NO FUN trying to get a car out of a mud puddle when you're wearing heels and a relatively short skirt ... on the other hand, it got me male assistance pretty quickly ... it's also no fun trying to move debris out of the road wearing sandals when said debris contains an awful lot of nails.

Speaking of nails, you can buy a fixit kit for your car tires that contains plugs and the tools to insert them -- in a disaster, there may be debris in the road, and you may well need them. I have plugs and an air compressor behind the seat of my truck. A full sized spare isn't a bad idea, but it may not fit in the space for the donut.

A final tip -- you can buy 55 gallon food grade drums at most feed stores (at least, in my area) and they're great for storing water.


#100 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 04:07 PM:

Today's shopping adventure:

The Snow Peak 'Mini Solo Cook Set' includes a 830 ml can, a 330 ml cup, and lid; the can fits wide-mouth nalogene bottles. (at least the old boring mostly-clear kind I have.)

Titanium, so not cheap, but I have at long last found a canteen cup for the nalogene bottles. Whole thing nests nicely and vanishes into a standard MEC bottle carrier.


#101 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 07:19 PM:


"a bunch of pre-stamped postcards, perhaps pre-addressed to relatives and such, might be a good thing to have in an emergency kit."

"Er, that does presume that the USPS is still in existence post-Apocalypse."

Well, David Brin got a good novel out of that premise, and Kevin Costner got a film out of it, which got bad reviews at the time, as self-indulgent, but which has aged rather well.

My son points out that the Apocalypse had some global ecological effects (maybe not as fast as in "The Day After Tomorrow") and thus the film of "The Postman" may be taken as a prequel for the film "Waterworld," in the same way that I claim "Gattaca" is a prequel for "Bladerunner."

#102 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2004, 10:44 PM:

Yoon's comment about South Korea reminds me of a comment my father made during one of his tours of duty there. He was sharing living quarters with a couple military intelligence guys, and said "if I ever come in and their stuff's been cleaned out, I'm driving south as fast as I can".

veejane: I'm somewhat surprised; all the places I've lived in MA have used line-powered smoke detectors, and I was under the impression it was actually a legal requirement.

#103 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: November 22, 2004, 06:40 AM:

Christopher D. - the line-powered smoke detectors were probably a result of living in newer or rehabbed buildings. Older buildings are probably grandfathered in under the old regs until someone does enough work on them to require a building inspector, who will then insist that the work un-grandfathers them. (We once lived in a rehabbed old Victorian in Somerville that had been gutted to the point where the building inspector insisted on sprinkler installation as well as line-in smoke detectors).

#104 ::: Tom S ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2004, 02:27 AM:

Ten-SHUN! All right, as you were.

Okay: Eyes forward, gentlemen. Very well. Today, we are going to disassemble and discuss the "Standard Urban Survival Container / Cloth, Single", commonly known as The Apocalypse Bag. On the tables in front of you, each of you will -- Wait for the order, Marine -- you will find one such Container.

Very well: Open your containers.

Now, I don't want to hear any jokes from Dr. Strangelove, that a "fellah could have a pretty good time in Vegas" with the contents of this bag. It may save your life under the right circumstances; keep that in mind. Let's begin.

Inside, you will find ITEM ONE: An apparent .45 caliber handgun. Withdraw this apparent gun. Doesn't feel right, does it? This is a chocolate gun, gentlemen -- approximately one-point-six-five pounds of Hershey's best. Properly husbanded, it will provide you with brief spurts of energy.

It can also be used as a ruse against an opponent with a stick or knife; you could convince them to disarm themselves. It is not recommended to use this chocolate gun in its ruse configuration under weather conditions above forty degrees Fahrenheit. It is also not recommended to attempt to use the chocolate gun as a ruse once you begin eating it.

ITEM TWO: The blue packet contains a full-body condom. Our Commander-In-Chief does not believe in willy-nilly passing out boxes of Trojans just because a bunch of poverty-ridden, non-Christian assholes in some backwater banana republic can't keep from fucking monkeys. Also, to equip each soldier or Marine with a fully self-contained Racal-style suit, in the case of a release of biologicals, would be prohibitively expensive and difficult to carry.

So the compromise is this item. In the unlikely event that, during a Class 1 chemical, biological, or nuclear event, you insist on getting laid, you may do so in safety and security. This is made of four-ply American latex, and will prevent the entry of biological agents down to the size of .00002 Micropores. Breathing, however, will be somewhat problematic -- in other words, she'd better be worth it. Or, you'd better get out of the hazard zone right damn quick.

One other note: It is not recommended trying to play hero while wearing the full-body intercourse/survival skinsuit. I mean, don't go trying to dig some civilian out of the rubble, and risk tearing the suit, when they're just going to die anyway. The United States has spent nearly half a million dollars to train each of you, and we want our investments back in one piece. So don't be fucking stupid -- exfiltrate the event area and don't spare the horses, capiche?

ITEM THREE: One standard, pop-top, 10-ounce aluminum can, marked, "Ration, Water, Distilled".

What's that? You in the back; speak up. Uh-huh. Yes; I understand that these cans are dated 1958. I am assured that, having been sealed in, the water in these cans is perfectly acceptable for consumption under extreme, emergency circumstances. Nothing to worry about.

ITEM FOUR: A standard Zagat Restaurant Guide covering all major urban centers in the continental United States. In the event of a Class 1 event, you will be able to find sources of food without having to forage; I recommend reading the section on tipping versus standard service charges. Those restaurants providing discounts to armed forces on active duty -- and there are fuck-all few of them, gentlemen -- are highlighted.

ITEM FIVE: The folded, red card is a short-form diagnostic tool, which should allow you to quickly ascertain what chemical or biological agents have been released in the Class 1 event. An example: "Glaubner's Disease is clearly indicated by sudden, complete and irreversible loss of bowel and bladder control". So, if you're downtown in your full-body condom, surrounded by people who are having a guaranteed bad underwear day, this card could provide a helpful tip.

ITEM SIX: This is a standard Field Radio. It receives FM and AM, and has, you know... little antenna, there, which pulls out - like this. Great for keeping up on the news, and Top 40.

Remember, the Emergency Broadcast System will provide you with information about what to do in the Event Zone, until you are able to exfiltrate and report for decontamination. And you can listen to tunes while you wait. They're trying to lobby Congress for money for iPods, but don't hold your breath.

All right; ITEM SEVEN: Lucky seven is a sealed plastic strip, containing ten apparent gold pieces. I say apparent, because they look like gold, they feel and will even weigh out like gold, and if cut in half would show as if they were gold all through.

They are not gold, however, and while they're a great gag gift, you probably don't want to tell the terrified civilian or his wife and kids, whose car you're comandeering at chocolate gunpoint, that you just forced him to accept $32.50 in Pyrite.

The last item is EIGHT: This is a series of postcards, pre-addressed to a central clearinghouse in Colorado, and which will be remailed to your families after the Class 1 event.

You'll see they are made to be set up quickly -- you put in the name and address of the recipient on top, and then check the appropriate boxes:

"I am
>> fine
>> out of danger
>> in a decon zone
>> in a hospital

I will
>> write when I am out of triage
>> write when I am out of quarantine

I hope you are all right too."

That's it, gentlemen. Remember -- these containers may save your life. Take care of them.

#105 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2005, 01:08 PM:
An example: "Glaubner's Disease is clearly indicated by sudden, complete and irreversible loss of bowel and bladder control".

Actually, if I experienced (or witnessed) sudden, complete and irreversible loss of bowel and bladder control I'd suspect organo-phosphate poisoning, for which the antidote is atropine. Remove and discard contaminated clothing. Wash intact skin with soap and water or ethyl alcohol.

#106 ::: Peregrine ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2005, 01:37 PM:

One thing that's come in handy more than once - zip strips. Cheap, almost no weight, extremely packable, and really handy when you have to make splints, compression bandages, tourniquets - or handcuff someone :P Industrial/construction are large and can be purchased at your local hardware store.

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 06, 2006, 09:29 AM:
Thousands Flee Toxic Cloud

Half the 32,000 residents of a Raleigh, North Carolina, suburb have been asked to evacuate after explosions and fire at a hazardous waste plant shot noxious gases and flames 150 feet into the air. People "are putting themselves in very grave danger by being near or around this smoke," said Apex town manager Bruce Radford.

That's why you have your evacuation/deployment bag by the door, and a list of phone numbers (and a prepaid phone card) to tell your friends and family that you're okay.

Like I keep saying: Who needs bin Laden when you have Murphy?

#108 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 20, 2006, 12:08 PM:

A really excellent set of inventory lists for home emergency preparedness from the United States Search and Rescue Task Force:

#109 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2007, 12:38 PM:

More inventory lists and suggestions for Emergency Preparedness:

#110 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2007, 08:20 AM:

Catastrophe Readiness Fair

Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Middle Country Public Library
101 Eastwood Blvd - Centereach, NY

Friday, September 7, 2007
10 AM- 12 noon
Middle Country Public Library
101 Eastwood Blvd.
Centereach, NY 11720

#111 ::: Rob Meyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:33 PM:

Another thing you might want to consider in your go bag. If you carry a weapon you may want to consider carrying some extra ammo in there.

For most of the things in your pack, you may want to consider vacuum sealing it, like clothes and papers and things like that. Vacuum seal the ammo together in quantities that your clip will hold. Possibly have some preloaded extra clips sealed up.

#112 ::: Rob Meyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Don't forget to have two different types of most of your stuff. Two ways to start fire, two ways to signal people, things like that.

Check out Some Sites like
County Comm
army Surplus World

#113 ::: Rob Meyer ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2007, 10:02 PM:

a href="">Another site with a good list.

#114 ::: baylisac ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Ok, I know this is an old thread, but I'm hoping someone might see this and answer my question...

I have horses- two- and I'm not sure how I could prepare for them in the case of a disaster or apocalyptic event. I am well prepared in practically every other way (I'm a bit of a survival freak) but this has been one thing I haven't been able to tie up. Any suggestions?

#115 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Horses can forage and graze on what's available in the environment -- of course, they do better on grains and good quality hay, but they can survive without. You'll need the tools for removing horseshoes, and basic first aid, and some form of euthanasia in case things go very bad. The last thing you want to do is have a suffering horse with no way to end the suffering quickly. Other than that, they won't need much.

#116 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: August 02, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Re horses: For serious prep: Learn a bit about barefoot hoof care/trimming (our trimmer has been very good about shring expertise, though Maia did take a class in equine foot care at university).

Get some first aid supplies (vet wrap, spray antiseptic, etc.).

Get a book on equine first aid, and read it in advance. As with any sort of preparation, the more one can do in advance, the better in event of practical need.

#118 ::: Cheryl Lancaster ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Thanks for all the great information. I would love to have horses in the even of a disaster - what marvelous transportation out of an area that might have impassible roads.

#119 ::: Rania ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2009, 12:54 AM:

For a certain mindset, of which I am a representative, this is a lot easier to figure out if you see it as preparing for a zombie invasion. There's even a whole organization dedicated to that (emergency preparedness by considering zombies), although the name escapes me at the moment.

#120 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2009, 01:45 AM:

Do you mean the Zombie Preparedness Initiative?

#122 ::: Dolph ::: (view all by) ::: September 06, 2009, 11:31 PM:

This is a great collection of comments. Just to update the CERT thread, There are groups in all 50 states and some are based in High Schools, prisons, Boy Scout troops and CARTs. (CART is Community Animal Rescue Team) The CARTs will either take care of animals or assist caretakers with sheltering requirements. Lessons learned from Katrina and Rita gave new emphasis on caring for pets so folks would evacuate when needed.

In addition to water always have plastic sheeting for shelter in place operations. Some folks precut to cover windows in the room(s) that will be used. I plan on a master bedroom and bathroom.
Have a 5 gal pail with supplies and a large tub to start filling when a shelter in place is ordered.

Lastly...camping supplies can be a great way to prepare if you are so inclined. Freeze dried foods, large water storage containers and survival items like mylar blankets are easily packed into containers and stored in various places.

Be safe and prepared!

#123 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 29, 2013, 03:45 PM:

Eight years ago today Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and left over 1,800 dead.

Today, we read

Your family's emergency kit is probably a disaster

Six out of 10 American families said they did not have a family emergency plan, according to the survey. Only 19% felt they were "very prepared" for a disaster.

"What we have found (is) despite our best efforts and we have made some impact, we have some terrific messaging out there over the years, not enough people and not enough parents are actually doing what they should be doing in terms of being prepared," said Natkins.

I'd hope it was closer to 10 out of 10 for Making Light readers.

September is National Preparedness Month. Please take stock of your situation and stay safe.

#124 ::: OtterB sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2014, 09:04 AM:

Looks like spam to me.

#125 ::: Xopher Halftongue sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: February 22, 2014, 09:04 AM:


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