This guest post is by SD Mountain Goat and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .
It was the summer of 2010, mid-May and a non-threatening sunny sky. I had been home from Afghanistan for a little more than a month and a half. When I first got back I had packed a U-Haul trailer and relocated from my near West-Coast home (the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain) to a mid Western State.
I had moved in with my ex who was nice enough to take me in since I had nowhere to go in this new State. She relocated here when I was overseas, taking the kids with her, and I’m not going to be without them. So here I am. My seventh week in a new place and before I knew it, it was bug out time.
Having returned from the box you’d think I’d be a little more on the ball, but I picked up some of the Army’s bad habits while deployed. Being FOB dependent and counting on the “system” never-failing (even though I knew better, circumstances worked against me) were the two bad habits that quickly went out the window. The Army hasn’t taught self-reliance since the 80’s, so it’s no surprise that soldiers have to either attend specialized schools or seek the knowledge in their off time to learn what used to be commonly taught. Being survival oriented myself and often teaching my soldiers how to make water, food, shelter, and defenses in the desert, I was actually disappointed when the hammer dropped and I wasn’t ready.
My ONLY alibi, was that all of my belongings were still in storage and I shared a room with my 5-year-old son. What I had in her apartment, was all I had to work with. But mother nature doesn’t take alibi’s and is pretty relentless regardless of your current situation. Thankfully, God still accepts prayers.
The gray clouds rolled in pretty quickly and it began to drizzle. Then the wind picked up and the temperature began to plummet. Honestly, I had no idea that this was a tornado prone area, that’s usually reserved for the South. Not too much later the wind blew harder and the inevitable became obvious; “go time” was fast approaching.
I checked the local forecast and nothing new was on. Where we were was a virtual dead zone for FM with sporadic shortwave reception but none of it was local to us. Information gathering turned into a black hole that no relevant information escaped from. This town’s (around 2,000 people and reminds me of living on a FOB) intercom system started playing an alarm that sounded like a steel plate being cut by a Skil saw. Very distinguishable. The last time I heard an audible alarm we were being mortared.
Naturally, I grab my M4 and ran out the back sliding glass door that overlooks the town. No rifle fire, no dust signature of an advancing enemy, no sign of an enemy element. Only one option left as the wind picked up, throwing rain at me as I ponder my options.
A tornado is en route.
The neighbor next to us drove his truck on the grass to our back doors. He happened to be moving that day, and he noted his good luck as well. “A tornado just touched down south of here and is on its way, we have 45 minutes”.
What do you do with 45 minutes left till extinction? You’re counting down the seconds until you have to fight the unbeatable and even then it’s “good luck”. You don’t fight, you don’t evade. You hope it misses you.
I’m in an apartment complex, my stuff is all in storage and inaccessible, and what we need we don’t have readily available. No food, no water, no real supplies. That’s in storage. All we have is what’s in the pantry or coming out the faucet. I’m watching SUV’s jump on the highway heading north with their stuffed trailers and there we are sitting ducks.
I need to pack a BOB. Too late. I had a “go bag” similar to what I used overseas, but this wasn’t a military operation involving a war of attrition. I have a duffel bag full of guns, mags and ammo but how does that help me fight off a tornado or feed the kids post-crisis?
My ex gets back and I explain what’s going on. We have our son, he wasn’t in school yet but my girl was. When I got there to retrieve her, her class was already in the hallway and the school wasn’t going to release her. I didn’t make a fuss about it and after looking at the layout, it was better for her to stay since the school was made out of brick and mortar, and the apartments weren’t. She was better off then we were. I wondered if she was going to leave school with no parents to go home to.
On the way back, I hit the ATM for my max withdrawal and headed home. From there we opened all the windows, took a mattress for cover and stood ready to jump into the bathtub and cover up when it arrived. It wasn’t much longer that the alarms stopped and come to find out, the tornado died less than twenty minutes out from town.
Crisis averted, but what were the lessons learned?
This was my third time with a tornado, my first two were in Ft. Knox, KY, basic training. They barely missed our barracks, but after seeing the devastation they leave behind I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t have a bag packed and a plan made.
Needless to say I have a BOB out of storage and fully packed and it stays packed. I don’t take anything out of it and I only add to it. The only thing I remove from it is water, to clean and refill canteens with a fresh supply every two weeks. Same for the Camelbak in my “go bag” (or “operations bag” if you will). I keep 1x refill of water and ammo in the go bag, along with a few med supplies, batteries, flashlights, 2 way radio, a few odds and ends, and an MRE. The BOB however, has the main components to feed off of for most things in a 72 hour crisis, and the rest gets packed in the vic (vehicle) for the long haul out.
Some crises are a total surprise (earthquakes on the West Coast, and the surprise storm in Virginia for example) however there are times when you will have advanced warning and that is your time to act. There is no time like the present to move, it’s only after the fact that it’s too late. During times of crisis the mind focuses on the threat, not necessarily on what steps have to be taken to neutralize the threat. I noticed this when I was returning fire overseas. Your hearing drops, and you are VERY focused. But this is not a critical thinking stage, it’s the survival stage and those critical steps should have been accomplished before they were needed.
Given a situation where you have plus or minus 4 hours advanced notice that may or may not involve you bugging out, here’s what you should start doing:
1) Have everyone take a shower. It may be your last one for a long time. Relief efforts are pretty slow when it comes to toiletries and dining, so a good shower now will do you right. Also, when it comes to a crisis, hygiene is paramount. The priority for showers is simple; women first starting with the youngest on up, then the men, youngest to oldest. Women should always get first dibs whenever showers are available to avoid UTI’s and other hygiene related issues.
2) Laundry. Have a hamper full of laundry? You may want to get a load of that cleaned, unless you plan on wearing dirty clothes post crisis. Most skin problems can be averted with a generally clean environment and since we wear clothes all the time (usually) it starts with what we’re wearing. If you like filthy clothes, avoid this advice.
3) Fill all bottles with water. And more specifically, scrub your bath tub clean, bleach it thoroughly and fill it with water. If you have a water BOB, then use that instead.
4) Plug in all cell phones, hand-held radios, etc. Every volt you have post-crisis becomes a commodity so get all you can before it’s gone.
5) Hit the ATM, take out as much as they’ll let you. If time allows, break those twenties into smaller bills.
6) Fill the gas tank in your vehicle and every fuel can that you have.
7) Turn on your TV to the Weather Channel or local news for semi-real time information, have AM/FM radios tuned to local news stations and CB’s on the WX station. Understand that reports are typically late, so assume the worst and cover up. I have Kevlar helmets for the kids, plus flak jackets on top of mattresses and tables to hide under. Use whatever you have until it passes. If it’s just a snow storm, then you’ll probably do without the coverings, but the rest of the preps, you’ll benefit from. People outside of my city limits usually lose power for several days to several months during the storm season. Others, their water lines freeze up during the winter. But for the most part, preparation turns a catastrophe into an inconvenience.
8) Chain up your tires, if applicable. You don’t want to do this in several feet of snow, do it now while it’s a generally easy task, if there is snow approaching. If snow isn’t the case, then skip this step.
9) Quickly inventory what you have, and hit the store if necessary. Food, water, batteries. This is a job for the men to do. Wear body armor or rib protectors under your clothes if you have them. The average expectancy is for people to go from zero to animal in three days. You want to see that record broken? Show people a problem that can’t be avoided or controlled, and then show them how powerless they are to fix it or help themselves. You’ll watch normal people turn into ravenous wolves in mere seconds. Go armed, go armored, be ready.
10) Have your auxiliary lighting ready. I keep mine in a plastic tool box with 6 “stick on the ceiling” aux lights, flash lights, candles, matches and chem sticks. A note on lighting. Candles are normal, a few chem sticks are expected. A full generator with all the lights turned on like there’s a party taking place is not normal and will draw the horde to your house, in a bad way. OPSEC, live it.
11) Board up the windows. Tornados, hordes or tear gas, boarded windows help in a big way. A battery-powered hammer helps speed this up.
12) Use the bathroom now, while you still have running water. When done, clean and bleach it to death as a last-ditch water source. Use the container where it refills after a flush, don’t use the “business end”. If you have to use the business end, at least it’s cleaned and bleached. Clean and fill all of the sinks. When the washing machine is done with laundry, let it fill with water too. Kiddie pools, buckets, bowls, anything you have to fill, fill it. When all of that is gone, you’ll still have roughly 80 gallons in your water heater. All of this combined, puts you ahead.
13) If you have a basement and a bilge pump to hook up to a car battery, get it ready for use in the event that you have to pump out your basement when the grid goes down.
14) Load the car/truck/SUV with your bug out items. You may survive the crisis, but you might have to evacuate when it’s over which is typically done at the last-minute. If you have a roof rack, pack your bags on top and secure tightly with ropes and/or ratchet straps. Protect with canvas or nylon covers if you’re expecting rain or snow, to keep everything dry. Place the fuel cans on top also, if you have truck, they’ll fit nicely in the bed. You don’t want them inside your car or SUV, the fumes will make you sick, so strap them to the top. This includes extra sleeping bags, clothes, etc. Keep your ammunition, weapons, and an operations bag (radios, batteries, ammo, Camelbak, spare water, chem lights, pyro, med kit, etc) handy in the event of hostile action. Pack as much as you can as quick as you can. Your pioneer kit (shovel and pick axe) should be loaded where you can reach it. Load your weapons and ammo last and ONLY in the event of an evacuation. They should be secured with you, in the house.
15) Cook a hot meal, it may be your last for a long time. Then clean those dishes and move them to safety.
16) Have your aid bag readily accessible, not just for you and your family but for your neighbors also. When 911 goes down, people start dying of flesh wounds that are improperly treated. Be ready for shock to kill more people than actual injuries.
17) Gear up and hunker down. Keep your weapons with you, you never know who’s going to try to exploit a bad situation for their benefit at your expense.
This year the people of our country have experienced tornado’s, power outages, sweltering heat, and roaring fires. At the very least, 2012 is the year of the prepper because everything we do has been justified by the Colorado evacuations, the tornado destroyed homes, and the Virginia power outages with accompanying misery and starvation. I’m just waiting for Janet Napolitano to point to Virginia and say that anyone who prepares for events like that are still considered terrorists.
In the event of a fire evacuation, sticking it out in your house is not an option but the vast majority of this checklist still applies. If you have a spouse to help with the checklist, that’ll halve your tasks and open up more time for more things. For example, boil a pot of water and have your eggs ready. When the water is boiling, put an egg in one at a time, with tongs, for 5 seconds and remove. This will create a protective film inside the egg that allows it to be stored without refrigeration. Typically, it’ll last about 3 weeks. If you haven’t gone through your eggs by then, hard boil them and it’ll add another 2-3 weeks to their life span.
In the event that the power goes out and you still have laundry in the washing machine, hang it to dry. The Sun is free energy courtesy of God Almighty. After the crisis, He’ll dry it for you.
If you use wood burning stoves, now is the time to shelter your wood pile, and create a bigger one if time allows.
Have a generator? Hook it up, do a test run, shut it off, and start plugging sensitive equipment into it. Laptops, computers, chargers, etc. If the grid gets hit, you run the risk of it surging and blowing out sensitive equipment. But you don’t have to worry too much because your equipment will be tied in to the generator. As the crisis approaches, consider unplugging your televisions and receiving news via battery-powered radio and get ready to fire up the genny.
Are there trees around your property? If the crisis you’re facing relates to high winds and the chance of trees being blown over into your house or vehicle, consider taking a chainsaw to some of them first. Same with fires, remove some of the fuel sources that would bring a wild-fire to your house; trees, and uncut grass.
One final thing you can do is enjoy a simple pleasure or two as you ride out the storm. I for one, am making a pot of coffee and I plan on enjoy it.
At the end of this all, you’ll have a generally full stomach, full tank of gas, loaded car with chains on, cash in hand, some food in the pantry, a contingency plan for a basement flood, clean clothes, clean body, charged cell phone and radios, current information after the grid fails, aux lighting, some water and you’re ready for a fight should one arrive.
This doesn’t prep you for the crisis because you should already be prepared for it. This is your last-minute check list so that you can get right to business instead of trying to figure out what you should be doing while under stress. Some things can’t be avoided, but they can be prepared for. Print this, put it in a binder for immediate action and referencing later, along with whatever else you find applicable.
This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:
- First Place : $100 Cash.
- Second Place : $50 Cash.
- Third Place : $25 Cash.
Contest ends on October 10 2012.