The pre-disaster checklist

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.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. EB. Esquire says:

    When I was in 6th grade a tornado ripped through our town and came within 100 yards of my house. You are lucky having had 45 minutes notice, we had about 10. Time for my Mom to wake my sisters and I up and get us to the basment closet, and time for my Dad to get the dog inside and grab some flashlights, before we could hear it. Destroyed neighbors house 4 houses down, and ripped shingles and siding off our house. Uprooted trees and destroyed the paint job on my Dad’s work truck. Looked like it had been sandblasted.

    I always look at these people in the Gulf Coast that get 5-7 days notice that the same thing or worse is going to hit their town and they don’t have the sense God gave a turtle to get to higher ground. Tornadoes don’t give a weeks notice.

  2. worrisome says:

    Nicely done! and great thinking when times got tough. Hard to leave a daughter at school, even if it was the right thing to do!

  3. SD Mountain Goat:

    Thanks for the timely tips. I have a friend who live out of town about 10 miles away. They got hit by a wild fire. Turned out there place was okay, but he was out hiking and the wife did real well. I’m going to show him your article so he’s got some kind of starting place.

  4. Good comprehensive aritcle. I think it always helps to read someone else’s personal experiance through an event, whether they were prepared or not. Both situations teach us alot. Thanks for your time and effort on this article!

  5. SD Mountain Goat,

    Good article. We always wash all clothes, linens, and make as much ice as possible and go over our checklist before a hurricane. This time we were cleaned up and ready, had all the hurricane equipment out and ready to board up, but luckily Isaac went elsewhere.

    One has time to get ready for hurricanes. Been thru a lot or tornados and never had more than 15 minutes warning. It does help to have a plan and do the drill a few times so everyone is on board on what to do and when.

    • SD Mountain Goat,As a long time prepper most of this was common sense; however, having the shower and the laundry at the top of the list hadn’t even dawned on me. Sponge baths are OK, but a real shower will go a long way toward long term cleanlyness.

      Making ice is another one of those dyh? why didn’t I think of that.

      These are the kind of tips that keep me reading this forum. Good information from everyone.

      • Homeinsteader says:

        Another idea: when you empty a plastic milk jug, wash it out, fill it (leave expansion room) and freeze it; you’ll always have ice if you want to bust it up for a freezer of homemade ice cream, but you’ll have large blocks of ice for long-term power downs, as well, and your food will stay “good” in the freezer much longer when the power goes out. Keep just enough to meet your needs, but still leave room for your food supply in the freezer.

  6. Mountain Goat, awesome article. I have friends at ground zero in plaqumines parish in LA. I wish they had this article to read a few days ago. They are still above water but you can never be too prepared! Good thinking. Thanks.

  7. Great post!! pictures Would like to add a few things we do: Have each member of the family keep a pair of sturdy shoes and a pair of socks under the edge of their bed along with bottled water and a good flash light. Don’t have your bed beneath windows, glassed pictures etc. Sometimes we have no warning.

  8. Great idea to take a shower and cook a meal! This would certainly help you face a crisis with a better frame of mind.

  9. Cosmolined says:

    SD Mountain Goat:
    Simply outstanding, Sir!
    Very informative and well written. Thanks! Cos

  10. michael c says:

    As far as the list – I think you have it down pat. I wonder though if you can give “post crises” instructions to keep your daughter at school until you can personally pick them up. If you don’t come, they should go downtown to police (?) so that she does not have to walk home “alone” and find that you both didn’t make it.

  11. Dean in Michigan says:

    Mountain Goat……

    Welcome back home from the box. Glad you are among us.

  12. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Absolute fantastic advice. I’ve lived through several major events and I am always amazed at how many healthy, intelligent, informed adults do absolutely nothing when given advance warning of serious events. The ethical question is do we perpetuate this behavior by helping these people survive or do we strengthen the gene pool by not. I am always willing to aid those who cannot help themselves but am I responsible for the arrogant and self absorbed?

    • Plant Lady says:

      You think like my Granny – which is high praise indeed. It has become a standard in our family when hearing about something really stupid to respond “Time to clean the gene pool before that specimen breeds!”
      I have thought long and hard about whether or not I have an obligation to save those who had access to the same info and had the same ability to prep as myself…but couldn’t be bothered or were more interested in maintaining their present comfortable lives than in taking personal responsibility for their own wellbeing during life’s inevitable “Uh-Oh” moments. I decided I have no moral obligation unless they were unable to prep for themselves. If they weren’t bright enough to understand the need or couldn’t be bothered to prep in their own self interest before TSHTF, they aren’t likely to change their tune after…and its going to be hard enough to survive without saddling yourself with dummies (hehe).
      And we are of limited means – I am prepping for as many as I can, but that will only run to close family members and a very few friends who will be most useful after TSHTF – and that will be at short rations until we get re-organized. I really can’t justify taking food out of our mouths and endangering our own lives to provide for those not willing to provide for themselves. Some things you just have to turn over to God…I figure if he really wants them to live, he has the power to take care of them. Many of us are familiar with the stories of Noah, Joseph and the 7 yr. famine, the prepared and unprepared virgins, etc. – God seems to always let those he wants to survive know what is going on so they can heed his call to prepare for trying times. I am getting the feeling that whatever is coming our way may be another of God’s ways to “thin the herd” of those who don’t heed his call.

  13. I agree, make sure you have a pair of shoes near your bed. My mom was in a major earthquake, and she got up after the quake in the dark to check the water heater, and her toes got sliced up pretty good because the floors in the whole house were covered with glass shards. First thing you get out of bed, put your shoes on cause you don’t know what the condition of your floors will be during or after a natural disaster.

  14. Very good pratical article. Thanks for sharing your insights. Glad you and your family are alright. Sorry to hear the Armed services no longer teach self reliance. I remember my fathers gun and pack in our closet when we were stationed in Germany. He was an army Sgt. Cold War preppers back then. Stay safe.

  15. “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.”

    Bolded, underlined, italicized, and moved up to the front of my printout copy.

  16. jr from ar says:

    Great article with solid practical info….Thanks!

  17. This was very helpful. Thanks for the information.

  18. Homeinsteader says:

    Great article! I must say, though, I’ve witnessed many tornadoes, but never with a 45-minute warning! If we must have them, that’s the kind I want.

    I also have to say that as we hunkered down for Isaac, it felt “good” to know that we had already done as much as could be done – now it was just, “relax, pray, and wait”. Much better than running around trying to get things done that should have been already done (been there – done that!).

  19. Thank you for the very informative post.

    One suggestion for future writers: if you’re going to use acronyms, please spell out what they mean the first time you use them in your post for those of us not familiar with what your particular acronym means. For example, “It reminded me of a Forward Operations Base (FOB).” That way it’s clear to the readers what you’re referring to.

    Once you’ve defined it for the reader the first time you use the acronym, then you can freely use the it later in your post knowing the reader understands what it means.

    Just a suggestion.

  20. Good article! Nothing like first hand experience. Thank you for writing this.

  21. I agree with using the acronyms. I am lost because this is the first time that I have seen these used.. I have just begun to take all of this serious..sad to say. Better late than not at all. So much information to take in. I need explanations as well to “BOB” .. what does it mean, and what goes in one? I am absolutely below Basic 101 and need all the direction that I can get to get started.
    Thank you. And I apprecaite the information that you are sharing.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      Welcome to the Pack, June. If you go through archives, probably just about question you have can be answered here. But, just to answer you and make it easy, “BOB” – Bug Out Bag

      Here are a few more:

      BOL: Bug Out Location (never reveal this in a public forum, such as a blog site!)
      CME: Coronal Mass Ejection – Solar Flare
      EDC: Every Day Carry (usually a firearm)
      ELE: Extinction Level Event
      EmP: Electro Magnetic Pulse
      Grid Down: all power is off for an indefinite period of time from relay station to relay station, not just a blackout in an isolated location; that is a “power out” or “outage”
      HEMP: High Altititude EMP – such as a nuclear detonation
      MRE: Meal Ready to Eat
      MSM: Main Stream Media (I prefer Lamestream Media, personally)
      NINJA: No Income, No Job, No Assets
      OPSEC: Operational Security (guard your info with your life!)
      RELATIVES: DH: Dear Husband; DW: Dear Wife, DD: Dear Daughter DS: Dear Son MIL: Mother-in-Law, and so on…
      SF: Solar Flare
      SHEEPLE: The blind, deaf and dumb masses who think preppers are crazy; the ones who will become zombies when the SHTF.
      SHTF: (“stuff” — fill in blank, if you must — Hits The Fan)
      SIP: Shelter in Place
      SOP: Standard Operating Procedure
      TDL – One of the references to our current leadership, “The D*!^ Liar; it has other meanings, but I can never remember them all…sorry..
      TEOTWAWKI: The End Of The World As We Know It – not “the end of the world”. Big Difference.
      TFH: Tin Foil Hat – someone who is a “conspiracy theorist”; taken from the cartoonish notion of a person wearing a homemade aluminum foil “hat” to ward off harmful “rays” (but OUR Tinfoil Hat is NOT the guy – got your back here, Tinfoil!). : )
      WROL: Without Rule of Law
      YOYO: You’re on your own
      ZOMBIE: the cluelass masses who were once sheeple; now they’re dehydrated and starving, and they’re coming for what you have, and they won’t care what they have to do to get it. OPSEC – while you can.

      This isn’t everything, but it’s a good start.

      I hope I got all this right. Pack?

      • GHB ~~ Get Home Bag. Different from a BOB. A GHB would be a bag you would keep in your desk or locker at work. In it, you would have whatever you would need to get home ~~ decent broke-in walking shoes, water, protein bars, warm gloves, hat in the winter; hat, sunscreen in the summer….you get the picture. There are lists on this site BTW. (By the way).

        About TDL….the/dark/lord; the/dang/lier

    • Tactical G-Ma says:

      Hi June,
      It is good that you are taking survival seriously. An excellent place to start is with the articles and pages on this blog and M. D. Creekmore’s book “31 days to Survival” available @ “BOB” refers to a bug out bag. Whenever you are away from home you should have a survival kit with you. I believe you educate yourself and then as you go you modify what you believe you will need in your bag. There are some very smart people on this blog who will answer questions. Good luck and good prepping.

    • Homeinsteader says:

      June, there’s also good info here (on blog site) to help you get started on food storage, etc. However, DH and I do a class, Prep 101; we teach it from a Biblical perspective, because we believe prepping is a Biblical activity, but our materials are just regular instructional materials.

      If you’d like some easy to get through info to help you get started, especially on food, email me at: [email protected]; if you have specific questions or need specific information and have trouble finding it on this blog site, let me know, and I’ll do what I can to help.


  22. It’s been said experience is the best teacher. Well done, Warrior!

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