Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Benefits Of A Disaster 'Bug-Out' Bag ...

Watching the news coverage from Japan's recent disaster, and images of Japanese families turning up at shelters with a very few possessions in a plastic bag, strongly reminds me of Todd, a friend of mine who was caught up in the floods that hit the UK in 2007.

A disaster of a very minor scale in comparison, of course, but having lived for a while in a hurricane zone in Kansas, US, he'd taken precautions. Nothing would have stopped the flood waters in Herefordshire, but he'd created for himself a Bug-Out Bag - also known as a GO (Get Out) Bag or even better, a GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge!) Bag. Among college students in Louisiana it's known as a GTFU (Git The F**k Out) Bag.

This is a simple cheap rucksack or other sturdy bag, containing whatever would be needed for, say, 24 hours - water, chocolate and other snacks, but most importantly, copies of important documents, phone numbers, photos, and a computer backup hard drive - anything to enable a person to rebuild their life should their entire home be flooded, washed away or even burnt to the ground.

Todd was aware of the confusion and paperwork required when hurricane victims in the American Storm Belt had to obtain replacement documentation, and the loss of family heirlooms and data from their computers, and now many US States suggest that all households have a Bug-Out Bag.

We don't get the same extremes of weather here in the UK (thankfully) but if your house was burning, would you know what to grab? Here's what is generally recommended to keep in your bag:

  • Water, chocolate or other non-perishable snacks;
  • Spare clothing, especially socks, a hat and gloves;
  • Spare glasses or contacts, and any medications;
  • Torch, spare batteries, small first-aid kit; small toys for kids;
  • Favourite family photos (copies);
  • Documents (copies): deeds, insurances, birth certificates, bank details, useful phone numbers, prescriptions;
  • Small pocket radio (your phone might do this);
  • Cash and credit cards;
  • Spare removable PC hard-drive with your files back-up;
  • Cardboard foldable cat-transporter; (well, you can't leave kitty behind, can you?)

Other useful links:
http://www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=33847&tid=001
http://www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=35169
http://frugaldad.com/2010/02/10/bug-out-bag-essentials/
http://www.squidoo.com/bugout-bag
http://www.bugoutbagbook.com/?hop=sandypeaks

Perhaps the most important point to note is how few of your possessions are actually, really, that important. And should you be unfortunate enough to have the use the BOB for real, you might just find that you really don't miss the stuff you lost.

Perhaps you should reconsider whether you even needed it at all.