You’ve Got Ten Minutes!

Experience is an excellent teacher but often the cost of such experience can be extraordinarily high and even catastrophic.  So rather than having to personally deal with each potentially devastating consequence of every possible personal experience, we can show true wisdom and learn from the experiences of others.

Unfortunately, far too often we catch ourselves saying, “That would never happen to me” or “I’d be smarter than that” or “What’s the big deal?  Can’t people just take care of themselves?”

Even though there is an overabundance of examples of individuals and families experiencing terrible consequences of their poor decisions or lack of good judgement in the preparedness aspects of their lives, far too few of us take heed and try and learn from such experiences.

One prime example of this deals with the devastating wildfires that are sweeping through many areas of California.  As of the date of this blog, there are 16 wildfires raging throughout the state of California.  The city of Redding has been hit especially hard where 90,000 residents have had to evacuate due to the wildfires.

According to local officials, “Thousands have fled a terrifying wildfire, the so-called Carr Fire, as it tore through an area of northern California after tripling in size to 28,000 acres.  Late yesterday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator, who had fought to contain the fierce blaze.  The wildfire crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding. ‘It’s just chaotic. It’s wild. There’s a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning,’ said Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman for the crews battling the wildfire.”

As individuals, there’s not a whole lot we can personally do to stop a wildfire.  It is far beyond any one individual’s ability to control such a devastating event.  So what can we learn from the experience of others who are caught in such a difficult situation?

According to some reports, “Roads out of the city were jammed with motorists trying to escape the flames, social media postings showed. Thousands of residents were forced to flee the blaze.

Residents of western Redding who had not been under evacuation orders were caught off guard and had to flee with little notice, causing miles-long traffic jams as flames turned the skies orange.

‘When it hit, people were really scrambling,’ McLean said. ‘There was not much of a warning.’”

That last line should cause us to evaluate our preparedness levels.  “When it hit, people were really scrambling. There was not much of a warning.”

In most cases, there is very little warning that extreme danger is imminent.  We usually assume such events would unfold like the forecasting of an approaching hurricane where one might have several days to prepare.  I happen to live in earthquake country and unfortunately, there will be no warning before an earthquake strikes – one must simply be prepared assuming it could take place at any minute.

Many of those who fled the wildfires in the Redding area lost everything as their homes were consumed by the fires.  Even though “things” can be replaced, there are items of sentimental value as well as medications, important documents and survival essentials that could all be lost if proper preparation and practice are ignored.

What would you do if you had only ten minutes to evacuate your home?  What would you take?  What would you leave behind?

Under stressful, panic circumstances, ten minutes may feel like 60 seconds and as a result, precious lifesaving preps may be left behind never to be used.  Now there is little that can be done to alleviate or remove the stress that will naturally occur when such a sudden event takes place but one can make the few available minutes far more productive in taking the items that are most important and potentially lifesaving.

There are two basic levels of emergency evacuation preparedness that each individual and family need to understand and embrace if we are to learn anything from the experience of others.

1)  Essential life-sustaining bug-out-bag.  This is a project where you can take the time to make sure all the essentials are safely packed away in a backpack for each family member.  The items would include water, food, emergency light and heat, shelter and first aid just to name a few of the basics.  Each kit should have enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours.  Personalize each backpack to the needs of the individual.

What is equally critical is where you keep your bug-out-bags.  If you store them away somewhere in the basement or garage where they eventually get covered up by stored Christmas decorations or miscellaneous “junk” we accumulate over time, under a panic scenario, we may not be able to locate them.

Make sure they are in a closet or room close to an outside door and check them often to make sure any expired items are replaced and they are easily accessible to everyone in the household.  Now everyone knows exactly where to go to get and take the essentials of survival.

2)  Important and meaningful documents and items.  This area can be quite a bit more involved and time consuming depending on the number of items you choose to include in this category.  This is definitely an area that cannot be left till the last moment of you will potentially spend all your precious little time trying to locate just one or two items.

The best method I’ve seem is an old-school approach that can easily be modified or updated to reflect what’s most important to you.  It all revolves around the simple 3X5 cards we’re all very familiar with.

This is how it works:  Enter each room of your house and list on a 3X5 card the items in that room that if possible, you’d want to take with you.  Now you have to be careful and keep the list very brief.  Remember, almost everything in your home can be replaced.  So on you 3X5 card, list only the critical items in order of importance so if there’s only enough time to grab one item, the most important one is at the top of the list.

Make this a family project.  Get everyone’s input and make sure everyone’s in agreement as to these additional important items.  Review the location of each item.  It may be helpful to list the specific location of each item on the card as well.

Now it’s essential to keep this card in its specific room in a location where’s it’s easy to find by everyone.  Over time, you want need to update the items on each card.  Every three to six months, it would be wise to go through a dry run with your family to make sure everyone not only knows where the bug-out bags are but understands how the 3X5 card system works.

Now, should a stressful emergency evacuation be required, you can with confidence assign each family member to be in charge of one or more rooms of the house and gather the items on the list.  This will significantly increase your ability to remove all the most precious items from your house in the most organized fashion possible.

Don’t forget the gear bags! The last thing you want to have to deal with is how to carry all the additional items out of your house.  You shouldn’t have an issue with your bug-out-bags as all of your survival gear is neatly packed inside a backpack.  But what about all the other miscellaneous individual items you’ve listed on your 3X5 cards.  You need a way to easily pack them up and haul them out of your house.

Keep an appropriately sized empty gear bag in each room that is designed specifically to hold the items listed on the 3X5 card.  This will greatly speed up the process of gathering and removing everything that’s important to you.

Through the tragic events of these wildfires, we have one more opportunity to learn from the experience of others so we don’t need to deal with the painful consequences of not being properly prepared ourselves.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

What Do I Prepare For?

Being prepared for an uncertain future is much more than just having a little extra food and water stored.  There are so many possible trigger points in today’s world that preparedness needs to become a mindset and not just a something to check off your to-do list.  When one embraces the need to make preparedness a life-long process and not just an event, then one truly becomes an asset rather than a liability.  I’m afraid far too many are relying on the government or others to rescue them in times of need.  It may be helpful to take the time to consider possible events that one could face in the next five years.

Natural Disasters (weather related)
Heavy thunder storms
Flash flooding
Mud/rock slides
High winds
Severe winter weather
Extreme high heat

Natural Disasters (non-weather related)
Volcano eruption
Tidal wave/Tsunami

Man-made Disasters
War (conventional, biological, chemical or nuclear)
Toxic material emission or spill (from a train, semi-truck or nearby plant)
Riot or other civil disorder
Nuclear plant melt down or other nuclear disaster
Terrorism Fire
Government action against you
Stock market crash
Severe depression
Plague or disease outbreak

Personal Emergencies
Mugging, robbery or other criminal attack
Financial disaster
Death in family
Home destroyed by fire
Random acts of violence

This is certainly not a definitive list of possible events that could create a need to rely on your preps, but it’s a good starting point.  As you consider these possibilities, you may also want to consider the underlying purpose for your preps – that of basic survival.  If your preps will not provide the essentials of basic survival, you will want to re-think your priorities.

When it comes to survival, it can be reduced to “The Rule of Three”.  You may be military, firefighter, law enforcement, rescue worker or just plain folk with an inordinate amount of common sense.  Regardless, it never hurts to revisit the basics.  And all of the basics can be summed up in ”The Rule of Three” which says, absent sudden death (such as an accident) or terminal illness, your survival is generally contingent upon you not exceeding:

3 minutes without breathing (drowning, asphyxiation)
3 hours without shelter in an extreme environment (exposure)
3 days without water (dehydration)
3 weeks without food (starvation)

Most preppers‘ are stocking food.  You will note that starvation is the slowest form of death among the Rule of Three.  You would likely have three weeks before you starve.  Your level of physical exertion has an impact on the body‘s caloric requirements.  Personally, I might survive starvation for five or six weeks as I‘m carrying a lot of extra weight (just in case!).  Don‘t call me over weight, call me prepped!  Keep in mind, your survival strategy must consider the likelihood of you being separated from your food supply in an emergency.  When that happens, stay calm, focus on any immediate threats or hazards and remember that you have three weeks to implement Food Plan B or Plan C.  You do have a Food Plan B and Plan C, don‘t you?

Dehydration occurs much more quickly than starvation. As such, water supply is much more critical to address in an emergency.  Consider that in a temperate climate and without exertion, the human body requires approximately 2.5 liters of fluids per day.  In extreme heat this requirement goes up significantly.  Diarrhea can lead to rapid, catastrophic dehydration as well.  Given that water is far bulkier to store and/or transport than food, and that dehydration is potentially a far more pressing concern than starvation, your ability to procure water in an emergency should supplant food in your ranking of survival priorities.  Stated simply, water is far more important than food.  What is your home-base plan for water?  What is your mobile plan for water?

Exposure occurs far more rapidly than dehydration.  Hot or cold, you could find yourself unable to function in less than three hours.  Immersion in cold water, such as breaking through ice, could reduce your time to act down to mere minutes.  So what‘s your shelter strategy when you‘re away from home-base? In the north, temperatures can fall to minus 40 F in the winter.  If you have an accident on a slick road late at night in such conditions, you will likely not be waking up ever again unless you have prepared for such an eventuality.  Exposure kills in hours, or less.  Countering exposure is your number two priority for survival in any emergency situation. Yet most preppers are not thinking about exposure while stocking their pantries.  Prepare for exposure.

Asphyxiation kills in three minutes.  This is the emergency situation that gives you the least amount of time to react for your survival.  This is your Priority One survival issue.  An interior fire is the most common cause of asphyxiation.  Do you have a home escape plan in the event of a fire?  If not, make one – it might save your life.  Unless you‘ve been in a burning building, I guarantee that you cannot imagine how blinding the smoke is nor how quickly a structure can become fully engulfed.  If you have children, periodic rehearsal of the escape plan is mandatory.  In the unthinkable event of a fire, panic is inevitable.  Rehearsal helps to moderate the flight reaction, which might otherwise lead to death.

While fire is a common cause, there are other causes of asphyxiation worth your consideration such as carbon monoxide poisoning – usually from a combustion source in the home.  This has also occurred in vehicles stranded in snowstorms.  Vehicles were left running so the heaters would work and accumulating snow shrouded the tailpipe resulting in vehicle exhaust entering the passenger compartment.

Other poisonous fumes can cause asphyxiation as well.  Tanker trucks, rail cars, chemical and other industrial plants often have hazardous materials that, in an emergency situation, could cause you grave bodily harm if exposed.

Take some time with your family and review “The Rule of Three” as it might relate to a variety of emergency situations.  Assuring our families have the understanding and skills necessary to survive life threatening occurrences will provide peace of mind that we’ve done what matters most as we continue with our life-long process of being prepared.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

Do You Have an Escape Route?

I live in a small community where the city struggles with collecting enough tax revenue to maintain the infrastructure, especially the roads.  Just recently, a bond was passed to address the terrible state of disrepair many of our roads have fallen into.  There were so many pot holes, cracks and uneven surfaces that many times one feels as if it would be a smoother ride if it was a dirt road.

Well, just a few weeks ago, the road repair began.  Orange cones appeared everywhere with road construction signs on almost every street.  Then the heavy equipment showed up and the process of tearing up the old roads in preparation of laying a new road base and a fresh layer of asphalt.  Then things began to get tricky.

You see, so many of the roads were being worked on at the same time that it created a real challenge to drive just about anywhere.  Then when they chocked down certain roads to one lane with flagmen stopping traffic every few minutes, things got really frustrating.  In an attempt to bypass much of this construction, I took the time to map out alternate routes that were longer in distance but much quicker in time.

Now everyone in the community agrees, these roads desperately needed to be fixed.  It’s just the inconvenience of not being able to use the roads for a period of time (since we’re all such impatient people), really gets under our skin at times.  I made the mistake the other day of not remembering my prior though out route change to avoid much of the construction and turned onto one of the most highly congested one lane roads under construction.  When I realized my mistake, I quickly looked around to see if I could make a U-turn to get out of there but no such luck – I was locked in.

I spent almost 20 minutes on a stretch of road that normally would take less than 3 minutes and I was ticked.  I was in a hurry with what I felt were important errands but the construction workers just didn’t seem to care.  They made me wait just as long as everyone else.

I think we’ve all been on roads where there was either construction or an accident or just far too many cars (I hate rush hour).  It can be really infuriating dealing with stop and go traffic and average speed limits of under 20 mph.  There’s no question, this can anger a lot of people and road rage can take an uptick in these situations.

I remember going to a huge 4th of July fireworks celebration at a university stadium some 20 miles away.  There were 60,000 attendees inside the stadium and another 30,000 outside the stadium.  We knew traffic and parking would be a nightmare so my wife and I decided to take my motorcycle.  My wife’s not a huge fan of riding on my bike, especially in traffic so I always try and drive a little more conservatively when she’s on board.

From previous years’ experience (when we drove a car to the event), I knew the worst time would be right after the event when everyone would be trying to get out of there.  We had been stuck in traffic for hours in previous years.  My plan this year was to avoid most of that by being able to drive on the shoulder passing all the cars stuck in grid lock.

What I didn’t expect is how some drivers would react to my plan.  Now keep in mind, I wasn’t driving very fast on the shoulder so drivers could see me coming.  There were those who were so upset about my passing everyone by, they actually would steer their cars over to the right blocking the shoulder.  I’m not sure why they felt they were personally be hurt by my passing them by, but nevertheless, there were several who tried to keep up from passing.

This of course was so very comforting to my wife – the thought of people trying to run us off the road.  Needless to say, it was the last time we rode my motorcycle to this event.  These experiences have caused me to reflect on the utter chaos that will exist should a mass evacuation be required or necessary.

The 1998 movie, “Deep Impact” comes to mind as I think about such potentially massive traffic gridlock.  A comet is on a collision course with the earth slated to strike in the Atlantic Ocean generating a 3,500 ft. high mega-tsunami.  Everyone is on the road trying to get to higher ground.  Problem is, there are so many on the road, traffic is at a complete standstill.  Tempers are flaring and desperate actions taken.  Unfortunately, I believe this scene could repeat itself in real life for many of us.

One of the most dramatic examples I personally experienced was related to hurricane Katrina.  A little more than a day before Katrina hit, I was in New Orleans and watched as they changed the traffic flow on all the freeways in the area.  It’s called contra-flow and the direction of the flow on all freeways was headed out of the New Orleans area.  Even though the vast majority of the residents of the New Orleans area did not evacuate, still the freeways were a mess!  I can’t imagine what it would have been like had EVERYONE tried to evacuate using the freeways.

So you may be asking yourself, “What’s the solution?”  There isn’t a blanket solution for every circumstance but there are some common sense precautions one can take to greatly reduce the risk of having to deal with such difficult and potentially life-threating situations.

First – Take the time now to map out several different routes out of your area using less traveled roads.  You should have at least three escape routes planned out.  Using Google Maps and Google Earth, it should be fairly simple to map these routes.  You then must drive them.  Make notes of any potential bottle necks or concerns that may have you choosing another escape route.

Second – Make sure you always have enough fuel in your car.  My wife has the bad habit of running her car down to the empty mark before she lets me know she needs gas.  I try and help her avoid this issue by always filling her car whenever I drive it.  Ultimately, we should drive off the top 1/4 of a tank, always filling up when you get to 3/4 of a tank.  This is not always possible but I seldom let my tanks drop below 1/2 (unless my wife’s driving).

I also feel it’s important to keep at least 5 gallons of gas in a red plastic gas can in the garage that could easily be thrown in the trunk in a bug-out scenario.  Better safe than sorry.  Back in August, a friend and I decided to drive up to Idaho for the solar eclipse.  Knowing there would be tens of thousands of others also driving up there and not knowing what the traffic conditions would be, especially right after the eclipse, I decided to take two 5-gallon gas cans with us.  We ended up not needing to use them but it really gave us that extra sense of security that if things got dicey, we’d be able to make it out.

Remember, the last thing you want is to be stuck in traffic with an impending disaster looming.  Please take the time now to ensure you have your escape routes and fuel secured and I promise you will sleep better.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry

The Plague is Back? What Do You Need to Know?

What comes to mind when you think of “The Plague”? A few months ago you probably thought that it was a long lost, eradicated disease that killed hundreds of thousands of people a long time ago. However, as a resurgence of the disease hit Madagascar in November, we all realized that we are never completely safe from diseases we thought were gone.

Is The Plague truly a threat? And if so, what do you need to know about it?

Is The Plague Truly a Threat?
The easy answer to this question is no, not today. It seems that it’s been contained to Madagascar. While nine other East African countries were threatened due to trade, no cases were found off the island. Also, while over 200 people were killed out of 2300+ people who were affected, that number peaked, leaving new cases pretty minimal today. That’s the short answer.
The long answer is, yes, possibly yes.  Yes, the disease was contained and treated. However, in a time of world travel and world trade, you can never discount the possibility of the spread of any disease. So here’s the information you need.

How Does The Plague Even Start?
The Plague originates from a flea that carries a bacteria called Yersinia pestis from dead animals to live animals or humans. The bacteria enter the bloodstream, causing the infection.

Types of Plague
Bubonic Plague– The infection is localized to the lymph glands and ducts.  Within a week fever, vomiting, and headaches occur as lymph glands swell and become painful. Eventually, extremities develop gangrene due to lack of blood supply. If left untreated by antibiotics, there is a 90% mortality rate.
Pneumonic Plague – The organism infects the lungs. This form is the most dangerous form because it can be spread from human to human. It still has the original source (flea bite), but can be transmitted by microdroplets from breathing, coughing, sneezing or through mucus. This infection causes coughing, eventually coughing up blood and ultimately, respiratory and circulatory failure. There is a 100% mortality rate if left untreated by antibiotics.
Septic Plague– The infection spreads to the blood. This can cause super-infections that can shut down organs, also causing death.

Again, there are no known cases outside of Madagascar, so there is no indication that there is a definite threat. However, for precautionary purposes, there are some things you can do to prevent infection.
1- Invest in particulate masks. When traveling keep a mask close by. If you notice extreme coughing, wear the mask. Even if you aren’t concerned about the Plague, other respiratory diseases can easily be transmitted in airplanes, trains, etc.
2-  Check with your doctor/pharmacy to ensure they have easy access to the antibiotics Streptomycin and Tetracycline, which have been proven to treat the infection. If administered within 24 hours of the infection, chances of survival are significantly greater. If a pandemic ever occurs, you need to make sure you have access to the appropriate medications. There is no immunization so treatment is the best option.

Luckily the risk for a Plague pandemic was localized and minimized fairly quickly.  However, it was a good reminder that we are not immune to diseases we thought were eradicated.


Receiving Weather Alerts – A Prepardness Must.

Before you can decide on a plan of action during a natural disaster, you will first need information on the overall affected regions and information on what is and isn’t safe.  If you live in an area that is prone to severe weather, you may already have a few alert systems in place. But everyone, no matter where they live, should have some way of finding out whether or not they are potentially in danger. Part of your emergency preparedness plan should include setting up a number of alert systems so that you can be informed in the event of an emergency situation.

Continue reading “Receiving Weather Alerts – A Prepardness Must.”

Evacuation Planning

There are many different types of emergency situations that your family can face. Depending on where you live, there is the possibility that certain disasters could force you to evacuate from your home. In anticipation of certain emergencies or natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, or wildfires, local officials often order mandatory evacuations. Having an emergency preparedness plan for such situations will help your family be able to get out of the path of danger. Continue reading “Evacuation Planning”

Pets and Your Family Emergency Plan

When I was 10 years old, I came home one day to find my parents playing with a German shepherd puppy. German shepherds, as you probably are already picturing in your mind, have that ever alert, Rin Tin Tin-ny readiness. Their ears perk up like satellite dishes, and their stance always seems to be saying, “Don’t worry, beloved owner. I’m already pointed towards the nearest police station.” Some even look bright enough to help file your taxes. Continue reading “Pets and Your Family Emergency Plan”

5 Tips for Determining the Best Meeting Place During a Disaster

There’s a giant storm coming your way. Your kids are at school and your spouse is at work. What do you do? Have a plan in advance! In the event that something happens, an emergency preparedness plan is essential. Part of being prepared for an emergency is planning a place to meet your loved ones. Having a plan can make you less stressed and safer in an emergency. Here are some tips to help you plan a safe place to meet your family. Continue reading “5 Tips for Determining the Best Meeting Place During a Disaster”

Networking: The Best Survival Tool


Yes, it is extremely important to prepare as best you can for a natural disaster, to have at least a 72- hour kit, to have a fire-escape plan, to know how to purify water.  All of this will be essential in providing for your family if and when worst comes to worst. But chances are, when the storms do hit, you won’t have absolutely everything you need. There is no way to predict which type of natural disaster will come your way or when it will come. Because this is the unfortunate case, we must do the best we can to prepare by taking an educated guess of what may be in store for us, planning carefully for that scenario and hoping for the best.

Continue reading “Networking: The Best Survival Tool”