Today on “This Might Be My Last Entry” I’m not going to talk about a book but about general EOTWAWKI or disaster preparedness. Now, I happen to come from New England, which as we speak is being buried in a classic Nor’Easter blizzard – my people up there are smart and stocked up on plenty a beah and ‘Dunks before the storm hit. A few years ago, I moved to San Francisco, home of earthquakes, so prepping has never been far from my mind, but some of you may not have thought further than “we all meet at the mail box in case of a fire.”
Now that I live in a bus full time, my preps had to change. Rather than having a large store of things like food and water and batteries – since space is at a premium in my 32’ Bluebird, and weight is also a consideration, not only for road limits, but also on our fuel usage – I go for go-bag or on-the-go preps, rather than shelter-in-place preps. Here are some easy things we do to make sure we’re ready in case something bad happens… these can absolutely be applied to your home preparedness plan (along with an emergency meeting place), or in a smaller bag in your regular car – stashed in the trunk. I am not a pro-prepper like many enthusiasts are, I just like to know that if something bad happens, I have a few days of supplies in the bus, or on the run, to get me through while I formulate a larger more permanent plan based on what the situation calls for.
1). We carry a 2 person 72-hour professionally assembled go-bag on Jolene. First things first – a go-bag is a BAG you grab when you have to GO (as opposed to holing up in your home with your supplies, which is called “sheltering in place”). Stashed in it should be everything you need for a predetermined amount of time. For my size, I can comfortably carry enough supplies for 2 people for 3 days without being overencumbered – that includes water, food, tools and sanitary items like soap, toothbrushes, work gloves, first aid, etc – so mine is called a 2 person 72 hour go bag. There are smaller and larger bags based on what you want to carry and for how many people.
I personally chose the Elite 2 Person Bag by Earthquake Bags. A friend of mine here in SF started this grassroots company and when I went online to check their products out I was very impressed by how thoughtfully the bags were packed. And these things are CRAMMED to the gills with all manner of useful things, NOTHING is just a “filler” item. If you want to check out their store, here is a 10% off code on everything they sell, just for fans of The Road Virus. It’s a fab starting point for beginners.
2.) Things I have added to the bag for my own use:
- One month of any daily medication I take – when I get my new 90 day supply each time I order from my doctor, I replace the one in my bag with a fresh month’s supply, and use the one that I’d stored last time. I also have added to the bag’s own first aide kit with extra bandages, medicines, pocket heaters, vet/self stick wound wrap, and trauma pads, just so there’s something for any occasion.
- A couple of knives – I particularly like this one by SpyderCo since it’s pocketable legally in SF, and has a great locking mechanism and is ambidextrous (as I’m a lefty) and fits my smaller hands. Sade prefers a larger bowie-style fixed blade knife but must wear it unconcealed for it to be legal. Always be aware of laws in your area before carrying anything concealed, regardless of the emergency at hand.
- A survival spade – a small collapsible spade that can be used as an edge, for digging waste holes, tent stake holes, and as a makeshift hammer or prybar.
- Waterproof strike anywhere matches in a waterproof case – always useful.
- Handcrank/solar powered lantern/radio/charger and a couple of crank powered flashlights. Things that don’t require batteries (heavy and consumable) to be powered are fantastic additions to any go-bag.
- A multitool – there are a ton out there, mine’s a pretty basic but sturdy Leatherman. There are lots of brands that are great, just get one that feels sturdy and well put together, you never know when having a screwdriver or pair of small pliers will be handy, but don’t worry about getting the one with every single blade and corkscrew on the planet.
- 2 LifeStraws – LifeStraw is this super cool filter system you literally drink from – no need to lug all the water you need (though we always have the pouches in our Earthquake Bag and at least 2 gallons with us in the bus along with what we will have in our clean water tank once our plumbing is installed), this straw allows you to drink from streams or tubs or other unclean water sources and will clean and decontaminate 1000 liters of water. It never needs any kind of power, it’s all manual, and when it stops allowing water through it, you know it’s kicked – you’ll never drink contaminated water from a LifeStraw. We also have a Seychelle water bottle I got as a gift which means we can carry filtered water as well.
- In the case of an emergency, if Sade and I had to leave at speed – we’d grab the emergency bag and one of our Osprey Porter 46 Backpacks. We’d redistribute our goods as we went along, splitting the weight between us eventually. If we had time to plan out what we were taking, we’d likely unpack the Earthquake bag into BOTH of our Ospreys. The reason is twofold – the Ospreys are larger, more comfortable, built for hiking and carry much larger loads more evenly distributed. The second reason is that our Ospreys are both all black, instead of the red and silver theme of the Earthquake Bag. I like the visibility idea for someone walking on a busy road, who is looking to flag down help, but personally I’d rather use flashlights or other means of attracting attention, that way if I need to be wary of someone coming, I’m not screaming “Hey! I have a first aide kit and food in here!” with the color of my pack.
3.) Things we’ve added to the bus:
- We have one bay of underbus storage. Jolene has a shoreline to plug in when we’re at RV camps, and in that bay, we also store one bottle of every fluid that goes in to her. That’s oil, coolant, windshield wiper fluid, a spray bottle of quick-start ether, and a bottle of cold weather diesel additive. That way, if it’s just a matter of her needing a quick top off, or we can’t see for all the bugs stuck to the windshield, we’re not in a pickle.
- Extra long jumper cables – self explanatory, but because it takes something like an 18 wheeler to jump her, getting a truck super close to use standard cables on our battery bank isn’t always gonna work.
- A compact zipper pack of bungee cords, endlessly useful, and a AAA Roadside kit I’ve had for years that has some helpful things like reflective triangles, flares, and blankets in it – mostly for the event of a bus breakdown.
- We do always keep plenty of canned and dried goods on the bus, this is both because it’s great back up prep, but also because our fridge is small, so we shop more often for fresh meat and produce and less often for things like rice, beans, pasta, nuts, etc. In the case of an emergency, we have plenty we can pack and take with us that won’t spoil (don’t forget the can opener!) Even Fulci’s dog food from Honest Kitchen is freeze dried so it’s both practically non-perishable, and very light weight. You just add water and poof! It’s wholesome food in a couple of minutes, and since he has no teeth he’s happy he gets something soft to nom.
Hope this makes you guys all think a bit about how well prepared you might be in an emergency. This naturally isn’t an exhaustive list of all our precautions, but is a great start for any beginner. If you have questions or cool preps yourself you want to share, please do so in the comments below!