Urban Preparedness: Tips for Surviving in City and Suburban Settings

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Guest post by J.E. 

Most of us will not bug out on foot when a disaster or emergency strikes. Most disasters and emergencies send us to the homes of friends, family, or motel/hotel rooms to “weather the storm,” not to the backwoods. This might be for a few days, weeks, months, or even years, and most of us will get there via our vehicles or maybe even catch the first flight outta Dodge.

It’s a survival mistake to gear up for the wilderness while overlooking the reality and possibility of the need for urban preparedness. Although we need to be ready to rough it in the wilderness, we have an equal or increased need to be URBAN-ready.

image: busy urban street scene

Tips for Urban Preparedness

  • Rent the cheapest motel room you can find for a month, and try to survive there with only your bug-out bag. Sure, you can go shopping for groceries, but ONLY groceries and consumable healthcare products (shampoo, soap, deodorant, etc.) Don’t allow yourself to buy “extras” from the grocery store (like cups, silverware, towels, pillowcases, razors, flashlights, can openers, etc.).
  • Most news stories about germs in hotel/motel rooms should send shivers up your spine. Have you read about their germ-infested doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes, in-room phones, and pillows/bedspreads? What do YOU carry in YOUR pack to help protect yourself from these situations?
  • Personally, my bug-out bag includes two of our pillowcases, plus two down-filled camping/travel pillows. I also have two king-sized top sheets (one to dress over a bed military-style, and the other as a top sheet.) Yes, I also have my own (cheap) programmable TV remote. Not so much due to the germs, but because I like knowing where MY BUTTONS are located. (I travel a LOT and get tired of learning new remotes in each hotel!)
  • Take those P38 military-style can openers in your bug-out bag and put them on your keychain instead. Then, replace them with a REAL metal hand-crank can opener from Wal-Mart or Target or wherever. After opening just a few cans with a P38, you’ll wish you had a REAL can opener. They aren’t too heavy or too large, yet they are a DREAM to use in comparison.
  • Also, experiment with eating utensils. Initially, I just carried a couple of sets of plastic ware from fast food joints. Then, I replaced these with a camping-style metal knife/fork/spoon kit, which is still in my bag, but the handles/edges are somewhat sharp and uncomfortable. I’ve recently added four different-sized plastic knife/fork kits. Who knows? In the future, maybe I’ll just put two sets of our kitchen flatware into my bag. The reason it’s important to find the right utensils that work for you is that we use these items about three times per day. So, they should be comfortable, durable, and functional. We spend so much on compasses, GPSs, guns, and other stuff that we probably won’t use during disasters/bug-outs, but our silverware/flatware will get used several times daily.

Other “urban preparedness” stuff useful in bug-out bags

  1. AA/AAA collapsible battery charger plus rechargeable batteries
  2. Small six-foot extension cord with three outlets because there are never enough outlets where you want them in hotel/motel rooms.
  3. A pair of 3:2-prong plug converters so you can plug three-pronged laptops and such into a two-prong old-school wall outlet.
  4. Over-the-door hooks because usually there are no trees in hotel rooms to hang your stuff from.
  5. A “real” cooking spatula serving spoon for cooking.
  6. Two rolls of quarters in my bug-out bag. Motel/hotels are too often vending machine-based. Washers, dryers, and drink/snack machines are plentiful, but change for a buck isn’t always available.

Basically, whatever I bought during my first month of living in a hotel room, ended up in my bug-out bag. So it was a VALUABLE lesson.

You and Your Bag Should Blend In, No Matter Where You Are

While I’m on the subject of urban survival, let me say I can carry my pack on public transportation, past police officers, and such without drawing so much as a second glance.

While I, too, like to strap all kinds of gear to the outside of my pack when hiking and such (to make it easily accessible,) that isn’t so urban-friendly. For example, if I attach my machete or pistol, or camping hatchet to the outside of my pack, the cops might want to “have a word” with me. So instead, my pack has room for ALL of my gear to fit inside!

Yes, I still have pouches/carriers attached to my pack’s shoulder straps, waist belt, and exterior to quick-clamp stuff where it belongs, but I still have room to get everything inside my bag, too!

I know many of us focus on camouflage, cover, and concealment. Still, there are some emergencies/disasters when you want and need to solicit help from others or to keep yourself safe, especially in urban environments! Thus, I encourage everyone to include at least a pair of high-visibility roadside safety vests with reflective material. This could be the difference between life & death for you and your family during a roadside emergency or such!

Keeping Your Urban-Ready Bug-Out bag TSA-Friendly

First, packs shouldn’t weigh more than 50 pound so that we can avoid extra airline fees for overweight baggage should you find yourself on a flight out of Disaster-ville.

Secondly, I already mentioned the importance of keeping all your gear inside your pack. I can’t tell you how often a “sticky-fingered” baggage handler or a TSA agent stole gear from my CHECKED baggage. I lost things like compasses, Leatherman multi-tools, pocket knives, and more!

Once, my bug-out bag came out looking like a yard sale on the conveyor belt at the baggage claim area! I don’t think they did this on purpose. Instead, I think they opened my bag to search it, and then didn’t properly re-secure it when they finished. So, the zippers pulled apart under the weight of my bag and spilled the contents EVERYWHERE along the conveyor belt.

As you pack your bag, it’s vital that you know what’s in it and stays up to date with current TSA rules. They change pretty frequently. Some items, such as guns and ammo, will always need to be packed separately according to the rules, and some items will always be banned (fuels). There are other prohibited items that most of the traveling public is unaware of, such as battery limitations and MREs. MREs are forbidden because of their heater elements/packs. Read more about the pros and cons of MREs.

Pre-made alcohol stoves and such are also prohibited, but a bottle of Everclear would be considered drinking alcohol, not a “fuel” alcohol. Anything clearly labeled as flammable, like HEAT bottles, will be confiscated.

Tips for Hassle-free Travel

Before heading to the airport, remove anything from your hand-carried bags that isn’t TSA compliant. It’s surprising how many items can be packed in checked baggage, such as knives, machetes, wrist-rockets, baseball bats, etc. Then, lock your zippers closed with REAL locks, not those “TSA-friendly” models.

Once you are at the airport, proceed to the ticket counter to check your bag, but tell them you want it manually inspected with yourself present because you have had items disappear in the past. They will send you to the “oversize” luggage area where people check their golf clubs, snow skis, musical instruments, etc. The TSA agent will take your bag and put it through the scanner. If it passes, it’s OK for the rest of your trip, with no need to be reopened along the route. In addition, the manual inspection bypasses the need for TSA-friendly locks and allows you to have more secure luggage.

If, however, the scanner flags your bag, they will invite you “behind the red ropes” for a manual inspection of your bag. They will ask you to unlock it and then tell you to step back so THEY can unpack and inspect it.) YOU may not touch your gear during this procedure.

Once they have cleared your contents or removed any unauthorized items, you may repack your bag and re-lock it. Again, it will now be fine until its final destination. They will ONLY invite you back behind the ropes if your bag FAILS the scanner. So, be sure to LOCK your zippers BEFORE you check your bags.

TSA is accustomed to people traveling with guns. Hunters, military personnel, police, and many citizens always do it. BE AWARE of the TSA rules for checking and declaring firearms, and be aware of the laws related to weapons in the state you visit.

Suppose the airlines KNOW that you will be violating state “carry” laws at your destination. In that case, they are compelled to inform the authorities in that state, yet, they are not obligated to notify you of the laws/restrictions of your destination, nor inform you that they told the authorities. So, you could be surprised at baggage claim by “the authorities.” Thus, travelers, educate yourself.

Reminder: Most of the stuff that the TSA agents prohibit you from carrying as carry-on is ALLOWED to be brought aboard as checked baggage. I have two EDC (Everyday Carry) kits. The first one is TSA carry-on safe, and the second is not. So, as I check in my bug-out bag, I insert my non-safe EDC kit into it. Once I reach my destination, it’s the first thing I remove from my bag.

Read more on handling delayed and canceled flights to better prepare for those possibilities.

My Philosophy for 72-hour Bags

I crack up when I see bags advertised as “72-hour kits,” which also include food/MREs and water and hydration kits/bags. People, the average person can survive three days without water and three WEEKS without food. Thus, 72-hour bags don’t need to waste valuable space/weight on food or water. Instead, replace that food and water with other gear such as hunting/fishing supplies or water treatment/purification gear.

Then again, I don’t feel we should have 72-hour blinders on when we create bug-out bags. Instead, we should create a bag/kit that is indefinite. We should carry the means to process/treat water, or acquire it using a Silcock key (particularly useful for urban survival), not bring water itself. We should have the means to hunt/fish/cook, not carry pre-made meals.

Sure, people should feel free to include a few snacks for mental happiness or small bottles of caffeinated energy drink for that little extra “pick-me-up.” Even a few packets of drink mix will help convert boring or terrible-tasting water into something halfway palatable. But, FULL meals and filled water bladders or bottles are unnecessary additives. If anything, keep a grab-n-go food bag and canteen by the door. You can ditch it if necessary instead of rucking it within your pack.

Tiering of Bug-out Bags

An effective plan can also help you reduce the contents of your bug-out bags! If you have pre-positioned gear at your retreat location(s) or hidden caches, then that’s LESS gear you must carry as you depart.

We have bug-out bags for each family member. (Despite this, we have a multi-user bag philosophy, not single-user.) We also have get-home and emergency gear in each vehicle. The bed box of a pickup truck is a Godsend for preppers!!!!

We also have pre-packed grab-and-go bags:

  • A camping/tent bag. This heavy car-hauled bag includes two tents, an inflatable air bed & pump, LED camping lanterns, battery-powered fans, and other items for a large, multi-room, candles/matches, and family-oriented tent/site.
  • A camp-kitchen bag. Includes several multi-fuel stoves, a folding table, collapsible water buckets, fire-cooking gear, more LED lanterns, solar lights, solar chargers, cast iron pots/pans, battery-operated and hand-crank coffee grinders/pots, etc.
  • An elaborate military-style first aid (trauma) backpack. This sucker is bright red, has a large red cross patch, and has almost everything imaginable! (We took the “real” kit and added a BUNCH MORE gear, including surgical tools/kits, over-the-counter meds, extra prescription meds, and antibiotics.
  • Fishing/hunting/trapping bag. With a dozen leg-hold traps, a couple of cans of tuna fish, collapsible fishing rods, small fresh+salt water tackle boxes, land/trout lines + treble hooks, shotgun + shells, filet knives and skinning knives, a Henry .22 survival rifle + ammo, LED headlamps, 12v spotlights, etc.
  • Food/water kits. Pre-packed with about three weeks’ worth of shelf-stable food/supplies for two people. We recheck/resupply these annually.
  • Tool bags. We have three because one bag was too heavy and cumbersome to carry and locate what we needed.
  • Communications bag. We have handheld HAM radios in our bug-out bags. We also have vehicle-mounted systems in our cars, trucks, and boats. This bag includes extra solar panels, battery chargers, backup radios/parts/headsets, small battery-operated TV & DVD player, battery-operated radio/CD player, etc.

Our whole lives are actually color-coded and bag-based. We have flight bags, SCUBA/dive bags, ditch bags for boating, a picnic backpack for romantic getaways, a swim bag for going to the pool, etc.


It’s vital to consider that your survival “retreat” may be a friend’s house or apartment or even a hotel in an urban or suburban setting. You can never know beforehand which route or strategy will most likely ensure your survival. Therefore, the adaptability of your gear and your mindset is critical.

What types of urban preparedness measures have you taken?

Originally published July 13, 2012; updated by The Survival Mom editors.

27 thoughts on “Urban Preparedness: Tips for Surviving in City and Suburban Settings”

  1. Thank you so much for these articles. Your calm manner of writing combined with common sense ideas make preparing seem easier. No scare tactics nor doomsayers have made me feel that I could handle this, yet you show that it doesn’t have to be perfect by anyone’s standards but my own. I can do this. Thanks, again.

  2. Mom @ Cube2Farm

    Thank you so much for this informative article! We recently had to evacuate our home and have been living at my parents house now for 2 weeks. I thought I was “prepared” because I had everything we needed at home, but I never imagined we would have to evacuate the place that I always figured people would want to escape TO! I also was (inadequately) prepared for a camping-style TEOTWAWKI escape rather than trekking 500 miles to sleep in a guest room. (Noting, of course, that camping in 100+ heat with a baby and toddler is just inconceivable to me; my “prep” plans were made years ago – pre-baby and pre-move – and barely updated with kids in mind.)
    You are very right: it is important to plan for the most likely to occur scenarios and most of those require an urban relocation plan. In our case it was storm damage, grid down for 100 mile radius, ruined water supply, no cell tower access, etc. Most sensible course of action for a small family with a baby = relocate to safer/more comfortable living space.
    Thankfully we’ve been traveling a lot lately and I also use your bag-organization system so it was easy to pack up the essentials for the kids, but it frightened me to realize that I am not prepared for an actual hunker-down-on-the-farm kind of scenario. Plus I had no plans for the animals; that took longer to coordinate than packing up the fam!
    Just recently found SurvivalMom and love the site! Thank you!

  3. We also do a separate bag to hold food/water. We live in an area where fires are common (or as common as they ever are) in summer and where getting snowed in the winter is a real serious possibility at least once every year. We have found that have a “food bag” is much easier. It makes locating our ready-eat food items and our initial stash of water so much easier. I know this strategy wouldn’t work for everyone but its really worked for our family. It also means that in the case of a car bug-out (like a fire) were not trying to grab various cans and things, we just have the one bag to grab and go.

  4. I still can’t wrap my head around where a desert-dweller would actually “bug-out” to. Or anyone else without adequate means, for that matter.

    1. Entire cultures of people have made the deserts their homes (and still do.) Native Americans, Africans, Australians, and others. Many of them are so accustomed to desert life, that during an emergency/disaster, they would flee to a similar desert-like location. (You go with what you know.) They might be uncomfortable or unfamiliar with the woodlands of the Midwest, or the winters of the North, or the tropics, etc.
      But, there is ALWAYS somewhere else to go…
      As a matter of fact, I would even argue that rural desert folk, are better prepared for a TEOTWAWKI situation than most of us. They KNOW how to conserve water. They KNOW the challenges of keeping food fresh in the heat. They KNOW how serious hydration is, and the values of shelter from the elements. Daily, they live with the challenges of limited technology/coverage, vast distances between people/civilizations, etc.
      Most of us could learn a TON from desert-folk. No, not necessarily the urbanites in Vegas, Palm Springs or Phoenix. But, the REAL desert-folk — who live off-the-grid. THEY are survivors TODAY!


      1. @Jack – I know what you mean…. too bad I’m really from the mid-west and not native to the desert… If the water grid were to go down – we would be SOL.

  5. Very interesting comments. Having small children, though, I’d say enough food and water is a MUST! Can you imagine trying to survive and find food with children crying and whining for days? Even though they may survive 72 hours w/o, it would be very miserable.

  6. Hmm, speaking of caches of supplies. We went on a work related event to Vegas for a week. I was 5 months pregnant at the time. Mid week my belly suddenly grew. I had to go to the mall and get a few new outfits. Then we were faced with an overfull suitcase. And for many reasons we didn’t want to purchase another suit case. An Idea came to mind. I mailed all of our dirty laundry back home. I got the idea from a customer who used to order his supplies in advance, he traveled a lot and would have me send supplies to his next hotel destination. The hotel would hold them until he arrived for check in. If you plan to travel, and know that you will be at a location in say a week. Why not just mail some comfort supplies (like extra kid clothes) in advance?

  7. People need to stop with the “72 Hour” Bug Out Bags & start building 5-7 day bags. In this day & age “72 hours” seems so remedial. It’s better to have more than to have less.

  8. I see where it makes little sense to carry three day’s worth of water or full meals. I must dispute that none at all should be included. Some lag is experienced between acquiring food and water. There are urban environments lending themselves little to hunting and fishing. A day’s worth of water and 24-72 hours worth of snacks with protein is what I pack. For my money I agree; room for procuring should not take a back seat to storing water and food. There’s also nothing like a good knife or axe and some contractor’s bags, cheap poncho, duct tape, and paracord.

  9. Hey there, I just wanted to comment on the statement that you can survive 72 hours without water. 72 hours is highly dependent on optimal conditions for hydration purposes. Heat stroke can take you before you know it is even happening. The food and water in a bug out system is meant to carry you for that 72 hours without slowing you down. I live near a batch of nuclear powerplants. In the event of a Carrington style event or an EMP or even a terrorist attack on these plants slowing down to filter or purify water may not be an option. As an avid outdoorsman I do not recommend hunting or fishing in a fallout area either. In the event of flooding in many areas water may become contaminated with chemicals that most filters and even some purifiers cannot handle. This was the case with hurricane Katrina where many individuals went without water. Average in the possibility of injury/bloodloss extreme stress your ability to survive for 72 hours on no water dwindles. I’m not trying to be confrontational at all. I spent a little time on Paris Island SC during medical screening I had my blood drawn, it came out black, like molasses. That was with me drinking a full canteen of water every hour. Even with all my training about a month ago I almost went down from heat stroke out on Pinchin trail in Linville Gorge in under an hour after running out of water. Also, the Red Cross and the CDC put out the 72 hour statement originally. The food and water in a BOB is to help fill the gap for relief crews as it takes 72 hours for relief crews to set up shop. You can live a lot longer without pillow cases and can openers than you can without water. Again, I’m sorry if I come off harsh but this kind of information could save your life. It easy to get disillusioned with all the doomsday people talking about the end of the world and such. The fact is that no one is safe from natural and manmade disasters. The world isn’t going to deteriorate to the level of Mad Max (as much as I wish it would) but even recently we have had many real bug out situations already that had people been more prepared there would have been far fewer deaths. Clean water, food, and clotting agents need to be in your BOB.

  10. This is my approach as well. I assume I’ll be running from a disaster *to* civilization. To make sure we get there, we are prepared to evacuate in just a few minutes, always have between half a tank and a full tank of gas, and know multiple routes out of our area. In one bag we have: important papers such as everyone’s passports, my kids’ birth certificates, and the checkbook. Cash in small bills and plenty of quarters to do laundry at the motel. A handcrank/solar radio. A solar panel charger that works brilliantly for the iphone/ipad/what-have-you. Laptop, case, and chargers for both it and the phones. In the other bag are a change of clothes for everyone, water, “moral” snacks (peanut butter crackers, protein bars, gummi bears, etc), a few ziploc bags, travel hygiene (teeth, hair, hand sanitizer, etc), as well as “comfort” items like eye drops in case you’re driving a really long time, hair ties, q-tips, and those “yes to cucumbers” face wipes because after running all day it’s even more satisfying than usual to freshen up. In the car we keep a jogging stroller and a baby-wearing device, to have options should we have to bail on the car, along with some water and extra diapers, maps and a GPS, a headlamp (because car trouble always seems to happen in the dark), a fire extinguisher, a picnic blanket (if away from home for a long time, it’s cheaper and more fun to buy groceries and picnic than to eat every single meal in a restaurant), a second pair of eyeglasses (since if the first pair broke and I didn’t have a spare, I wouldn’t be getting very far), and extra copies of the kids’ lovies. Beyond that I have my list of “grab this stuff if you *really* have the time to round it up OR just use this as a shopping list once you get there.” This is the highly useful but oh so replaceable stuff that you use in preserving your and your kids’ routines; categories are kitchen, laundry, kids’ sleep, and recreation. A place to sleep, a few familiar books, a nightlight. Stuff you could buy for not very much at your destination’s Target (a travel crib might set you back $40) or if you plan on driving far enough, order it on your phone via Amazon and ship it to your destination (like your kids’ great grandmother’s house that’s 16 hours away). Basically we just pack with the goal of being able to get out quickly and of being able to collapse in a heap once we get there (and not feel compelled to immediately run out for, say, Excedrin). I love her suggestion to do a dry-run (it really is the best way to learn what you’ll want to have on hand and what will only get underfoot); in our case, I felt like we got ample information from a 2 night hotel stay. Nothing like actually having to load and unload the car to make you whittle down your packing (on the one hand there is something comforting about having *some* of your own belongings but on the other hand it is a huge drain to be stuck managing too much).

  11. Though, if the premise is that we’re packing for a motel and not the wilderness, I don’t see ditching water and snacks for hunting/fishing supplies and water purification equipment. Agree w/Erin about kids. You *might* not be dead from dehydration, but you’re going to be in bad, miserable shape.

  12. Pingback: Evacuation Plan in Action | From Cube to FarmFrom Cube to Farm

  13. Pingback: Perfecting my "Go" Bags for Last Minute Travel | From Cube to FarmFrom Cube to Farm

  14. As a long time outdoorsman turning toward prepping I found both of these articles extremely helpful. Much appreciated. I really like the bag system you employ.

  15. Great point on the needlessness of a “72hr” bag containing food and water. Save space and weight by leaving this stuff behind. If you are in a life or death situation where movement is essential leave this stuff behind and gut it out!

  16. Richard Bonaparte

    This is good information for a trip. But horrible for magor disasters. TSA friendly pack. What happens when the FTA grounds air. Or the states shuts down the power grid. There will be panic msgir roadways and airports will be the first to go.

  17. RB,

    How many “major disasters” have YOU had to bug-out from in YOUR life? WE have had to bug-out from many. Several things to keep in-mind. First, everyone should have a “tiered” system. Your first/basic tier SHOULD be TSA-friendly (because it will often be your FIRST/BEST option to put major distance between yourself, and danger.) Sure, if you can’t bug-out via commercial airliner, and opt to bug-out via vehicle instead, then you can grab your non-TSA bags as well.

    Second, electricity: Out society is addicted to it. Our bug-out bag includes a decent fold-up solar panel kit, and 12v lithium dry/safe motorcycle battery. So, even when “the grid” goes down, WE still have some “basic” electrical power. We have lived in coastal, barrier-island, hurricane-prone Florida. We have had to live WEEKS without grid power (amid the summer heat) due to hurricanes. We have FIRST HAND experience with these hunker-down, or bug-out situations. Having something as simple as a 3-way electrical splitter can be the difference between SHARING power with a friend/neighbor, or being WITHOUT power.

    We also ROUTINELY use MOST of our gear when we go camping. This helps us prove what’s worthwhile to ruck along, versus what’s useless in the “field.” But, 90% of our bug-outs are NOT into the deep woods, nor the middle of the desert. MOST of our bug-outs are to friends/family, or hotels/motels, etc. Most of us opt to bug-out to places that DO have grid electricity, etc.

    Our latest addition to our BoBs: We replaced our bag-type drip water filter, with a newer bottle-style model that offers 3-in-1 functionality. It can be used as a suck/squeeze bottle to filter water real-time while on the trail. Or, the filter can be hung in a tree, and indeed used in the same gravity-fed manner as a bag-filter. Or, it can be used like a “straw” type of filter, and used to suck/filter water directly from a water source (real-time.)

    As I mentioned above, we have recently added a fold-up solar panel system, too. We opted for a model that produces 2X the power consumption of a laptop. (e.g. enough power for real-time use of the laptop — PLUS, enough excess power to recharge the laptop battery, or cell phone battery in the background. More realistically: Charge the laptop and cell phone batteries during the daytime as we do other chores/tasks. Then, at night, our laptops and cell phones are available for periodic use.

    We also added a lithium motorcycle battery. I had purchased one of these for our endure motorcycle. I was AMAZED at how small and lightweight (yet powerful) they are. It’s barely larger than a smartphone (and of similar weight.) Yet, it offers 12v power source. Plus, the handle deep discharges and multiple recharges very well. And, there’s no dangerous acids to spill. They aren’t cheap, however.

    I’m NOT saying that OUR bug-out bag is “right” for EVERYONE. But, what I encourage is for readers to CONTRIBUTE “suggestions” — ways for ALL of us to improve our systems.

    e.g. don’t just say “your suggestions are horrible for major disasters.” Instead, offer YOUR suggestions on how to do it better, cheaper, lighter, cross-functional, etc. CONTRIBUTE — instead of only “commenting.” 🙂
    We are here to help one another — especially if we can help WHOLE FAMILIES.


    1. “e.g. don’t just say “your suggestions are horrible for major disasters.” Instead, offer YOUR suggestions on how to do it better, cheaper, lighter, cross-functional, etc. CONTRIBUTE — instead of only “commenting.”
      We are here to help one another — especially if we can help WHOLE FAMILIES.”
      Well said.

  18. The best bug out book that I have found is called, “Realistic Bug Out Bag” by Max Cooper. It blows away all of the other books on the topic.

    It is on Amazon.com at: ttp://www.amazon.com/gp/product/149921507X/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=149921507X&linkCode=as2&tag=thes0d-20&linkId=QFS62G7PBIJX3XMP

  19. bittersweetlost

    I like what you’ve got to say in this post, and a lot of the information and perspectives either tally with what I’ve already concluded or give me new things to think about.

    After Katrina, I took a different take on bug-out preparation, neither motel nor wilderness, but shelter. If my area floods or experiences some similar disaster, I know I’ll be evacuated to an emergency shelter, along with everyone else affected. So I now keep two bug-out bags together. One has the things I’d need for a week or so regardless of conditions, including a serious first aid kit. (Why are commercial first aid kits 90% bandaids? Because they’re cheap, I know, but still.)

    The second bag is my pro-social bag for existence in a shelter. Thinking about getting along for an extended time with too many people, too few resources, and too little privacy, I’ve packed a bag with things that I think would make my own stay for weeks in a shelter more bearable, and things that would help the people around me as well. Food, water, utensils, bedding, and other necessities will be provided, but that still leaves a lot to be desired, to get through days/weeks of shelter life.

    I can’t count on solar or access to outlets, so, much as I love my phone and my ebooks, there’s nothing in the bag that needs electricity except a handful of single-LED keychain flashlights that I got to be able to give to kids. Books are heavy, so I only packed four – three fiction that are good for reading or reading aloud, one homey/inspirational. I have six different tiny travel games, inflatable bouncy balls, and several mini jigsaw puzzles, as well as puzzle books and pencils (so that the sudoku/crosswords/wordfinds/etc. can be erased and reused), all of which can be lent out. I have small, cheap toys, crayons, and decks of cards which can be given away. I have several small notebooks because journalling helps, and a whole lot of small, inexpensive address books, keeping track of the connections made in the shelter. Also a lot of individually packed wet-wipes and some bleach wipes, and (sealed) packets of Emergen-C, because I can’t imagine a better breading ground for colds and other bugs.

    Almost all of this is stuff I want for myself, and figure may make living in a shelter more manageable for others, as well. In another take-away lesson from Katrina, I also have about a thousand small hair elastics and at least a dozen combs to give away. A lot of my stuff is kid-oriented, because kids have fewer emotional resources, and because if kids are miserable then everyone is going to be miserable. Nothing in this bag cost more than about $2 (most less) and nothing in it is irreplaceable. It’s heavy, but not too heavy to carry with other bags.

    As Ursula K. LeGuin says, survival of the fittest is real, but humans are social organisms, and thus the most fit human is the most social. With that in mind, I think a shelter go-bag is a much-needed addition to the concept of emergency preparedness.

  20. Hello. Loved this post, but links would be nice for items listed: AA/AAA collapsible battery charger plus rechargeable batteries?

    And for Jack: a link would be great for your “12v lithium dry/safe motorcycle battery”. I looked on Amazon and they are all normal battery size even though I typed in exactly the above as you wrote.
    I am forwarding this on to my daughter who lives in L.A. ;-{ !

  21. Thanks for sharing. As more and more people move into urban areas, it is important to be prepared for emergencies. Here are a few tips to help you be prepared for anything that comes your way: Know the risks. Familiarize yourself with the most common hazards in your area so you can be better prepared to face them. Have a plan. Make sure you and your family know what to do in case of an emergency. Practice your plan so everyone knows what to do and where to go. Stay informed. Keep up with the latest news and information about emergency services in your area so you know how to reach them if you need to. Be prepared mentally and emotionally. Emergencies can be stressful, so it is important to be mentally and emotionally prepared for them as well. What do you think? Thanks.

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