Today’s preparedness topic is personal safety. In the case of a disaster, there’s nothing more important to take care of yourself and your family first. Once your home is secure, then it’s time to focus on other people in the community to assist — or get the heck out if the scene is really awful.
It’s my hope that any event I encounter in my life is one where the community can come together to help, not one where we have to be on our own. (On top of that, I honestly hope I never use all the stuff I have for escape and protection except for when I’m camping, but you never know.)
There is a ton to cover here and it’s wide reaching. In my explanation of what I’ve done to ensure our own personal safety in the case of a disaster I’m going to talk about escape, protection from the elements, and self defense. I’ll also discuss weapons, guns and how we’ve made our decisions about these controversial items.
(Note: In case you’re wondering why I’m writing about this stuff and not “health,” please read this article here.)
Let’s start with something easy…
Escape from Home
When in a disaster situation, it’s up to you and your family to either stay tight or get out of the house and/or get out of town.
First up, you need a plan of escape from the house and you also need a plan of attack when it comes to getting out of the vicinity. I have to admit, while our plan is fairly solid for getting out of the house, it’s a little shaky for getting out of town.
Getting out of the house can happen a few ways, by climbing out onto the roof then down the deck or front of the house — or just simply going downstairs and out either the front door, back doors or a window along the way. We still have an escape ladder if needed.
Getting out of town is a little more challenging. I have a few items to help if needed, but I want to learn more about urban escape before I’m confident about our escape plans.
Here are items I have for escape…
Escape Ladder — Like I said in my first post, I have an escape ladder from our last apartment that was three floors up. Our home now is only one story and an attic, so there’s much less distance to the ground. This makes my much happier to know that there are multiple routes for escape in case of a partial collapse of the home or fire. I doubt we’d need to use this, but I have it upstairs just in case.
Leather Gloves — I have leather work gloves that we keep downstairs in case we need to put our hands in areas where there is broken glass. It’s not optimal that they’re downstairs, but their also filled with chicken poo from cleaning the coop, so it’s kind of a trade off.
Baseball Bat — I keep a baseball bat under the bed. One for protection, but second to be sure I can break through any of the skylights we have in the attic where we sleep. I’ll talk more about the bat when it comes to protection, but it has multiple uses — obviously. (Hudson and I could use it for tee-ball as well, LOL.)
Mini Axe — My uncle gave me a mini axe a while back that I still have. This also could break through glass if necessary, and may be able to cut through a beam if I needed to move it for escape. It would take a ton of work to get through anything with it though, so my hope is that’s never necessary. Like the gloves, I keep this downstairs.
Mag-Lite — When I got the Mag-Lite, I didn’t realize just how versitile it is. I listed it in my first article, but I’m going to list it here for two additional uses. You can use this — already with batteries — upstairs when the power is out to help escape. I could also use it to break a window if necessary. Finally, it could be a last resort for protection. In fact, I really need two. One for upstairs and one for downstairs.
I’m sure there are other things I could keep upstairs, but I think my biggest first manuver is to bring the mini-axe and the gloves upstairs in case I need to climb over glass upstairs or break through something — though I wonder how much the mini axe will do. I also need another Mag-Lite. (I’ll purchase one, likely before you read this article, LOL!)
Escape from Town — Or Neighborhood
The cornerstone of escape is a bugout bag. A bag that you can grab that’s packed and ready to go when something happens. I have a bugout bag packed, but I can’t say I wouldn’t need to review what’s in it and add more things in case something goes down. Regardless, I’m happy about having it and have a collection of other things that we’d need to bring with us in case we need to really get out.
Roll Top Waterproof Backpack — I have this bag packed and ready to go. It contains a bunch of these items listed below as well as some food, water, medical and communication items as well. I was surprised at how much stuff this bag can hold and still be relatively light.
We also have an additional camping bag that we’d use in case we need to get anywhere further than a few miles with the intention of sleeping outside of the home.
Rain Panchos — Essential for Bay Area weather in the winter. I have about 4-5 in the bag and another 20 or so in the house.
Head Lamps — I got some serious headlamps from the outdoor store here in Berkeley. They’re high-quality LED lamps that last really long with AAA battery power. I also have an additional one that I got from the hardware store I worked at years ago. It still works and could be used for an additional person in our party. So far the only use for these was lending one to a friend for her trip to Equador.
Waterproof Hand Journal — I think I was reading an article by Mike Adams that talked about a waterproof hand journal and how important it could be. I agreed and got on. Just need a waterproof pen.
All in One Utility Tool — This tool is attached to the front of my bugout bag. This could be essential for so many uses, so it’s a must have.
The one that I linked to was actually stolen from me in our move, so I replaced it with another. This one though seems nice and solid.
Mini LED Flashlights — I got two of these to put on our bugout bag as well. These are great when you need something small or don’t have the Mag-Lite.
Glow Sticks — Great tools for providing additional light, lighting a pathway, or going to Burning Man — just kidding about that last one. They last long — about 12 hours.
Military Compass — Just in case I forget which way the Bay is. I really got this one because every guy who’d been in Boy Scouts feels like they need one.
Three Man Tent — We already had camping equipment, so I’ll run over what we have here. We have a three person tent that we could easily pack in that larger camping bag I explained above. I’d hate to have to camp somewhere in the woods in this area in the time of a disaster — which is why I also have self defense items — but this also could be used for shelter in our yard if our home is no longer safe to be in.
Zero Degree Sleeping Bags — It doesn’t get too cold in the Bay Area, but we have two sleeping bags we could use — definitely for the baby.
Camping Mats — We have camping mats too that would make it cozy to sleep on the ground, but if we needed to go fast, these would take up more space than necessary — I consider them luxury that wouldn’t be needed during disaster time.
Tarp — To put under the tent if it were raining or the ground was damp.
Waterproof Dry Packs — These are in addition to the waterproof bugout bag. These are great to partition things off or to give to someone else if they need to run supplies that have to stay dry. You can keep food in them as well. There are three sizes, but they are much smaller than I thought by looking at the picture on Amazon.
Solar / Crank Flashlight — In case we run out of battery power for all flashlights, we can use this crank / solar light.
Gas Can — In earthquake-land, it’s important to have your car’s gas tank relatively filled. If you don’t, or you need gas, a gas can is a good thing to have. You can also use this to transfer gas from one place to another.
Gas Siphon — In case you don’t have gas, you can always get some… (This would be a worst-case scenario.)
Marine Battery Charger — If you need to keep your phone and other electronics charged, you can open up your hood and get power right from your (or someone’s) car.
Again, I don’t think I’m entirely prepared for a get-out-of-town escape, but we have the beginnings of it. My biggest concerns are the fact that I don’t have everything in one place, I’m not a great camper, and I just don’t know what to expect. Also, there’s no gaurantee there will be any way to escape from the Bay if there is a disaster.
In this section, I didn’t cover food, water and cooking which I did cover here, so just note that many of those items would come with us as well in some form or another. I’m not going to cover them here again.
Self defense is a touchy issue. I want to be prepared for any type of conflict that may put my family in danger, but I didn’t want to go overboard.
I’m not much of a fighter, so I’d likely run before I’d engage in conflict — I ultimately think, in most cases, this is the best approach anyway. Also, I think the appearance of being armed or able to protect myself is a good portion of protection. And of course, avoiding any areas that may be dangerous may be the most important to staying safe.
After a few discussions, Annmarie and I decided NOT to get a gun or any kind for protection. In fact, I was leaning towards it before the shootings in Newtown, CT. I grew up in the town next to Newtown and when we visited friends who live there and in Sandy Hook for the holidays a week after the shootings, because that hit so close to home, I was finally convinced of the damage guns can do in a non-self defense situation.
I’m not intending to open up a gun debate here. We’ve made our decision based on our comfort level of what is in our home. With that said, I’m not opposed to sane, responsible, and trained people owning guns — in fact some of my friends fit into this category. (You might be one of those people too.)
So here’s what we got as a compromise…
Storm Whistles — You can hear this whistle from a serious distance away. It’s a great way to call for help in you are lost, trapped, or being attacked.
Baseball Bat — I have this for self defense, but also for escape. Annmarie and I decided on a few different types of “weapons” instead of a gun. This was one. I keep this one under the bed.
Fighting Utility Knife — This knife could be used for self defense or for plenty of other “in-the-field” uses.
Shoulder Harness Knife — Again, a concealed knife that I would much rather use in the field than in any violent confrontation. This one looks pretty bad-ass, so I’m hoping someone would just assume I know what to do with it and choose someone else. At least that’s my hope, LOL.
Tactical Slapper — This thing is pretty lethal. It’s much heavier than it looks and could really be pretty dangerous. Most of the people who reviewed on Amazon said they used this guy when they were walking their dog at night, so I figured it could be great for Annmarie when she’s out walking in Berkeley and then possibly in an emergency situation. She brought it out to dinner once with her girlfriends and they all were envious — so at the very least it’s a good conversation starter.
Self Defense Kitty Key Chain — This keychain will make your attacker thing you’re just a sweet cat lover, until you jab it into their belly. I got one of these for Annmarie, I doubt she’ll ever need to use it, but it’s a comforting thing for her to have (for both of us.)
Tactical Gloves — These, like the leather gardening gloves, can be used to get through areas with glass, but also be used if you need to be in combat. Again, I don’t want to be in combat, so I imagine they could double as work gloves.
Mag-Lite (Again!) — This may be the most versitle thing I’ve purchased. All it needs is some sort of knife on it, an area for food storage, a built in water filter, and a way to print money and it could be the most valuable tool ever known to man. Obviously, you can use this to hit someone if necessary.
Fire Resistant Safe — When we decided to get some of these knives, Ann and I decided to keep them in a safe. So we bought this one. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. Inside, we also keep important documents. I hesitate to keep cash here, since that is obvious, but we’ll put some in there as well as in other places (unnamed.) Also, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, they’ll ship this 90 pound monster to you for free.
Silica Gel Pack — This is something you put into your safe to keep documents dry. Do not eat. (LOL)
Fire Resistant Document Bag — I bought one of these on Amazon since it was suggested to me. When I got it, I placed our documents in it and then into the safe. A few months later, we were traveling and I needed Hudson’s birth certificate so I opened the safe and pulled it out of the Document Bag. Once I did, I noticed that it felt like I had run my hand over a bunch of fiberglass. That was when I realized that the bag was made of fiberglass — and that it was poorly designed. It was more than a day before I was relieved of the fiberglass itching, so I would not recommend the bag I bought.
In terms of self defense, the biggest issue for me and my family is training. I have very little combat training outside of my high school football days — which would likely be relatively useless. So our next step is to learn some self defense skills — as well as how to use a knife in combat situations. If we don’t, the protection we do have, could become dangerous to us.
Where Do We Stand Here?
Overall, I think these categories are the ones we’re least prepared. I think we have some of the tools, but we’re lacking in our organization of them and have less knowledge of how to use them. It’s my hope that we’ll be able to be around a community of people — since earthquake is our most likely threat — where there is safety in numbers. At the same time, we’ll still be taking a few classes to ensure we’re not completely in the weeds when it comes to self-defense.
Your question of the day: Would you fight or run in a conflict situation?