It snowed today, not an unusual occurrence in New England, but the first real accumulation since the freak October “Snowpocolypse” that left thousands of my neighbors without power and caused a four-day shutdown of the school system that employs me.
This storm’s timing was good. The public schools were already out for February break, so the resulting half foot of snow only caused a couple of hundred closings of various kinds. Traffic rolled on and most folks made it to work, albeit a little late. I went out to shovel twice, drank a lot of tea, napped, and hung out with my spouse, who opted to take the day off.
It could have been worse; it has been and likely will be again. That fact, and my recent perusal of William Forstchen’s EMP-disaster novel, One Second After, got me thinking, again, about my household’s disaster readiness.
Forstchen is Newt Gingrich’s writing partner, and any assumptions you might be making about such a duo are likely true. Still, the underlying theme of the book – that fortune favors the prepared – is worth pondering.
I like to think I’m disaster ready. I’m human-foible paranoid, a near-native New Englander, and I've always been the sort to keep a tent, sleeping bag, and basic jump kit in the back of my car. Three years of traveling to the Gulf Coast to build houses in Katrina’s wake have made me even more safety conscious, to the point of creating a vague disaster-supply hub in my basement. (Most of the camping gear is piled in the same general area.) The next step, one I’ll take over the next couple of months, is to create a 72-hour bugout bag for each member of my household. Essentially, I’ll fill three daypacks with the stuff each of us will need if we’re forced to leave our home without much notice.
In each daypack I’ll include: one or more changes of clothing (including shoes, underwear and socks), toiletries and hygiene supplies (lady stuff, too), season-appropriate outerwear, a first-aid kit, a supply of any medication we’re taking (an extra inhaler for my son, lots of Excedrin, and a spare pair of eyeglasses for my wife and I), snacks, reading material, a deck of cards, a pen, a notepad, and an inventory list.
In addition to the daypack, I’ll put together a waist pack for each of us. Each waist pack will include a AA flashlight, a AA transistor radio, a spare pack of AA batteries, a pack of moleskin, anti-chafing ointment, a small pair of curved scissors, a space (reflective blanket), a disposable poncho, a bottle of water, a whistle, $100 in $10 bills (enough for a couple of nights in a cheap hotel or a bus ticket), $10 in quarters (for vending machines), two disposable lighters, a pack of waterproof matches, a pre-paid phone card, a Swiss Army knife, lists of important phone numbers, a pen, a notepad, an inventory list, a regional map, photocopies of important documents (birth certificates, social-security cards, first page of our passports, etc.), and a thumbdrive with our data backups on it.
Will we ever use these things? Hopefully not. But properly maintained, they might give us an extra hour or two of travel time before trouble hits. And that might make all the difference.
A couple of other titles to chew on (Don’t put these on a Kindle; nice as it is, it won’t work without a charge):
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank
What to Do When the Shit Hits the Fan by David Black