You have 10 minutes to evacuate...
Today is the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making land in Louisiana. I was a senior in college, at Tulane University, when Hurricane Katrina happened. I evacuated to Atlanta, and crashed on a friend’s couch for a week. I was glued to the TV and watched, stunned, as the levees broke and flooded the city. After another few days it became apparent that I was not returning to New Orleans anytime soon, so I drove all the way back to NY.
Welcome to National Preparedness Month. What would you do if someone knocked on your door and said, “You have 10 minutes to evacuate your house.” At the end of the entry, I’ll share information about putting together a 72-hour bug out bag.
I’m heading out to an overnight shift soon. I just received a warning email about a potential disaster brewing in the desert in Nevada. Specifically, Lincoln County, NV. You know - Area 51. Apparently someone made a joke about storming Area 51 and this has taken off into a Facebook event called "Storm Area 51, They Can't Stop All of Us.” I guess the idea is that a bunch of people want to illegally enter Area 51 and find where the aliens are hidden. A sister festival of Alienstock also just became a thing. Something like 2 million have replied that they will attend this event! The small town outside of Area 51 has a population of a whopping 173 people. There is no infrastructure to handle that kind of influx of visitors. Even if 1% of the pledged attendees go, that is still 20,000 people! The town is appropriately concerned and there are rumblings of disaster teams being deployed to help mitigate any injuries or damage that occurs during the event.
This is why I love disaster medicine.
No disaster plan I’ve ever reviewed or written has included contingency planning for when 2 million people suddenly decide to storm a military base in the middle of the desert in the search of extraterrestrials.
How could you possibly prepare for that?!? I kind of hope I get deployed just because I imagine the people watching would be fabulous.
September 3: Tuesday
Post night shift sleeping.
September 4: Wednesday
Alex and I still working on our bar. We’ve just finished with the interior shelves and stained them a beautiful, rich chestnut.
Recipe: 72-hour bag
When someone comes knocking on your door and states, “You have 10 minutes to evacuate” it does not seem real. What do you take? What can you take? Back in college, in 2005, when the school officials came knocking, we all thought we’d just be gone for the weekend. Many of my friends only took a change of a clothes and a bathing suit, figuring it was likely another overreaction by our school. I’d evacuated several times from New Orleans in the past, usually flying back home to my parent’s house in NY. My friends and I had even stayed in New Orleans during one of the campus evacuations, and had a party at our friend’s off-campus house. By the following morning, the sun was shining and New Orleans was as beautiful as ever. But Hurricane Katrina was different. We wouldn’t just be gone for a weekend.
I didn’t know it at the time, but after Hurricane Katrina I wouldn’t return until 6 months later. The levees broke. The city was flooded. My friends and I scattered to all corners of the country, with Tulane closing down for the semester. The city was unsafe with everything from stagnant water breeding disease, to looters looking to survive in the lawless aftermath of the deluge.
On returning 6 months later, the city was almost unrecognizable. The streets were littered with garbage. Mail had to be picked up at the post office as there was no postal delivery. Every house had the eerie spray painted symbols denoting what was found within –a secret code stating if there were dead bodies or hazardous materials inside. The worst change, however, was that the streets were silent. New Orleans is a city of musicians; a city of jazz and blues, of resilience and history and hardship. Songs would waft out of every building when walking around downtown. But after Katrina? Silence. The first real indication that the city was on its way to recovery, more than the garbage trucks cleaning debris and the new construction, was hearing people playing music again.
72-hour bag, aka Bug-out-bag, aka Go Bag, aka Get out of Dodge bag.
The theory behind this bag is that you will always have 3 days of necessities, such as nonperishable food and climate-appropriate clothes, in the event of a catastrophe. These days, I keep a 72-hour bag ready to go, in case of an evacuation or other emergency. I’ve read countless books and articles and websites about 72 hours bags, and in the years since 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, I’ve also learned by trial and error what I like to always have on me.
The bags are designed to be stand-alone items that can support us for 3 days with no outside help. Our evacuation plan includes loading additional items, such as additional camping gear and sentimental items, but if we had to ditch the car and take only our 72-hour packs, we’d still be ok.
Prior teachings posited that it could take up to 3 days for emergency personnel to come to your rescue, hence the 72-hour recommendation. Nowadays, the Red Cross and FEMA actually recommend that you have at least TWO WEEKS of supplies on hand.
So, I have (much, much) more than 2 weeks of supplies stashed in and around my home, and I keep a 72-hour bag ready to go as well. My husband and my dogs also have 72-hour bags at the ready.
I’ll start with just the 72-hour bags, then discuss what else we take when we evacuate. Or go camping. The lists are pretty much the same (except that we leave the sentimental items and the safe home when camping).
My bag itself is a ACT Lite 45+10 SL from Deuter, which has it’s own waterproof cover. As I’m only 5’3” and pretty petite, it would be impractical to have a bag larger than that. Ideally, your pack shouldn’t weight more than about 20-25% of your total body weight.
My husband has a 75L Gregory Mountain Products bag that has a built-in solar panel charger and smaller detachable day bag.
Our dogs have a bright orange, reflective Ruffwear 24L size Large pack.
Here is what is in my bag, broken down by category. And for each category, I plan to do an additional post (or several) that breaks down the details.
3 gallon Camelbak
Collapsible water bottle
3 days of lightweight, high-calorie food
Camping plate, spork, and cup
Base layers and synthetic fabrics are the most important thing to keep in mind when trying to stay warm
3 pairs of underwear
Socks & shoes
Hiking boots with wool socks
Tarp or tent footprint
Mattress pad (attached to outside of bag)
*We have a bunch of tents. Our 6-person tent does not fit into our 72-hour pack, but we would just throw it in the car. In the event that we needed to ditch the car, we’d have bivvy sacs, emergency blankets, and sleeping bags on us.
Text messaging might still work, even if you cannot make calls
Also, long-distance calls may work, even if local calls won’t go through
Solar powered cell phone chargers
RunningSnail Emergency Hand Crank Self Powered AM/FM NOAA Solar Weather Radio with LED Flashlight, 1000mAh Power Bank for iPhone/Smart Phone
Walkie talkie app Zello
Fixed blade hunting knife: Whetstone Cutlery: The Vermillion Survival Knife and Kit with Sheath Knife
CRKT folding pocket knife
Swiss army knife
Duct tape & safety pins (I even went to a lecture once entitled “1000 uses for duct tape and safety pins)
Keep in mind, gear is expensive and gets heavy. Also, the more skills you have, the less gear you need.
Weapons / self defense
Training is essential!!
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Shampoo, conditioner, body wash
A ton of apps on my phone
Pocket-size first aid and wilderness survival manuals
Jetboil camping stove and fuel
Password protected flash drive with scanned copies of our personal documents:
Social security cards
Medical license and DEA license
Health insurance information
Dog vaccination records
Triple antibiotic ointment or Aquaphor
Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen and other OTC meds
*My medical kit is pretty extensive (some might even say unreasonable), but the items listed above are some solid basics. You can buy a pre-made kit, or collect your own gear. Taking a first aid course is key, too.
Between my husband and myself, we’ve got all the above-mention stuff packed and ready to go at all times. These items seem to work well for us at this time, though the gear has changed and evolved over time.
Could you gather all this up in 10 minutes?
What else do you carry?
And finally, don’t forget to practice carrying all this stuff. Try taking your gear out for a hike. Even better, grab your bags and take them on a weekend camping trip. How well do your supplies do? What did you forget? What worked well?
Let me know how it goes : )