By: Doug Casity
I grew up in Thurston County, Washington, in the shadow of Mount Rainier. From a young age, we were taught in school the value of preparedness. Then, it was volcanic and tectonic activity, now, we may face a number of threats. In this guide, I will cover a range of topics that could be the difference between life and death, for most scenarios.
The first step is to prioritize the threats. Within the United States, we have seventy active volcanoes. There are several fault lines that crisscross our nation. There are scores of military installations within our boarders. Each of these have various risks associated with them, regardless of where you live. In my area, there is the joint military base, several dormant volcanoes as well as two fault lines. Why are these significant?
The military base is a nuclear target; according to Cold War era nuclear data, where the Civil Defense and military tried to determine what targets would likely be hit if the Cold War went hot, as well as fallout ranges based off wind and weather data. In 1980, we saw the devastation of Mount St. Helens' Lahars, pyroclastic flows, and the explosive force of twenty-four megatons destroyed everything within a twenty-five-mile radius. Ash blocked out the sun for days, as it fell halfway across the country.
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) used to recommend three days of food and water to be stored in case of an emergency. In 2018, they increased that recommendation to two weeks of food and water. Bottled water and canned food, if stored properly, can last several years. Most households have up to a week’s worth of food, however, after speaking to several community members, I found that most are far more unprepared.
The second step is to assess your needs. Aside from food and water, the things you require to survive, I found that most are without a proper radio. This is vital because you may not have conventional means of communication, such as, cellphones or internet. We have seen during hurricanes and wildfires that these components of infrastructure are very vulnerable. Dual band VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra-high frequency) radios and spare batteries should be a priority with any kit. This tool allows you to gather information, as well as request assistance if needed.
There are many manufacturers of VHF and UHF radios such as, ICOM, Yeasu, even the cheap Baofeng radios. I have several Baofeng radios, one is almost eight years old that I purchased prior to obtaining my Amateur Radio License, and it works just as well as the rest of my radios. The military has an old saying, “If you don’t have comms, you don’t have shit.” These radios will receive a wide range of frequencies, allowing you to monitor fire, police, and medical services, as well as regular FM broadcasts. One of these radios, with a magnet mount antenna on a filing cabinet, cookie sheet or other large metal surface, can reach out more efficiently; however, if you get that same antenna up higher, say a second story floor, you could access repeaters up to forty miles away, even on a five-watt handheld.
Third, you must decide what your options are. Is it safer to shelter in place or “bug out” to a different location? Depending on the scenario, the first couple days in a suburban area could be safe to sit and wait it out. But what if the situation is prolonged? When your neighbor’s food supply runs out and the shelves at your local grocery store are empty, they will begin looking for their next meal elsewhere.
With COVID, we have seen how unprepared we are, as if hurricanes were not enough evidence. People panicked and bought as much water, toilet paper and other supplies in mass as they could. Therefore, being prepared is very important; you may not get the opportunity to get those valuable, last minute items. Violence has even broken out as people tried to acquire these basic items.
I have provided a list of what I consider to be essential to any emergency kit. These items are designed for my area and my needs, so plan accordingly for your area. Every kit should include the “5 C’s,” cover, container, combustion, cordage, and cutting.
Fires tarter- ferrocerium rod, matches, jellied cotton (petroleum jelly mixed into cotton balls), dryer lint
Water- non-insulated steel bottles work well and can be used for water sensitization
Food- both canned and dried goods, several weeks-worth
Cover- a tarp or military poncho
Rope- 550 paracord is most common
Knife- the KBAR is one of my favorites
Communications- any sort of radio, FM, shortwave, whatever you can acquire
I have also attached a picture of my most basic kit that I take camping. It includes everything mentioned above and would allow me to survive almost indefinitely in the wilderness. An additional part of preparedness is practice and training. Everyone should be aware of their ability to use their equipment and have basic knowledge of each item. Our team is working on providing more in-depth material to help prepare our neighbors so, please stay tuned. And if you have any questions, do not hesitate to email us.