Emergencies happen every day. How we respond to them can make the difference between life & death, for us and our loved ones.
Understand one thing, at the outset. It is not selfish to ensure your own survival, as best you can. You can't help anyone else if you become a casualty. My reserve unit had a module on "Emergency Preparedness", recently.
One of the first things the Sgt Major asked was, "How many people have a flashlight?" A few raised their hands. Next, "How many have one on their person, right NOW?" Only he and I raised our hands.
Many people have asked me why I carry a flashlight, on my belt, in broad daylight. I work with REACT, which is a volunteer emergency response organization. If we are asked to participate in a lost person search, I may have to look in a hole. On a more personal note, I may be the one who falls in a hole. A flashlight in my car will not be much use. A small, powerful, LED light is not a very large investment, doesn't take up much space, on my belt, and the batteries last a long time which, in an emergency,could be very important. Ladies, I would STRONGLY recommend that you not trust to having one in your purse as, in an emergency, you and the purse may be separated.
In addition to a flashlight Sgt Major & I carry a multi-tool, like a "Leatherman". It has many uses & I have been thankful to have it, on many occasions. I, also, carry a small "Vise-grip"-type plier, a small crescent wrench (about 3") and a couple of "Swiss Army"-type knives. There have been MANY people who were glad I had these items. They can be carried in belt pouches (Don't start, I've already heard the cracks about a "Batman utility belt & some of the people I've helped USED to make those cracks.) or in a "Fanny Pack". Especially if you can, and choose to, use a "Fanny Pack", I'd advise including some waterproof matches & a high-energy-type food bar. A small container of water would be good, if you have room, but they can be difficult to carry & in most "Fanny Pack" emergencies, you'll probably be able to find water. Being Irish & knowing Murphy's Law, if I'm going far enough to carry a pack, of any kind, there'll be water & maybe a backpacker's filter straw,for polluted water.
For more extended emergencies, that might require "A.T."-type travel (Alternative Transportation, i.e. shoe leather express) you should carry (in the car) a back-pack, containing (at the very least): batteries for your LED flashlight, an AM/FM radio, preferably w/hand-crank capability & maybe another light (crank-powered), a change of underwear & socks, a few drab colored bandannas (outerwear, if you have room & the weight-carrying ability), waterproof fire-starting materials, a few heavy-weight yard trash bags (which can be used in many ways, i.e., cut out head & arm holes & you have an emergency raincoat or slit a couple open & drape over line or limbs & you have a semi-waterproof shelter).
Next, a foldable, water-repellent hat, durable gloves, a compass, first-aid kit (& not one w/iodine & a few band-aids, I mean one that contains some serious bandaging, i.e., 4x4s, gauze & adhesive tape, pain relievers, triple anti-biotic ointment, see your doctor or Red Cross or fire department people for suggestions), several bottles of purified (sealed) water, several high-energy food bars, a "Space-blanket", if you can, include a high-density foam sleeping pad (can be tied under, or over, back-pack), a light-weight, fleece-lined windbreaker, a metal signaling mirror, a loud whistle (If you can find the "Storm Whistle" I recommend it. Loud & directs the sound away from your ears.)
A small, foldable is always needed, a camp saw and/or a wire saw (a round, flexible blade w/ a ring at each end, can also be used as a weapon) (but no cheapies,if you need it, you don't w ant it breaking), if you can stand the weight, a military surplus (or equivalent) "Entrenching Tool" (again, no cheapies), a back-packer's water filtering straw (again), &/or a device that will filter water to re-fill your water bottles (the filter straw should be used whenever possible and save the bottled water for when you can't find any), compact field glasses or monocular (w/anti-reflective coating, so you can observe without BEING observed).
If you can afford it, purchase night-vision optics can help you move at night, a map (should be automatic to have one of wherever you are going that will show your route to & from + possible alternate routes), a lensatic compass (& learn how to use it), GPS is useful, but it not only can tell you where you are, but the bad guys, too. Not recommended.,a C.B. walkie-talkie (but don't tell anyone where you are, "in the clear". Friends & family can figure out "... where I caught that nasty cold, in '66..." or "...where we had that flat tire..." or"... where Uncle always wanted to vacation...", something that they know, but the bad guys don't & tell them to avoid specific place names, as the frequency is not secure).
In a pinch, a small hatchet (can be used as a weapon), a 6" (or larger) belt-sheathed hunting knife, or a survival knife with a hollow handle (can be mounted on a shaft, as a spear or both, if you can afford it & carry the weight, a basic fishing tackle (hooks, line, sinkers, a bobber), plastic (sealable-type) food storage bags in sandwich, quart & gallon-sizes + nylon net bags into which you can place your food & hoist it into a tree, using your nylon clothesline. I say nylon because it doesn't rot, as does cotton & is easier to handle than hemp. Look for sun light-resistant line. Add about 50' of 3/8-1/2" rope that will hold your weight. You never know when you might have to climb or tie something.
These are basic items and you can use your own experience, reading and personal contact info, to suggest other items.
In the car, you should carry a set of durable, comfortable hiking-type outerwear, in an "awol"-type waterproof bag, that you can grab & expeditiously depart the premises (in other words get the h__l out!!!) It should also contain sturdy, preferably high-topped lace-up (well broken in) boots. A sturdy, heavy as you can carry & use (possibly as a weapon) hiking staff, if you have room in your car. If not ASAP, cut one, pref. using a saw, as it is quieter than the hatchet & in either case, carried or acquired, sharpen & fire-harden one end of the staff as a first-response, or last resort weapon.
Speaking of weapons, as politically incorrect as it is, I have to warn you that not everyone you are likely to meet will have your best interests at heart. This may come as a shock, but better you hear it from me than get the "hard knocks". If I had my druthers, everyone who is in this situation would be trained & carrying a firearm. If you choose to do so, PLEASE get trained. In the training you will probably pick up some survival techniques. I hope that these will be among them. Do not be arrogant, as you travel, but prior planning can give you some self-confidence that will allow you to deal with the bad guys & come out O.K.
When you carry a firearm, you hold the decision of life or death. It is a solemn responsibility & one not to be taken lightly but, remember; the fact that you are not out to hurt anyone gives you moral authority over the bad guys and the right, maybe the duty, to use deadly force to defend yourself and any companions.
First you need to develop the proper mental attitude about dealing with threats. There are 4 color-coded levels of alertness, in people. Most walk around in "White": All is right with the world. This should ONLY be when you are behind locked doors, in a secure area that you, personally have secured (ensured that it contains no threats) or know that it has been done by a trained, competent person, whom you can trust with your life and those of your family.
"Yellow": In our society everyone should go there, as soon as the secure area is left and especially in a disaster situation. You are aware that there maybe a threat, but have no specifics. Your senses are heightened and you are watchful. "Orange": You have identified a potential threat, but are not committed to action, waiting to see what the other party will do. "Red": The threat has materialized and you are going to have to use deadly force.
Now that you have survived the initial disaster, & you are equipped to travel, you should already be in "Yellow" alert mode & it is time begin planning your route. Begin by getting a positive orientation. Many people have become lost because they THOUGHT they knew which way to go. In a disaster situation, things may look different. If any doubts, use the compass. As you travel, be alert for anything you might be able to use, but approach with caution. Especially if the disaster may be the result of terrorism, every step & everything you touch needs to be examined. In gathering supplies, the "10 foot pole" maxim is good, with your body behind protection. Once you have moved an item and waited about a minute, it should be possible to approach it, cautiously, watching for "strings attached" & gather it.
In traveling, remember that unlike wild animal predators, that will probably get out of your way if you make noise, human predators will lie in wait, to take you & whatever you have. So, stealth is the best course of action. If you have the night optics, consider night travel. Otherwise, make as few fires as possible, as small as possible, in a pit that will mask the glow and away from any thing that will catch the glow & be seen. Avoid burning green wood, or anything else that may smoke excessively. If you have to have a fire at night, avoid staring into it, as that will kill your night vision.
Try to see other people b-4 they see you and observe them b-4 making contact. In a normal situation, a uniform can usually be a sign of available assistance. This is one of the reasons for carrying a broadcast band radio. If the infrastructure has deteriorated, there maybe alerts about people in uniform engaging in mis-conduct. They may not even belong in the uniform. In "The Postman", Kevin Costner found a uniform & assumed a role. "The Brotherhood" was a "uniformed" army, but they weren't good guys. In the book "Lucifer's Hammer", a National Guard unit went rogue. This is not to say that this WILL happen, but it has happened (in true life) & it is best to make informed choices, about contacting people, in adverse circumstances.
When traveling, avoid the bottoms of ravines & ditches, as they place you on "low ground" & bad people can drop rocks on, or shoot at, you from above. also, avoid being too high, as that makes you too visible. The optimum is the "military crest", which is far enough below the top of a hill, or ridge, to make you less visible, but high enough to avoid the low ground & to enable you peek over, occasionally. When observing the other side, or crossing, cleanliness may be next to Godliness, in the normal world, but in this situation it may get you a premature interview with Him.
Get down, get dirty, get there in one piece.
Eventually, you will meet people if you are lucky, or blessed, you will meet good people who will help you. If not, you can run (& good luck) or throw yourself on their mercy (again, good luck, as you can expect to lose something, if not everything) or you can stand up to them & if you go down, take some of them with you. George Washington said best, when he advised that the surest way to have peace was to be prepared for war. Non-violence & pacifism only work when you are dealing with civilised people. If society breaks down, you can't count on that, so count on yourself. It has been long established that, in adverse circumstances, people who revert to their training are more likely to survive. If you have no training GET SOME!!!
If you are unable to, train your self. Establish patterns that will be, basically automatic. When I train people in the use of firearms, the first thing is to ensure competent handling & use. Got to know which end spits the bullet & how to avoid hitting unintended targets, while hitting the intended one.
After basic competence is achieved, proper mental attitude is next. The surest way to avoid having to shoot someone is to convince them that you will. First, you have to convince your self. Practice facing a simulated human target assume the firing position, with the non-firing hand cupped under, supporting & stabilizing the firing hand. If time & proximity to the target permit (in the real-time situation) point the muzzle at the ground, about 1/2 way to 2/3 of the way to the target & shout (from down in your guts) "Freeze!!!"
Assume, for the practice that he doesn't comply. Raise the sights to center mass (center of whatever you can see) & squeeze off a shot. If you are wanting maximum effect and dealing with only 1 target, the standard practice is "double tap". Fire once and, as soon as you can recover from the recoil, fire again. I teach that in order to "stop the attack", which is the only reason to fire, as long as they continue advancing (even if crawling) you keep firing. When they stop, you stop. No sooner & no later.
The basic "rules of engagement" & the practice for the real thing are pretty much the same no matter what weapon you use. A loud order to stop, followed by a center-mass shot, arrow, spear-thrust, etc. Only in the case of using a knife does it change much. Someone who is inexperienced with a knife may have to plan on their free hand & arm sustaining some damage as, if they can't find a shield, they may need to put the free hand & arm out, maybe in the attacker's face, to give a better chance of the knife actually striking home.
Even if armed, the best thing is to assume a low profile & not be belligerent. If licensed to carry concealed, good idea to do that, so no one gets the idea of trying to take your weapon. If not, carry the weapon as unobtrusively as possible, until needed. The main idea is to avoid encounters, but if confronted deal with it, then get back to getting back to your people.
The preceding statements are opinions of the writer and not to be taken as step-by-step instructions on how to survive disasters. There are no guarantees, either expressed or implied. The reader follows this, or any other advice, at own risk.
Be advised, be prepared, be alert & "Let's be reeall careful out there".
God bless y'all. God bless America!!! Dis-MISSED!!!