Sunday, 23 September 2012

Emergency Evacuation Pack

In honour of emergency-preparedness month, here is a not particularly exciting but hopefully informative look at our evacuation packs. I put a lot of thought into my evacuation pack, and I’m going to run through the details with you here. I do not, however, have any expertise or qualification to give advice about this kind of topic. I’m just showing you what I have made and why I’ve chosen to include the things I have.

These two packs cover me, my husband and our two dogs. The contents should keep us warm, dry, able to call for help and contains food and water for around five days. Each bag contains both food and water, in case we were separated.

Point 1: The Packs Themselves

 It’s essential that your evacuation kit be hands-free (a backpack is best, but a satchel or messenger bag would do). A duffle-bag or anything that ties up your hands is a bad idea. In case of a flood, landslide or disrupted ground from an earthquake you need to be able to use a pole or stick to feel out your footing and avoid falling into deep water or mud sinks. If anyone with you is injured you may need to help carry them. You may need to link hands with your party members to stay together in the dark. Whatever the situation, it is best to have your hands free.
These packs were cheap (from Muji) but the straps are strong enough for the weight we wanted to pack in them. We chose white for better visibility and because we have two, we wanted to write the contents in marker on the outside of each bag to save having to search through both to find the first aid kit or rain gear.

Point 2: Super torch

The torch is the single most expensive item in the packs. It can be powered by batteries or by turning the handle and you can plug cell phones into it to charge. It is also a radio. And a siren.

Point 3: Water

Water is heavy but essential. You can survive for really quite a long time without food, but not long at all without water. In addition to plain bottled water we can give the dogs we also have enriched water with minerals and calcium. Theoretically you need about a litre per person per day, but given the food choices we have packed (see point 4) we could stretch this water to cover several days easily.
Actually, some of these cans are not ring-pull. But I was in a hurry to take the photo and didn't notice until afterwards.

Point 4: Food

Most camping food or emergency rations are dehydrated, condensed or just plain dry. In the emergency situations we are likely to face (most likely floods or earth quakes) water is going to be the scarcest resource. There’s also no point packing anything that needs heating or rehydrating unless you are also going to pack a stove and pots and pans. Our food is in two categories: instant energy and sustaining foods. For immediate energy we do have some high-calorie dry snack bars (but mainly fruit and nut chocolate), but all of our sustaining foods contain sufficient liquid to eat as they are (directly from the can since we don’t have any crockery) and also contribute to the liquid intake our bodies need. Everything we have contains protein. Importantly, all the cans are ring-pulled. No point wasting space on a can opener (or worse, needing one and not having one). The same principle applies to the dog food: we have semi-moist kibble and sachets of wet food that should provide a fair portion of their water needs.

Point 5: First Aid and Personal Care Necessities

What you want to include in your first aid kit is really personal. Probably the most important thing to include is any prescription or other medication you take regularly. I’ll list what we have in a minute, but here are some of the little things you may not have thought of:
  • Alcohol hand sanitiser. There is unlikely to be water for washing hands before giving first aid or even after going to the toilet.
  • Toilet paper. There are unlikely to be functioning sanitation systems.
  • Chemical toilet-in-a-bag (five uses) and a trowel. Since we live in the county side digging a hole is an easy option for us.
  • Sanitary pads. If you happened to be menstruating during a period of evacuation and didn’t have these… *shudder*. Originally I had tampons because they take up less space, but after thinking about lack of hand washing options they seemed like a bad idea. Also, pads can be used as wound dressings.
  •  Travel toothbrushes and toothpaste kits. These are light and don’t take much space, but would make a huge difference to one’s sense of well-being.
  • Caffeine pills. After my emphasis of water it may seem bizarre to pack a diuretic, but after a fair bit of discussion we decided that going through caffeine withdrawal and the associated headaches, moodiness and food cravings would be more problematic. If you smoke it would be sensible to include nicotine patches for similar reasons.

  • The first aid kit proper is in a separate bag for easy finding/transportation. The bag has a hook so it should be easy to keep up out of mud while having both hands free to administer first aid. My first aid kit is the weakest part of my evacuation pack. Any suggestions on how to improve it would be gratefully received. The kit contains
  1. Three-in-one anti-septic, anaesthetic and antibacterial cream
  2. Pain killers
  3. Bandaids, wound dressings and tape
  4. Compression bandage
  5. Tweezers and small scissors
  6. Space blanket
Toiletry bag re-purposed into a first aid kit

Point 6: Keeping Warm and Dry

Note that we also have a head-torch each for hands-free lighting
Except for the height of summer, keeping warm during night time potentially outdoors is an important consideration. Keeping dry is a year-round consideration in Japan. Our pack contains rain ponchos, which would not keep us dry for long but hopefully long enough to find or make shelter. They are brightly coloured for visibility. We have microfiber towels because they are light weight and dry almost instantly. We have a tarpaulin and rope with which we could make a (very rough)  shelter big enough for the four of us in the event that we could not find our way to an evacuation shelter or if we decided to camp outside a shelter in order to stay with the dogs. We may exchange the tarp for an actual (compact) tent, we’re still thinking about it. We also have a package of thick socks and thermal tops, as well as gardening gloves for dealing with broken glass, collapsed trees and the like.
Thermal underwear, socks and gloves

Point 7: Knowing What to Do

Our pack contains our emergency evacuation guide book, map with evacuation shelters marked and a first aid instruction manual. It is recommended to keep important documents such as passports in the evacuation guide but we don’t want to be dipping into the packs whenever we need them, so we just keep photocopies of our documents.
It sounds like a lot, but all this stuff fits easily into two packs light enough for us to carry for long distances. If we were caught in a disaster and had to evacuate, I think we have covered every eventuality we could reasonable prepare for. We could survive fairly comfortably with both dogs for several days and over a week if we rationed sparsely. The bags are stored in their own cupboard which is located on the way out of the house, and they are immediately grab-able. There’s no point making a kit and putting it on top of a bookcase you can’t reach without a step ladder or buried at the back of a full closet.

Finally, if you want a cute pictorial representation of natural disasters check out kawaii catastrophe.
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  1. This is a great post. It gets me thinking about making one myself, it seems daunting at first, but maybe it's not so bad after all.

    (There is some wonky text when I view this page, just me?)

    1. Blogger does do weird things with text >.< I can see what you mean but when I try to edit it it just looks normal. Thanks for the heads-up and apologies for any headaches caused m(__)m
      Do you get a lot of natural disasters your way?

  2. Well, not now, but I will hopefully (assuming my defense goes okay) be moving to the Florida Keys (Key West to be precise, which is only slightly above Cuba) in about a month. This area is in the line of hurricanes quite often, so although we should get more lead time, we still need to have an evacuation plan. Not one of the things I'm looking forward to.

    Although the record low for winter is only 40F ~ 4C... so that I'm okay with ^-^


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