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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Make it Modular and Make it Out!, by Ranger Squirrel

One of the skills that has served me best in life is my tendency to make everything modular.  I think I learned it in the Army, but regardless of where I picked it up, it has saved my rear end at home, at work, in emergencies, and even in my hobbies. 
Let’s pick on Average Joe for a second.  Average Joe is exactly that.  He likes a beer now and again, listens to classic rock and some country, and works in a job that just barely pays the bills.  He has a commute of about 50 miles round-trip every day and drives a little sedan.  Today, for lunch, he decided to ride with a work buddy to a Chinese place downtown about five miles from the office.  While they were eating a riot broke out and Joe got separated from his buddy and despite all efforts, he can’t find him.  When he gets back to his buddy’s car, it’s gone.  Worse, it appears that the rioters have managed to knock out power for most of the area.  Police sirens are blaring, and Joe has a feeling they won’t be too discriminating in who they label as “rioter.”  He finds a place of relative safety and takes inventory.  He’s got $25 cash, a credit card, a jacket, and a pocket comb.  He may need to run, he may need to hide, he may even need to lay low for a day or two until things calm down.  In a word, Joe is screwed.
Let’s say Joe carries a basic everyday carry (EDC) pocketknife.  He now has some basic gear and maybe a way to defend himself.  He’s better off, but will it be enough to get him to safety?  Where is safety?
Let’s revisit Joe after we talk about modular systems and how they can affect your preps.  Effective modular design gives you improved flexibility and even more importantly, redundancy in your preparations.  If every component in a modular design has some way of making fire and a cutting tool, it’s not long before you’ve got 4-5 backups each for both of those key elements in your system.
My basic everyday preps are modular in nature.  Level 1 is the stuff that is always in my pocket, organized into an easy to carry/can’t leave anything at home by accident fashion.  Its purpose is to get me through the day-to-day routine and to give me the means to get back to my car in an emergency.  With just Level 1, for 12-24 hours, I have the means to obtain or improvise food, shelter, and water, I can signal, I have a means of security, and I can administer some self-aid.  Level 2 is kept is in my car and will give me enough supplies to sustain myself in relative comfort for 48 hours or more in most emergencies.  Combine the two and I’m up to 72 hours.  The purpose of the level 2 kit is to get me home to pick up the family so we can decide whether to bug-out or bug-in.   Level 3 is modular, in and of itself.  There are some components that can simply be thrown in the back of a truck, and there are other components that are meant for staying put.  Depending on whether we’re evacuating or staying home, we’re good for anywhere from two weeks to several months – plus a day or two more with my Level 1 and Level 2 kits added in.  Having the Level 1 and 2 kits along for the ride also offers me the ability to split up from the main family temporarily if necessary.
Now let’s give Joe a similar setup to the one I use.  Joe has enough gear to get himself the five miles back to his car.  Or he can hide out for a day and hope things calm down.  He’s got the gear for that too.  His Level 1 has given him options.  If he gets to his Level 2, located in his car, he has even more options and enough supplies to camp out in the office for a few days, or maybe – at a stretch – a week.  He could also try to get home.
That’s one example, but in the end modular design and its benefits is only limited by your imagination and your circumstances.  There are, however, certain things that need to be true in all modular systems.  Once you understand these elements, you can use modular design in pretty much every aspect of your life.
  1. Each module should be able to stand on its own.  The stuff that lines your pockets is never going to sustain you for weeks at a time.  But each level of your system should address, in some way, the basic needs of survival for some period of time in the environment you are most likely to encounter.  I’m referring to shelter, water, food, signaling, security, and self-aid.  My Level 1 does that for 12-24 hours in a semi-rural environment.  My level 2 does the same thing, but for a longer period of time and greatly increases my weather range.  Level 3 takes me still further.  All are functional by themselves without the help of the others.  In preparedness terms, this is mainly true because you have to assume that you will use up each module during the process of getting to the next level.
  2. The whole should be greater than the sum of its parts.  Consider the Army’s Modular Sleep System for a second.  It’s made up of four components.  1) A bivy sack made of GoreTex; 2) a thin sleeping bag we called a patrol sack; 3) a thicker sleeping bag we called the black sack (normally called an intermediate sleeping bag); and 4) a stuff sack.  Each component individually gives you protection in different temperature ranges, and all of the components combine to take you down to temperatures in the -20 degrees Fahrenheit range.  But the real added benefit comes in the redundancy.  Because there are layers, if any one component is damaged or torn, I’m still warm because of the other components.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  You can do the same thing with your stored food.  I can store the complete seven day nutritional and medicinal needs for one person in a 5-gallon bucket, but there are six people in my family.  If I give each person their own self-sustaining, complete one-week bucket, but I make sure to vary the stored ingredients a bit, I can greatly increase my food preparation options and everyone can benefit from the combined food wealth.  Moreover, if something goes bad in one person’s bucket, there are backups in other buckets.
  3. You must plan it out.  You can’t throw together an effective system on the spur of the moment.  It needs to be planned out.  You need to define the purpose and duration intended for each module of your system.  Then, for every item you put into a module, you need to identify all of the intended and potential uses for the item when used alone and with other items from its module.  Finally, you need to list all of the intended and potential uses when combined with kit from other modules.  Let’s say hypothetically that you’re in a minor emergency.  You open up your level 1 kit and find $25 and some gear.  You now have options that will, hopefully, see you through to your Level 2 kit.  When you get to your Level 2 kit you find $100 and some more gear.  Combined with the remaining Level 1 money and gear, your options have greatly expanded. 
  4. You must test your system.  When I say test, I mean both theoretical and actual.  You need to occasionally use the items in your kits.  Take your bug out bag and nothing else camping, for example.  You also need to constantly ask questions like, “okay, let’s say the power goes out right now, how will I get by?”  Test the individual modules as well.  Using nothing but your Level 1 gear, can you really get through a day?  Remember: Even the best-designed system in the world is essentially useless without the skills to put it into use.
  5. You must put the system together.  This sounds so obvious that I almost hesitated to include it, but the tendency is for us to think things through and then just let them go.  You have to actually put together your kit, or you won’t have it when you need it.
As I mentioned in the beginning, in addition to using them in my preps, I use modular systems at work, at home, and at play.  I’m betting that if Joe had seen the benefits beforehand, he would use modular design too.