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Saturday, August 21, 2010

5 Minutes

That's the advanced notice that a small town in Iowa received after a nearby dam failed catastrophically. Read the news story here. Situations like this happen often; floods, hurricanes, chemical spills, fires and similar force people from their homes. This is the bug out that you're most likely to experience - a small scale disaster forces you from your home because it is unsafe to remain.

5 minutes is not a lot of time to grab and go. Heck, 5 minutes is about how long it takes for my family to get into the car for a trip to the grocery store. However, in these "grab and go" situations you pretty much just need to get out of the disaster area, as civilization is still functioning normally outside of the disaster area. You could bug out with minimal gear and be fine - you're not going to be hiking out into the wilderness for an extended backpack trip. Really, your main concern here is getting out in time to avoid problems, staying safe and grabbing important documents and valuables.

Getting Out 
To get out in time, you need to have a functional and fueled vehicle, which is why it's a wise habit to keep your gas tanks at least 1/2 full at all times. 5 minutes does not give you enough time to stop by the Gas N' Gulp, fuel up and grab some hot dogs. If it's a region-wide disaster like Katrina was, you may need to have extra fuel to make the journey to the safe zone. Your vehicle should be in good repair and you should have the spare parts and tools on hand to perform some minor repairs. If you have multiple vehicles and drivers, take 'em - if one of the vehicles has troubles, you can ditch it and continue onward.

Staying Safe
Staying safe while you're traveling to safety is another concern; avoid trouble if at all possible. Know multiple routes in case a road is out, jammed or blocked. People get anxious and frantic in bad situations, so do your best to avoid encounters with others and maintain a low profile. In a 5-minutes out situation, there's not time for the looters, gangs and murders to start their wicked work, but you sure could run into angry and desperate people on the way out. Also, in a situation like this, you may be on your own in a medical emergency; EMS is busy. There's a disaster happening around you that has plenty of potential of killing you and lots of panicked people on the road. A capable first aid kit is a must have.

Preserving your Valuables
Finally, if you can get away from the trouble quickly and stay safe doing so, your final worry will be the loss of your home and valuables. Given 5 minutes, you can't do a lot to fortify the house before leaving it, but, if you have the time, you can shut off the utilities and lock the house down. Hope that it survives and have a good insurance policy in case it doesn't. For your valuables and important documents, know what you plan to grab ahead of time. Discuss it with your family and draw up a checklist. There's no time to dig through a filing cabinet or try to pick out which guns in the safe to bring and which to leave. If you keep cash, silver, gold or other compact valuables at home, store them in a way that you can grab them quickly. Grab the small mementos and irreplaceable family items if you can. But, if you're running out of time, you have to be able to leave your things behind in order to save your life.

What probably won't help you
In this real-life scenario, much of the conventional bug out gear is not going to be of great utility. Unless your plan is to camp through the troubles, most wilderness survival gear is probably dead weight. Civilization is functioning outside of the disaster area; you can roll into a Red Roof Inn or Grandma's house and wait 'till things blow over.

The sad story of this dam breaking reminds us of what bugging out looks like in real life. Plan and prepare accordingly.