A Tisket, A Tasket, Just Who is Going to Carry That Basket? Bugging Out with a Special Needs Child or Adult.
Hey, and welcome back! I'm sorry I've been gone so long, but between a dead computer and various health related problems in the family November has been a rather interesting month. But one the causes for it being so interesting is part of the inspiration for today's ramble. Namely the wild fires that so recently raged through parts of North and South Carolina as well as parts of Tennessee. Not only was there massive destruction of property, but local hospitals were hard pressed to take care of all the patients who were suffering from asthma related illnesses brought on by all the smoke drifting down for hundreds of miles from the center of the fires! And from what I hear from my friends up near Gatlinburg, there's still at least 3 people missing and presumed dead from the fires there. All in all it's just further proof that having an emergency "Bug Out" kit is not just for wild eye preppers preparing for the upcoming zombie apocolypse! But what about those of us who have a loved one with special needs? What sort of changes does that make in our planning?
For starters, let me say that at least in this case, Special Needs does not necessarily mean only those who are normally considered that way; such as those on the Autism Spectrum like my son. In this case we must also include those with dementia like my mother as well as other health concerns such as asthma and diabetis. All of these concerns can complicate things in ways that could leave you in serious trouble if you don't plan for them well in advance; so let's take a look at some of them.
Let's start with the health concerns. One of the big things any emergency kit should include is at least a three day supply of your medicines, and it sure wouldn't hurt to include enough for a week or longer if you can. After all, if you find yourself being force to completely leave town, like those who had to flee Hurricane Matthew or the fires in and around Gatlingburg did, find a pharmacy that can access your files and legally refill your meds might be a form of mission impossible! How long might it take? Who knows. If you deal with a national chain such as CVS or Walgreens, it might not take any time at all. On the other hand, if you deal with a small local pharmacy, it might not happen until your doctor's office reopens and they can talk with him. So having too much might actually be the best thing. Yet you also need to look at the meds themselves. Some meds must be stored under very controlled conditions. For example, most forms of insulin needs to be kept refridgerated, and many types of antibiotics are almost as sensative; so keeping a supply in your car might be a really bad idea. On the other hand a large cooler is going to prove to be more than a bit cumbersome if you find yourself needing to hoof it as several people in Gatlinburg did.
And that leads rather neatly to the next point, namely how much should you bring with you in your emergency kit? As a general rule, experts say you should be able to carry a pack weighing a third of what you do; but let's be honest here. For me that amounts to somewhere around 90 pounds, give or take a pound or two; and there ain't no way in God's green earth that I'm hiking 10 to 15 miles carrying almost a hundred pounds! No, it's much safer to stick to a pack that weighs at most around 40 pounds, which is about a quarter of the weight of the average adult male in good health. Still, keeping it under 40 pounds can be harder than you think. For instance, to stay healthy we need a minimum of 2 quarts of water a day for drinking purposes, and a gallon is recommended by more than a few. Yet 2 quarts of water weighs 4 pounds, and what happens if someone in your family cannot carry their fair share for one reason or another? In my case, my son could probably be convinced to carry at least 15 to 20 pounds since he's used to carrying almost that much every day in the backpack he uses for school, but my wife suffers from asthma which will severely limit the amount she could carry and convincing my mother who suffers dementia to carry anything is unlikey to say the least. So if things go to hell in a major way, I'm likely to be looking at carrying enough water for 3 people by myself; a grand total if I stick to the minimum safe amount of 12 pounds (15 when you add in the weight of light weight containers). So of that 40 pounds we started with, I'm already down to 25 pounds available.
Next thing you have to consider is first aid meterials. You can go for 24 hours without eating if you absolutely must, though it's never a good idea if there's any options at all; but when you're operating under true emergency conditions accidents are just a matter of time. When you consider that under these conditions what would be a relatively minor wound at home can turn life threatening in a short period of time, the first aid kit becomes an item of major importance. The one I carry is 11 inches x 6 1/2 x 6 inches and weighs right around 2 1/2 pounds. It's in a tough convas bag that can be strapped to the outside of a back pack, or used as a pack in and of itself and contains just about anything I would need for a family of five for 3 days to a week. Still, it does mean that I'm now carrying 17.5 pounds, leaving me a slim 22.5 pounds left.
Next you need to consider shelter and a source of heat and light should it be necessary to abandon your vehicle. Will there be a good chance you can make it to your target destination in less than a day while on foot? If not then you will definately need some form of shelter and a source of warmth. That may be as simple as a drop cloth and a bic lighter, or you may find that you need something more substantial. In my case it would be my elderly mother that would be the desiding factor. While it's true that the average adult in good condition can normally manage 20 to 25 miles a day, that assumes a host of things including that the person is not carrying a lot of weight, the weather is good, and the path is reasonably smooth. Take any of those out of the equation and the distance starts to go down surprisingly quickly. My mother is not in any way caple of walking more than 10 miles a day even in perfect conditions, and if things are bad enough we might be lucky to make 7 miles in a day. Add in that she would be effected by the elements in a major way, and a simple drop cloth or poncho is out of the question. An emergency bivvy might do in a pinch, but only if I was able to improvise some additional shelter to supliment it. So add in 4 ounces for the emergency bivvy, 6 ounces for some paracord to use for lashing things together, and 2 pounds for a camp axe since using a survival knife for chopping limbs and branches to work with would take longer than I might have. Then add in another 4 ounces for some dry tinder to assure the ability to start a fire, 8 ounces for a pocket stove to assure warm food, and another 4 ounces for some fuel cubes for the pocket stove, and I'm now up to 21 1/2 pounds. Oh, and we forgot to add in the weight of the meds my family would need to carry with us so let's call it 22 pounds even.
Now, we covered water in a way; but it's becoming rather obvious that my family would never be able to make it completely to safety in a day if for some reason we had to abandon our vehicle, so now we need to consider what happens when we run out of water at the end of the first day. The lightest and easiest thing would be water purification tablets. They work well, weigh almost nothing, and take up so little room they're almost unnoticeable. They do however have a habit of leaving the water tasting rather nasty. There are also filters by the dozen available that weigh well under a pound, and don't tend to leave the water tasting so bad. Most of them are not exactly speed demons though when you're trying to use them to refill your water bottles or hydration packs.
By now we're up to 23 pounds out of the 40 pound limit we had placed on ourselves as a reasonable target, and we still haven't covered light, communications, food, and clothes. Nor have we considered whether or not some form of weapon might be a good idea or not. None the less this ramble is starting to look more like a chapter in a book than an article or blog post, so why don't we stop here for now. I'm sure you've got some thing to think about now. I know I sure do, and I'm supposed to be the expert! In. the mean time, I wish you all the best and a positively fantastic Christmas. Good Lord willing and the creek don't rise, we can continue this train of thought next week; so enjoy your holiday. And as always, remember; if it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!