We have been successful with preparing our “bug-in” home and continue to learn and make mistakes along the way! Our daughter is in her second year of college, and I wanted to share our experience with preparing and sending off your first born into the college world.
We were fortunate that she was able to take her car with her during her first year. This not only provided an obvious way to get home but also a mini-storage facility for supplies. If your son or daughter is not permitted to park on campus, the college can typically direct you to parking spaces for rent around campus. I want to share what we did to ensure our daughter was prepared, in case she was ever stuck at school without electricity or needed to get home in a situation where her main route was blocked/not available.
Ideally, if we had it to do all over again we would ensure she had a truck/SUV 4-wheel drive vehicle that is more rugged than a Ford Fusion! That being said, it was bought and paid for and has proven to suit her needs well. While we didn’t force the issue, we did encourage her to choose a college that was within a gas tank of home. She is just over 200 miles from home, which roughly translates into a half tank of gas. We remind her to fill up as soon as she gets back to school after weekend trips home, so that she always has a full tank. She also takes her car keys everywhere she goes– her dorm features the electronic card access type lock to get in and out, and we found out they do not work without electricity. In the event of an electrical outage, they must post a human at the door to allow folks in and out, which could cause a big delay! Having her car keys with her at all times ensures she can access the car no matter what.
When she began driving, we taught her how to care for the car and change a tire. She was taught the basics of oil/filter changes, hose inspections, fluids, etc. What we found though was that, between the time we taught her these skills at the age of 16 and the summer she was preparing to go to college two years later, she was not able to demonstrate these skills (with ease) any longer. So, we started there– basic instruction on the car itself. We also decided it would be best for all of us to walk through a car/truck inspection monthly. We have been able to keep to this schedule and have also involved our 15 year old. Now my daughter has confidence regarding this necessary upkeep. She has had to change the tire once in a non-training scenario and did fabulously! As a side note, spend the extra money and purchase a heavy duty jack for each vehicle; the factory supplied ones are not very user friendly. We supplied her with “real” maps. Even though most teenagers think that having GPS on their phones is good enough, we taught her how to read real maps and to use a compass. She has three main ways to get home, and she has driven all of them back and forth. This gives her options in terms of getting home quickly and efficiently, should there be simple road closures or societal upheaval. She is also comfortable in looking at the map and choosing an alternate route on the fly. In the trunk of her car is a complete first aid kit that has more components then the basic one in her dorm room, a sleeping bag rated for the worse weather she could possibly be in, and a one-person tent. She also has a camp kit (over fire grill, fire starter, Kelly Kettle and accessories, two pieces of dry wood, and kindling). All of this camping equipment (tent, sleeping bag, camp kit) is housed in a Rubbermaid tub that is the kind you cannot see through. This tub can double as a rain water receptacle as well. We also keep two cases of bottled water in there. So far, nothing ever burst or leaked, despite being subjected to extremes in both heat and cold. However, we keep the water in a rubber tote as well. She also has a “bug-out” bag that is fully stocked and another 4-week supply of My Patriot Supply food (see information under Dorm Room below). There is also a bin that houses typical car related things– jumper cables, bottle of oil, jug of washer fluid, a tire gauge, and so forth. These totes/bins and bag fit nicely in her trunk and do not look weird or out of place should anyone see the contents while she is opening her trunk.
Our daughter is very comfortable with guns, knives, and other weapons, and while I have no doubt as to her ability to open/conceal carry while home on our property there are laws we must all be aware of. Now that she is 18, she can legally own a shotgun or rifle. She has a shotgun already, but that is not exactly practical for the trunk of her car. So we researched and found a “survival” rifle that breaks down and fits in her bug-out bag. The link to the one we purchased is the AR-7. We have all enjoyed shooting it, and it is quite simple to assemble and disassemble. The .22 LR ammo is not exactly known for Zombie Defensive strategies, but a gun is a gun, and I would rather have one then none at all if the situation calls for it! In case you are wondering, her college has a policy that clearly states it is permissible to have a weapon in your personal vehicle. That weapon cannot be taken to “controlled” areas of campus defined in policy as residence halls, classrooms, practice/game fields, university buildings, and the like. “Public” spaces such as parking lots, streets, and sidewalks are not “controlled” and thus, you may have a weapon– concealed or open carry. I must say I was a bit surprised, and I encourage you to investigate this for your child’s university or community college.
She also carries a simple, small folding knife in her pocket at all times and a steel ball, wrapped in paracord on her keychain that, if deployed, will leave you with a serious dent in your head. I have no monetary connection to the makers of the gun or the head-denting keychain, and you can make your own keychain vs. buying one. A quick Internet search will give you directions on how to make your own. I found out during the parent orientation that her college allows you to check in a “hunting” shotgun or rifle with the campus police to use while hunting at school. The area we are in is mountainous, and the school sponsors multiple hiking/fishing/hunting trips. I was honestly shocked that they allowed such a thing, given our political climate of “gun control”. While we did not take advantage of this, perhaps your son/daughter could at least have access to a weapon close by, if needed. Of course, the gun must be housed at the campus police, but you can “check it out” without any explanation or details.
She has asked for a flashlight that is also a stun gun, and we have not fully finished researching this but plan on sending her back to school in August with one. If any Survival Blog readers have advice or suggestions I would appreciate it!
One thing we found particularly helpful was walking the campus with her last summer. During the summer before her freshman year, we walked the campus several times and included a sunset/evening stroll as well. We were able to help her determine areas that looked a little sketchy in terms of blind spots or ideal spots for a possible attacker to position him/herself. We talked about how differently areas looked once the sun went down vs. streaming sunlight on a busy afternoon. Parents, this simple activity really helped ease my fears of her going back and forth across campus knowing she would have evening/night classes! We noted the location of the various police phone/relay stations that were all over campus. Most colleges also list their police logs on their website. We were able to review these too, and it helped to alleviate our fears that we were throwing her to the wolves!
This was the hardest part of preparing our child for college. What should she take with her? We could all “survive” here in our home for quite some time without outside contact or the need to shop for supplies, but how do you store essentials in a room so small that you share with another person? Our plan is always to instruct our daughter to come home or go fetch her should the SHTF, whether weather-related or human-related, but we also recognize that things happen quickly and without warning sometimes. She also is comfortable that she can set out for home anytime she feels she needs to, in case she can’t get in touch with us. In other words, she knows not to wait for us to tell her to come home.
So, we focused on the very basics for dorm room storage and kept extras in the car trunk. For the dorm room, here is a basic list:
- Food: We purchased a four week supply of food from My Patriot Supply. This comes already packaged in a heavy-duty bin. (Again, we have no monetary connection to this company but are always happy with their products/service.) We thought about the two week supply, but considering there will be a roommate we thought we better go with the four week and plan on sharing. The bin the food comes in is plain gray and looks like a simple Rubbermaid tub. It fits nicely under the bed. As typical college students, they always have food of various kinds in the room, so this is reserved for an emergency only.
- Water: She uses six stacked cases of bottled water (two side by side and three high) with a simple piece of cloth and a piece of cut-to-size plywood on top, covering the stack, as a night stand/side table. While it’s not ideal, it works! She doesn’t use this water; it is simply there if she needs it.
- First Aid Kit: I have a small plastic bin filled with the usual (bandaids, antibiotic ointment, gauze, tape, generic pain relievers, Benadryl, Immodium, an inhaler (she is not asthmatic but she understands under what circumstances this may be needed), Ace Bandages, scissors, et cetera. This kit does not include the more intense items such as basic surgical instruments, sutures, or the more “emergency” type tools that our home kit and her car kit contain. Also, she knows how to use everything in the first aid kit and is certified in CPR.
- Solar Charger: She has a portable solar charger that will charge the phone, Kindle, hand-held scanner, and 4 AA batteries. This is a “just in case” thing and is actually packed inside the food storage bin (because it fit!) along with the scanner. She has a sunny window that this fits nicely in. Obviously the Kindle is not a part of our emergency plan, but having something to do is vital to our mental health! Just make sure you have all of the appropriate connecting cables to connect your phone or other electronics to the solar charger and store everything together. Just pay for the duplicate charger/cables! That way if you have to grab and go, there is no worry as to what “stuff” to bring with you.
- Warmth: She has appropriate blankets and a comforter for her bed, and we also included a few extra blankets and simply put those under her mattress (not folded). That way they are there should there be a loss of electricity, but they are completely out of the way. They are so out of the way that we almost forgot to get them when she was packing up her room to come home in May!
Of course, we have the usual stuff (soaps, toothpaste, feminine products, and deodorant) stored in yet another rubber bin under the bed that she can use. Generally, we have a 1-2 month supply of the basics, without having to always go out to a store. We utilized the space under her bed for nearly everything considered “emergency” or the extras with the exception of the water and she still has plenty of room for the normal dorm room fluff! They have a shared fridge and always have a stack or two of bottled water and lots of easy/quick meals ready.
One thing we did discuss with our daughter was the use of way points. Just in case we are in a worse-case scenario and she isn’t able to make it home via car. We have dear friends almost at the half way mark that would take her in, if needed. We also have a can of spray paint in her bag that would allow her to leave us clues, if needed. She thinks this is stretching it a bit, but it helps me sleep better at night!
I hope this list has helped you to organize your thoughts and prepare to send your child or grandchild off to school. It is certainly not all inclusive, and we were constantly adding things here and there as we moved through the year. An example would be snow boots for the dorm room and ones for the car. She left home with cold weather but no snow to arrive at school with several inches of snow from a previous snow fall several days prior that we did not even know about!
I wish each of you God’s blessings in these troubled times. I have included several links to products we have used. Again, we have no monetary connection to any of it. They are provided as a reference only and/or an example of what products have worked for us.