A Contingency Bag for Frequent Air Travelers, by T.R. in North Carolina

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Your Bug Out bag, Go Bag, SHTF Bag, or whatever you call it contains similar items for each one of us. Some are kept at the door ready at a moment’s notice, some in the trunk of each vehicle all with the same purpose; Mitigation of Risk. As a project manager, Risk Management is a key component to successful project delivery, and one tool of risk mitigation is contingency resources. Understanding the risk and developing contingency to avoid, eliminate, adapt to or reduce the impact upon a project’s outcome. I say all this to share with you my recent experience of experimenting and adapting to build a Air Travelers Contingency Bag.
 
Over the last year my role as a project manager has changed with a promotion to a position that now directs and leads other project manager for our company throughout the most population concentration in the country, the East Coast. My primary responsibility is an area from North Carolina to Maine, but frequent travel to Atlanta and Denver. This is in stark contrast to my previous role which confined my travel to 180-200 miles of home or our retreat location. In an event situation, though difficult but not impossible, it was always possible to get to one of those locations. Since my main travel method was by vehicle packing and carrying a contingency bag with a full pack with significant supplies was always readily available in my truck. Since I have always traveled with my “security contingency bag” that included a means of self defense, but as of February 3rdmy world changed. The promotion was a mixed blessing, a promotion and larger salary but increased risk.
 
I have been working to build an Air Travel Contingency bag since that time and I thought I can’t be the only one that needs this information. I know I am not the only awake person that realizes the world in which we live that travels. So from a project manager’s mind set my thoughts and methodology I personally went through to arrive where I am today.
For all non-project managers, risk management included contingencies to overcome or adapt to a variable that may create a critical project failure, thus the name sake of my bag is a Contingency Bag. My first struggle was what can logistically be packed, not just from a space or load perspective but also legally to avoid TSA/Homeland Security scrutiny.
 
All projects with a begin with a mission in mind, and mine project mission is to travel in-complete the work-get home as quickly as possible to reduce my exposure to the risks associated with traveling in the I-95 Corridor (DC, Philadelphia, New York and Boston). I eliminated planning for an EMP risk while airborne, since well let’s just say the landing will be a little rough. So I eliminate the thought of any carry-on bags and thus increase the size of luggage I can travel with. This allows has allowed me to enter and exit the aircraft quicker, though I still have to wait on other carry on passengers, but I also move quicker through busy airports such as JFK, Atlanta or Denver.
 
With the determination of checking my bag it allows consideration of risks that can be mitigated. I would suggest performing a risk matrix analysis, it helped me to determine how many contingencies I should plan for a event that has a low probability but high impact to those that are high probability but low impact. Some of the contingency planning included the distance from home or retreat and method of return or even if the return would even have a remote possibility of success. This reminded me of all the travelers on I-40 in One Second After. Each contingency should present valid solutions, whether that is walking from Boston to North Carolina, time of year, etc. or surviving in location long term. Not all contingencies will necessary have a high long term success rate, it may only present a solution that reduces the impact of the variable.
 
To avoid getting any deeper into risk management, I only presented it to you to show my methodology used to construct a contingency bag for traveling by air. I then decomposed my bag into categories, I will avoid long lists of specific items, they are numerous lists available and you will want to weigh and build your own bags according to your own risk matrix.
 
As you go through your categories be mindful of the size bag you have chosen. This is important since I assume you, like me would need room for business attire and a change(s) of clothes for your trip. I don’t pack trips in a full military duffle bag, nor do I want the attention. I use a standard suitcase, slightly bigger than a carry-on and I found a bag that when packed takes no more than 50% of the checked suitcase. Make sure it is neutral or black, no HI-VIS colors for the obvious reasons to remain inconspicuous. Also, be mindful you can’t take everything you would if the bag was packed for a bug-out from home scenario or one in which you can travel by car, this is for Air-travel. The categories give you some minimal resources, adjust for your personal situation.
 
Category 1-Water
        I include two bottles of 8oz water in my bag, one the weight is low, and it provides additional containers for future use. Since packing air is a waste of space either take filled bottles or fill them with something useful but dry. I use filled bottles. Purification tablets and a LifeStrawGo
Category2-Fire
        Matches dipped in paraffin, cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, magnesium starter, small pieces of fatwood stored in an empty Altoids can
Category 3-Food
        Three days MREs, instant oatmeal, power energy bars, chocolate bars, instant coffee.
Category 4-Medical
        Standard first aid kit, moleskin, k-Tabs, Fish Antibiotics, Pain relief, Combat Bleed Stop, tourniquet, syringe and a scalpel. Yes, the scalpel makes its way the checked bag security unlike knives. I also, carry two epi-pens and Benadryl since I am allergic to bee stings. I suggest packing these in a Med Kit since it seems that they get through inspections without much scrutiny. Items you pack may be specific again to your personal situation.
Category 5-Clothing
        In addition to your travel clothes which should include a sturdy pair of jeans, I pack extra socks, underwear, thermals, rain jacket, tactical pants and a shirt. As for boots, they are bulky and difficult to pack so when I can I wear them on the plane both way and store them in my rental car upon arrival. Those of you that don’t have that option realize some sacrifices may need to be made if you are traveling with footwear that will last if you need to evacuate by foot.
Category 6-Defense
        This was the most abrupt change. I the past I was able to travel freely in North Carolina and Virginia with a firearm for defense. This all ended leaving me feeling completely unable to defend myself. I first decided to include a knife in my bag thinking it would be overlooked since it was in a checked bag. Wrong! On three consecutive trips three knives were stolen or confiscated. So I quickly decided not to include a knife. Of course the paper work and logistics of declaring a firearm etc was not logistically possible, plus the States and Cities I work are not gun friendly to even their citizens. There are some products I have yet to try that may pass as innocent products but I am not going to list them here for numerous reasons. So for now I have decided that upon arriving at my destination the first stop is a Wal-Mart or Sporting Goods store and purchase a knife. I have padded self addressed envelopes for at the end of the trip I mail myself the knife home or return it to Wal-Mart unopened. Those that I have mailed home now total over 30, thought they will make a great barter item in the future. Bottom Line you will have to think creatively to provide your inherent right to self defense when traveling by air.
Category 7-Shelter
        Flat unwrapped 6×8 tarp, 100’ of Para-cord
Category 8- Cash/Gold and Silver
        Never, ever, pack cash or precious metals in a checked bag unless its Christmas time and you are giving the TSA agents a Christmas bonus! I carry these items on my person, be cautious however since gold and silver bullion shows as a distinctive black circle on TSA X-Ray scanners. I experimented and was pulled and ask about them. My computer bag physically checked. Use discretion when travel with PMs (precious metals not project managers).
Category 9- Communications
        I assumed the communication grid will be limited or down, cell connectivity will be limited similarly to 9-11. I have approached this category as if I was going on a hiking trip alone. I leave all destinations, arrival times, departures, hotel accommodations and phone numbers with my family and a friend at our retreat locations. I also let them know in case of an “event” my intended course of action. I include in my bag maps and a compass of the area I am traveling to mitigate the chance that GPS is down. Included in this category is a flashlight and extra batteries. I additionally discovered that “a friend” has a number a safe houses available to me that I now have access to in an event.
Category 10-Free Space
        Usually by this time there is none so I move into what is available at my hotel destination. Shelter for one, but towels and personal hygiene items are available in your room, as are blankets and some type of food stuff such as fruits, instant oatmeal and grits, etc, but if you do have free space after packing your Contingency Bag add things like a additional food, clothing etc. or personalize it if traveling with children, chances are you won’t have any room.
 
Is this the perfect solution to an Air Travel Contingency Bag, by no means, and your bag will become personalize to your unique Air Travel project as mine has over the last year.  But it is only meant to mitigate a risk just like any other Bug Out, SHTF Bag etc. Good luck in your travels.
 
 JWR Adds:
Be sure to check current airline regulations. These seem to change regularly, and they restrict some items which seem quite innocuous.

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