(Continued from Part 1.)
Depending on the circumstances you may be able to utilize GPS for navigation along your planned route. To do so will probably requires that you have the appropriate maps and app(s) downloaded locally on your device (don’t rely on an Internet connection being available) and that your device be charged for the duration of the displacement. If you plan on using GPS you should also include some sort of external battery pack for each person so they can recharge their device. Due to the relatively delicate nature of electronics (including GPS satellites), I strongly recommend that if you plan on using GPS you also should still have paper maps and compasses as a backup, along with the skills to use them.
The next area of displacement planning involves what you will bring with you in terms of supplies and equipment. Most people in the preparedness community tend to espouse the ‘beans, bullets and bandaids’ approach to prioritizing what to pack, but for the purpose of displacing I recommend adding a few things to that list. Here is what I recommend considering for your displacement load-out, in order of priority:
- Health/Safety – Minimizing the risk of injuries and disabling conditions will go a long way to improving your chances of successfully displacing, and the equipment necessary to do so doesn’t take a lot of room. For example, if you’re including bicycles in your planning, don’t forget to include helmets. Having someone in your group getting a concussion from a crash will reduce the chance of getting to your destination in any reasonable amount of time, and could result in permanent injury. Other simple safety items include dust masks, goggles, flotation devices (if your route is over or near water), gloves, rope, etc.
- Repair/Support – Having something break can have a serious impact on your ability to travel and carry supplies. For walking this can include the ability to repair your shoes or backpack straps; for mechanical or powered transport this can include anything necessary to perform basic repairs for the most common types of failures. You should also pack support equipment necessary for addressing various obstacles you may encounter, such as getting stuck in a vehicle. This can include tow ropes, come-alongs, shovels, etc.
- Defense – In many situations, transporting any amount of supplies will potentially make you a target for people that want what you have, and are willing to use force to get it. What you choose for defense will depend on what you’re comfortable with, local laws, transport type and potential dangers along your planned displacement route, and can range from a simple machete or pepper spray to scare off aggressive dogs to having someone standing out of the sun roof in your vehicle with an AR-15. Camouflage should also be considered as part of defense – a trailer loaded with boxes plainly marked ‘Food’ and military ammo cans is a lot more likely to be targeted than one covered with a tarp with some kids bicycles and furniture sticking out.
- Medical – Displacing during or after a disaster will most likely involve traveling through dangerous situations and environments, hence you’re a lot more likely to be injured than in ‘normal’ times. You also probably won’t be able to call an ambulance or pop into the closest clinic, so your group needs to be able to handle any medical issue that may arise. Each person should carry an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) that includes basic trauma supplies like a tourniquet, QuikClot bandages, ADB pads and gloves. You should also have a larger kit that provides a wider range of supplies to address the most probable types of injuries you may encounter. Having the best medical supplies in the world doesn’t do any good if you don’t know how to use them, so everyone should have at least some basic medical trauma and first-aid training.
- Environmental – The goal of controlling your immediate environment involves the need to control your core body temperature to remain functional while displacing. Hypothermia (excessive cold) can occur at temperatures as high as 60°F, and hyperthermia (excessive heat) can occur at temperatures as low as 80°F; being subject to either of these conditions for any period of time can result in death. There are number of environmental controls you should plan on packing:
- Fire – the ability to start a fire can help you warm up if it’s cold out. Make sure you include at least 3 different ways to start a fire, and include some good kindling in a waterproof bag to help get damp wood started.
- Shelter – Shelter can protect you from rain or snow, and can provide shade to help you keep cool. This can be a simple as a tarp, or you can learn how to make simple lean-to or debris shelters.
- Clothing – Clothing will make a huge difference in controlling your core body temperature. Regardless of the season, dressing in layers will allow you to adapt to changing weather conditions throughout your journey, and multiple lighter layers are easier to pack than large bulky clothing. Don’t forget to include a wide-brimmed hat to help keep you cooler in the sun, and consider stocking up on some of those cooling towels for hot-weather travel.
- Water – You should plan on packing enough water to last everyone in the group for the longest possible duration of travel, or, if there are water sources along your route, have the ability to purify it.
- Food – As with water, you should plan on packing enough food to last everyone in the group for the longest possible duration of travel, or, if there are food sources along your route, have the ability to obtain and prepare it. For backpacks you’re probably better off sticking with lightweight freeze-dried meals. If you’re forced to displace from your primary location without a prepared backup location you should also consider packing some food production equipment such as fishing gear, seeds, traps, etc. Don’t forget cooking equipment.
- Tools – If you’re forced to displace and don’t have another fully-prepared location to head to, having some basic tools can help you get started in a new location. This should include basics such as a good quality saws, axes, shovels, etc.
What you pack and how much you pack will be driven by your goals, routes and viable transport options. If you’re displacing to head to a fully-stocked cabin in the woods, you only need to pack what you’ll need for the trip there. If you’re planning for a scenario where you’re forced to evacuate your primary location and have to start over in a new location, you’ll need to pack a lot more supplies.
Caching is another option for ensuring access to equipment and supplies, and basically involves pre-storing material in hidden locations along your planned route(s). While the concept makes sense, implementing it can be difficult in the context of displacement planning. Caching typically involves hiding material around your property or immediate area so you can access it in the event your primary supplies become unavailable. Since displacement usually involves traveling over some distance, usually away from property you control or access regularly, ensuring the safety and availability of hidden caches can be problematic. What looks like a deserted field today may become a housing development in a few months, depriving you of your cache. If you do decide to implement en-route caching as part of your displacement planning, here are a few suggestions:
- Don’t cache anything that’s dangerous or could get you in trouble. This includes firearms, ammunition, knives, etc. Stick with basics like food, water and medical supplies.
- Don’t cache anything that you aren’t willing to lose forever.
- Take care to ensure that you’re not observed while hiding your cache, or when checking on it later.
- Burying is probably the best way to reduce the chance of discovery, but getting to it may be difficult under some conditions (e.g. frozen ground, deep snow, etc.)
- Don’t cache anything that can be traced back to you; use latex gloves when packing your cache and wipe any fingerprints off the outside of bags and packages. It’s probably overly paranoid, but someone finding it may raise questions.
- Use waterproof containers for your caches, especially when burying them. Large diameter PVC pipes, plastic 25mm ammo cans and other similar containers work well.
- Store multiple smaller caches over an area instead of one big one.
- Check out the areas where you have stored caches at least once every few months.
- Mark the general location of caches on your maps and document the details using a simple code. For example, ‘BR-00-10-02-00’ could stand for ‘from the big rock, walk 00 paces north, 10 paces south, 02 paces east and 00 paces west’.
Having the best equipment and supplies in the world won’t matter if you can’t get them to your destination. How you load your gear can have a big impact on the comfort and success of any displacement activity, and the method(s) of transport you’re planning on using will drive what you can use for carrying loads. The first aspect of load planning that you should consider is redundancy – ensuring that the loss of any single load won’t completely derail your displacement. In the military this concept is referred to as ‘cross loading’, which means spreading the load of people, gear and supplies across multiple transports so the loss of one doesn’t scuttle the whole mission. For example, if you plan on traveling with more than one vehicle, each vehicle should be loaded with some of each type of gear and supplies so that if one is lost you’ll still have enough to reach your destination. This concept should be applied at all levels of packing, from backpacks to vehicle-pulled trailers.
The next aspect is supporting of the concept of ‘graceful degradation’ in your packing, which means that if your primary method of transport fails you’ve got a secondary method already packed and ready to go with minimal effort. For example, if your primary method of transport is a trailer attached to a motor vehicle, you should also have some secondary transport options like game carts, sleds or inflatable rafts packed so that if the vehicle dies or roads become impassable you can quickly move supplies to the secondary transport and be ready to go. This will necessitate having pre-packed cross-loaded boxes or bins that you can quickly move from the trailer(s) to the cart(s) without having to spend an hour digging through the trailer to find what you want to pack on the cart. You should also have backpacks packed and cross-loaded for each individual to use in case the carts/sleds break or they have to be abandoned.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 3.)