I read a lot about people’s bug-out bags (BOB), like that’s one of the first things one should prepare. Well, my “Plan A” is more focused on sheltering-in-place than bugging out. So when it comes to interesting kits, a get home bag (GHB) is a higher priority for me. A GHB is a kit one keeps at work, school, or in the car to help one get home–by foot if needed–in an emergency. As I began thinking what to put in my GHB, I decided to start with a plan, then build a kit to help me accomplish that plan.
- About 2/3 of the route was major streets. Side streets in my area are purposely designed NOT to allow through traffic, and most “short cuts” from one closed-off set of side streets to another would have me crossing difficult terrain–ravines, fences, an 8-lane highway, a lagoon, etc.
- About 1/3 of the route was heavily developed retail–several “big box” department stores, two malls, several strip malls, grocery stores, fast food, etc. This would be great if I need to pick up supplies (on foot?) but a negative if there’s any panic buying, looting, etc. My shelter-in-place plan is specifically designed to keep me out of such places at such times.
- There are several stretches with no sidewalks and narrow shoulders not really meant for pedestrian traffic.
- The most direct route and obvious alternates funnel into just a few choke points to cross two eight-lane highways and a lagoon.
I noted convenient railroad tracks passing within 100 yards of both my office and my home; although the trip by rail would take almost an hour to cover perhaps a bit over 7 miles and require one transfer, by walking along the tracks I might avoid the heavily-trafficked areas.
- It could take me longer to walk this route because of the uneven terrain, but I would steer clear of panic shoppers and looters.
- There might be unique dangers along the tracks. Since I don’t walk them normally, I don’t know what they might be.
- I could parallel the tracks to make better time if no real problem with unrest, then switch to the tracks if I see trouble brewing.
Since there are pros and cons whether traveling along roads or railroad tracks, I decided to prepare for two routes. I modified my street route to pass through more residential areas and less retail areas, noting points at which I could cut over to the railroad tracks. No map was needed for the railroad tracks, as there is literally one single turn, and the end point is very familiar to me. The road map identifies points where I could abandon one route and take the other.
My modified road map came in at 8 miles taking an estimated 2:39 to walk. It avoided all major retail centers, with just two 3-block stretches of light retail, mostly mom-and-pop establishments. It crossed just one freeway at one lightly-trafficked point, and came to just one place where the roads funneled (crossing a lagoon). It passes three small parks, where one might be able to build a small fire or take a nap behind some bushes. I consider the extra time and distance walking to be well worth it. My plan for getting home from the office:
- If I can drive home normally, great. I plan to follow my walking path rather than my normal route through heavy retail.
- If roads are blocked, I’ll take to foot.
- If roads seem dangerous, I’ll follow the railroad right-of-way.
- If the railroad route gets sketchy, I can cut back over to the roads.
So, my next issue is what gear will I need for an 8+ mile walk through suburbia? Here are some possible concerns and potential answers:
|I’m wearing dress shoes or flip-flops||comfortable walking shoes or boots foot care kit|
|hunger/thirst||water gatorade powder energy bars/candy cash|
|biology||toilet paper anti-diarrheal pills trowel|
|sun||sunscreen hat long-sleeve shirt long pants prescription sun glasses|
|heat||water Gatorade powder water filter chlorine pills|
|cold||Bic lighter waterproof matches layers of clothing energy bars/candy camp knife knit cap|
|rain||rain coat or poncho water resistant shoes or boots|
|communications||ham HT see communications plan|
|trip/fall||first aid kit for cuts/scrapes pain reliever mechanic’s gloves|
|twisted ankle bum knee||walking stick ace bandage aspirin/non-aspirin pain reliever|
|physical/medical||extra eyeglasses prescription meds|
|Unforseen problems with route||area map|
|smoke from structure fires||N95 mask bandana|
|violent people||whistle pepper spray walking stick cash|
|loose dogs||pepper spray a walking stick–nice solid wood, not collapsible aluminum|
In looking over my kit, I should be fine wearing the appropriate clothing and carrying a day pack (most natural) or a load-bearing harness (more comfortable); I could put everything in a file box in the office, and the stick will fit nicely behind my desk against the wall. In addition to my normal EDC, here are the planned contents of my GHB:
- Cash ($40 in 5’s and 1’s, $10 in quarters)
- Map of the area, waterproofed, with route marked and annotated
- Comfortable water-resistant shoes or hiking boots
- Foot care kit
- 2 liters of water
- Water filter
- Chlorine tablets
- Gatorade Perform Powder Packets
- 2 energy bars
- 1 serving candy
- Toilet paper
- Lightweight trowel
- Microfiber convertible hiking pants
- Synthetic long-sleeved pullover shirt
- Knit cap
- Mechanic’s gloves
- Rain coat/poncho
- Prescription sunglasses
- Prescription eyeglasses
- Bic lighter
- Waterproof matches
- Camp knife
- Handheld ham radio
- Copy of communications plan
- First aid kit
- -Include treatments for cuts and scrapes
- -Include ace bandage
- -Include aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever
- -Include anti-diarrheal
- -Include antihistimine
- -Include any prescription medicines
- Pepper spray
- Walking stick
Laid out like this, it is easy to see how my GHB perfectly matches my plan for getting home. This should not be what your GHB looks like, especially if you have to cross a mountain range or large river, or could have to tromp through snow, or could end up spending several nights on the road, etc. Why not go through these steps yourself: plot a route, evaluate your concerns, then build a GHB that addresses those concerns.
As for me, my next step is to scout my route in my vehicle. In particular, I’ll look for manageable short-cuts from one dead-end street to another. After that, this plan isn’t finished until I walk the walk! How long does it take ME under ideal conditions? Is my load too heavy, or did I miss something I wish I had? A final adjustment to the map, a final tweak to my GHB, and I’ll be good to go! – Still Getting Ready