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Survival Preparedness and Planning – Go-Bags and BOBs

Class Notes
Go-Bags and BOBs.

Our focus today is on the importance of flexibility when it comes to preparedness. The ability to travel to a safe location is critically important to every survival plan. This is true whether an emergency finds us out and about traveling and trying to get back to our shelters, or needing to move from one location to another. We often think of “movement” in terms of travel by car or truck, but expanding our vision beyond the safety, security and convenience of a vehicle is also important. Emergencies often come with surprise elements, even when we are otherwise prepared. With this in mind, we should check in on our BOBs and Go-Bags routinely, and prepare ourselves for multiple contingencies.


The categories we want to cover in our BOB and Go-Bag supplies include:

  • Food and Water
  • Shelter and Protection from the Elements
  • First Aid, Prescription Medicines, Personal Hygiene, and Sanitation
  • Sources of Light, Tools for Communication
  • Maps and a Compass
  • Safety and Security
  • Important Documents
  • Multi-Purpose Miscellany

Keep close to your thinking these basic objectives:

  • Surviving the Acute Phase of an Emergency Situation
  • Securing Access to Help or Rescue on Site if Possible
  • Traveling for Help or Rescue as Necessary
  • Extending the Survival Time Horizon
  • Arriving Alive on the Other Side of the Crisis at Hand

Here are a few suggestions for ways to think about both supplies and strategies:

Some supplies may require protection from extreme heat or cold. Think of everything from ready-to-eat snacks to chapstick and even prescription medications. Rather than storing these permanently in a trunk or vehicle space otherwise enclosed, it may be helpful to have a stash bag of personal supplies near the front door or otherwise in an accessible and easy to check spot. We should make traveling with these special care Go-bag supplies part of our usual routines. They should be with us every time we head out – even if it seems we’ll only be gone for a short on a quick errand. Establishing this habit may one day save our lives.

We’ll want to build water proof containers into our vehicle storage plan. Water is life saving, but it can also cause devastating loss when supplies are lost to water damage. There is no need to risk it. We must build in fail-safe redundancy to our water-proofing strategies with multiple layers of protection. Ziploc bags are great for storing items you need to keep dry, then seal them inside a hard plastic food container. These protective measures may also prevent unwelcome visits from mice.

We must consider relative accessibility alongside safe storage. If we’re trying to escape a vehicle through a window in an emergency, the critically important center punch neatly tucked into the trunk becomes useless in the moment when it is most needed. It must be kept close by and easily reachable, but also secured so that it does not become a dangerous projectile in the event of any jarring force or the impact of an accident. This is just one example, and a place to begin imagining many other possibilities. We can create thought experiments for ourselves, and apply these to every item intended for use in an acute emergency. One way to do this is to sit in our vehicles and test our reach and access points. How difficult would these tasks be if we were dazed or disoriented, found ourselves in the dark and unable to see, if we were turned around, or if we could only use one hand? Visualize trying to find the center punch while under water on a dark night, while the vehicle quickly fills with water is a good exercise. Seconds count. We should practice our reach and access with all of this in mind from the driver’s seat, the passenger seat, and the back seat.

We should practice seasonal rotation of those items that are permanently kept in BOBs and Go-Bags. We might also consider supplies that are important to a specific area, kind of terrain, climate, or even the time required for the arrival of rescuers. Survival scenarios have a lot of commonality, but each has its own unique or distinctive elements as well.

We all need a good back-up plan or three. If our vehicle is disabled for any reason, we cannot resupply fuel, or roads are impassable or blocked, we’ll want the best back-up options we can create. Keeping a multi tool and a toolkit and supplies in the vehicle, such as drive belts, a battery booster, spare headlights, a tire repair kit (and a spare with actual air in it) and a hand or foot-pump is essential. We want to include a broad range of communications tools. Think cell phones. Satellite phones. Ham radios. CBs. Signaling mirrors. Flares. We should also plan for alternative methods of travel should we have to abandon a vehicle in search of safe haven or help. A bicycle that can be quickly pulled from the trunk and assembled. A stroller or a small wagon. Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots. Good quality socks.

We should all keep multi-purpose miscellany and practice our skill sets. We may be able to improvise solutions with anything from twine to safety pins, duct tape to dental floss. We should constantly be channeling our inner MacGyver. Think glue, a sewing kit, and even zip ties. Practice emergency survival skills including problem solving challenges on our own and with others. When seconds count, our quick thinking and fast appropriate action may be critical to the outcome. An essential addition to our go-bags is the SAS Survival Handbook.

Always file a flight plan. Our spouse, children, parents, and a close and trusted friend should know where we’re headed, along what path, by what means, our expected date of return, and have ways to contact us. They should know how to help rescuers locate us in an emergency, and when to sound the alarm.

Remain steady. Stay well. Be safe everyone!