Should I stay or should I go? 1

One of the questions asked so much in the recent lead up to the storm is “Should I stay or should I go”.

The obvious answer is to follow the directions of the emergency management officials. Much of the loss of life and deprivation after Katrina was too many people in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of that can be blamed on the local and regional government of course. Before they took it down, I had a copy of the Emergency Management Plan for New Orleans. The section that talked about evacuation plans simply stated: To be developed.  The results were catastrophic and the affects can still be felt today.

I honestly believe however that many people stayed out of a lack of basic understanding of disaster management. For whatever reason, there was a belief that it wasn’t going to be that bad and if it was, the government was going to bail them out. If you read the BOLD WARNINGS on the web site however, even the most casual understanding would show you that the government will probably not be there right away. The proof is in their own words:

“You may need to survive on your own after an emergency. This means having your own food, water and other supplies in sufficient quantity to last for at least 72 hours. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in hours or it might take days.”   Or maybe longer if you want to be really honest. A big enough storm may cover a much wider area which will certainly tax the government’s ability to respond.

Whether you chose to stay or to go, you should still build a kit that fits either contingency. Things that might be valuable in a shelter in place might be cumbersome if you have to bug out. The time for deciding what is needed is well before the actual need to decide. Precious minutes might be wasted getting just the right things into place. This is where planning is of the utmost importance.

Bugging Out

I started building our bug out bag when we lived in Tornado Alley. The logic at the time was that if we had to evacuate in a hurry, I didn’t want to be gathering needed items. Using a workout gear bag (made of water resistant nylon) I assembled some basic food items, cooking gear used in camping, water containers for drinking, and tools.



Mountain House freeze dried food is the most reliable and enjoyable of all the food I have tried. While I still have some MRE’s in rotation for my Shelter in Place plan, the freeze dried stays fresher longer, is lighter and has a a far superior taste. Add to that how easy it is to reconstitute. You can either boil the water or you can use the convenient heater packs (purchased separately) which require nothing but water. This kit includes a rain poncho which doubles as a makeshift tent. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to light a stove in the rain.

img_1056A fishing tackle box contains a large number of useful items for either Bug Out or Staying. The box is sealed which keeps the contents nice and dry. Most of the items are from camping or boating stores. A folding shovel, sturdy survival knife, axes and multiple butchering tools are ready to help address any number of emergencies. I have at least five different methods to light a fire including flint if need be.   A basic medical bag can address most first aid issues and don’t forget the extra seal canteens of water. Waterproof matches are a must and I keep them sealed in plastic bags just to be safe.

Leaving is not always an option

We are blessed to have a house with a walk out basement. In that basement is a finished room with three pretty solid walls and no direct exposure to the outside on any of the walls. The previous owners equipped it with a steel door so this was a natural choice for me to establish our Zombie Room. In one of the corners, I have a storage cabinet that holds the Bug Out Kid and the Shelter in Place materials. While I keep some of the more flammable items in a safer storage nearby, this cabinet has enough supplies to make sure we can go well beyond the 72 hours the government typically suggests. We live in the country and those extra supplies may be our lifeline until the crisis passes.


Along with a rotating stock of MRE’s we recently shifted over to Mountain House’s “Just in Case” buckets. These sealed buckets have a 25 year shelf life. I imagine that they will out last either of us at this point in time. They are lightweight, rodent resistant, waterproof and easy to store. The buckets are also useable for other purposes once they are empty of their food.


The cabinet is a great place for additional tools you might need and more medical supplies. We have a gas grill, a Coleman Stove, portable camping stoves and as a last resort prepackaged one time use grills. More sophisticated cookware for Shelter in Place is also kept here.



The orange bucket is filled with a number of things including toilet paper, duct tape, plastic tarps, extra dusk masks, and some protective coveralls. Elsewhere in the case are gas masks with filters suitable for ruse in the case of a chemical or nuclear fallout event. I pray that we will never have to use them but with Putin and his ministers rattling the nuclear saber once more, you just never know. (By the way, the orange bucket also doubles as a toilet… have a few close by just in case).


Finally, what’s a good Zombie Room without a way to take out zombies? My hobby is shooting so I probably would have had most of these anyway. But we live in an area where law enforcement is limited and crime is just around the corner. My suggestion for most people is to have at least a shotgun. But it is not always practical to hunt with a shotgun and you may require something with a little more flexibility should the zombies rise.

A logical question is “what gun and caliber should I purchase?” My common answer is “one that you will actually use if you need it.” I prefer 9MM for my handguns and at least one rifle. My AR shoots 5.56 or .223. If you decide on an AR, make sure you get one chambered for the 5.56. It will handle both. These popular rounds will be worth their weight in gold if an actual catastrophe occurs.

The Plan

All of these things are quite useless if you don’t have a plan. has some good basic building blocks. The time to plan is not as the winds are passing 55 MPH or the water is rising above your front stoop. The time to plan is NOW.

Mister Mac


2.6 million… Ready or Not 2

Some time ago, I posted a number of articles and references for people in the path of Hurricane Irene. As usual when I post about preparedness, I got a few folks feedback about “paranoia” and “let’s not get carried away Mac”. Fair enough. But as we sat in the living room last night having our coffee and enjoying the beautiful fire, I was once again feeling pretty good about having most everything we needed when the power went off. We are among the lucky ones since our power came back relatively quick (around 2300 hours). Some folks up north will not get their power back for days.

Sometimes I like surprises. Sometimes not. Yesterday was a reminder that a surprise only has to impact you as much as you choose to let it. You can’t always predict how big or what kind of event you will have but you can review how you will deal with it once it hits.

As much as I don’t like big government, I think the web site is pretty good for a lot of disasters. There is also the Red Cross web site which includes a few lists and recommendations. I am very fortunate to have a wife who supports my “hobby”. We will be heading out to replenish a few items this afternoon so that we can be ready for the unexpected again. In the meantime, just a reminder:

Are you Ready? Are you Sure?

Mister Mac


The Right Stuff Reply

“Seaman Schmuckatelly, what in heaven’s name do you have there?”

“It’s my emergency box, sir!” he says proudly as he places the large, overflowing cardboard box on the deck.


“Emergency box?”

“Yes Warrant, the Chief told us we might be in for a storm and we should check our gear and be ready.”

“Are you sure he wanted you to put it all together in that cardboard box sailor?”

“Well, sir, I was being proactive and thought I would be ready for anything that might happen. You just can’t be to careful you know.”

big boxes

“Well, if you don’t mind, lets take a look at what you’ve gathered together there son.”

Proudly, Schmuckatelly says “Aye Aye sir” and pulls a large snowmobile suit from the box.

“What the heck is that for sailor?” asks an incredulous Warrant.

“Well sir, prolonged exposure to the elements is one of the dangers in any survival environment according to the film strips we watched this morning.” Schmuckatelly holds the blue one piece outfit up as if to show the Warrant how much sense it made to have a one piece insulated garment to ward off the elements.

“I suppose you have a good point about the purpose lad, but you do realize we are off the coast of South Florida and it is August, right? Plus, I am pretty sure that outfit isn’t waterproof so it will probably get a bit heavy if it gets exposed to any water… you do realize we are on a ship, right?”

“Well, you have a point there sir. But let me show you what else I have here” as he rummages through the big box. With pride, he pulls out a large electric fan and presents it to the Warrant.

“Hmmm. An electric fan. This I got to hear.”

“This is a dual purpose piece of survival equipment sir. See, if we are out on the life raft and there is no wind, we can rig this baby up and rig up a sail and push our way to land” he says proud of his insight. “Plus, if it does get too hot, the fan can be used to cool everybody down.”

“I see.” the Warrant replies. “And how long of an extension cord do you think you’ll need? Would you do me a favor and go find the Chief and bring him to me. We need to have a chat”

Okay, you get the point.

Having the right emergency equipment for the right situation is the real lesson for today. Sitting in you office or at home with a normal day to day existence, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about what happens when the lights go off. But you will the minute they do. That’s about the point where you start asking yourself questions like “when is the last time I changed the batteries?” or “do I have any batteries in the house at all?”

Your emergency supplies will depend on your geography, expected or anticipated types of events, and who you are preparing for. It will also be influenced by two key choices;

Do you stay or do you go?

What types of shelters are within traveling distance and what can you expect to find there? Do you actually know where your area shelters would be if right this minute you were ordered to evacuate?

Plus, in many cases where the unexpected happens, the shelters themselves could become engaged (such as in a flood or tornado). What is your backup plan?

Do you have any family members with special needs? How will you make sure those needs are attended to until a more permanent solution is put into place? Remember, in the event of a major event, Rite Aid may or may not be open and it will be difficult in the first few days for first responders to address critical needs that your family members may have. In most cases, you will quickly find that shelters are set up rather generically so coming up with a diabetic insulin shot may be a bit of a challenge. has some good lists for making a kit. We have had one in a protected place in our home for years and I have a regular schedule to go through and update things that go out of date because of manufacturing limitations. No point to having a great kit if its all expired or no longer useable. We also keep a Go-Bag in a location that’s easy to get to in case we are ordered to get out of the house quickly. Dehydrated food in the foil pouches are great since they just require a bit of water and can be consumed whether you have a heating source or not.

Simple tools that don’t have much weight, hiking mess kits, a small gas backpacker stove that uses several different kinds of fuel, flashlights, signaling equipment and other small items make up the rest of the go bag.

We have larger items in another location in case the decision is made to shelter in place. These are bulkier and not as easy to transport but certainly make for a more comfortable in the event we can’t go anywhere.


You will have to decide what is right for your circumstances. But not having a plan or preparing at all means that at some point, you will show up at a shelter and have to hope that it has what you need.

And I should warn you: Seaman Schmuckatelly got out of the Navy a few years back and now volunteers as an emergency shelter worker someplace in America.

His job was assigned to him based on his vast Naval experience in survival… yep, that’s right. He is in charge of supplies for the shelter. Good luck with that.

Are you ready? Are you sure? 4

With the recent storms in Florida and the south, I was reminded about another large storm and it’s impacts. We are praying for the folks in the South today and hope that everyone remains safe. God Bless and Protect you all.


One of my post retirement hobbies has been public speaking. My subject matter is pretty expected; Navy stuff, World War 2 history and of course Submarines in the Cold War. I’ve probably given hundreds of talks over the past sixteen years to all sizes of social and civic groups. But one of my favorite topics has been developed over the past ten years. Readiness. As a good submarine sailor, I pride myself for thinking about all of the situations I might find myself in during our routines and travels. Living in Western Michigan was a joy in some ways but also a challenge since we were right in the path of some of the meanest lake effect snow showers I had ever encountered.

One of my least favorite memories was Thanksgiving in Grand Haven when the snows came down so fast and so hard it knocked out power to the house. The plows were slow coming up Lakeshore Drive and we weren’t going anyplace anytime soon. But without electricity (in a house that is heated by electricity) you suddenly discover the reality of how well prepared you are.

Another of my least favorite memories is the trip to south Florida after Hurricane Andrew paid a visit. We were up in Nova Scotia on a liberty run when the news broadcasts started showing some of the devastation that was occurring. A quick run on the Hunley to pick up supplies led to a three-month on site recovery operation. Being out in the field for even just a few days, you could see the level of destruction that nature is capable of producing.

I have lived in many different parts of the country (north south east west) and frankly every area has its own environmental issues that could create a situation where you would have to self sustain. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, sever winters and on and on. Not only do you have environmental issues, you also have the emerging threats from potential catastrophes like power grid failures, terrorist threats, and disruptions to services that could occur because of those events.

The real question is this: Are you ready? Are you sure?

Here’s a little test:

1. How many days does FEMA, the Red Cross and Department of Homeland Security tell you to be able to self sustain for?

2. How much water per person should you have stored for cooking, cleaning and other uses?

3. Do you know how to shut the utilities off in your house in the event of an explosion, fire or earthquake?

4. If you had to evacuate in a hurry, what would you take with you? What if you couldn’t come back for weeks?

5. How would you communicate with loved ones in the event you are in different areas when the “event” occurred?

6. If you have to evacuate, where would you go? Do you have a plan or are you just hoping to be told what to do?

7. How well do ATM machines operate without power?

What struck me most about the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew was that it was an equal opportunity event. Everyone who was living there at the time faced the same challenges of a food and water supply problem. Shelter was also challenging because regardless of the type of housing you had, Andrew pretty much smacked them all down.  I never thought I would see refugees living in America but frankly that is what a lot of people looked like as they lined up for their meals and water supplies.

Truthfully, no amount of preparation would completely eliminate the recovery you will have to go through in the event of a catastrophic incident like Andrew. But remember that the same people who are coming to help will have their own time to prepare their vehicles and equipment. The Red Cross and the government agencies all need a short amount of time to become activated and that means self-sustaining for a short period of time. is your first stop if you didn’t feel comfortable with your own answers above. Even if you did, it won’t take very long to go to the website and check it out. It also has links to FEMA, Disaster assistance and other resources. You can also visit the Red Cross at  You will find many additional resources there plus ways you can help your neighbors.

Hurricane Andrew landed in Florida 19 years ago this week. After he left, there were many communities devastated. I know two things about disaster preparedness:

1. It is too late to plan after the disaster has already started

2. If you don’t have at least a plan, you become a part of the disaster (which means that someone else will have to have planned for your recover)

The last thing to remember is that in the event of a major disaster, one of the first things that normally goes away is electricity. It will be really tough to turn on your computer and go on the internet to see what to do next if that is the case.

Mister Mac