Often times I hear people talk about spending time after a trip unloading their rigs, dumping out unused water and packing away the gear. I preach the opposite approach, top off the water supply, refill the food boxes, make sure the clothes are in place and you can be ready at a moments notice to jump in your escape pod and go. Sure you suffer a bit in mileage driving a fully packed rig everyday, but that loss will pale in comparison to standing in the street with nothing but your bathrobe to keep you warm.
Let's take a moment to look at some of the common expedition style build elements and see how they translate into an emergency situation. That fridge many of your buddies made fun of you for buying. Well look who is laughing now as you have a supply of perishables, and if you are medication dependent, this is a great place to store a backup supply. Depending on how much time you have to get out of the house, you might even save some of the food in your home fridge. This becomes a factor in something as simple as a power outage. Your camping kit is another element that crosses over into emergency prep really well. You have a setup that covers shelter, sleeping, hygiene and bathroom needs for remote areas. This same setup will serve well in an urban setting when an earthquake or fire has moved you out of your home. In addition, your water filter, stove, cups and other kitchen kit items can help make water safe and provide hot meals which always boost spirits after a natural disaster.
The tools, recovery gear, winch and other items that you take along in the backcountry to get you out of a pickle can serve equally well to help snowbound neighbors, remove fallen trees, and clear the path you might need to escape an area. All those nifty antennas and mics easily reachable from the drivers seat can not only keep you informed in an emergency but can also make you a key player. Many amateur radio operators find that their 4wds and radios combine as a resource for assistance during wildfires, floods and weather disasters. Many radio folks join groups like RACES and ARES just so they are trained and ready to help. This can also provide access to areas that would normally be blockaded in a disaster. Your border crossing document lockbox can serve as a place to keep a thumbdrive with scans of vital paperwork, some cash, and backup id's. While this does present a security issue should your vehicle get stolen that is a matter of balance between the likelihood of a disaster in your area (i.e. California high, Arizona low).
First Aid kits are First Aid kits no matter what, the difference is, in an emergency you will be glad you have more than some bandaids and triple ointment. Since you have a vehicle with a bit of space and since a wise overlander takes a Wilderness First Aid or First Responder class, you not only should have a well stocked kit but also the knowledge to improvise solutions.
Your rig itself is not to be forgotten as a emergency asset, transporting your family to a secure area, getting yourself or your spouse to work, the ability to get your kids from school, or even be a community resource transporting healthcare workers or others in extreme weather. These are things that are only possible when you combine a well prepped rig and a competent driver. The last bit of this vital kit is the "nut behind the wheel", and keep that one tight and well watched. Your time in remote areas, planning for fuel and food resupply, navigating in unknown areas, and dealing with weather and changing trail conditions will help keep you stay calm, confident and focused in an emergency. If you have ever seen a vehicle recovery gone to chaos, you know the value of having calm and controlled leadership. Things like clothes washing, water filtering, cooking, showering, and such are the same skills regardless of your location.
Beyond the kit is the best part of the equation, and that is the need to practice and prepare. So next time you are putting together a weekend getaway, make sure to treat it as a mock emergency. Take off from work around lunch time on Friday, grab the kids from school early, give yourself no more than 15 minutes at home to grab stuff and move out. Use your ham radio, envision where you will go and make the weekend about making sure your setup is functional for fun or disaster. Another fun option is to try driving a route out of town that replicates the major highways being blocked, or bridges flooded. Or try setting up at home for a weekend and think about how you will deal with clothes washing, showering and those day to day mundane chores that become major events in an emergency. In the next issue, we will deal with even more disaster when you figure out what to do if your rig is burning or destroyed. Get your "ditch bag" ready.
Lance Blair is an overlanding enthusiast, expedition leader, and Tread Lightly trainer. He’s also the founder of Disabled Explorers, a non-profit group dedicated to helping mobility impaired outdoor enthusiasts gain access to the backcountry. He’s a regular contributor to FJCruiserForums.com, the Expedition Portal, and of course FJC Magazine. Lance can be contacted through the Disabled Explorers website.