GETTIN' OUT OF DODGE
How to Get Out of the House in Less than 30 Minutes
If there comes a time when you need to evacuate your residence, you'll want to do so as quickly as possible, taking as much with you as practicable. In order to accomplish this, you'll need to decide what the necessities are and how much room you have for them. Because disaster won't wait for you to sort through your most valuable and treasured possessions, the time for sifting is now! Don't forget your deed, insurance papers, birth certificates, marriage license, and other important legal papers. If you had the foresight to keep them all in a waterproof, fire-resistant safe, take the whole thing.
You can make your trial runs seemingly 'normal' by calling them flood or hurricane drills instead of bugout practice. Your neighbors will think you're clever for being prepared in the event of weather-related calamity; this is preferable to being considered the neighborhood Chicken Little who's waiting for the sky to fall! Remember, if nothing ever happens in your lifetime, you're going to be living near these folks for a long time, and so are your children. A little discretion is never a bad idea, and you may be able to convince some of your neighbors that they too should be prepared in case of disaster.
Measure the available storage space in the hatch, trunk or cargo compartment of the vehicle you're planning to use if you have to evacuate your residence. Then mark off an equivalent area somewhere in your house, making sure you account for available height. Got to the survival storage area and move all the supplies and gear you have determined are absolute necessities to your living room and pack them into the marked-off space (again accounting for height). If you're the creative type, construct a mockup of your storage space from old cardboard boxes or other scrap materials. If you have family photos like most of us do, set aside a photo album with copies of the ones you couldn't bear to lose. There may be several home videos of important events that you'll want to put away for safekeeping - this doesn't mean every single video you ever shot. Depending on your mindset, you might want to stash any other home videos in a safe place to avoid giving intruders more information about your family than they need to know!
How much of your "necessity" pile fits into the allotted area? If you've come up short on available space, sort through your "necessities" and try packing your selected items into the space. Keep sorting and selecting until you've fit all you can into the available space. This is where dehydrated food pays for itself - your bugout food supply should always be as compact as possible. Break MRE's down, excluding items you don't need (like 3 days' worth of Tobasco sauce and 3 spoons); discard as much of the cardboard covering as possible and repack the "keepers" in an MRE outer bag. If you've saved the negative strips from developed photos, put them in a small waterproof stuff sack for safekeeping. A few video tapes can be stored in the bottom of an ammo can to prevent crushing.
For items that can't be stowed away until an emergency strikes, a checklist by the door can help ensure that you don't forget anything really important. Duplicate items whenever possible to reduce the possibility that a necessary item won't have wandered off into some unseen corner of your house! This can include a duplicate set of keys, your watch, your child's favorite toy or blanket, prescription meds, eyeglasses, road maps, spare gasoline can, etc.
Now it's time to pack it into your vehicle just to make sure you've done this right - and while you're at it, practice packing your vehicle until you can do it within 15 minutes. Remember that if you need to get out of the house, you can't take an hour - you need to have your gear and supplies located as close to the door as possible. If you're planning on wearing specific clothing, have it all on one hanger isolated from your regular clothing. Keep your hiking boots on the floor directly underneath your bugout clothing so you don't have to visit multiple areas just to get dressed. You want to avoid that trying-to-fit-10-pounds-of-crap-into-a-five-pound-sack syndrome, so keep your bugout supplies separate from your regular stash to prevent last-minute panic when you need to get outta Dodge.
Make it a habit to put back any of your gear immediately after use. Clean what's gotten grubby and repack it. If you need to use the flashlight (or anything else) from your pack, put it back as soon as you're done with it! Failure to do so can bring you embarrassment on a weekend outing and possible disaster in a real emergency.