One Man’s Tool

…could be another man’s weapon, or different kind of tool.

I was recently reading over a BOB list put together by a co-worker of Sarah’s (it was distributed for September National Preparedness Month). We preppers frequently look at others’ lists and compare them to what we have ourselves. As I read it through, I mentally checked off each item he listed thinking of the equivalent I had in my bag. At the end he mentioned that he keep all his stuff in a pack near his garage door, except his crowbar which he kept under the bed. Crowbar? I don’t have a crowbar. And under the bed? Oh, he’s keeping it there as a weapon…

The crowbar, in it’s current form, has been documented since the 1400s. Also known as a wrecking bar, pry bar, or by the British as a prisebar.

I decided a crowbar would be a good idea. So a trip to the hardware store and $15 later I had a 30 inch iron crowbar for my BOB.

Since we have to be prepared to carry our BOBs, it is helpful if the items we bring along have multiple uses. A crowbar can be used:

  • as a lever to move heavy items
  • to pry things apart
  • to open a damaged car door
  • to open a house door or window
  • to safely break glass
  • as a support anchor
  • as a leg splint
  • as a cane
  • to remove nails
  • as a hammer
  • as a pick axe
  • to break the hasp on a padlock
  • for smashing things

Or as a weapon. I’m not wanting to advocate or predict violence, but desperate times frequently bring out the very best or the very worst in people. I see the crowbar as a defensive weapon, holding it in two hands across your body with the curved portion on top in your dominate hand. It can be used to defend against other blunt weapons, punches, or to create a physical barrier. Offensively, if necessary, holding it the same way and striking with the curved portion using the straight end for a follow-up strike. I would avoid using it like a baseball bat because it’s heavy to swing around, and the momentum could throw you off-balance and out of position. Likely it’s just going to be a psychological weapon. If you’re standing there empty-handed, you look vulnerable; if you’re holding a relatively large crowbar, not so much.

Weight is it’s biggest disadvantage. Five pounds may not seem like much, until you have to carry it in hand for any distance. Strapping it to a pack is an option, but it’s not as accessible. I’d happily deal with the extra weight in an urban setting where I felt defenseless, but in a rural area–especially if I needed to walk for long–I’d likely leave it behind.

The humble crowbar, a tool of many uses – something I hadn’t thought to add to my kit, and now wouldn’t want to do without.

(Wednesday: Soap and Water)

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Location, Location, Location

five basic needs: 1) food, 2) water, 3) SHELTER, 4) security, and 5) energy

Shelter, Shelter, Shelter.

All locations are not created equal; big city, suburbs, small town, rural area. Where do you live? Your location will determine what type of disasters you are more likely to encounter, what services will be available in the aftermath, and the potential risks to your family and home during that emergency. A disaster that is catastrophic in one setting, may have very little effect in another.

Example: An apartment in a large city vs. a house in a rural community when an 8.5 earthquake strikes. City: gas, water, and electric lines break, fires start, water pressure drops, buildings partially collapse, debris falls, power is out, traffic gridlocks, the dense population panics. Rural: things fall off shelves, maybe the power goes out and you have to use your generator for a few days.

Some disasters, like the earthquake or a terrorist attack, give us no notice and all we can do is work to recover afterward. But others, like a hurricane, pandemic, or flooding give us time and the opportunity to make an informed decision.

<cue Should I Stay or Should I Go? by The Clash>

The decision: Bug in or bug out (stay or go)? If you bug in, what are your contingency plans to compensate for potential lost services: food, water, security, energy? If you choose to bug out (or have to), where are you going? What do you take if you leave? What do you leave if you, um, leave? What route are you going to take to get to your bug out location (BOL)? You also need to consider the ‘leave right now’ disaster where there are only minutes to evacuate, like a fire, or a gas leak.

With so many factors affecting this decision, how do you decide to stay or go? You analyze the situation, think about your plan, and ultimately decide: Am I most likely better off if I stay, or better off if I go?

If you choose to go, having a pre-determined plan is invaluable. Once the disaster starts, people may be scared, disoriented, separated, or hurt; it may be dark and/or cold (don’t ‘these things’ alway happen at night?), if we have a plan, we all at least know where to start. A written evacuation plan needs to include: 1) a ‘short list’ of what to grab quickly before you leave your home, 2) multiple routes to get out of your area and to your BOL(s), and 3) an extensive list of contact information for people and businesses in your life.

‘I don’t have anywhere to go,’ you say. If that’s truly the case, then you stay. But a temporary BOL may be as simple as a motel in a ‘safer’ area. Determine that area, one with several motels; make a list of their numbers in your evacuation plan. If you decide to leave, call early and get reservations. Motels frequently have generators and their own disaster plan in place.

Or, talk with a friend or family member; don’t just ask if you can go to their home, but agree to be each other’s BOL if necessary. Create a plan together. If you live in the city and they are rural consider pre-staging items in their home. But, if you’re city, why would they evacuate to you? A local emergency and they just need somewhere to stay a night or two.

We plan for the most likely disruptions first: personal injury, fire, local emergency, local weather. The catastrophic ones: major natural disaster, pandemics, terrorist attacks; if they come, will still require similar plans and preps. Developing an evacuation plan costs no money, only time – take that time now when things are calm (relatively speaking) so you can be ready when things aren’t.

(Wednesday: No, You Can’t Take It)