WHAT?? A post 2 weeks in a row!? I’m trying to catch up, but this work thing is really interfering with my blogging and social life (haha).
How many times have we heard “in an emergency, seconds count.”? We’ve heard it because it’s true, but as nomads we live a bit unusually. Are we really prepared?
This post is not intended to be a downer or to scare you in any way, but is rather meant to empower you. We recently had a health issue with Karma (which was not an emergency) and we were camping pretty far from anywhere at the time. It does make you stop and think: do you know what you would do if your pet or a family member had some type of health emergency? Maybe it’s because we lived in the Keys so long and couldn’t take Hurricane preparedness for granted, or maybe it’s because my parents taught me by example to always be prepared, but I like being ready when life throws me a curve ball. And research has shown time & time again that quick thinking and action save lives. Do you know where the closest emergency exit is if you’re on a plane? Where the staircase is in your hotel in case of fire? Taking the few seconds to make that mental note can mean the difference between getting out safely or wandering aimlessly in a smoke-filled environment. So with that in mind, what can we, as nomads, do to stay prepared?
Unless you’re a stranger to this blog, you know that we love camping in remote areas. After a friend of ours broke her ankle it made me wonder what we would do if we needed help while camping out in the boonies. Even if you have cell service and can call 911, would you know how to tell the dispatcher how to locate you? “I’m on this dirt road parked next to a tree” is probably not going to cut it. We also do a lot of solo 4-wheelin’, so need to be prepared in case we have an issue with the vehicle. We’re never going to stop Jeepin’ or camping in the boonies, so here are a few of the things we have done to give ourselves just a little edge if we have an emergency. This post is meant to get you thinking, so use this as a jumping-off point for your own preparedness. It is by no means a comprehensive primer meant to cover every situation.
- Keep a flashlight in a handy, dedicated location in both your home and your car. Set a reminder to change batteries every so often. We found a small, powerful flashlight for the car that stays plugged into the 12V adapter.
- Always carry food & water on hikes. We try to keep snacks like granola bars or nuts in our backpacks because they can take a little crushing and still be edible. Restock as necessary. Don’t forget water for your pet and something they can drink out of. Small collapsible bowls are great for this.
- We each carry a small emergency kit in our backpacks, and make sure at least one of takes a pack when we go hiking or go off-road. Our kits contain standard items such as waterproof matches and signalling devices, along with emergency medical items like Benedryl for allergic reactions and QuickClot in case of serious injury. Think about what activities you’re most likely to engage in and what kind of injuries or emergencies you’re likely to encounter so that you can customize your kit. To get you started, here’s a downloadable list with suggestions for wilderness, home, and car emergency kits from Popular Mechanics.
- We keep a more complete first aid kit both in the RV and in our Jeep. you can buy pre-stocked kits but they often contain items you don’t need (like a pack of 50 band-aids. A few in various sizes are handy to have; then restock as necessary). We bought a plastic storage container at the hardware store and saved money by stocking it ourselves. The Red Cross has suggestions for making your own kit here. You may also consider downloading or buying a small leaflet or spiral-bound booklet like this to keep in your kit that will walk you through the most common first aid scenarios.
- Pet first aid is also a consideration for many of us. Sometimes they hike with us and may get a foreign object stuck in a pad (our recent issue with Karma), and animals are always curious about new smells and other critters. We have to constantly watch Karma on a walk because he will still his head into any hole he sees. One day he will meet a badger I’m sure! Depending on the type of activities your pet engages in, you might check the internet for information on how to handle situations you might encounter; a snakebite for example. Watch a video on how to take your pets pulse, and practice when they’re relaxed and snoozy. Do you know how best to restrain your pet so that you can examine them without injury? There is a wealth of information available online on pet first aid, and you can even take an online course if you’d like. A pet first aid kit often contains many of the same items that a human one does, so we don’t have a dedicated pet kit. We DO however, keep their thermometer in a completely different location than ours! I have written the “normal” temperature range for cats on the box so that we don’t have to look it up each time.
- If you have both dogs and cats (or some other critter), you might want to take a few minutes to jot down a few reference notes about each, such as what the normal temperature range is, and what drugs you might safely give them in an emergency (as some drugs that are safe for dogs are not safe for cats & vice-versa). You don’t have to write it down, but should sometime take a look at common human food items that are toxic to your pets too.
- We absolutely love taking our Jeep out on rough & nasty trails, and opportunities for Jeep trips are abundant out west. It’s always advisable to go 4-wheeling with friends in case you have a failure on the trail, but we usually don’t know anyone in the area to go with. If you’re traveling on popular trails on the weekend it’s probably a non-issue as someone is bound to come along to help you out. But we are often out during the middle of the week and are also prone to wandering into some really remote areas where we might not see another soul for days. So we try to prepare for the worst-case scenario in a couple of ways: first, we carry tools and an air compressor to work on the vehicle or change a tire, as well as tools for self-extrication (winch & tow straps, shovel, hand-saw, X-jack, etc.) and we know how to use them. Knock wood, we’ve used to tools to get several other people out of tricky spots but haven’t yet needed to extricate ourselves. Which reminds me to give a shout out to good old common sense: know your limitations and don’t push them if you’re out alone. You might climb that big ledge, or you might break an axle. There’s no shame in taking the bypass. Next, we have a CB radio in case we’re out of cell range and have some sort of problem. And lastly, since some of the best wheelin’ is out west in arid and often unforgiving environments, take plenty of food & water with you. For all-day excursions we each take several refillable water bottles and we make sure our backpacks have granola bars & trail mix in addition to our lunches. And we keep a plastic tote in the care which contains 2 additional gallons of water, a couple of dehydrated camping meals, and a micro-stove that’s about the size of a pack of playing cards. The stove and meals are overkill but are easy to include because they take up very little room and add next-to-no weight; however, extra water is really important and should always be a part of your prep.
- You might also consider a weather alert radio or app for you phone. They will alert you about potential dangers such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, snow storms & more. We chose to go with a portable radio because it often has signal when cell phones do not. We keep it plugged in while in the RV, but can put in fresh batteries to take it with us on Jeep excursions or hikes if we’re in a storm-prone area.
- Our last emergency preparedness item started out as a cat item but I’ve expanded on it to cover us too. If you’re a nomad who’s ever spent much time away from the east coast, then you’ll be familiar with this scenario: you have great cell coverage in your RV but half a mile down the road there’s a huge dead zone and if you wait until you’re underway to pull up directions on your phone, you are screwed! For that reason and because veterinary clinics can be few & far between out in the boonies, each time we set up camp I got in the habit of checking with Google maps for the closest vet clinic that would handle emergencies (see note above about Karma sticking his head into every hole he sees) so that, in the event of a cat emergency, I could quickly pull up directions to the vet from my recent history. That got me thinking about how I would tell a 911 dispatcher where we were camped if we were dispersed camping, so I purchased a magnetic dry-erase board to stick on our fridge. The top section contains the address and our site number if we’re in a campground, or directions and landmarks to find us if we’re dispersed camping (such as “head north on 672 for 3.2 miles. We’re on the left near the old mine entrance.”). When we are dispersed camping, I also write down the name of the nearest hospital in the event we would have to drive ourselves in, and I also note which county we are in since weather alerts are usually given for all of a particular county instead of mentioning city names. On the bottom of the board, I note the nearest emergency vet, including a phone number and how far away we are. Since the board is magnetic we could always grab it & take it with us, and it looks something like this:
Whew! That was a long ramble, but hopefully it got you thinking. How do you prep your household for emergencies? Do you have any good tips? Feel free to share in a comment below, and thanks for checking in with us!