Updated: Jul 30, 2019
What is your plan for the unscheduled event – The 5-5-5 Bug Out Test
When you back out of your driveway, what’s on your mind? Work? Picking up the kids? Getting a kid to practice? Grocery shopping? Departing on vacation? Did you just build your dream home in the mountains or on the coast? I am certain you have all the insurances you should have, right? How about when you close your eyes to sleep, are you relaxed for a good night of sleep or worrying about tomorrow and what your schedule brings? Do you ever give thought to the “what ifs” that could happen in the middle of the night? Or the approaching disaster that was not on your schedule?
How much thought have you really considered to your family really being prepared for an unexpected emergency? If something happened tonight, would you be ready? Conduct a test and determine just how “ready” they are and then mitigate your plan to fix the shortfalls. Have you determined how would you respond? Maybe you should ask, “could you respond” to a crisis? Remember the fight or flight methodology?
Over the years, I often encounter individuals who spend an awful lot of time doing things like stocking up food, storing and inventorying supplies, learning and practicing first aid and so on. Great steps indeed and always encouraged. I then ask “so what is your plan for A, B, C, and D?” I will get an assortment of responses. But, if something happened at midnight or 2am tomorrow, are you really ready? Always remember, first and foremost, life safety. That means, your life first then the life of others. You have to help yourself and be in control before you can help others. You may not be able to get to others. So, what is your plan for the others who you can not help?
There are numerous scenarios that have caused people to have to leave their homes quickly all over the world and throughout history: an upcoming hurricane, a forest fire a few miles upwind (recent fires in California), anarchy breaking out in the country you’re living in (Charlottesville, VA? Ferguson, MO? St Louis, MO? Dallas, TX? New Orleans, LA?), a house fire, etc. Have no doubt that as unlikely as it may seem, someone somewhere in the world is dealing with it. In my past 35 years of working security and emergency management related fields, I have found the best security experts can offer numerous reasons why they aren’t following protocol or taking precautions. Yes, and they are the first ones to pick up a phone to call 911 when an event happens and then complain to responding police. These are the same people who flash their McGruff the Crime Dog badge to a police officer when pulled over.
Accept it, you can’t be 100% ready for every scenario at a moment’s notice. That’s impossible, and something that you shouldn’t strive for. However, you should take a common-sense approach to things based on the scenario and how much time you have. I like to say “keep your feet grounded” and don’t let the event control you.
I would recommend using a simple approach. Think of scenarios that you might face that would cause you to have to bug out of your home, either for the night or for an extended period. Think of how much notice you’d have in those scenarios. In preplanning you should ask yourself, what are the top three or five most likely events that could occur? In Florida it may be a hurricane where as in Washington state it would not be a hurricane and possibly a blizzard or wild fire. This is getting in to building a threat matrix and conducting a vulnerability assessment and identifying mitigating methods to counter to the threat. Then develop a system to allow you to be ready for those scenarios in that amount of time and then practice.
Here is where the 5 – 5 – 5 Plan comes in to play. Break up what you’re planning on doing into 3 different time categories: 5 seconds, 5 minutes, and 5 hours. If it takes more than 5 hours to do anything, you’re definitely in trouble and you should call Houston and tell them you have a problem.
Being ready to go in 5 seconds because of: House fire – Intruder – Tornado - Earthquake
Let’s talk about the house fire for example. The smoke detectors are alarming and you wake up with your bedroom on fire. How much time do you have? You most likely will not have time to run around the house getting things ready. In fact, you may not be able to run around the house at all. Think about it. What if the fire prevents you from running to wake a child or get a pet? Make sure you include all loved ones in your plan. If you only have time to grab what’s ready-to-go in your bedroom, what would you have with you as you’re standing outside? Would you be outside in just your pajamas, holding your cell phone? What if it were in the middle of a drizzle in winter?
For whatever emergency you’re preparing for that might only give you 5 seconds to go, think about what you would need to have with you or to do in those 5 seconds. Do you lay out your clothes the night before? Medications? Do you keep 72 hours (minimum) medication in a safe location that you can access during an emergency? Do you have a go bag in your room with things that would help you deal with the situation? If you don’t know what you might need to put in a go bag, there’s several good books on this subject that can assist in building the perfect bugout bag (Also known as Just in time bags, Ready Bags and numerous other names). I can also provide you with guidance upon request.
When I was in Air Force Basic Training, we had to have everything done in the morning and be outside in formation within about 5 minutes. It drove home the importance of having things ready in advance. Now, 36 years later, I still have my things prepared for the following day. It goes back to the assessments and potential threats.
You don’t really know just how much notice you’ll be given, so after you’ve set up a plan for being prepared to go in 5 minutes for example, think about what you would do differently if you were given 5 hours. What if for some strange reason you were only given 5 seconds?
Being ready to go in 5 minutes: tornado; forest fire or medical emergency.
In most cases, even severe emergencies, you’ll have a few minutes to get ready. If you have a family, you can see how important it is for them to know what they need to do if something happens, otherwise you’ll be spending all your time getting them ready and none on getting yourself ready or the family as a whole. Work with your family and break down each scenario into what you’d need to do and what you’d need to take. Then break that down into what each member of your family needs to do and take. If possible prebuild bags and have them located near a door way or exit point from the room being evacuated.
As you can see, tornado is in both categories. This is a key point. Wouldn’t you rather have 5 minutes to get ready for an emergency than 5 seconds? In addition to figuring out what you’d do if you only had 5 seconds instead of 5 minutes, try to find out ways that will give you 5 minutes. What if you were given an alarm that there was a tornado warning in your area? Not every neighborhood has tornado sirens. If you don’t have an alerting system you should have a Midland WR-120B NOAA Weather Alert All Hazard Public Alert Certified Radio with SAME and Alarm Clock, you could be woken up by a 90dB alarm if something was happening in your area. Being prepared isn’t always the most convenient life style but, being prepared could be the difference between your family easily getting to a shelter or being caught unprepared. By putting a system in place such as an early-warning system, you’ve now moved your tornado response requirement from 5 seconds to 5 minutes. Obviously you’ll want to still be ready in 5 seconds if you needed to but you may help your family by giving them more time.
Being ready to go in 5 hours could be for a hurricane, riots starting to break out, regional power grid permanently damaged or maybe a SHTF (Sheet Hits the Fan) type event.
This is the traditional bugging-out scenario that you’ll probably be thinking out. To those of us in the Preparedness field, this is the “Big One” or the end of the world as we know it “TEOTWAWKI.” If the grid goes down or the financial system completely collapses, you’ll have some time to get ready. You may not have several days though because everyone else will be panicking and doing all sorts of unexpected things. You want to have a plan in place to engage ASAP. Remember, you want to be part of the 10% sheepdogs and not the 90% sheep. While the 90% fight over ice cream and Bon Bon’s, you want to be 12 to 24 hours ahead of the sheep. Once they figure out the EBT cards are turned off and the food is gone, all heck is going to break loose. Don’t be caught, be prepared.
If you’re planning on grabbing your stuff and heading out to a bug out location, could you do it in 5 hours? Have you tested your plan to ensure its possible? If you’re planning on loading supplies and taking several vehicles, pets, and family members, this may not be quite as easy as it seems. Especially if you haven’t practiced. Even if you can do it in that time, have you actually walked through the process? Have you actually tried it to make sure you aren’t going to forget something or that everything that you need will fit? What will you do if you’re planning on taking 3 vehicles and one won’t start or breaks down along the way? Or, what if you plan to use three vehicles but suddenly have two drivers? Are you prepared for that? What if you find out that you thought you would have 5 hours but when the time finally comes, you only have 5 minutes? Do you have a plan on how you’ll spend those 5 minutes? Or, what if you decide to evacuate but your partner doesn’t agree and stays behind. Have you prepared for the possibility of leaving a loved one behind to save your own life? Maybe the simpler question is “have you even prepared?”
Having a plan to deal with an emergency is more than just a checklist of things to do if something happens. It’s about changing things to your favor and making plans outside of just the most likely scenario. Take another look at your current plans and see what you can do differently looking at them in terms of how much notice you’ll have. Check your mindset and check and practice your plan. Remember 90% of Preparedness is Awareness.
Ready for an Emergency? You can be.