The shell that separates a civilized, law-abiding society and a violent, chaotic, out-of-control one is very brittle. We live in a world where violence can spark quickly and without warning. Mass shootings, riots, and building fires are becoming all too familiar stories making headlines across the nation. We continually face the realities of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, and severe storms that cripple cities and towns. These critical incidents can easily overwhelm local authorities and leave you fending for yourself.
During the 9/11 terrorist attacks the local 911 emergency dispatch center in New York City was overwhelmed by calls. This shut down emergency response in much of the city to anything but the World Trade Center buildings. Almost all traffic and public transportation in the Financial District came to a halt and many drivers were forced to abandon their vehicles and walk or run to safety.
During Hurricane Katrina many people, despite being warned to evacuate the City of New Orleans, stayed without any plan except to wait for government help. For many, help never came and unfortunately many souls perished. Some that stayed were prepared for such an emergency and decided not to abandon their homes to looters, gangs, and roaming packs of animals. For the few prepared citizens that stayed it was still risky, but it was a calculated risk that they based on their ability to be self sufficient for a period of time without the government services that most of society relies on.
Since that time, more and more people have been preparing their homes for just such emergencies whether natural or manmade. (More on emergency home preparation in future posts.) They also have been preparing for emergencies that may drive them from their home and force them to load up what they can in their cars or on their backs and head to a safer place. Most of these prepared minded people have fashioned some sort of bug-out-bag or go-bag.
A go-bag is a pre-packed bag with life sustaining essentials that can easily be thrown into a car or strapped to your back when emergency strikes and you must get yourself and your family to safety. These bags typically contain food, survival equipment, clothing, flashlights, water filters, pack tents and other equipment to sustain you during your travels. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and are usually built and customized by the owners. If your emergency go-bag(s) is like mine, it can often become big and bulky and it’s not something that I carry with me everywhere I go. I keep it in a closet at home ready to be thrown into a car at a moments notice. (More on emergency go-bags in future posts.) The bag I do carry with me wherever I go is my tactical go-bag.
A tactical go-bag, as I define it, is a small lightweight bag that has essential tools that can be used to help a person escape a fast developing, violent/emergency situation, and help them get back to their home or a safe haven. The bag is small enough that it has a very low profile as not to bring unwanted attention. It can easily be kept inside of a car or under an office desk.
Listed below are some ideas to help you put together a tactical go-bag:
Type of Bag
A backpack is more of a load displacement bag used to haul a lot of weight. To access its contents you must take it off of your back. This wastes a lot of time and usually takes both hands. I prefer a satchel type bag; one where the strap can lay across my chest and the bag sits to one side of my body near my hip. Since I am right handed and live in a state where I can legally carry a concealed firearm, I use a left handed satchel type bag so that nothing is obstructing my holster and pistol that I wear on my right hip.
The bag should be easy to manipulate with one hand, preferably your support side hand. Having complicated straps and clips, tiny zippers, and heavy flaps that are hard to access without using two hands defeats the advantage of having the bag off of your back and on your support side.
There are many types of bags on the market, in the end make sure that the bag meets your needs. For instance, if you work at a classy business firm you might want to customize something made out of professional looking polished leather. If you work construction then a more rugged nylon bag would fit in just fine.
Customizing the bag is key. Put items in the bag in a way that you can find them by feel instead of sight. Dumping everything into the bag and then having to rummage through it wastes valuable time and can be very difficult when under stress.
I always keep at least a 16oz bottle of water in my tactical go-bag. Water is very heavy and it’s hard to haul a lot of it around. A 16oz bottle of water won’t weigh your bag down too much and will come in very handy during an emergency.
You can use the water to keep yourself hydrated especially if you had to exert yourself during the initial crisis. I say, “keep yourself hydrated” because you should be drinking a lot of water throughout each day. The time to start hydrating is not when crisis hits. Water does you the most good when it’s inside of you, not when it’s being hauled around on your back. Being hydrated will help you think clearly and keep you moving longer.
Water can also help in the event you are inadvertently sprayed with pepper spray or a chemical agent. During a break down of society, like a violent riot, the police may try to take back control of a town or city through riot control teams. If you are forced to go through one of these areas at the same time the police start to use chemical agents to disperse the crowd, there is a good chance that you will suffer some effects even if it’s not from direct exposure. The chemical agents that police typically use in these situations are classified as irritants. Water is the primary decontamination tool for irritants. Using a bottle of water to quickly flush your eyes will help you recover so you can get out of the area.
Having the ability to breach during an emergency is very important if you are trying to escape from a building without going through main points of entrance and exit. (Otherwise known as choke points.) As cool as it would be to use battering rams and pry bars to breach doors, it’s not practical. (Especially for a tactical go-bag.) The best method when breaching is to take the path of least resistance. This means windows.
Don’t assume that you can simply unlock and open windows of businesses like you can at your home. Most modern office buildings don’t have windows that will open. Building codes require that these windows be fused shut, even on the first floor, to prevent people from purposefully jumping out of them or accidentally falling out of them. You can of course grab a chair and throw it through an office window, but these windows are pretty sturdy and it may take a few attempts before you have a successful breach. These failed breaches equate to wasted time, energy burned, and a loud noise signature.
There are many spring-loaded window punches on the market that work great for breaching windows. They are small, lightweight and fit easily into a tactical go-bag. They can take out vehicle windows easily and can quickly weaken the integrity of industrial windows making breaching much easier.
Sometimes going through a window is not an option and you need to do more technical work, like defeating a door lock or hinge. A strong fixed blade knife with a 3½” or longer blade comes in handy when you find yourself needing to do light prying when breaching a door. Use strong steel that can put up with a lot of punishment. I prefer a #1095 carbon steel fixed blade. Check your local laws and make sure that the length of the blade you choose is legal to conceal in a bag.
Also keep a good multi-tool that contains pliers, wire cutters, a knife, and a Phillips and flat head screwdriver in your go-bag. It compliments the fixed blade knife when breaching and seems to come in handy in almost any situation.
Leather Work Gloves
If you are breaching windows and prying on doors it’s important that you protect your hands. Damaging your hands with deep cuts and gashes can put you out of commission very quickly. Carrying a pair of medium grade leather work gloves in your tactical go-bag is a must.
There are many different tactical gloves out there and most companies are pretty proud of them. Some of these gloves can cost over a hundred dollars. There’s no need to break the bank on a pair of cool looking tactical gloves. Synthetic lined leather palmed work gloves are available at any local hardware store. They don’t take up a lot of space, hold up very well, and most can be purchased for under $30.
Buy gloves that fit well, are not bulky, and leave you with enough dexterity that you can manipulate your go-bag, firearm, and tools without having to keep taking them on and off. Wear the gloves until they are broken in and practice shooting and firearms handling while wearing them. There are many gun handling techniques being taught that require fine motor skills to manipulate a firearm. These techniques will be difficult to use when under extreme stress, let alone while wearing gloves. At Pulse O2DA we teach a combat style of firearms manipulation that focuses on gross motor skills. These gross motor skill techniques make it easier to manipulate the firearm when under combat stress and when you may have limited dexterity due to a hand injury or while wearing gloves.
A natural or man-made disaster could shutdown a city, or town’s electricity without warning. Having access to a reliable long lasting light source is a necessity for any tactical go-bag. LED flashlights are getting better and better each year. They come in very compact sizes, and they put out high levels of lumens without using a lot of energy.
I carry two different LED flashlights in my tactical go-bag. I carry a headlamp for hands free use during breaching or for anything where I need light for an extended period of time; and I carry a small hand held tactical flashlight that compliments my firearm for exterior or interior tactical movement where I want to use the light sparingly.
Whenever you are in the middle of a critical incident, natural disaster, riot, or terrorist attack the chances that you could be seriously wounded are high. Your ability to overcome the injury and keep going will save your life. To do this you should have some knowledge on how to “fix yourself” when seriously injured. Specifically major arterial bleeding.
A military combat doctor once explained to me that the human body cannot survive without oxygen being supplied to its major organs. Blood is the life-sustaining vessel that carries oxygen throughout the body. With every ounce of blood you lose, your body loses the ability to supply itself with oxygen. Because of this I carry two pieces of medical equipment in my tactical go-bag; a combat style tourniquet and an Israeli style pressure bandage. Both of these items were designed so a wounded person could stop/control major hemorrhaging from a wound using only one hand.
I won’t talk about how and where to use these items because I’m not a medical professional but I have had training in the proper use of a tourniquet and pressure bandage. Before carrying these items, get professional training on the proper application because you can injure or make a wound worse if you use them incorrectly.
If you live where you can lawfully carry a concealed firearm, keeping extra ammo in your go bag is a good idea. Most firearms on the market come with three magazines. If you typically carry all three magazines on you when you carry concealed then you should buy backup magazines for your go bag. Simply keeping an extra box of ammo for your firearm in your go-bag won’t cut it. It will take too long to try to reload magazines if you run them dry. Keep a couple preloaded back-up magazines in your tactical go-bag.
Spare Cell Phone Battery
Although you won’t be able to count on police and fire department help in a scenario like I described above, you may be able to place a cell phone call for support from friends and family who may already be in a safe location and might be able to meet you somewhere for pickup. They might have the ability to give you real-time intelligence on the situation by watching the news or listening to the radio. Letting your support know where you are and how you are progressing will help them give you advise on egress routes and dangerous areas to avoid.
It may take you several hours or even days to arrive at a safe location, keeping a spare cell phone battery in your tactical go-bag will help you maintain a line of communication to any outside support.
The items listed above can easily be carried in a small lightweight tactical go-bag that will be easy to keep near you in case of an emergency. As you customize your tactical go-bag you will undoubtedly find other items that you want to keep in it. Whatever you decide to carry in your tactical go-bag, just remember, the bag is of no use if you don’t have reasonable access to it.
If you like this blog, keep an eye out for more of my emergency preparation posts found only at Pulse O2DA Warriors & Capitalists.