UPDATE: Never Leave Home Without…

I always intended to write a summary and concluding piece to the list of 10 things you should never leave home without.  Coming a couple of months after the last post was written lends perspective to the exercise.  The intent of this blog was always to validate that the advice given is practical.  If I can’t practice what I preach, then I need to rethink again what it is I am recommending here.  In addition, the perspective of the current “concern” over Influenza A – H1N1 (Swine Flu) and a change in season to Spring adds another valuable reality check.

So, here’s my item-by-item review of the list and how I’ve done with it and how I feel the utility of these items holds up:

Bag (Empty)

There is no question in my mind that an empty bag belongs on the list and at the top of it – alphabetical or not.  I have struggled at times to remember to bring one with me.  Honestly, the larger eco-totes that I recommended – like the Staples eco-easy tote, do not fold down to a size that fits in a pocket.  You really need to have another bag to put an empty one in.

Kiva Keychain Backpack

Kiva Keychain Backpack 1/2 size of Wallet

The bag I mentioned in the original post but had not tried out yet – the Kiva Keychain Backpack – is really an excellent solution.  It packs down to an incredibly small size (about half the size of my wallet) that fits in a (front) pants pocket easily.  I try to carry one of these bags with me all the time in that way.  When expanded, it forms a smallish backpack – certainly large enough to carry several items in an emergency, and the material (like parachute nylon) seems pretty strong and durable.  The only issue I’ve had with it is that if you put some heavier items in it, the adjustable shoulder straps tend to slip, but there is no risk of it opening and the bag dropping as it is a closed loop strap.

Flashlight

Maybe it’s just me, but I still find a reason to need a flashlight on a daily basis and I carry two Photon LED flashlights with me all the time – one on my keys and another on a chain around my neck.  I’ve been using the newer Photon Freedom-style lights, and I like the push button on-off much better than the old style (either hold it down or flick a tiny toggle switch to keep it lighted).

LRI Photon X-Light

LRI Photon X-Light

Honestly, the cheapest X-Light micro (at under $10) is sufficient.  So I repeat my advice to get a bunch of these – and pass them around – attach one to your briefcase, regular backpack, go-bag, etc., give one or two to each family member.  It will help you and them to be Living Prepared.

Glasses/Sunglasses

Never leave home without them.  And if I do, I always end up regretting it.  The other day, I was getting out of my car; it was raining.  I had a hat on, as I always do, with my sunglasses perched on the top, as they usually are when I’m not wearing them.  A man walking his dog was passing by, and he paused as he looked at me to comment, “With the hat and the sunglasses, you are ready for anything.”  Amen.

LifeSecure Safety Glasses

LifeSecure Eye Shields

Mindful of the fear of Influenza A – H1N1 (Swine Flu) many people have, protecting your eyes with glasses (sun or clear) or a eye shield can help prevent you from being infected by particulates spewed into the air by people close by who cough or sneeze in your general direction.  I recently ordered some Eye Shields from LifeSecure Emergency Solutions to keep with my household emergency supplies.

Keys

Keys.  Enough said.  Just try going out without them.

I did figure out that two of the small lock keys actually fit the padlock on the cellar hatch outside the front of my house – so one of those has been returned to my keychain.

Smartphone

Still attached to my hip.  Still without a GPS.  I think the GPS functionality that is available is useful, but expensive (both for a GPS-enabled Blackberry and for the service that gives it functionality), and I can’t justify it at the current time.

Stainless Steel Drink Container

Usually still attached to my hand – with tea in the morning, and increasingly a Klean Kanteen for water in the afternoon as the weather is getting warmer.  (We had a mini-heat wave of several days in the high 80s/low 90s in April in NYC).  It’s honestly hard to bring along sometimes without having a bag (not an empty one) to carry it in.

I’m beginning to think of recommending carrying a “mostly” empty bag with you – which provides a means to carry along those items that otherwise do not fit on your face or in your pockets – such as a drink container.  That solves a lot of problems of bulging pockets – especially in the summertime…

My regular backpack I keep stocked with a number of useful items – such as a couple of pens, a folding knife with serrated blade, some Zyrtec (for allergies), and epi-pen (if the allergies get really bad), a larger LED flashlight.  I put a glass case in it to carry whatever pair of glasses (sun or clear) I am not wearing.  If I go out without this backpack, I still have my 10 items with me.

My biggest problem with my double-walled, vacuum insulated Thermos hot drink container is that it does too good a job at keeping my tea hot.  I like my hot drinks warm, not scalding, and it takes hours for my tea to cool enough such that I can enjoy it.  When I have the opportunity, I leave the top off to let it cool down so I can drink it more quickly.  On the plus side, this has cut down dramatically on my caffeine intake, which is probably a good thing.

Swiss Army Knife / Multi-Tool

I still use this multiple times every day and would be totally lost without it.  Just yesterday I used the scissors to cut a reply form off to return to my daughter’s school, the Phillips head screwdriver to replace a battery in my son’s toy train, the small knife to open a package received in the main from Lands End, and the magnifying glass to read the small print on a label.  Oh yeah, and I used the reamer to make an additional hole in a belt I have (I lost 15 pounds due to the chicken pox and some of my clothes are hanging off of me now!)

One reader recommended a different model – that’s a bit less expensive but still has all of the important survival tools.  For me, I use all of the tools on the Swiss Army Champ – including the tweezers – which I’ve used twice in the last week to remove a splinter from my finger and my daughter’s foot.  I even used the pin within the last week to help open up a bottle of Gorilla Glue that had crusted over.

Vehicle Escape Tool

As noted in the original post, this is something you don’t use on a daily basis, and I’ve never used mine.

I did have the opportunity to demonstrate the functions of the ResQMe that I carry on my keychain to two very nice gentlemen from the TSA at JFK Airport, just before I handed it over to them before getting on a flight to Florida a few weeks ago.  I kind of had to tell them that they should be taking it away from me – both because of the seat-belt cutter blade, which although shielded, could be removed from the casing by breaking it open – thus weaponizing it – as well as for the glass breaker, which, although I am not sure it would break an airplane window pane, I would not want to try.  So I was without a ResQMe while deathly ill from the Chicken Pox in Florida.

I got another one out of my stock and have returned it to my keychain.

Wallet

Again, it goes without saying that you need to carry your wallet with you when you go out.

What I need to report on is how I’ve done with keeping the $100 cash in it and not pilfer it when I run out.  I must report positively that I’ve had great success.  I positively have forgotten that I folded up 5 twenty dollar bills and slid it into a side slot behind the credit cards in my wallet – unless I’m thinking about this post.  The credit cards, ID and proof of insurance are easy to maintain.

Whistle

Again, something I don’t use on a daily basis but am glad to have with me.  Mostly, I wear it on a lanyard underneath a shirt – but if visible, it’s a good conversation starter.  As pictures in the original post, I also use the neck lanyard to carry a Photon LED flashlight and a USB drive – which another reader also suggested carrying.  My SanDisk Cruzer holds a ridiculous 16 GB of data.

Honestly, the neck lanyard can be bulky either on top of or underneath a single layer T-shirt when the weather is hot.  So I have honestly gone out from time to time without it.  It’s an item that can be put in your briefcase, backpack or other bag that you carry things in (or the proposed “almost” empty bag alternative), and it also fits into a pants pocket.  So while I try to wear it habitually – I must admit to forgetting it occasionally.

What’s Missing?

USB Drive:

For the digitally inclined and data dependent, a USB drive – the larger the better, is a good thing to carry with you.  I carry one and will load it up with important files from time to time.  More often, it’s used for exchanging data (photos, files) with someone.  In an emergency situation, if you work with computers at all, having a USB drive with you could be extremely valuable.

My Fox40 Classic Whistle (in cool camo-color), Photon Freedom LED flashlight, and SanDisk Cruzer on neck lanyard

My Fox40 Classic Whistle (in cool camo-color), Photon Freedom LED flashlight, and SanDisk Cruzer on neck lanyard

So if it fits your personal and professional profile, a USB drive is definitely something to consider adding to your list of things to never leave home without.  I do like the SanDisk Cruzer because it contains software to allow you to install and run applications directly off of the drive rather than having to install it on the hard drive of a computer.  So, for example, you can use your Skype account from any computer you can use and plug your drive into, if you have Skype installed on the USB drive.

Hand Sanitizer:

This probably should have been on the original list.  Very useful for cleaning your hands while you are out – especially after riding on public transportation or before eating anything on the go. Also essential to have if you are out with kids.  I usually have a bottle with a pump around the house, but decided to stock up a but because of H1N1.  The 2-oz. bottle size is really convenient for taking with you and I got one for everyone in the family.  The small bottles cost about a dollar at any drugstore and I plan to refill them from the larger (and more economical) bottles I have in the house – especially one big one by the front door so everyone can use it upon entering the house.  When buying Hand Sanitizer, remember to always check the “drug facts” on the bottle to ensure that it contains at least 60% ethyl alcohol.  Any less and it will not be effective as an antiseptic.

Pocket Hand Sanitizer and Tissues

Pocket Hand Sanitizer and Tissues

Pocket Pack of Tissues:

Another item inspired by H1N1, I think this item also belongs on the original list.  Tissues are incredibly useful things, even if you or your kids do not have a cold.  They can be used to wipe up things, or wipe off things that you don’t want to touch with your bare hands as they may be dirty or infected.  (Use hand sanitizer afterward anyways).  You can use tissues to dry or clean off your glasses if they get wet (though a glass cleaning cloth is better and won’t leave link on the lenses).  Like water, or bags, tissues have hundreds of potential uses during times of emergency and normalcy.

Summary and Conclusion:

I feel pretty strongly about the original 10 items on this list… and now I’m up to 13 with the USB drive, hand sanitizer and pocket pack of tissues.  I started out this project by stating that I didn’t like top 10 lists and I wasn’t going to be bound by a number; that it was a starting point and an important attempt to place some limit on a list that if it becomes exhaustive becomes less practical and less achievable.  And making this practical and achievable is a key part of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog.

I am still tracking a few challenges with the list.

Mostly, it’s a lot of stuff to stuff into your pockets (keys, wallet, extra bag, hand sanitizer, tissues, flashlight) – especially in the warm weather – or wear around your neck (USB drive, flashlight, whistle), hang on your belt (smart phone, Swiss army knife), or hold in your hand (stainless steel drink container).

A lot of this can be carried alternatively in a backpack, briefcase or other (not empty) bag that you carry with you.  Many of us do carry such bags when we go out – but not every time.  My concern is having these items on your person is that they are always with you – and never left at home.

Changing the empty bag to a “mostly” empty bag – or empty of everything but these 12 or 13 items – may be a solution – as long as you always take this mostly empty bag with you.  I will report in a couple of months on how I am addressing this challenge, and will reconsider again the list of items never to leave home without.

In conclusion, I hope that these posts have proven useful to your own thinking about how you should be Living Prepared™.  I am not so arrogant as to think that everyone has to follow my advice to the letter.  I hope that you learn from my advice and my experience and make it your own.

Ten Things You Should Never Leave Home Without: #2: A Flashlight

What is it: A flashlight (or torch) is a small, portable electric lamp powered by one or more batteries. For this particular list, I advocate carrying a small LED key chain flashlight. A slightly larger flashlight is appropriate for your go-bag, household emergency kit, and car, but on a daily basis, even a marginally larger “pocket”-sized flashlight may be too big to be convenient and harder to make habitual.

Photon II Micro-LightPersonally, I am partial to LRI’s (Laughing Rabbing Inc.) Photon II Micro-Light.  They cost about $10 and are each about the size of a quarter and weigh only 6.3 grams (less than ¼ of an ounce). They come in 10 different light beam colors for different purposes; the standard white beam is most useful for its general usefulness and luminosity. I also recommend a green or red beam for use at night if you have occasion to find it is desirable to preserve your night vision. They come with a long-lasting, replaceable lithium battery that provides at least 12 hours of light (and much more for some useful beam colors such as red).

The new Photon Freedom Micro-Light comes in a variety of fashionable casing covers colors, and has instant on-off, brightness control, and has three levels of strobe (slow beacon, medium beacon, fast flash) and an automatic S-O-S mode; and as with the Photon II, you can manually use the light with a signaling Morse code mode. I have ordered a few of these and expect to like them even more than the Photon II.

LRI Photon Micro-Lights are used by NASA astronauts, the US Secret Service, the US Military, law enforcement and search and rescue teams. Read some great testimonials on the emergency and everyday utility of the Photon Micro-Light and for other articles, reviews and other information about their whole product line, visit the Laughing Rabbit Inc. website.

I was first introduced to Photon Micro-Lights prior to the first Strong Angel exercise on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2000, where we evaluated them as part of a suite of new technologies being tested for their utility in sustainable settlements for humanitarian disasters – such as refugee camps (and for refugee camp workers). At the time, they were new and unproven technology – no one had ever heard of LED lights before. But their durability and longevity of battery life and luminosity was tested and proven at the exercise and they have been a part of my emergency kit ever since.

<Photon II Micro-Light on Key chainGet a bunch of them. Give one to each member of your family. Attach one to everyone’s main key chain so they will always have it with them. You can put another one into your wallet or purse, or briefcase or backpack that you usually carry. Most newer bags have rings or hooks intended to attach a set of keys to – this is the perfect spot to attach one of these LED flashlights. Even attach one to your regular coat as a zipper pull. Personally, I love flashlights and believe that you can never have enough.

Utility on a Daily Basis: I do use a flashlight on a regular if not daily basis. The house we are currently staying in does not have an external light and I often use the flashlight to find the keyhole to lock and unlock the door. Key chain lights were originally marketed so one could find where to put a car’s ignition key into. Looking for a lost remote under or behind a couch? Drop something under the table at a dimly lit restaurant? Under your desk at work? Today, I used my key chain flashlight to inspect the condition of a beam in our house that we are renovating. Like several other items on this list, I guarantee that once carrying a flashlight becomes habitual, you will find good opportunities to use it regularly and you will be glad that you have it with you. And these lights are so small and light that it will never be an inconvenience to have one with you.

Yes that is a whistlePersonal Report – Is Mark Living Prepared? Yes, I can report that personally, I carry two of these lights with me on a daily basis – one with a white beam on a chain around my neck (more on that in a later posting) – and one with a green beam attached to my key chain with my house keys. As I don’t go out without my keys, a flashlight is always with me. It is practice and it can easily be yours as well.

Criticality after a disaster: There is nothing more useful in the aftermath of a disaster than a flashlight. Power and lights will go out following a major disaster – whether a natural disaster such as an earthquake, hurricane, flood, ice storm, or tornado – or a man made disaster, such as a fire, terrorist attack, civil conflict, war, or yes, a power failure. I guarantee it. In fact, the lights going out may be your first indication that something is wrong.

In more personal or local disasters, such as a car or other vehicular accident, you may find yourself in the dark, in a ditch, looking for a safe way out. You may run out of gas or your car may break down and you find that you have to walk along a dark road or highway. You could be in the subway underground which breaks down and you have to walk to the next station. You may have to walk down 50 or more flights of stairs to exit a skyscraper with the lights out. You are going to be glad to have a light with you for visibility and safety.

These small key chain LED flashlights are bright and can be seen from over a mile away. They are useful as signal lights to let someone know where you are and that you need help. In the open , they should be visible to search and rescue aircraft; or by urban search and rescue teams looking for survivors in collapsed buildings.

You never know how dark it is without lights until they all go out. I make it a practice to always have a flashlight easily accessible in the house so if the lights go out, I can find it easily in the dark. A few years ago, New York City and most of the northeast suffered a major power failure that lasted for a couple of days in some places. At the time, our family was living in an 8th floor apartment with an unobstructed southern view of New York harbor. This apartment got tons of ambient artificial light from streetlights, other buildings, and especially the docks on the Brooklyn, Staten Island and even New Jersey waterfront. There was so much artificial light pouring in through the windows that you could sit up and read in bed at night without the use of any lamps at all. But during the blackout, it got dark; so dark you could not see. And it took a while for us to find a flashlight and some candles. We weren’t prepared for how dark it would be without any lights on, and never having to learn our way around the apartment in the dark, or in very low light conditions, it was a struggle for us.

While this is more an object lesson for why you should have a flashlight easily accessible in the home (which you should!), what I wanted to emphasize here is that we are all used to there being a lot of ambient artificial light – especially in urban environments. We go out all the time at night, in the dark, without needing a flashlight to see. There are streetlights, houselights, store lights, security lights, lit signs, etc. But when the power goes out, all these lights go out as well.

And again, your go-bag will not be with you. When disaster strikes and you are not at home and you can’t get home, you are caught out without your go-bag. So you want to have a flashlight with you wherever you are. It may also help you get into your darkened house to retrieve your go-bag from your darkened closet.

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The Living Prepared Scorecard:  LED Key Chain Flashlight

    Easily Carried: YESNot too heavy: YES

    Practical Purpose on a Daily basis: YES

    Critical Purpose when Disaster Strikes: YES

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So, carry a flashlight with you. If you do, you will be Living Prepared™.