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Surviving An Unexpected Emergency

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Surviving An Unexpected Emergency

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One of the very basic tenets of preparedness is to routinely evaluate risks that are specific to your geographical area.  But what happens when Mother Nature throws you a curve ball and the unexpected emergency occurs?

Today I would like to share the experience a Colorado reader who experienced first hand the devastating floods in Colorado.   “Jeff C.” was kind enough to send me his up close and personal experience during the recent Colorado floods.  Is he a prepper?  Yes.  Was he as prepared as he could be?  He thought so.  Read on.

Surviving an Unexepected Emergency BDS

A Retrospective After the Colorado Flood

First note. Something can happen at any time, any moment. A derailed train of nasty chemicals, a toxic spill in your sewer, a factory in your area has a fire or explosion spewing deadly fumes, or a hundred unexpected man made disasters. (Not even to get into all of the geopolitical options, riots, civil unrest, flash mobs, etc.) Also there are fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, or FLOODS.

Here in the mountains of Colorado we don’t expect floods. We barely get rain most of the time. (This has more often than not let to multiple evacuations for fire.) We occasionally hear “Flash flood” warnings but those are usually “For those folks down there.” Needless to say we never would have imagined, let alone expected what happened.

3:00 am. KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!!

Fireman at the door. Our house is surrounded by water. What was a 6’ wide creek 50 yards BEHIND our house, now has at least 2 ½ ft. of RUSHING water as far as 60 ft. IN FRONT of our house. Both of our cars are in the flow and cannot be reached. (One of them was eventually washed completely off the driveway.) The fireman informs us that we have a few minutes to gather some things while they get 4×4 backed in over at the next door neighbor’s house (Because they can’t get it close enough to our house) they are going to have to escort us through some “lower” water right next to the house, over to the next house…We will have what we can carry…a few minutes to grab it.

Myself. My wife & two teenage daughters, and a dog.

Quick check of the situation. I look in the garage. There is already 10” of water inside at the garage door itself, with the slant of the floor the water is nearing the entrance to the interior of the house but shallower there. We have already lost personal property, heirlooms, etc and the news is only 1 minute old.

We ended up with 1 small backpack for each of the girls and my wife and I (And the dog – He will need some food) shared one backpack and I grabbed my office bag with my laptop (Besides being my livelihood, it is my employer’s property and there are sensitive documents.)

What did we grab…?

A change of clothes, some basic toiletries, prescriptions, phones and chargers, the documents (Birth certificates/Passports etc) from the fireproof box, some dog food, a handgun, and some ammo….TIME TO GO!

They got us out and dropped us on the other side of the water. There you are.
I thought I was fairly light and mobile. I’m not. Or at least to the degree I should be. A lot of things happened after that and compared to many others we are doing fine. We have been blessed a hundred times throughout this. However, I am resolved to make some changes. Everyone, including the dog is going to have a bug-out bag. There needs to be some other considerations as well. Most importantly, we are safe, but there needs to be some changes made in our house.

Some things to think about…

We had boxes on shelves in the garage but the water was already above the bottom shelf…Books are heavy, so you put them on the bottom shelf. They are first to go in a flood.


The fireman instructed us to leave our house unlocked. There were things about that which I was not prepared for or comfortable with. Think about it. The way your house/belongings are RIGHT NOW, would you be comfortable walking away leaving only as secure as they currently are?

We were dropped off, but then got a ride to a temporary shelter. Who would you call? Who would call you?

We lost cell service, most land lines, some people had land lines but no internet, some people only had internet, some people had only walkie-talkies, many had nothing…where are your phone numbers even if you had a phone?

The flood cut off our mountain town with some roads to be out for weeks, some months, some (?)…There was a question of how food and gas supplies would get to us, but for us, that came around after 3 days there was a LONG way out/in.

I could go on and on. Others had MUCH more hazardous situations than us and I’m sure they would have more/different thoughts. I just thought I would share mine.

Jeff C.
Estes Park, CO

Bugging Out is Sometimes Required

In recent weeks I have gone to great lengths to explain that bugging in is always preferable to bugging out.  That said, even with adequate food, water, power, and fire/heat, when the knock comes, you must be ready to go.  As Jeff so aptly states, you may only have minutes.

As an exercise today and throughout the weekend, think about those things that you would grab if you only had minutes in which to evacuate your home.  Where are they located and could you get to them?  And perhaps more important, do you have a bug-out bag for every family member and has it been inventoried and updated lately?

The Final Word

When I asked Jeff for permission to post his experience on line at BDS, he said:

If it helps someone else learn some of the things I had to learn the hard way, ahead of time, it is worth it.

As his experience teaches us, no matter how knowledgeable we might be, learning from the real life experiences of others will help us take our prepping journey to the next level.  That, plus the knowledge that stuff is just stuff, after all.  It is family and loved ones that are most important.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you have not done so already, please be sure to like Facebook which is updated every time there is an awesome new article, news byte, or link to a free survival, prepping or homesteading book on Amazon.  You can also follow Backdoor Survival on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

In addition, when you sign up to receive email updates you will receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide. 

Bug Out Bag

Bargain Bin:  Putting together a bug-out-bag is not a one-size-fits all proposition.  Still, there are some basic foundation items that belong in every kit.  Sure, you still need to add food, water, personal care items and a whole lot more. But these basics will get you started.

Rothco Medium Transport Pack: What I really like about these Rothco packs is the narrow profile.  As you can see in the picture, it is only as wide as my body.  Sure, it sticks out a bit in back but at least I do not bump in to things.  There are lots of compartments and pouches and it by far, the most comfortable pack I have ever worn.  I actually own 3 Rothco packs, 2 in the medium size and one large.  I keep one pack permanently in my vehicle.

Kershaw OSO Sweet Knife:  This “oh so sweet” knife is solidly built, stainless steel knife that comes razor sharp right out of the package. It will pretty much cut through anything the price is amazing.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter:  The LifeStraw is considered the most advanced, compact, ultra light personal water filter available. It contains no chemicals or iodinated resin, no batteries and no moving parts to break or wear out. It weighs only 2oz.  making it perfect for the prepper. For more information, see my LifeStraw review.

Flash Drive: I cannot over emphasize the importance of having important documents on a flash drive.  Sure, the power may be out temporarily but for the nominal price and virtually no weight, it is silly not to carry all of your documents and survival reference guides on a flash drive.

Streamlight Nano Light Keychain LED Flashlight:  The little itty bitty flashlight is extremely small and light weight yet it will throw off a decent amount of super-bright light. At just .36 ounces and 1.47 inches long, it will take up a minimum of space in your pocket or bag.  Other alternatives are the Blocklite or even the inexpensive, but super-bright FordEx Group 300lm Mini Cree LED Flashlight.

Paracord Survival Bracelet:  Why a Paracord Bracelet? So you always have some of this useful cord on your person!  Or, if you prefer, a paracord lanyard or keychain or even a 100 foot hank of paracord.

Windstorm Safety Whistle: This particular whistle can be heard a long distance away and above howling wind and other competing sounds.  For the budget minded, there is the 3 in 1 Survival Whistle with Compass Thermometer for about a dollars.

Swedish Firesteel:  Using this basic pocket fire-starter, you can get a nice fire going under almost any conditions. This is a small, compact version.  A less expensive alternative is this  Campers Magnesium Fire Starter.

Pepper Spray:  It is always good to have some form of defense that will temporarily halt a bad guy that is in your face.

Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets:  These come in compressed packets small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet.  You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you.

2 Pack Survival Kit Can Opener, Military, P-51 Model:  These can openers makes great addition to any survival, fishing, hiking, or camping pack. They are lightweight and robust and they just work.


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18 Responses to “Surviving An Unexpected Emergency”

  1. We had to evacuate last month because of bushfires. We had notice so I worked out 5 minute, 15 minute and 30 minute evacuation lists. I have made sure previously what the kids were to do if there was a house fire, so the 5 minute was well known. We all have emergency kits that I store out the back of the house so that if there is a fire, we can still get out and get them. Even with all that preparation, it was still a stressful time. One thing I need to add to my kits is Rescue Remedy – a Bach Flower preparation. No matter how prepared you think you are, there will always be something else needed.

    • Glad to hear you got out safely. Was everything okay when you returned?

      Also, good idea abut the 5, 15, and 30 minute drills. I am going to put my own drills together like that. Thanks for the tip.

    • Everything was fine when we got back. They had managed to put a fire break in a couple of kilometres from our house. One funny thing. I took my wheat grinder with me and then realised that I hadn’t grabbed the wheat. So glad it was okay when we got back.

  2. Jeff you are right…kinda. You have to be so very careful with prescription meds. On some of them the expiration date is just a number and they could be good for sometime. But there are others, I will name Nabumatone as one, where you have to watch the script date like a hawk. It’s an anti-inflamatory, and when it gets too old the side effects are awful.

    If you can see if there are alternatives to the prescription meds. Some have natural alternatives that may not be as powerful as what your doctor gets you, but they may handle storage better. Also, you may want to discuss this with your doctor. He or she may have a few ideas for you.

    • This to Coalbunny Carl. What are the side effects of using expired Nabunatone? I must not be any good at looking this stuff up on the net because, when ever I do try to get info on expiration dates the only info I seem to find says don’t use any prescritpion past the expiration date, and as we know some meds are good much longer. Do you know where I can find out some more on meds that store well past the expiration date.

    • I can’t answer that Barbara, about where to get the information on meds. In my case I was getting nasty bloody noses that wouldn’t stop. I went to my doctor and he said it was the expired Nabumatone. FYI the Nabumatone is generic Relafin.

      I guess the best thing to do is search for it.

      Wish I could help you more on that Barbara.

  3. Oh yeah. Further note regarding prescriptions…We could not get out for a while and then it was a LONG trip. I would encourage you, if you have meds that you have to take regularly, start “Banking” them. Take a couple pills from each prescription and put them in your bug out. You will be glad for the stash.

  4. Gaye, great article, it gets me to think twice about what I have backed up.
    I will add a couple things, however….a BOB may seem complicated for someone to make, hardest part is the first step- starting the bag. Having a list to work with helps certainly.

    One thing I hope everyone realizes is a simple porta-potty may seem inexpensive, but when the crisis hits, it’s invaluable. Same with all of your tools you have in your BOB. That $5 flashlight…you won’t part with it. That $5.99 freeze dried meal from Wal Mart…same thing.

    The help with preparing, I suggest that you sit down with your family, ask the local old timers about bad and good times in the area as well as sit down and discuss this with the county Emergency Management director (in some areas they still call them the Civil Defense) and see if you can write up a list of all possible AND probable events that can happen there.

    And as Grandma said, the psychological trauma of a crisis will amplify all of your already-there mental issues. Not just in you, but your neighbors and anyone else you meet. Dealing with those just in yourself is a chore.

    Read up on the Boy Scout Law and the Boy Scout Oath. If you use that as a guide you will be amazed at how much that helps in a crisis.

    In all of this you will see a common factor- planning. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said- “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.”

  5. BTW, the “Bucket-Toilet” on the sight today…Don’t laugh. The flood took out our sewer lines and we were in a “No Flush zone” for most of 2 months. The city eventually put in neighborhood port-a-johns (You do get to know your neighbors on a whole new level) but the girls especially are not too keen on going out to the porta in the middle of the night. Especially when it’s 20 degrees and there are potentially coyotes, bears, elk and mountain lions in our area. On one of my 4 HOUR trips to the valley I bought 4 of the bucket toilets (Some for others) for those “Midnight visits.” I actually put trash bag liners and kitty litter in the bottom of them but that stuff accumulates faster than you think. However, we are keeping ours stored “Just in case” now even though we now have sewers again. Don’t think you will be able to find them when you need them. No way!

  6. Thanks for that, Jeff.

    Is it a damned if you do, and damned if you don’t, in RE: your valuables and important “papers”?

    On FerFal’s blog he has talked about using a sledge hammer to bust a hole in your concrete floor to use as a hiding spot, or find a spot in a wall, to put your valuables in to hide them from SHTF thieves.
    Good advice, I think.
    At the same time, it could be a hindrance.

    One size – truly – does not, fit all.

    I’m on a bluff, so a flood isn’t so much a concern, but the railroad tracks nearby, are a concern.

    Not too mention, the Nuke plant upstream, and all across the land.

    Insert image from the old video game, Frogger, here: x.

  7. I ran into a snag in my preps recently. The snag was me. When the tornados hit the midwest last week, we were only under a “watch” but the skies looked scary. Instead of hunkering down, I decided to run to the store to get milk. Did I need milk? Not really. I even took my poor old dog with me in the car. Why? No clue.

    Our little grocery store was packed and had a vibe of being on the edge of panic, many were seniors. I got the milk, went home and had some serious thinking to do. Why did I leave when I shouldn’t have? I thought I was prepared for anything, not realizing my own actions would sabotage my years of prep study.

    Adrenaline kicked in, which caused me to step into the mayhem for no good reason. I should have kept calm to think clearly. What I did was stupid. All the preps in the world won’t help me if I’m going to hop in my car, leaving my bug out bag behind, just to see what’s going on in town.

    • I’m aware my comment doesn’t really fit this article, but I felt compelled to share. Hunkering down or bugging out, our reaction may just be “freaking out” and we have to be prepared for that behavior. Lesson learned. (I hope).

    • I appreciate your sharing. I think it is normal for panic and a knee-jerk reaction to set in when a crisis is eminent. This is a good reminder to all of us to keep an emergency check list handy (such as inside the closet door) and before reacting, check the list first. #1? Don’t panic; take your time and think before acting.

      Thanks again.

      — Gaye

    • thanks for sharing this.i often head out when a storm is approaching but for a diffrent reason .i have everything i need i just like to watch “the show” as i call it.For the life of me i still understand why people buy gallons of milk and 3 loaves of bread,aisles are wiped clean.milk wont keep if power goes out and lets be honest ya dont need milk to live its a luxury.that comment is not directed at you bu to the thousands that decend like a horde on the milk and bread aisles.there is actually a knickname for those people “FRENCH TOASTERS”

    • John,
      I completely understand your mindset. I like most people, have the rigors of everyday life eating up my time, attention, and money and preparing for something that usually effects “Those people on the news” is hard to get on the priority list. Speaking of not expecting a flood, I live at 7500+ ft elevation. I can see treeline (Elevation too high for trees to grow) from my house. It seems out of the realm of possibility. Those are the areas that we are most vulnerable. The unexpected. I’m no professional at this and the recent events proved that, but I don’t think anyone has to be “A professional.” However, some basic prep can go a long way to not only helping yourself but enabling you to help others. The phrase “Mountain Strong” is big around here now (Complete with T-Shirts, Bumper stickers and the like now) but “Mountain Strong” is really about the bonds between people. Helping each other before, during, and after the things that interrupt. Again, my family was blessed by God a hundred times during this event. Through a LOT of great people, circumstances, and prayer. However, you can best do that for others if you are in a reasonable situation yourself. You can up the possibilities of that yourself, ahead of time, by setting aside some of that time, attention, and money now.

  8. Jeff. I hope you read this. I have been hearing most of my adult life about a 3 day BOB. I have never heeded this warning. Where I live, if flood water is getting to my house, someone had better be building an Ark. I live on the New Madrid fault. If the earthquake came, and I survived, my crumbled house would still be there and I could extract what I needed. No hurricane has ever hit Ky. Tornado, that is another story. But there would not be a time that I would bug out with a tornado coming. That’s what basements are for. In a SHTF situation, I am to old and feeble to bug out. I will stand my ground here. I hope people understand why I have thought I would never use a BOB.
    I suppose this is my day of awakening. You Jeff have opened my mind. Thanks.
    Now where can I find a BOB??

    • John – You have no B.O.B.??? Are you teasing me again? You can purchase a bug-out kit or put your own together. On December 5th, I will be having a giveaway for the Tactical Traveler from Ready To Go Survival that is awesome. See: //

      In addition, I am revising my article on building your own foundation kit and should be running that within the next week or two. A lot of times you can scrounge things from around the house to build a decent kit. You simply need to start!

      — Gaye

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