–By Jason Hanson, former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author.
I admit it: I’m a gear junkie. I’ve got enough flashlights, tactical bags, knives and water filters to last a lifetime. I’m certainly not the only one—my buddies are the same way. But unlike most of them, I keep my gear highly organized. As my wife will tell you, it’s one of the few areas of my life I keep that way. Because you can have the best survival gear in the world, but if you can’t access it quickly enough, it won’t do you any good.
Last May, a massive wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada, forced over 80,000 residents—the largest wildfire evacuation in Canadian history—to evacuate as fire crews struggled to get the blaze under control.
The majority of the population fled south, while roughly 25,000 people were instructed to evacuate to the oil sands work camps north of the city. Those who escaped to the north quickly ran out of supplies and had nowhere to get more. Supplies dwindled down so far that people had to be flown to other major cities while the mandatory evacuation order was still in effect.
This situation is a perfect example of why it’s so critical to be prepared—and organized—to survive for several days on your own. If ever you’re faced with a disaster situation, you will need to take as many provisions with you as possible—and be able to gather these provisions swiftly.
When Fort McMurray resident Erica Decker rushed home to grab a few essentials before evacuating, the fire was almost on her doorstep. She had absolutely no time to spare. In such an instance, proper organization becomes a lifesaving necessity.
As you well know by now, I’m a big believer in having an adequate amount of food and water storage, along with survival gear and tools. The way you organize these supplies is a key factor in streamlining the time it takes to grab what you need and escape to safety.
So here are some basic organizational tips you should implement before disaster strikes:
Use plastic bins
Plastic bins make organizing your emergency supplies a cinch. They’re stackable, allow for quick access, and can protect contents from moisture, insects and rodents.
You can also color-code the bins to simplify your system even more. In other words, you could have a green bins for food, red bins for clothes and a blue bin of water jugs and water filters. The more organized you are, the better your chances of successfully implementing your survival plan.
Be sure to include the date on each food item to ensure proper rotation. Always use the oldest items first, and replace food items before their shelf life expires. This is an easy tip to master—all you need is some masking tape, a permanent marker and legible handwriting.
Store items in multiple locations
When disaster strikes, there is no telling what will happen. It’s quite possible that you are fully prepared with more than enough food and supplies secured in a designated room. But what if that room floods or catches fire or a beam collapses?
This is why I recommend storing your survival items in several places—basement, attic, shed, storage unit, garage, cars—but be sure to have some sort of system in place to remember what’s stored where. Keep in mind, though, some items need to be stored in temperature-controlled environments. For example, always store food and medication in a cool, dry place. Other items like clothing and sleeping bags can be stored in areas that receive more heat.
You should also factor in the natural disasters most likely to hit your area and store items in places that are least likely to be destroyed. If you live in a hurricane-prone region, don’t keep everything in the basement, in case of flooding.
Know your system, write it down and share it
This is one of the most important steps in coordinating your survival gear. You can have the most highly organized system in the world, but it won’t do any good if no one else understands it. Teach your family members how you have everything laid out, the contents of each bin and how they are labeled, the rotation schedule you’ve set up for food and water and how you’ve documented your supplies.
One last tip: Make an active inventory list and refer to it regularly, so items can be replaced as they are used. This is a task every family member should be involved in as well.
When it comes to surviving disasters, preparation is key. To be adequately prepared, organization is essential. Even if you’re totally unorganized in other areas of your life, like I am, take the time to figure out a good system to keep track of your survival supplies today.
Jason Hanson is a former CIA Officer and New York Times bestselling author. After graduating from Radford University, Hanson joined the Arlington County Police Force. Not long thereafter, Jason set his sights on the Central Intelligence Agency. Once he was accepted into the CIA, he made a name for himself and received the CIA’s Exceptional Performance Award twice; once in 2005 and again in 2008. After over six years with the CIA, Hanson left to start a family and founded Spy Escape & Evasion with the goal of teaching men and women how to be safe using secrets and methods honed from years with the intelligence community. Then in 2014, Jason won a deal on the ABC hit show Shark Tank. Jason then authored his first New York Time Bestseller, Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life, and began expanding his spy instructing company by opening the 320-acre Spy Ranch. To get a free copy of his book or learn more about his training programs, visit www.SpyEscape.com.