Bugout Bags and Tornadoes

Monster tornado (May  20, 2013) ...item 3.. Two girls, 9, who were 'inseparable' best friends,  found dead in devastated Oklahoma elementary school (22 May 2013) ...item 4.. Oklahoma Tornado (May 23, 2013 / 14 Sivan 5773) ...

Today we are going to take a short break away from our Prepper Basics series to discuss a disaster that is much closer to home right now for many people in the Midwestern United States.

Tornado preparedness is a topic I find to be especially important since it is the number 1 most likely “SHTF” disaster in my personal, local threat assessment. Recently Illinois experienced the largest tornado in history to ever hit the state. Hundreds of people’s homes were completely leveled and there were numerous injuries and fatalities caused by this massive storm.

Victims of these kinds of situations have experienced the terrifying power of tornadoes face to face and many have had their lives completely devastated within a matter of minutes. After the worst has passed and they climb out of the rubble that used to be their home, many people unfortunately realize that the nightmare is far from over. While the storm may have passed, they are now homeless and often have nothing but the clothes on their back to rebuild.

This is why having a practical, well-thought out bugout bag is so important. Your B.O.B. could literally be your lifeline to civilization after a disaster like this and can drastically reduce the time it will take to recover from it. All you have to do is keep this bag stocked and readily available in your home, preferably in the area of your home where you intend on sheltering in a tornado.

Below is a detailed list of what you should be packing in your bugout bag that would be invaluable in the aftermath of a tornado.


Ready to eat foods – In the aftermath of a tornado, it may be quite a while before you see your next real meal. Having at least 72 hours of ready to eat foods can essentially guarantee that you’ll at least be able to eat when you want to during the aftermath of a tornado even if you are unable to obtain relief supplies.

First aid kit
– Cuts and scrapes go hand in hand with tornadoes. It could be hours before you are able to be seen by a medical professional. In fact, several people have recounted stories about being trapped underneath their houses for days at a time. If you were in this kind of situation and had an injury, a well-stocked first aid kit could literally save your life or the life of a loved one.

Shoes – It’s possible that you could have to get to your tornado shelter area with very little warning. You may not even have time to grab your shoes. Even if you’re wearing shoes, they may not be suitable for being outside or walking through the rubble in the aftermath of a tornado.

Change of clothes – Again, you may not be dressed appropriately when sheltering in a tornado. The change of clothes in your bugout bag may be the only clothes you have left after the disaster has passed.

Water and water purification methods – After a tornado, grid utilities like electricity and water could be disrupted. You need to not only have access to purified water to drink, but you also need to have a way to purify water since there is no telling when responders will show up with supplies.

Documentation or survival binder – We’ve gone over the importance of a documentation/survival binder in several posts in the past. This is the exact type of scenario where it could be a lifesaver. Last year alone, over 1000 people were unable to verify their identity after a tornado had destroyed their homes, along with any proof of ID. Without proof of identity you can’t begin the insurance claim for your damage, check in to a hotel or even request new credit or debit cards from your bank.

Cash – In a disaster scenario like a tornado, it’s very possible that you could lose or leave behind your wallet or purse. For all you know your debit and credit cards could be miles away. Once the immediate disaster is over and you are in the “waiting” phase, cash is likely the only thing that will separate you from being completely dependent on others for basic survival needs.

Prepaid cell phone (preferably smartphone) with chargers – In a tornado, it’s very possible that your phone could be damaged or lost. Although cell signals are typically non-existent after a disaster like a tornado, having a cheap, pre-paid smartphone (with chargers) could be your only communication tool you have. Even if cell signals are down, internet connections are typically available. A smartphone with wifi access can allow you to keep in contact with family and friends if you can get to an area with an open connection.

Defensive measures – It is an unfortunate fact of life that there are people out there that prey on others in disaster scenarios. You should always have a backup defensive tool on your person, especially after a disaster. Be sure however that you are following all applicable laws and have documentation (if necessary) ready to prove that you are lawfully able to carry a weapon outside your home.

100 feet of paracord – There are literally hundreds if not thousands of uses for paracord. In a disaster like a tornado, you are going to be very limited to the equipment and supplies that you have. In a situation like this, paracord could come in very handy.

Crow bar / Pry bar – In the aftermath of a disaster, you may be required to dig yourself out of what was once your home or you may need to remove large pieces of debris that could be trapping a loved one. You also may need to be able to help rescue your neighbors as well if first responders have not arrived. A crow bar or pry bar would be an invaluable tool in these situations.

Breathing masks –Dust, mold, asbestos and other air-borne particles are everywhere after a tornado. A basic breathing mask can help mitigate the risks of breathing in these particles.

Books – After the initial disaster is over, all medical treatment has been administered and all the important phone calls have been made, believe it or not you may actually have nothing left to do but wait. Having a couple of good books is a great way to pass the time.

Important data backup flash drive – A lot of tornado survivors will tell you that the worst part of rebuilding after the disaster is realizing that every important photo or document they had is gone. Although a physical binder of documents is extremely important, having those documents saved to a heavy-duty flash drive is a very good idea too. You can also use this drive to back up any important photos so that even if you are left with nothing, you still have your memories safe and sound.

If you haven’t noticed by now, there has been very little mention of “survival gear” in this list. Although there are definitely some people out there that live in remote areas where relief efforts may take time to reach, and therefore outdoor survival would be a very real situation, most of us will never end up in a situation where these things are necessary.

Far too many people in the preparedness community advocate loading up a bugout bag with the latest and greatest survival gear as if bugging out for the apocalypse is a real situation that’s right around the corner. These things are not going to help you in the majority (if not all) of the situations that you are likely to use your bugout bag in. I’m all for wilderness survival skills and gear. It definitely has a place (somewhere outside of my bugout bag), but when faced with the real-life nightmare that a tornado could present, you owe it to yourself and to your family to prepare your bugout bags for real life, not Hollywood disasters.

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  1. Roberta Bogner

    One of my coworkers from Washington survived the tornado (her house suffered no damage) BUT went to check on relatives and then was denied entrance back into her house for days. No coat, no anything. So one must remember to never be separated from the bug-out supplies. This would be problematic if one were at work while the supplies are at home.

  2. Garret D

    Great List, I definitely agree that having this type of bag is great for emergencies. I always make sure I have proof of identification in mine. Birth Certificate at the very least in a fireproof safe. It may not be a bag, but its something I can easily grab in a hurry along with my knife! Thanks again. Great Article!

  3. Carrie Monts

    don’t forget flashlight

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