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Op-Ed: The Urban Grab-&-Go Bag

(Sean Linnane)
July 10, 2017

All opinion articles are the opinion of the author and not necessarily of American Military News.

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Recently, while presenting training on survival kits, a question was asked: “I’m going to Tbilisi, Georgia. Do I need to haul all this stuff with me?”

My reply was, “No, of course not.” The equipment and theory I was presenting for configuring survival kits was for individuals traveling through remote wilderness environments. Its simply not practical for a business traveler to pack items such as signal panels, fire making materials, water purification materials and containers, etcetera. Instead, I shared insights from when I advise corporate clients traveling abroad.

In an earlier op-ed I described the categories used in making survival kits – the five basic needs: shelter, food & water, medical, navigation and signaling – the concept of redundancy, and that items should be as multi-purpose as possible. These principles carry over for a business traveler’s security purposes, although the focus is on short-term survival or evasion in an urban environment.

The basic concept involves keeping a bag packed, ready to “Grab-&-Go” in case rapid evacuation is required from one’s hotel room. The bag should contain the traveler’s passport, other travel documents, credit cards and cash, of course, but also may contain items such as:

Shelter – Depending on the climate, this may involve warm gear, but at the very least should include a hat, rainwear or a collapsible umbrella. Consider a change of socks and underwear.

Food & Water – I carry an unbreakable steel flask for drinking water, and have nutritional snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and protein bars.

Medical – This is a big one. I carry a robust medical kit not only for treating trauma-type injuries associated with natural disasters or criminal/terrorist events, but including medications for traveler’s digestive problems (diarrhea and/or constipation), cold, flu and allergy medications, painkillers and some antibiotics. It is critical to keep these medications in their original containers for going through airport security. I also include basic first aid materials for minor cuts & scrapes. Antibiotic ointment is a must; it speeds healing and prevents infection.

Navigation – Local street maps are a good idea. Because in the event of a security situation, cell towers may be turned off and smartphone internet capabilities may not be available. In my recent travels I have found street maps are still sold in shops within large international airports. Its also easier to orient oneself looking at a large paper map than studying a screen on a smartphone or a GPS about the size of a postage-stamp.

Signaling – These items include your personal electronics and also a small, powerful flashlight. Another item to consider is a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that operates on the 406 MHz frequencies as a contingency or emergency means of communication. These devices are incredibly useful – when you need them – and run as little as $150. A PLB could make all the difference in the world in the case of a natural disaster.

Extra items that I carry in my Grab-&-Go Bag include a multi-tool (which of course I must put into my checked luggage when flying), pens, pencils and note pads, an extra pair of reading glasses and of course a comb and dental kit. Its also a good idea to have phone numbers for local contacts and your embassy or consulate written down in one or two places, as well as entered in your phone. Once you’ve successfully departed the scene of the disaster, it is imperative to let your people know that you’re okay and on your way.

The Grab-&-Go Bag is kept nearby, packed and ready to go, as you turn in for the evening in your hotel. This technique was put to the test one night in London, when the power panel in my suite began smoking then burst into flames. I was dressed and down by the reception within minutes, my Go-Bag on my shoulder. The situation was resolved and later I was able to retrieve my suitcase and other belongings, but the important stuff – my passport, other ID, personal electronics, credit cards and cash – I had with me when I evacuated.

Sean Linnane is the pseudonym of a retired Special Forces career NCO (1st SFG, 3d SFG, 10th SFG). He continues to serve as a security professional on six continents.