Forum Index » Philosophy & Technique » What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world?

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Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? on 09/27/2011 10:01:00 MDT Print View

Watching TV about some refugees events from the last 100 years, they have a few things in common:

1) They are leaving in a hurry
2) They are taking only what they can carry
3) They are carrying too much weight
4) They are traveling long distance on foot
5) And of course, it's always in the worse weather
6) They are traveling with the elderly and the young.
7) They don't have bush craft survival skills
8) They are under stress, duress.

I was thinking about New Orleans, Haiti and the eastern Europeans, Eurasian and African war refugees.

BPL people here have refined the art of being fully self-sufficient, from shelter, water purification to long distance mobility.

Since I live in an earthquake, tsunami prone area, I've thought about it, if I had 10 minutes to pack gear and family, in anticipation of home evacuation, could I do it? what planning is involved? since there are so many unknown factors during a disaster.

I'm sure you have watched random misery on TV, and thought to yourself: "Why don't they just do _ _ _ "

Rule #1 for this thread: don't stray the direction of politics (or take it to Chaff), let's keep it BPL.

Edited by RodneyOndaRock on 09/27/2011 10:11:16 MDT.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F - M

Locale: North Idaho
Re: What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? on 09/27/2011 10:20:19 MDT Print View

Interesting question. I wonder how the homeless community copes in these situations, given that they *do* have many of the skills you mention.

I've done some research into the problems of disaster relief (from an architectural point of view). I think ultralight principles can be applied to some of the problems--this is actually a research area I'm interested in. Hadn't considered the travel aspect, as would occur with people fleeing a war zone, for example. But disaster relief (especially housing) is an extremely difficult set of problems.

There's a good argument for having a plan, to be sure--I always pack too much when I do it last minute, and that's without the added pressure of fleeing for my life.

I suspect ideas like pop-can alky stoves and the different ways a flat sheet of plastic can be folded into shelters would spread very quickly among a group of refugees. If there's one thing humans as a species are good at, it's surviving and making do.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Refugees on 09/27/2011 10:46:28 MDT Print View

I have many refugees I call friends. Ask any of them the most important thing they brought and they will tell you one thing: photographs.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Suggestions for the 3rd world? on 09/27/2011 10:52:57 MDT Print View

One thing to "get outta Dodge" with a lightweight load on your back or in your car as an American or westerner in a country with rule of law, deeds, property insurance, portfolios in cyberspace, etc... Quite another in other countries where verbal agreements, customs, and tribes are the law, so they stick it out unless it's literally the last moment. Then flee reluctantly if they can.

Also the developing world can draw on resources albeit slower than we can (economic development in one of our war zones was part of my previous job for the military). Most have sent the brightest kid to America or Europe (maybe Asia now) to be a doctor or engineer, or send the youngsters off to be laborers, where they are expected to remit part or most of their earnings to keep the family property. So many have resources we don't expect.

As per the OP, not sure 3rd worlders can prep (lightweight or not) for disasters as splitting is not their mindset except for nomadic tribes, who have their own set patterns.

Maybe they could prep to be nomads as to their level of technology (wealthy Kuwaitis would camp in the desert in big tents with rugs on some Thursdays IIRC, more for tradition than anything else, though), ..... but then there's problems with actual nomads in terms of grazing and movement.

(edit: didn't read the OP fully til I got on a big screen - deng 13' Macbook - I'm gonna need a bigger iMac).

Edited by hknewman on 09/27/2011 13:10:00 MDT.

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Refugees (photographs.) on 09/27/2011 11:22:34 MDT Print View

@Ben Crocker (alexdrewreed)

Photographs... good point. weighs nothing, as long as its not photo book.
it does help with the long term psychological aspect of staying focused.

Thank you

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? (Homeless community) on 09/27/2011 11:33:04 MDT Print View

@David Drake (DavidDrake)

Good point. I suspect that the permanent US Downtown city homeless community have adapted to scavenging for resources, food and clothes from trashcans, as well as mastering the sympathy panhandling techniques, and sleeping in "stealth camping" locations.

Some former city dwellers, now turned into war and disaster refugees do cross over to the homeless community, but they will have to learn these new "on the road" skills.

The self-sufficient refugee BPL situation I was thinking about would be for the short term, such as 6 weeks, until adequate community or gov help can be provisioned.

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
BPL refugee sanitation on 09/27/2011 11:40:20 MDT Print View

I read many BPL posts about toilet paper on the popular trails.

One person doing it, cosmetic problem, but a few thousand refugees in a small camp area - ecological and sanitary disaster, like the porto-potty bathrooms at a concert sponsored by a beer co.

The "dig a hole with a trowel in the woods" approach would not be sustainable when you have a tight community. I suspect they would need to spread out to keep disease from incrementally getting into the water supply.

Edited by RodneyOndaRock on 09/27/2011 11:44:42 MDT.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? on 09/28/2011 11:30:19 MDT Print View

I would not presume to advise anyone in a culture so different from my own on what to do in a disaster/war situation. I've survived a few disaster situations of my own by being lucky not to have had to evacuate. I had a huge pile of stuff to take with me ready to go, not the least of which included several birds in large and heavy cages. My boyfriend did get caught in a disaster. He managed to get out with his underwear drawer but lost every thing else he owned, including important papers and photos. It's the photos he misses the most.

However, ever since I learned about backpacking light I've felt I could do homelessness pretty well in my own country. With a little advice from folks like Daniel Suelo. Look him up if you have never heard of him. He lives without money.

Craig Savage
(tremelo) - F

Locale: San Jacinto Mountains
What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? on 09/28/2011 13:34:55 MDT Print View

go ultra-light on your trust for 1st world Leaders that claim to care about human rights. it's not political, it is what it is

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
war, disaster, reality on 09/28/2011 20:40:34 MDT Print View

Rodney, sadly, the reality of being in a war refugee situation really makes the question totally moot. While not getting into the details or sources, these I have heard first hand.

When you are a refugee you are fighting rats and other scavengers for food, as well as of course the soldiers, who themselves are getting somewhat desperate for food, which is growing increasingly scarce as the conflict breaks up standard food production / distribution channels. If you are a mother you are trying to avoid getting your daughter raped, or killed, and you are praying your sick children do not die of some disease you wouldn't expect to get in non war time. That's before they die, after, you just carry the sadness and loss, and maybe a few possessions you might be lucky enough to hold onto through the nights of sleeping in fields and empty farms etc. There are no nice neat stories, and no neat packing methods that will cover a soldier, or just a plain thug, or both, taking everything from you and leaving you lucky to be alive. So forget that notion of planning for something you can't plan for if you are talking about the real world and real war refugees. Basically you really do not want to be a true war refugee, get out before it gets to that point if you can, that's the only real meaningful planning you can do.

For disasters, varies so much country to country it's almost meaningless. If I look just here, what I want to have, and have, is a good, efficient, white gas stove, msr, with a fair amount of fuel, a gallon at least, and the neat tricks I've learned here about cozy cooking and so on. And a decent amount of dried foods. Or canned. But disasters are weird too, just so hard to plan for, a single major nuke meltdown makes all the plans collapse as you get an emergency evacuation notice. If I remember right, when Chernobyl blew, after hiding that fact for some excess time, the government basically forced everyone to leave with almost no notice at all, may even have told them it was temporary to avoid precisely the situation you are wondering about, people loading up excessively on their possessions and clogging the evacuation channels, don't remember the exact story, but there was really nothing you could do, it was go now, and never come back. Tsunami is the same in a sense, just bang, either you were in a safe area or you weren't. Earthquakes are a lot more forgiving, some stuff falls down but most of it is ok.

Re the homeless, I saw a lot of hobo types on my last trip a few weeks ago, range from normal standard, and important, cheap, heavy duty, gear, to middle aged lost looking guys walking down the trails with a black garbage bag. Saw a blue tarp and sleeping bag campsite by the trail, was told of other locations to camp too, so it was clearly a standard and known idea. But these guys don't care about ultra light, they just have their pad, tent, sleeping bag, and pack maybe, doesn't really matter what it weighs as long as its tough and durable and can take a beating, that was my impression. Or they are so lost they just stumble along with whatever they have in that black garbage bag. Ask the hobos would be my suggestion, not ultralight backpackers, the hobos actually live the life and know how to make it with almost no resources on a weekly basis, actually kind of impressed me to be honest.

Tim Haynes

Locale: Mid Atlantic
BPL advice for disaster/war refugees on 10/21/2011 12:02:03 MDT Print View

I think the advice varies radically depending on where you are talking about. Too many possible cultures and scenarios for me to even attempt to address 3rd world issues, but I think from a practical standpoint, it's worth discussing BPL-driven advice for people in the US living in disaster-prone areas.

I think Clelland's "go box" idea is a good idea to adapt. And you could have a specific disaster go-box, with a water filter, first aid, shelter, etc... ready to pack at a moment's notice.

I know a lot of people have a fireproof/floodproof safe or other object where they keep important paperwork. Might be worth throwing a waterproof stuff sack in there that has room for your important paperwork, and keeping a flash drive in there with digital versions of all of your important pictures, documents, etc... In a pinch it would be great in 10 minutes to know you could pack gear, important documents, and photos, etc., and head out the door.

We all know the most important considerations are clean water and shelter/warmth. Those should be easy to pack. Ideally, I'd also recommend small valuables and a wad of cash, since you may need them to barter with if electronic systems are down across a wide area. Other things that might be worth their weight in gold are things like emergency blankets -- super cheap, small and lightweight, but incredibly useful in a crisis. They might be ever better to have around in terms of bartering.

Ounce for ounce, water filtration is probably the most valuable thing you can grab. Tarps and bivies follow close behind. If you can keep a family drinking clean water and dry, almost anything else can be worked out on the road. Oh, and a can opener. Always have a can opener.

Jeremy B.
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Have a go-bag, avoid the crowds on 10/21/2011 14:23:54 MDT Print View

Living in the SF Bay Area we are regularly advised to have a go-bag with essentials for 72 hour survival and important documentation. 1st world denizens, of course, have access to the Internet for distributed backups of important photos, documents, and even access to wealth.

The best advice I can think of for 3rd worlders is the standard rules of panic:
1. Don't panic.
2. If you do panic, be the first to panic.

Sticking things out in the hope that they'll get better is, I think, more likely to get someone killed. (Whether from solders, lack of sanitation, or epidemics makes little difference.) My own preference would be to pack light and head for the hills. As I see it, the farther ahead of (or away from) the main body of refugees, the better.

My second piece of advice would be to get on good terms with your neighbors. A village that can maintain order, provide for common defense, and enforce good sanitation, is far safer than a village where it's "every family for themselves".

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: BPL advice for disaster/war refugees on 10/21/2011 14:51:00 MDT Print View

Interesting question. Having just lived through the Great Tohoku Earthquake and spent time up north working with survivors of the tsunami, and also putting together a website devoted to helping non-Japanese survivors get information about what to do, plus finishing putting together two survival kits for my partner and me, I've had some experience in what to do. Disaster Japan

UL ideas are helpful to a point. The mantra of keeping it simple and efficient and as light as possible still holds true. During the extreme stress and fear that you feel you really don't have the time or the mental slack to deal with anything that makes things harder or that requires slow, deliberate preparation. There were times during the rocking of the buildings when my hands were shaking so badly I couldn't lift a spoon. I certainly didn't have the capacity to pack carefully for all eventualities. When the big one hit, my partner and I barely had enough time to throw two daypacks of clothes, water, food, tarp, ground pad, first aid kit, and wood stove with pot, cups, spoons, lighter and matches together... and that only because I already had my box of UL hiking gear ready. It took all of 5 minutes. If I hadn't had stuff ready we wouldn't have been able to get out with anything. Forget any of our other belongings: the rooms were so badly overturned and a mess that we couldn't get into them, let alone find anything.

In preparing my emergency kits I found out a number of things.

1) Think of the survival kit in three parts a) the immediate escape b) the short term gear (two or three days). c) the long-term hunkering down and waiting gear, which has to take into account long-term food and water sources, disease prevention, changing seasons, and mental care.
2) The gear must be durable. Remember you can't just go to the store to replace stuff. It has to last andbe easily repairable. There is going to be a lot of rough use in a landscape that is anything but easily negotiable. Up north it looked like a nuclear bomb had hit, with mangled steel girders, broken concrete, razor sharp wires and glass and metal shreds everywhere.
3) You have to have protective gear, like helmets, leather work gloves, and reinforced boots. Just walking around is dangerous, and running shoes just won't do it, especially where nails are likely underfoot. There will also be lots of mud to contend with, especially in a tsunami zone..
4) You won't be able to freely travel everywhere. There is too much damage, cars are often destroyed or unavailable, as is gas, and the military, SAR, and relief groups will need people to stay put in evacuation centers to keep people out of the way of operations, keep people safe, and concentrate the dispersal of basic survival goods. It also helps the medical groups to keep track of spreading diseases.
5) Depending on where you are, there may not be any help coming for quite a while, so you may be completely on your own. This calls for tools like a axes, proper knives, crowbars, hammers, saws, rope, metal cutters (good for making stoves), and proper sewing kits. It also means having a good, full medical kit for things that you normally wouldn't get when hiking; remember, this isn't a leisurely jaunt away from civilization that you can hop right back to... there may not be any established services to go back to. It may be like some areas of Tohoku where literally everything was destroyed or washed away, including entire buildings.

I think the thing to keep in mind is not "UL", but "simple, not requiring specialty fuels, lightweight if possible, and durable". Also the initial emergency escape kit must be ready to be picked up at the drop of a hat and no thinking involved. There simply isn't time for it.

When up in Tohoku the single thing that almost all survivors wanted after getting away safe we're their photographs if family and friends, of people. That's what I spent a week volunteering to retrieve from the wreckage for the survivors.

Edited by butuki on 10/21/2011 14:55:57 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: What BPL advice would you give to disaster/war refugees of the 3rd world? on 10/21/2011 14:52:07 MDT Print View

Their reality is so different than my own, I wouldn't know where to begin. I think your question has an underlying assumption that everything was good before the war or disaster began, which is probably never the case. The civil wars and third world disasters we have been witness to are in the most atrocious conditions imaginable. Having what little you have taken or destroyed, your loved ones tortured and killed, and your own life in constant peril would be more than most first-worlders could handle. Trying to survive when you are sick, starving and terrorized is a constant psychological struggle. Viktor Frankl's classic book, "Man's Search for Meaning" deals with his survival in the Nazi death camps and covers this well. I don't think I could take it.

I had a similar discussion after Katrina. IF the local law enforcement folk would let me out of town, I could make it a long way with my regular hiking kit. I could provide myself with shelter, a good selection of clothing, water purification and a cook kit. I could easily pack up enough food from home to keep me going for 3-5 days, which should put me 60-100 miles out of the area, possibly farther. But that does assume my own relative wealth and health. Add something basic like a broken leg to that mix and you're toast. Walking that far with the clothes on my back and no food or safe water would turn it into an epic journey rather than a good hard walk across the countryside. Imagine doing it with people trying to kill you at every step. Nightmares.

Plan, prepare--- and pray!

Khader Ahmad
(337guanacos) - F

Locale: Pirineos, Sierra de la Demanda
Advice form two experts on 10/23/2011 15:23:06 MDT Print View

I worked in Jordan from 1999 to 2001, and I got some advice from my arab teacher. He is a Libanese Maronite Christian, had to flee just with his clothes on and some photos in 1982. A few years after, he was working in Kuwait when Saddam said hello, once again he only had time to flee.

Afterwards he ALWAYS had with him his Passports, a pound of gold in small certified ingots, 20-30 tobacco flip tops (he was not a smoker), and had several AK's close if he could.

My father was a refugee, he was a kid then and my grandfather took some pictures, the key of his house, a shotgun and his blind horse (they had to eat it later), I should say that he didn't had much more. He told me that the main problems are clean water, lack of higiene leading to disease (no letrine discipline), and mainly despair (if you don't want to live anymore, you'll die quickly).