MakeShift Challenge: Survive a Flood: Most Plausible

Vinny Forgione’s Most Plausible Winning Entry
by Lee D. Zlotoff
August 25, 2006

OK, I’ve got 15 minutes. From the article, it looks like I’ve already collected the following items:

(2) 7 gallon potable water containers
(1) 5 gallon gas can
Synthetic line (looks like rappelling line)
(1) possibly 2 sleeping bags
(10 larger blue container, est. 10–15 gallon capacity. Possibly potable water.

While you’re waiting, you may as well grab the two or three lanterns hanging outside on the porch-–they may come in handy.

You have your family to task with collecting other items and performing several tasks:

Send 1st teenager to get Dave-–MacGyver would. There is only enough time to get to the house, get him, and come back. Dave may be hung over, and probably (and hopefully) in the clothes from the night before.

Your rustic house may not be on the grid, but if you have any public utilities, SHUT THEM OFF-–power, gas, water, etc. The quake may have damaged the lines, and your house will be under water soon. Send the 2nd teenager out to do that. If you are off the grid for some utilities, or you’ve prepared for this emergency, your 2nd teenager may have time to gather the following:

  • Battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • Toilet paper!!!! And feminine hygiene products (if applicable)
  • Matches and/or lighter-–preferably a BBQ lighter
  • Gather more supplies. Send your spouse to gather the following:

  • Food. Hopefully you’ve planned for this, especially if you live in an area prone to earthquakes (California). Gather up stuff you can eat that does not require to be cooked-–power/cereal/granola/fruit bars, canned fruits/veggies, etc. If you didn’t plan, gathering will take longer
  • Manual can opener for cans, cups, forks/knives, and spoons
  • 3 of the largest stock pots/sauce pans you have (explanation later)

OK, 15 minutes later, and everyone has met up at the Suburban. I chose that vehicle because it seats more than the Prius, and has way better off-road capabilities. The standard ½-ton seats 6 or 9, and the ¾-ton seats 9, so hopefully, you seat nine. (My buddy had a old Suburban back in the day, and it could literally seat 10 people comfortably–-it was huge.) This can help with keeping warm at night, by running the SUV at night with the heat on. Sure, you’re wasting gas, but it saves the time for shelter and fire building.

You now have to survive for 5 days-–which is a good estimate, since emergency services are going to be very, very busy. The key, of course, is how to contact the outside world to let them know you need help. Cellphones are not working, due to the fact that you don’t get reception and the towers have been knocked out. That also prevents the use of your Suburban OnStar (if 06/07 model).

Personally, if I did live in such a remote area, the Suburban would be equipped with a CB radio–-just for situations like this. With the CB, you could contact emergency services/local sheriff/etc. It’s an easy solution, but what if you don’t have one in the vehicle?

Some may say that you cannot rely on emergency rescue teams to save you, since they are going to be very, very busy. However, clearing the driveway is probably not an option, since you can seriously cause some major harm to yourself by trying to clear it. Having one person with supplies go for help may be a viable option. Most TV situations I can remember from years of viewing would have the father volunteer to go, but of course Dave might get some pretty awful ideas once you’re gone, so I’m not up for that either. Barring any natural gas/propane leaks, the solution I’m most comfortable with is to start a large, controlled smoke signal.

Using the Boy Scout standard, I’d prefer to construct three smoking fires, away from anything flammable. This way, rescue crews could see the smoke from the fire and tell it’s a controlled, deliberate cry for help. This is what you need:

  • Dry and wet wood and wet leaves
  • Gasoline
  • The 3 large stock pots from inventory

Place stockpots in an area that will not cause anything else to catch, and downwind from where you are. If you have the space, place them far enough away from each other so that the smoke looks like three plumes. Place dry wood, wet wood, and leaves in the stockpots. Pour a couple of inches of gas in the pots. VERY CAREFULLY light the pots either by lighting a very long tree branch, makeshift roman candle, etc–-the idea is to light the fires and not yourself.

If you have only one pot, then do the best you can. Keep tabs on the fire and smoke to keep it under control, and lit during daylight hours. Replenish fuel, wood, leaves, etc. as necessary. Smoke at night isn’t going to do much good. If everything goes right, you should be out of there in no time. Good luck!

> MakeShift 06: Analysis, Commentary, and Winners