The four urban kits that support and complete the on-body kit.
On 22 December 2004, by Schwert
Part II of this article covers the four supplemental kits: coat/hat, shoulder bag, desk kit, and car kit designed to compliment the on-body kit discussed in Part I.
These kits are part of the concentric rings of kits...each getting more capable or providing better items to assist in responding to an urban disaster.
Part I of this article covered the on-body kit and my kit philosophy and potential urban scenarios that drove most of my decisions in building these kits. Part I of this article really should be read prior to this part....actually it is nearly required reading before proceeding. Urban emergencies and kit philosophy are, in my mind so important that I will briefly cover these points again, but I refer the reader to Part I for a full explanation of these details. (3 links back to Part I in the first paragraph...yes I really mean it).
Preparation Philosophy, revisited
My preparation philosophy relies upon a set of useful tools, a set of related skills that together comprise the basic kit that is carried or worn at all times. Part II of this article covers the carried kits. These are supplemental kits to the on-body kit and are an integral and important part of what I call my "concentric ring" approach to kits. Part I covered the innermost ring...the on-body kit, this article covers the next 4 rings...the coat/hat kit the shoulder carry bag of items, the desk kit, and finally the car kit.
The comprehensive home kit will not be covered in this pair of articles nor will specialty kits for our volunteer efforts with local CERT and RACES communications teams. These more specialized kits will possibly be covered in future articles. I strongly recommend looking into membership and training with these community groups. They always stress taking care of yourself and family before moving into the role of community volunteer. The on-body kit and the kits discussed below are primarily meant to make it possible for me and my wife to find ourselves well enough prepared so that some of our efforts can be directed toward the community needs in the event of an emergency.
Urban Scenarios and Their Influence on Kit, revisited
As I stated in Part I the understanding and evaluation of the urban scenarios that affect each individual is probably the most important aspect of kit development. Each individual must do this exercise to develop the best set of tools and skills for their expected uses. My kits are designed for my environment which is vastly different than others. While certain situations are universal, the type and scope of items and skills needed to cope can be very different and are very dependent on your local conditions. I refer the reader to Part I for a full explanation of my local conditions and urban disaster scenarios and their influence on the kits described below. Again for the purpose of this article I will use a natural disaster scenario, earthquake, to illustrate my kit development. However, urban disturbances, and terrorism are also part of my kit thinking.
Again I have 4 goals in mind should a disaster strike while I am at work. My first goal will probably be to get out of my workplace building rapidly and hopefully uninjured. Second goal will be to evaluate the situation and take care of myself and coworkers as needed. Third goal will be to find out about my family and get home if possible. Fourth goal is to evaluate my ability to contribute to the community needs through my volunteer efforts.
With that introduction we will jump into the next layer of kits. I think of these as concentric rings but the next two pieces of kit are really complimentary to themselves and to the on-body kit. Neither the coat/hat or shoulder bag kit can stand alone, but each supports the others and together with the on-body kit makes a firm tripod of support for me should the disaster allow me to exit my worksite.
The coat/hat kit is an important part of the concentric rings of kits. It is meant to supplement my on-body kits shelter options by providing solid protection for both wet and cold. The coat choice varies with the time of year. It is usually one of 4 Filson coats. My most worn coat is a Filson Oiled Double Tin Cloth Original Hunters coat (style 66, no longer listed). This one is perfect for the cooler, wetter parts of the year. During the Fall and Spring, I many times choose either an Oiled Shelter cloth Filson Packer (style 461N) with or without wool liner or my Filson Oiled Shelter cloth Waterfowler (style 435). In the later spring or summer I use a Filson Photographers jacket in Safari cloth (style 566, no longer made). I keep this light jacket at work when it is not worn daily during the warmer months.
The Hunter's Coat and Waterfowler nearly always contains these items: A CPR mask, latex gloves, a plastic garbage bag or nylon poncho (depending on time of year), some Paracord, several AA batteries for the HAM radio (in the 12g shell loops), and 4 CR123A lithium batteries for the flashlights, waterproof notebook and pen, an Alpaca earflapped stocking hat, Cashmere scarf, and wool fingerless gloves or mittens. The game pocket of these two coats are perfect for some of these flatter items, and the pocket configuration holds the other pieces securely and available.
Alpaca hat and wool fingerless gloves
The lighter coats (Packer and Photographer) always contain the CPR mask, latex gloves, plastic garbage bag, notebook and pen, Alpaca earflapped hat, and wool fingerless gloves.
The Filson coats are water-resistant (except for the summer jacket) and wind proof. The plastic garbage bags are for additional protective use as rainwear in constant or long-term exposure. During the cooler months I frequently wear a sweater (Filson Waterfowl) under the coat and keep these two items together with my shoulder bag for a quick grab and go.
Any good comfortable coat that provides wind and water protection would meet my kit requirements. I particularly like the Filson designs, but most folks would probably choose a Goretex anorak or some such. The small contribution of items is mostly redundant to my Vest or shoulder bag, but I carry these items as they are easy to get to and comfortable. Filson coats, particularily those in oiled tin cloth are stiff at first and require some breaking in to be comfortable. Once broken in they are a pleasure to wear. It should also be noted that these oiled garments are not meant to be cleaned....Filson states "Clean by wiping or brushing only - gains character with use." This just about covers it, they are indeed coats that come with character and gain more as they age.
Along with my coat, I always wear a fully-brimmed hat, not a cap. Summer months this is usually a Tilley cotton T4 hat. This hat can be squashed or stuffed just about anywhere, is rain proof once wet, and perfect, comfortable sun protection. It can easily be carried in the rear game pocket of the coats. During the wetter cooler months my choice is an Akubra Lightning Ridge fur felt hat. This is rain proof, excellent sun protection and slightly warm. If it is real cold, the Alpaca hat can be worn under either the Tilley or Akubra...not exactly styling but damned efficient. I also sometimes wear my Bailey Lite Packer (pictured in Part I of the article. This is a lighter wool hat that can be rolled for pocket carry. My vest contains a boiled wool stocking hat, or a large bandana should I not have my coat/hat kit upon exit from the building. The years have dramatically reduced my natural cover and a hat is essential for sun and rain protection and warmth.
Shoulder Bag Kit
The shoulder bag kit is another companion part of the ring of kits. The on-body, coat, and shoulder bag is my hoped for trilogy that will definitely exit the worksite with me. The three together should provide everything I need to meet my 4 immediate and short-term goals outlined in the introduction. This kit both supplements my shelter options and expands my radio communication capabilities as well adding a few more capable tools than are carried in the On-Body kit. A few comfort items are also added, and since this is a daily carry bag a few items strictly not emergency gear will be in the bag.
My shoulder bag is a Filson Medium Carry-on bag (style 234) made in heavy oiled twill, but any small backpack, or comfortable shoulder bag of sufficient volume would suffice. The contents of this bag vary a bit depending on the season but generally contain the following items.
Shoulder Bag, Shelter Items
is augmented by the light but excellent Filson Oiled Cover cloth rain pants which can slip over boots and pants. These roll to a compact bundle and are excellent wind and rain pants. A wool shirt or Merino wool long john top can expand the comfort range of my coat (wool shirt pictured). I also carry a coated nylon Poncho (blue in picture, sometimes this is carried in my coat game pocket) and 50+ feet of paracord. An extra pair of long wool sox and a Cashmere scarf, again if not in the coat kit. A heavy duty, 3 mil, 55 gallon (208L) black contractors bag and a couple of bandanas complete the shelter improvements aspect of the shoulder bag kit. In warmer months I remove the wool shirt, scarf and sometimes the rain pants, but retain the poncho and trash bag.
Shoulder Bag, Tools
Should shelter building be part of the after emergency preparations, I carry a few light but capable tools to assist. Since my worksite is right across the street from a large home improvement store, it is likely that various materials can be had to construct emergency shelter. I carry the very small but remarkably capable Mini Gransfors Bruks hand ax, a light, thin and legal Dale Chudzinski Full-tang Nessmuk knife and a Felco model 60 garden saw to assist in shelter construction, firemaking etc. A small roll of duct tape and a few nylon cable ties complete the tools portion of the shoulder bag kit. I also have a redundant fire making set consisting of a Swedish Military Firesteel and a filled K&M matchcase (orange in photo).
Shoulder Bag, FAK, Repair, Sundry
First Aid Kit.
I also carry a slightly more comprehensive First Aid kit that includes more compresses, gauze rolls, tape, CPR mask, latex gloves, and some aspirin and Aleve. Again this is not a huge kit, but it should suffice. It is contained in a plastic tape box and stuff sack (green in picture background).
I am currently an emergency exit warden and have been provided with a First Aid kit that is part of the exit materials for our workgroup. This bag contains a wide selection of bandages, tools, tape, sterile water, eye wash, burn gel, bloodstopper compresses, trauma dressings and other items. (More about this in the Desk Kit section below.
Various small pieces of kit are also carried. These include 6-CR123A Lithium batteries for the on-body flashlights and one Sure-Fire lamp assembly; these are all carried in a waterproof Sure-Fire battery holder. I usually have one roll of Gold Dollars ($25) since this is about the only currency that I will not spend and coupled with a current bus schedule, can get me home if needed. I have a 1L plastic water pouch (empty) and a full unopened bottle of water purification tablets, (Potable Aqua). I also have a surplus GI mending kit with safety pins, thread, needles, buttons and a mini thimble (green flat nylon pouch in center). My 6X monocular, if not carried in the on-body Vest kit, also finds a home here. This is particularly useful to observe the bridges crossing the lakes. Should I have to walk home, I can walk to the lake, and carefully scan the various bridges for foot or car traffic using this handy compact lens, then proceed towards the one most likely usable.
Shoulder Bag, HAM Plus
via HAM radio is provide in the on-body kit, but a fully charged Li-Ion battery and the shorter antennas can only work for so far or for so long. The shoulder bag greatly increases my communication capabilities. I carry an additonal Li-Ion radio battery and with this along with the loaded AA pack that is now part of my belt carry, I have a couple of reasonable use day's worth of radio time. In addition I carry 4 additional AA batteries for the HAM radio pack, so along with the two-pair in my vest, the extra pair in my belt case, and several in my winter coats I am fairly well covered. I also carry my radio operation manual, a radio notebook (Moleskine notebook that most times is shirt pocket carry), a headset (microphone/headphones), and 2 antenna extension cables. Most importantly I carry a long antenna which gives me much greater range with the handheld radio. This antenna can be remotely mounted or hoisted into a tree with the extension cables should I set up a base station for emergency operation.
Most of the time I also have a few comfort items which include a 600mL SnowPeak Titanium mug, and about a half dozen Tea bags. I sometimes have a couple of candy bars or energy bars along also. The mug, tea bags, gold dollars, matchcase, SureFire Battery pack, and candy bars all pack compactly together in a stuff sack.
This bag nearly always has my digital camera with spare battery, spare memory card, battery charger, mini-tripod and camera operation manual. I remember lying under my desk watching the lights crash down and wishing I had a camera...silly probably but it would have made a great shot. This bag nearly always has a reading book of some sort, a bit of TP and frequently a few scraps of leather for braid work.
Emergency Exit Gear.
A pair of Gargoyles clear safety glasses are also supposed to be in the shoulder bag. I need to find them.
Again this kit is not just an emergency item bag as it contains several items that I use daily. The digital camera, the book, the rain pants, and HAM radio items are all frequently used. The batteries are replaced, rotated or charged frequently.
This bag with my on-body kit and coat/hat kit provides a very solid set of items that should carry me through the first initial hours of an emergency. My planning is to always have these 3 kits upon exit if possible.
The desk kit is not exactly designed to be taken out of the building as all the other kits so far discussed, but it could be if I so desired. However it contains items that may be added to my exiting kits if possible depending on the emergency scenario. Most of the items listed below are stored in an old computer bag. It can be grabbed to go, or sorted through as needed. Most of the items would be distributed or left on site not carried home, but again depending on the event in question.
This is 3 foot heavy Gorilla bar with carry strap. This item is somewhat unique and was added specifically as a result on the 2001 quake. Our emergency exits were locked at the loading dock. Several of us had to pry open the loading dock door with scrap lumber to exit the building. Since this quake our building management has changed the emergency exit locks, but I still carry this pry bar out on drills....think my vest gets some looks try carrying a 3' bar out. This item will exit with me after an earthquake, both to clear the path out and later in search and rescue operations should they be carried out. This bar resides under my desk in the spot I would go to if we started shaking. I have added a leather carry strap to make carrying it out easier and safer.
Again under my desk I keep a half dozen+ half liter bottles of commercially packaged water. I can drop these in my coat pockets as I exit, or possibly even drink them if I should be trapped under debris.
After the last earthquake our building was red-tagged and only construction personal were allowed in the oldest, most damaged section. Our lab was considered critical workspace and a few of us were authorized entry to work in it providing we wore hard hats at all times. I kept my hat and have it stored on top of my desk kit bag alongside my pry bar.
I have 2 additional NIOSH N95 dust masks in this kit for exit, most likely to share with others as I have in my vest.
Lightstick and cheap poncho.
My workplace, in an incredibly generous effort provided all occupants with a lightstick, plastic poncho and awful whistle after the last earthquake. This is just about the sum total of most building occupants kits. I tossed the whistle, and kept the light stick and poncho with my water.
Fison Packer rain hat. This hat was retired several years ago, and I just keep it in the kit. It is good for both rain and sun.
Emergency First Aid Kit
Large First Aid Kit.
Depending on the event, I have planned on taking the large first aid kit from my worksite if possible, I have recently been elected floor warden and am asking for an additional medium sized softcase FAK that will be mounted on the wall at the emergency exits. I will ask someone to carry this one and the one at my desk out. These have the usual bandages, compresses, slings, various OTC drugs and other items along with more capable trauma dressings, emergency blankets, sterile water and burn kit. Our plans as a group have discussed trying to evacuate with as may of these kits as possible.
Emergency First Aid Kit, Contents These Kits in Action
Upon arrival at work I place my shoulder bag, coat and hat alongside my desk kit under my desk....the same place I intend to go if the building starts shaking. If I go outside for lunch, I take my coat/hat but not my shoulder bag. If I go to a long meeting I may take my shoulder bag, but not my coat/hat. Ideally, I would have access to these three kits in the event of an emergency, but that is by no means a certainty. During the 2001 earthquake I was able to gather a few items as I cleared the workspace of people before exiting. My shoulder bag contained my old HAM radio that I was very glad to grab before leaving. My exit strategy is to try and access all available kits prior to leaving but circumstances will dictate these actions. Fortunately, my work assignments keeps me at or near my desk more than 80% of my day so I have a decent chance to obtain these items. If I parked off site in an open lot, then leaving my shoulder bag in the car would most likely be my strategy, but since I do park in an attached garage which I may or may not be able to access I have elected to carry this bag and try to have it as I leave. Because of the uncertainty of having anything other than my on-body kit I have tried within reason to stock it with all primary needs. These kits would certainly make my life easier, but if they were lost due to the emergency I would still be reasonably covered.
Additional Thoughts on the Desk Kit.
Many worksites, cities, countries etc restrict the sort of tools that can be legally carried on your body. I believe the Desk Kit is an excellent way to maintain a comprehensive supply of items that can be drawn upon in an emergency. I have taken the approach to carry many of the items that may be restricted in certain settings, but one could rely upon a Desk Kit that would provide needed items in the event of an emergency but not have to carry them around daily.
The car kit serves a number of situations. It is a useful kit for daily needs and has backups to the various kits discussed above and in many ways provides much better or more capable items. Again, I have a potential of losing the car and kit to a catastrophic event, but the car is parked in the most modern section of the building and it may be available after an event.
I am going to limit photographs in this section to unusual items and add additional photographs at a later date due to time constraints.
JACK Safety Knife
Rescue Knife, Widow Punch.
This JACK safety knife is designed to rapidly cut webbing or clothing. It uses two opposing razor bladed in a plastic hook. One of these is carried in the passenger compartment of my vehicles. It is larger and easier to deploy than the Benchmade Rescue Hook sometimes carred as part of my on-body kit. I also carry a brass bodied spring loaded window punch that is supposed to effective on car glass (sometime I need to test this).
Fire Extinguisher/Car Tools.
An ABC 10lb dry chemical fire extinguisher is kept in the trunk of the car or in the back seat of the truck strapped to a holder. Chains (in the winter months), jack, basic repair kit, flares, flashlights and batteries are also carried.
This inexpensive 12 x12 poly tarp along with about 10' of Visqueen plastic sheeting, a hank of paracord and a 50' roll of 3/8" nylon rope are available for shelter construction. A pair of avalanche probe ski poles are carried for use as supports or as a makeshift antenna mount should I elect to construct a HAM radio base station for my CERT and RACES volunteer efforts.
A basic selection of tools carried include a Becker C/U 7 knife, Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Ax, 24" Carson bucksaw, a Life-Link plastic snow shovel in the winter (or a short garden shovel other months), and a roll of duct tape.
Dix Leather-Bat Case
I have a nicely made belt case that houses a SureFire 6P, 2 spare batteries, a Leatherman Wave, and its accessory kit. This was made by Dix Leather in Canada. I sometimes keep this in the car kit, but it mostly resides in my CERT kit at home. I am adding the 3 images here as I think it is very well done. I call it my Bat Case. This is easy to attach to my belt and contains a nice selection of tools that are very useful in a CERT or RACES role.
Dix Leather-Bat Case contents
Dix Leather-Bat Case Back
I carry a pair of heavy Filson mackinaw wool pants, Filson Cover Cloth Rain Bibs, extra wool sox, wool shirt, pile pullover or wool sweater, wool Dachstein mittens, heavy leather gloves and wool balaclava. I also carry another coated nylon poncho, 2 sil-nylon ponchos and a pair of Redwing steel toed boots. One double bed sized pure wool blanket is also in the kit.
Two empty heavy duty laminated plastic 1 gallon water bags are carried. During the majority of the year water can safely be carried around without the risk of freezing so I have 6-10 half liter bottles of commercially packaged water. I also carry a bottle of Polar Pure (iodine crystals) for purification if needed.
I carry an MSR Whisperlite or G/K multi-fuel stove and 2-22oz full bottles of white gas, an aluminum 3L pan with lid, 2 insulated plastic mugs, and a one pint sized Kelly Kettle for water boiling for purification and preparation of comfort beverages. A Camper model SAK, two polycarbonate spoons, a Bic lighter, K&M matchcase and a small MSR stainless covered pot round out this gear.
I carry a packet of loose tea, several energy bars that do not melt but taste like dust, a box of crackers, small jar of peanut butter, a few ramen packets, a box of Kendal Mint Cake, and a few tins of smoked kippers are the only food items carried. These items are rotated out about every couple of months during the warmer parts of the year.
First Aid Kit.
Here a more comprehensive kit is carried. Several bandages, compresses, triangle bandages, CPR masks, gloves, tape, disinfectant solution, aspirin, hypothermia thermometer, steri-strips are carried in a nylon organizer pouch. These are rotated frequently.
Toilet paper, Dust masks, spare eyeglasses, garbage bags, maps, money (limited), AA, C and CR123A batteries are also carried.
The car has a high gain antenna, battery adapter for charging and operation, and a 50 watt amplifier. This setup is used for my handheld carried on my belt in the on-body kit. I also carry a 12V sealed gel cell battery that will supply power for many hours for the handheld radio. A CERT/RACES notebook, message forms, clipboard, pens and pencils, and RACES plan documents are also carried.
The Car Kit in Action
This kit is primarily meant to provide most needs concerning my volunteer efforts for our CERT and RACES teams. We may be deployed to an Emergency Operation Center for several days. We may need to provide shelter for ourselves and certainly need to provide clean water. My stoves can use all sorts of fuels from white gas to automotive gas. With this I can boil to sterilize water. The Kelly Kettle uses small sticks, pine cones, grass or whatever so provides a great supplement or backup to the MSR stoves. Food is limited in this kit but would be supplemented with a CERT/RACES deployment box of items that is out of scope for this article. This car kit should see me home from work should I be able to get my car out of the garage. Should I set up a radio station to support the community, I have everything from shelter to tea covered for at least one to two days' worth of effort. This kit fits in two medium sized plastic tubs.
Resources; Equipment and Training, redundant to Part I
Filson Model 8 Vest in tin cloth, custom made in wool upon request. Other coats, shirts, jackets, gloves, wool underwear, sox, sweaters are shown on the site. In my opinion some of the finest clothing made. Expensive at first but a true bargain over time. Most of my wardrobe consists of Filson garments. I highly recommend the coats listed above,the shelter cloth shirts, wool sweaters, the vest, of course, and sox. Clothing is all sewn in the US of the finest materials available.
My Original Hunting Coat Style 66 is no longer listed in the catalog but like all older style Filson wear it can be custom ordered. Old stock may be found at retailers. My photographers jacket (style 566) has not been made for many years also, but Filson offers many new designs that would easily fit my coat styles. I highly recommend their line of outdoor clothing. I also recommend their wool coats. I recently bought a double wool mackinaw Packer and find it very nice to wear in the cooler weather where I will not be out in the rain for long periods of time. Around here the oiled coats are a better choice for the damp weather with wool worn under them.
Filson Custom orders
The style 8 vest discussed in Part I of this article is only available in dry tin cloth off-the-rack. It can be custom ordered at a 50% premium in wool and moleskin. To duplicate my model you must request buttons on the front placket and front pockets instead of snaps (free substitution). My vest has been worn for many years and was recently repaired by Filson professionals (free) to fix worn spots where my flashlight, Sebenza, and matchcase wore through the wool. Close inspection of the various images show the repairs. I expect many more years of use in this vest.
Gene Ingram Knives
, Gene offers many fixed-blade knife models, and many suitable for pocket carry. His work is superb and his prices are very good. He is also a super person to deal with, timely delivery, quick response to emails, excellent sheath work. The Lacer knife shown above represents a collaboration between Gene Ingram and myself. He designed the blade and laced edge idea, I lace the leather for the handle.
Dale Chudzinski Knives,
Nessmuk knife and many others. Dale's work is done in a coal-fired forge and his knives are perfect outdoor tools for many uses. He is an artist in steel and handle materials. He is also a super fellow to work with. This Nessmuk knife is one of my prefered fire building tools.
Chris Reeve Knives
, Sebenza, the classic hard-use folder. Highly recommended.
Model 5Rescue Hook knife that is easily belt carried and rapidly available. Super sharphook for web or clothing cutting.
Jack, Hook Rescue Knife
This hook knife is much easier to deploy than the Rescue Hook. It uses two replaceablerazor blades to cut. Excellenton webbing, decent on clothing.
My favorite multi-tool line.
TheE2 is small but with a 60 or 120 lumen lamp is very bright. Run time is short, but this is an escape light, so bright is required.
Huntsville Ontario Maker of my custom made Companion Sheath for the Leatherman Wave and SureFire 6P. Very nice leatherwork and superb fit of the tools. The battery carrier was made at my request.
Inova LED Lights
This nicely machined package runs for a long time and is very bright with the 5 white LED's. My favorite of the larger LED lights.
Streamlight Stylus LED Light This one uses 3 AAAA batteries which are rather expensive but the run time is long and it is decently bright. I would not use this as a primary light,but it is a near perfectdaily use light.
Limmer Boot and Shoes
In my view, the best leather boots made. Mine are off-the-shelf Limmers NOT custom made. Expensive ($300) but considering theyare all leather inside and out, can be resoled multiple times they are like
Filson clothes...inexpensive over time. I was replacing my fabric/leather boots once a year at $50-100 a crack so these have nearly paid for themselves and I am still on my first soles.
, T90a This handheld triband amateur radio is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and carries easily on my belt. It has 5w power output with a decent antenna and works very well in Seattle and the area around.
T4 HatReally probably the finest hat made. The canvas sheds water, it floats, the cords hold it securely on your head, it is cool to wear, and it is guaranteed. Well worth the money.
Akubra Lighting Ridge Hat,
David Morgan retails a fairly large selection of Akubra hats. They are superior to Stetson hats in my opinion. More dense felt, more durable, and near perfect cool/wet weather hats.
, Community Emergency Response Teams are an interesting collaboration between your local emergency responders (fire dept usually), and FEMA. Communities tend to support this training very differently. I highly recommend the training, even though it is basic and broad. This site has lists of cities that offer the training. The two best things about the training are: you get to know your emergency responders and you get to know some members in the community that want to help. Next best thing is that you can get semi-interestedfamily members talking about important aspects of their behavior in the event of an emergency. For instance,if you have kids in school and there is an earthquake what will the schooldo? What will you do? How will you do it? There are literally hundreds of basic questions that need to be addressed in a family and CERT training can spark the discussion.
Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service is a FCC regulated service for HAM operators. RACES groups are always chartered in the local area to serve the community. These are well worth seeking out even if you are not a HAM operator.
Amateur Radio Relay League, I recommend anyone who is serious about personal preparedness to seek out local HAM groups, get your license and serve the community. Your best communication opportunities many times are phone lines, but in some events these are not available, HAM radio can fill the bill and serve the community. The ARRL is a vast source of information on local clubs, testing etc.
Urban Preparation Kit, Part II, Supplemental Kits, by Schwert - ARCHIVES: Outdoors-Magazine.com