In the event of a short notice evacuation, a Go Bag can help you to take care of yourself while you’re away. Imagine going on an involuntary vacation with no notice – what do you need? The contents of your Go Bag should also equip you for the conditions that prompted your evacuation. Are you evacuating a wildfire? You need smoke masks. A hurricane? Ponchos would be nice.
Your kit is primarily for emergencies, and how much you take with you will depend upon how much notice you have before evacuating. Let’s first imagine a housefire, which is the definition of a no-notice event. Imagine that you kept your kit by your front door and were able to grab it as you exited. As you wait for the firetrucks to arrive, what would you hope to find in that kit to get you through the uncertain two or three days ahead? Finding a poncho, an emergency blanket, food and water, a spare set of car keys, your insurance paperwork and a phone charger in your bag would provide some relief at a moment like that. In the event of a longer notice event, like a wildfire or flood evacuation, stocking your bag with essentials beforehand will leave you more time to grab additional items for your evacuation, including things that may not fit in your bag like heirlooms, extra clothes and food from your refrigerator. Depending on the emergency, your go bag may be just enough to get by or a helpful jump start on your evacuation packing.
Your bag’s accessibility is crucial. Ideally, you should be able to grab it without delay as you’re heading out the door. To determine the best place to put it, let’s eliminate the places where you should not put it.
DO NOT store your kit in the basement. If you live in an earthquake zone, it may be difficult or inadvisable to trek into your basement. Basements are also prone to flooding, which could damage or destroy the contents of your kit.
DO NOT put it someplace that it will rarely be seen. If you store your kit in your attic, five years from now you’ll forget that it exists, or you’ll be unable to find it when the hour comes.
DO NOT put it someplace where can be damaged. If you store your bag beneath your bowling ball collection, in a place that’s blazing how or that’s super damp, the contents may deteriorate or break much sooner than they would in a safe dry spot at room temperature.
Hurricanes are the top evacuation event, in part because they give several days notice and impact such wide geographies. Floods and wildfires can also prompt evacuations, but with much less notice – sometimes only hours or minutes. But even if you don’t live in any of these disaster zones, random events like home fires, chemical spills and civil unrest can might force you to quickly take refuge away from your home. Having a Go Bag can not only equip you for such events, but also leave you more willing to make the difficult but necessary decision to evacuate in the face of peril.
No. Your Go Bag is just one part of a larger conversation. For one, where are you going? How will you get there, and what there isn’t an option when the time comes? Have you considered your pets or your aging parents? What about important prescription medications that you need to continue taking during this sojourn? A Go Bag is not a silver bullet. It’s a good start and a great conversation starter. The plans that you articulate with your family around the “what ifs” of an emergency are the best preparedness tool that you can’t buy.
Essential Go Bag Items
In the worst-case scenario, you might not be able to grab anything but your kit. Make a copy of your home and car keys for you kit.
Cash, Checks, Cards
Cash is an essential preparedness item because, during prolonged power outages, it may be your only means of transacting.
Even if you’ve made arrangements to stay with friends or family, prepare for the possibility that you have to sleep in your car or a shelter.
Medications + Devices
It may be difficult to refill your prescriptions out of town. Try to keep a fresh supply in your kit and a copy of the prescription order.
When you replace your glasses, add the old set to your kit. Glasses are easy to leave behind in a rush. Kit them so you don’t forget them.
Your phone is a key preparedness item. Equip your kit with adapters and devices to ensure that it stays charged even when the power is out.
If you have children and/or pets, consider what it will take to get them out the door quickly. Update your childcare emergency supplies often.