The news seems to be filled with tragic stories about one natural disaster after another these days. So are you prepared with an emergency family “go bag”?
A go bag goes by many names. It can be a “ready bag,” “bug out bag,” “disaster survival kit,” or an “emergency preparedness kit.” Whatever the name, every family should have one even if you don’t live in an area prone to wildfires, tornados or floods. When an emergency strikes, you do not want to be scrambling to gather essentials. You want them at the ready to keep you and your children safe and healthy if you need to make a quick get away from home for a few days.
What should be in your family go bag? First, it doesn’t have to be a bag though those are handy. Bins and boxes are also good. Second, it doesn’t all have a single bag, box or bin. Smaller containers that each family member can grab and go will work.
Now, let’s see what the experts in disaster preparedness recommend to pack.
Essentials for every family go bag
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, and American Red Cross each have recommendations for a basic emergency survival kit. Here’s the essentials for several days worth of bug out supplies:
- Water. Obviously, not easy to carry at the recommended amounts of one gallon of water per person per day. Keep some cases of bottled water or gallon jugs handy to toss in your car. Pack a resealable, reusable bottle for each family member, too.
- Non-perishable food. Packed cans? Don’t forget a manual can opener. Protein or granola bars, though, are more portable.
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio. Preferably get one with NOAA Weather Radio channels and an alert for severe weather bulletins. My own experience, living in hurricane zones all my life, is that battery powered radios tend to be more powerful and reliable as long as you pack …
- Extra batteries
- Basic first aid kit. Various sized adhesive bandages, gauze, medical tape, antibacterial ointment, hydrocortisone are essential. Add an antihistamine (like Benadryl), ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Chargers and backup battery bank for cell phones
- Masks. These were initially recommended to help filter air contaminated from smoke or dust. Of course, COVID-19 has changed that some. Keep some N95 or KN95 masks handy as those can serve a dual purpose.
- Moist towelettes, soap, hand sanitizer
- Garbage bags and plastic ties (for sanitation)
- An all-purpose multitool. Get one with various knife blades, screwdriver heads, pliers, etc. I always keep one in my car’s glove compartment. It comes in handy in a pinch if not a crisis.
- Duct tape and super glue. Because, as every dad knows, if these can’t fix it …
- Local maps. Your phone’s mapping apps are useless if cell service is down.
- Cash. Power goes down, so do credit card machines.
Some other things to consider, depending on your location and time of year:
- insect repellant
- rain ponchos
Of course, a change of clothes and footwear for each person is also helpful.
Don’t forget personalization, pets
So much for the general items for every emergency go bag. Now let’s pay attention to the specific needs of your family members.
FEMA and the American Red Cross recommend a family go bag also contain:
- Personal medications and medical items. If you have a family member with a medical condition or need, such as insulin and syringes for a diabetic, extra batteries for hearing aids, reading glasses, etc.
- Baby supplies. Bottles, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, pacifiers and a baby carrier are all vital.
- Pet supplies. Collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl, meds, etc.
- Copies of personal documents. In a waterproof container, place medication lists and pertinent medical information, proof of home address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies and so on. If paper copies are too bulky, put the documents on a USB thumb drive.
- Family emergency contact info. Keep a paper copy in a waterproof bag or container for handy reference.
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Games and activities for children. Keep in a separate bags the kids can carry on their own. For younger children, a stuffed animal or other security blanket item is a nice touch.
Ready? Grab you bag and go when told
A family go bag is only good if you take it with you in an emergency. Keep it in a handy location. Make sure all your family members are aware of where it is. And when authorities tell you to evacuate or leave, heed their call.