With the start this week of the 2013 Atlantic tropical storm season – and indeed as tropical storm Andrea is currently punching a few holes into Florida – we’d already planned on posting about the need to update your home survival kit: three days’ worth of food and a gallon of water per day per person, current meds, flashlights with good batteries, etc. But in light of the devastating outbreak of tornadoes in the U.S. across over the last few weeks, our attention turns once again to the “Bug-Out “or “Go” Bag – a pre-packed and immediately available bag of necessary items to be able to use if you have to evacuate NOW and don’t have any idea how long you’ll be gone – and how many BC professionals don’t maintain one.
We’ve heard a few excuses. “Oh, where I live we don’t get [hurricanes, flooding, blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes],” and “We’ll get along fine if we have to evacuate because we can just pick stuff up along the way.” Or, “We’re just going to hunker down. Always have. We’ll be fine.” And the most confusing one of all, “I try not to think about that stuff because it upsets me too much.”
In short, here’s a list of atypical reasons to prepare a Go Bag regardless of why you don’t think you might ever need one (especially if you have children or an elderly relative you’re responsible for):
- Fire – big or small, whether it’s your house or office or not
- Utility issues such as downed power lines or natural gas leaks
- Industrial accidents
- Chemical spills
- Traffic accidents
- Active shooter or hostage situation
- Train derailment
- Sink hole – and aren’t there a creepy lot of those in the news these days?
- Bombings or other explosions
- Terrorist attacks
- Structural failure
- Viral outbreak
- Infestation, and we speak of very recent experience with this one involving Africanized honey bees
Sure, the possibility of many of those happening to you is remote but there’s no reason not to prepare because you never really do know when you might need to leave and how long you’ll be gone. Should we go on about the bees? Approximately 5,000 killer bees that prompted a very quick and slightly prolonged relocation?
There are countless prep lists on the internet but here’s one we like that we put together a few years ago. It’s a little on the comprehensive side but you can take a look and customize it for yourself.
- Non-perishable food for 4 days – stuff that you will actually want to eat such as canned goods/meat/tuna, prepared meals that don’t need refrigeration, etc.
- Laptop/iPad, smartphone and a memory stick with your family’s personal recovery plan
- The weather app of your choice (we use a locally-pegged NOAA bookmark pinned to our desktop)
- The map app of your choice
- Compass app – free and often handy
- 4 gallons of water per person – note that this is 32 pounds of water per person
- Cash (we keep $100-200 on-hand at all times but $400 wouldn’t be too much)
- An emergency handbook: first aid, safe camping, etc.
- Car chargers for cell phones, iPad, etc.
- Higher-quality first aid kit
- At least one sharpened all-purpose knife; here’s our particular favorite
- Two high-quality flashlights (at least one with lantern function) with extra batteries and a hand-charging flashlight
- Chemical light sticks; use sparingly
- Emergency tool for turning gas/water on & off
- A hand-crankable and solar-powered portable radio
- Moist towelettes, plastic bags/ties . . . and 2 rolls of toilet paper (better safe than sorry)
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Dust mask, emergency ponchos and duct tape
- All prescription medications
- Two blankets/pillows
- At least one change of clothing
- Plastics plates, cups and utensils
- Fire extinguisher, which you should already have in your car full-time
- Basic tool kit (wrench, pliers, hammer, screwdrivers, scissors)
- Manual can opener
- Extra pair of reading glasses & plastic safety glasses
- Paper & pens
- Spare house & car keys
- A paper copy of all your vital documents – insurance, permits/licenses, will, etc.
- Something good to read (think about it)
These are the basics but there are also personal choices that are up to you: whether to include MREs, if fishing gear might come in handy, etc. And climate and season are major factors, too. Are parkas necessary . . . or extra tubes of sunblock?
Composing a Go Bag is a work of art that’s tailored to your life and, more importantly, to one day maybe helping save your life. Most of the items are already somewhere in your house and putting the bag together can be an educational, interesting and even fun Saturday morning project. And none of your reasons for not having one will be worth anything at all if it turns out you need it.
One more thought. Consider becoming CERT certified. The skills you learn are invaluable and the value you’ll bring to your community in the event of a disaster is immeasurable.
For different reasons, a few of us have experienced the unannounced need to hit the road immediately. In one case, the person involved had a quarter tank of gas, $12 in his pocket and little else. In most other cases, that bag was in the back seat, ready to be used, depended on and truly enjoyed. Take a guess which of us fared better? And take a little bit of time to plan for having a much better, much safer experience for when the time comes.