Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods, mudslides, wildfires, and even volcano eruptions can happen almost anywhere. If a natural disaster is looming and evacuation becomes possible, every household should have an emergency "go bag" ready for each family member. Even if you hope to ride out the danger with a store of supplies, packing an easy-to-carry bag with essentials will prove helpful in the aftermath.
While protecting your home and business from disaster is important, protecting human lives is absolutely crucial. Taking even a few minutes to look for medications or documents can cost a life. Check bag every six months to rotate food and water supplies, refresh medications, update documents, and, especially for children, make sure clothing still fits.
Choose a Bag
An emergency go bag should be lightweight enough for an adult or child to easily carry it, but large enough to hold essential items needed for up to three days. A backpack is a good choice because it leaves your hands free to hold onto other items, but a small suitcase with wheels or rolling backpack can also work. Remember, you may be running with your bag.
Place the bag near an exit with your purse or wallet, phone, and keys.
Medications and Personal Items
Pack at least three days of each type of medication you take in the original prescription bottles, a small first aid kit, and sanitary hand wipes. If you use supplemental oxygen, invest in a portable tank to have on hand. Pack an extra pair of glasses or plenty of contact lenses, a comfort item for each child, and something small to entertain you, such a pack of cards.
While you may not land in a spot with electricity, be sure to pack at least one phone charger and any extra battery packs. Include an LED flashlight or headlamp, and purchase a radio that can be charged by hand-cranking. A metal whistle may also prove invaluable for location if your cell phone dies.
Each person should have enough clothing for three days. Choose clothing that is lightweight and can be worn in layers. For small children, pack extra diapers and warm clothes. Select shoes that are waterproof, if possible.
Food and Water
You won't be able to carry a lot of supplies, but be sure every bag has a bottle or two of water. Water filtration straws in each bag will ensure potable water. Add a small amount of lightweight food, such as granola bars or dried fruit. Carry a multi-functional tool with a can opener and small knife. For babies, include premixed formula, baby food, and extra bottles.
Place documents—whether the originals or photocopies—in a sealed, waterproof bag in the go bag. Even if you have scanned the documents onto a flash drive, paper copies should be in the bag because there may not be electricity available to use an electronic device. Have these documents available for every member of the household:
- Birth certificate
- Social security card
- List of emergency contact information
- Current family photograph with contact information (in case members get separated)
- Health insurance cards
- Medical and immunization records
- Driver's license
- Marriage, adoption, citizenship certificates
- Home deed
- Insurance policies on home and auto
- Credit card and banking information
- Power of attorney and will
- Pet records
Keep some cash in small bills and change in your go bag. Long before the need arises, go around your home and take digital photos of valuable items like art and antiques and create an electronic record that can be stored in the cloud or on a flash drive in a waterproof container in your go bag.
Don't forget about Fido and Frisky—pack a go bag for each of your pets. The bag should contain a leash, dry food, water, and a lightweight carrier.