How To Create an Emergency Go-Bag

The  most important part of any disaster, after living through the disaster itself, is being ready for the days that follow. Being ready to leave quickly and with some basic creature comforts can make the difference between feeling in control of your situation and feeling out of control and miserable.

There are ready-made emergency kits or survival bags available for purchase, but the nice thing about making your own emergency bag is that you can personalize the contents to meet your specific needs. This bag will serve as the link to your normal, everyday life, if your day-to-day routine has to be interrupted. An emergency evacuation or a natural disaster that forces you from your home will make your go-bag an invaluable item to grab as you leave. It can be be kept inside your vehicle, ready to go.

The first step is to find a bag you’re comfortable carrying. A light, well-constructed backpack will do well for this purpose. A medium sized duffel bag will provide the same functionality; however, the advantage to the backpack of course is that you are able to carry it while leaving your hands free. Also, if you’re packing a bag for more than one person, size is definitely a consideration. The best scenario is for each person in the family to have their own bag, with the largest one being the main go-bag. For the purpose of this article, the assumption is that this bag will be for one person.

Once you’ve decided upon the bag, there are some things that are to be considered essential and other items that will be personal or specific to you.

Essential Items

  • Matches-- It sounds silly because most of us live in areas where heat is automatic and shelter is easy to find, but what if a natural disaster destroyed most of the shelters around you and you were forced to camp outside? Or what if you happen to live in a rural area far away from other buildings? Strike anywhere matches are the best type to keep in your kit. Do not mistake the “strike anywhere” matches with the “strike on box” type of matches. Keep your matches in a waterproof container along with a “striker”. A lightweight and easy to pack “striker” would be an emery board or nail file.
  • Firestarter-- Keep some firestarter stashed in your go bag and keep a small piece of your chosen firestarter in your waterproof container with your matches. An easy to use and lightweight options are to coat 100% cotton balls in petroleum jelly. Keep these sealed in a ziploc bag. Keep another ziploc bag full of dryer lint. You can also cut an old milk carton into strips and keep them in a ziploc bag. Fire starters can also be purchased ready-made.
  • Flashlight-- Keep extra batteries and bulbs with your flashlight. Some flashlights include an extra bulb that is kept inside a small compartment in the flashlight. The solar powered or crank flashlights will also work, but will not be as bright as a battery powered flashlight.
  • Multi-purpose tool-- The quintessential survival tool.
  • First Aid Kit--Make sure you include over the counter pain relievers in your first aid kit.
  • Compass and map-- Absolutely necessary items to keep in your vehicle, but a good thing to keep in your go-bag as well.
  • Clothing-- At least 3 days worth of clothing. Make sure to include a windbreaker and waterproof jacket.
  • Food-- At least 3 days worth of food. MRE’s or freeze-dried camping food are light and provide great sustenance.
  • Water Bag or Container-- These fold flat, weigh next to nothing, and reduce trips to your water source.
  • Water Purification-- This can be in the form of tablets or filters. Water can be purchased in shelf stable boxes but these can be heavy and take up extra room in your bag. It’s always good to have a backup plan.
  • Space Blanket-- These are lightweight and easy to pack. They are great for ground cover or as an extra blanket in case the emergency shelter runs out of blankets.
  • Duct tape-- You don’t have to take a whole roll. Wrap duct tape around a flattened toilet paper roll or a pencil and tuck that into your bag.
  • Money-- Keep at least $100 in $5, $10 and $20 bills, and at least $5 in change.
  • Ziploc Bags-- Lightweight and easy to stash bags of all sizes.
  • Garbage Bags-- At least 2 or 3 of these can be used to keep your bag, and its contents, dry and waterproof.
  • 6-in-1 Survival Shovel-- Essential tool that includes a hatchet, hammer, saw, and shovel all in one tool. This is a great item to keep in your vehicle.
  • Prescription Medication-- This can be essential to your well-being. Ask your doctor for an extra prescription, and keep in your go-bag. Make sure to remove and use your medication before it expires and replace with a more current medication. Keep a list of medications along with prescription numbers.
  • Extra Eyeglasses or Hearing Aids
  • Repair Kit-- Sewing kit, dental floss, safety pins,  and electrical tape.
  • Notepad and Pencil-- A permanent marker can also be helpful.
  • Copies of Important Documents-- Keep copies of your health insurance cards, birth certificate, social security card, driver’s license, passport, credit cards, etc., in your bag along with necessary phone numbers.
  • Personal Hygiene Items-- Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, feminine sanitary napkins, toothbrush, toothpaste, and hand soap.
  • Pet Food and Pet Medication
  • Pictures of Family Members and Pets-- In the event that your family becomes separated in a natural disaster, current photos are a must have to assist in identification purposes.
  • Extra Keys to Home and Vehicle

Personal Items

All of these items can be added or removed as you determine how your surroundings will be impacted by a natural disaster. Some of these items could be kept strictly in an emergency bag for your vehicle. Keep the bags in an easy to access place and don’t forget to inventory items every 6 months or so, especially any food or prescription medications that may need to be replaced.

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