Ready, Set, Go Bag!

The following article is scheduled to run in our Nov. Dec. issues. However, in light of current weather reports, we thought it would be best to publish it a little early, online.

“A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them…”

As more natural disasters fill the headlines, they can serve as a wake-up call to remind us that unforeseen tragedies can occur at any time. 

From coast to coast, nowhere on the map is immune to the threat of disasters. Wildfires and earthquakes inflict the Western United States, and droughts are common in the Midwest and Southwest. Tornadoes wreak havoc in the Central Plains, with about 500 tornadoes reported each year. The Atlantic and Gulf Coast states are fraught with devastating hurricanes. Blizzards pound the Northern states. Mountainous regions – from the Appalachians to the Rockies to the Pacific Coast – are laden with landslides. 

Enough gloom and doom! It’s been said that disasters aren’t planned, but you can plan for disasters. There are several practical steps you can take to prepare for the unexpected, and the time to prepare is not during a disaster, but before. 

According to a FEMA survey, about 60 percent of Americans do not have an emergency strategy implemented. So, what can you do now? First, start by researching the natural disasters that are common in your area. Floods and hurricanes require different precautionary measures than tornados and wild fires.  Next, make your home as safe as possible. Twice a year, when you switch your clocks, check electrical outlets and cords for damage, test smoke alarms and change the batteries. In case of power loss, consider purchasing a generator. Create a home escape plan and rehearse it with your family. Designate a safe meeting place for your family to gather if you are separated – a school, a library or a place of worship are good choices. Also, locate your nearest emergency shelter. You’ll want to know where to go in the event that your home is no longer safe. 

Earthquakes usually occur without warning. At the first sign of a tremor, get to an inside wall, between a heavy doorjamb or under a sturdy table. Be prepared for aftershocks. They can be just as scary as the initial tremor. 

The National Weather service lists hurricane season from May 15th to Nov. 30, so stay tuned to local news to plan your best course of action. Secure your property as time allows. Cover windows with plywood boards. Move outdoor furniture, planters, trashcans and other items to a garage. Then proceed to the lowest interior room in your house, ideally a closet or bathroom, away from windows.

No matter what the disaster, a “Go Bag” is essential in any emergency. A Go Bag is a backpack or duffle bag that includes everything you may need in an evacuation emergency. Items may include a pair of sturdy shoes, a change of clothes, a lightweight rain jacket, flashlight, radio, batteries and even a cell phone. It may also include a first-aid kit with signal whistle, a dust mask, waterproof tape, matches and travel size toiletries.

When heeding the local authorities warning to evacuate, make sure you have your Go Bag ready to go. Its contents will keep you comfortable in the hours and days following a disaster. A separate Go Bag for each family member is needed. Once packed, keep all your Go Bags near an exit door so you can grab and go!

After a disaster, take a deep breath and evaluate the situation. Try to keep to your daily routine as much as you can. Assess the damage, but don’t dwell on it – loss of material goods may be heartbreaking, but survival depends on clean water, food, clothing and shelter. While disasters can be emotionally jarring, comfort can be found by cherishing life every day and focusing on what really matters!  

Ready, Set, Go Bag!
Here’s a list of supplies you may want to keep in your go bag:

Sturdy shoes
A change of clothes including lightweight rain jacket
Flashlight, radio (battery or wind up) extra batteries 
First-aid kit with signal whistle
Eating utensils, pocket tool set, can opener
Dust masks, waterproof tape and matches
Plastic sheet for shelter and rope
Travel size toiletries, towel and toilet tissue/baby wipes/hand sanitizers 
Waterproof container with medications/copy of prescriptions
Eyeglasses/contacts and solution 
Emergency contact list along with a local map
Credit card/cash in small bills/roll of quarters for vending machines (fanny pack*) 
Extra set of car and house keys (fanny pack*)
Car phone chargers
Copies of important documents: driver’s license, medical directives, medical cards, birth certificates. These documents should be kept on your person in a waterproof bag in a fanny pack* in case of theft.
In a separate bag, it is recommended to keep several gallons of water and 3 days of nonperishable, ready-to-eat food per person. (Don’t forget to bring food for pets along with their pet carriers, if possible). Most of the items listed above can be found at sporting goods stores, camping stores and pharmacies.