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This year, resolve to pack a ‘go bag’ to be ready for the next disaster: Here’s what to put in it

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This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org.

With all the natural and man-made disasters filling our lives, the possibility that your home may be part of the next wildfire, earthquake, blackout, flood or medical emergency seems more likely every day.

Disaster means a possible evacuation. Are you ready to depart if told you must leave in 15 minutes? One day? And that you could be away for hours or days or more? The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that you prepare an emergency plan before disaster strikes and keep at least a 72-hour supply of basic survival provisions on hand at all times.

What you should pack will depend on the size and makeup of your family, where you live, the type of emergency and other factors. A detailed list is available at a special FEMA website. Here’s a basic list the agency suggests:

Water. One gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation.

Food. At least a several-day supply of nonperishable food.

Radios. A battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert.

Flashlight. LED models are brighter and use less energy than conventional flashlights. Buy one that uses easy-to-find AA or AAA batteries.

Extra batteries.

First aid kit.

Whistle to signal for help.

Dust masks to filter contaminated air.

Plastic sheeting and duct tape to build a temporary shelter.

Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties, for personal sanitation.

Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities.

Manual can opener.

Cellphone and accessories. The most important accessories are chargers and a backup battery or two. Keep all batteries charged.

These basic items may be called a go bag or bug-out bag and are considered useful for a short-term emergency. Longer-term evacuations suggest the need for other items, stashed in a “stay-bag,” and even a “go-to” or “go-back” bag.

The difference between what and how much to pack is determined by the nature of the disaster, whether you have to walk away, bike, car, or catch a community bus. Will you have to carry a tote or backpack, or be able to fill the car trunk?

“A carry-on size go bag is designed to provide immediate essentials for a short-term evacuation,” says Jon Morgan, CEO of Venture Smarter, a business-management consultant in San Francisco. “Key items should be in both a carry-on size go bag and a larger emergency kit.”

Related: How to protect yourself from dangerous flash floods anywhere.

No more than you can carry

As you gather the essentials, remember to consider the total weight and whether you’ll be able to carry it if you have to walk. Perhaps you should buy a backpack with wheels. It should be water-repellent.

Communications may be interrupted and roads blocked, so pack laminated-paper or plastic analog maps of your area, showing alternate routes between your home, work location, friends, family and evacuation centers. Additionally, second keys for home, office, car and safe-deposit box can allow someone to retrieve valuable items.

“The items you pack should be lightweight, shelf-stable, and nutritionally dense foods, including freeze-dried fruits, energy bars, nuts, tuna pouches, and beef jerky,” says James Walton, a Virginia-based writer, speaker, podcaster and owner of The Prepper Broadcasting Network, a seven-day-a-week podcast network on preparedness in the modern age.

He also recommends medication, “including a day or more’s supply of your prescription medication and travel-sized versions of over-the-counter pain relievers, antacids, etc.”

To the FEMA list, he adds:

Mess kit. Also paper plates, cups and utensils.

Multi-tool. One device that combines pliers, wrench, screwdriver, scissors and other hand-held implements.

Bedding. An emergency blanket or sleeping bag.

Personal items. Spare eyeglasses or contacts and solution, toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items.

Fire. Matches in a waterproof container and fire starter sticks, squares or pellets.

Fire extinguisher. For natural and man-made dangers.

Vital papers. Copies of personal documents, including medical and insurance information.

Cash. Preferably in small bills.

Pet supplies. Medicines and a leash in addition to food and water.

Kid supplies. Diapers and formula for younger ones, paper, pencils, a deck of cards, puzzles and games for older ones.

Clothes. A complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate (consider some quick-drying underwear) and sturdy shoes.

Read: State Farm cracks down on California wildfire insurance. What it means for all homeowners.

Don’t forget Fido

If you foresee the possibility of an evacuation, immediately fill your car with gasoline to avoid the lines that form once an evacuation notice is announced.

Scott M. Haskins, an art conservator in Santa Barbara, California, who writes about preparing for emergencies, recommends that in addition to protecting art and heirlooms from disaster people should microchip their pets. During an evacuation, unrestrained pets may bolt from owners or strangers, making a bad situation much worse.

When you put your pet in a car, have a harness around its chest to restrain it in case it panics or you collide with another vehicle. “That will more evenly distribute the tension or stress on the body during an accident thereby reducing the potential for injury,” he says.

See: What Hawaii’s deadly wildfire teaches all American towns about climate risks

What‘s the biggest concern?

“The type of disaster dictates some differences in preparedness,” Morgan adds. “For a fire, having a fire-resistant blanket, masks to protect against smoke inhalation, and an air filtration mask could be crucial. In an earthquake, sturdy footwear, a hard hat and gloves might be essential for safety during potential aftershocks and debris. In the case of a blizzard, warm clothing, extra blankets, hand warmers and traction aids for shoes should be included.”

As you receive updated disaster-specific information, you can adjust your go-bag to include more clothes suitable for the current weather, perishable food and any specialized items based on the situation.

Erin Baler, co-founder of 4Patriots, a Berry Hill, Tennessee, reseller of “survival food” often speaks publicly about bug-out bags with portable food, water, and power bundles for immediate or evacuation use, as well as 1-, 3- and 6-month survival kits for stay-in-place situations.

Read next: Need to rethink retirement? These areas face the biggest climate-change risk.

Once you’ve assembled your go bag, you should establish a rally point, says Walton.

“If your party gets broken up or if your travel route is diverted, you need a rallying point to meet back up at,” he says. “These should be predetermined and are a vital part of the bug-out plan. The real purpose of your bug-out bag is to provide you with peace of mind so you feel safe and secure in your own home no matter what, and that feeling is priceless!”

Judy Colbert, the author of 36 books, writes about travel and the business of travel.

This article is reprinted by permission from NextAvenue.org, ©2024 Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. All rights reserved.

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