The Keys to Building an Effective Family Go Bag
If the wildfires, hurricanes, and other natural disasters over the past couple years have taught us anything, it’s that being prepared for an emergency can be one of the best ways to ensure you and your family can evacuate your home safely and efficiently. Of the hundreds of thousands of people that are evacuated from their homes and neighborhoods each year, less than 40% are reported to have emergency kits or “go bags” fully prepped and ready to pack when the time came.
For many families, having a family go bag packed before a disaster strikes is critical not just for the supplies it provides, but for the way in which it allows you to evacuate at a moment’s notice. As parents, we understand that packing a go bag can be an intimidating activity: what do you prioritize? How do you ensure you have enough to last through an extended evacuation period? To help answer some of the pressing questions related to disaster preparation, we’ve put together this quick, how-to guide to help families decide on the best approach to a family go bag, including necessary supplies and considerations based on your geographical location, you and your kids’ health, and the type of situations you might face.
The Benefits of a Family Go Bag
While the prospect of packing for an emergency can be overwhelming, we encourage you to view the process of creating a family go bag as an act of optimistic preparation. Obviously, the best family go bags are the ones that never have to be used, but in the event of a last-minute evacuation or emergency, there is no replacement for preparing ahead.
Building Your Family Go Bag
Step 1: Gather enough bags for each of your family members that can carry their own bag.
Each family member should have a clearly labeled bag that consists of their belongings, assuming they’re able to carry it themselves. A backpack or a larger drawstring nylon sack works extremely well for this purpose.
Step 2: Registering your personal belongings.
This step is the most overlooked step in the family go bag preparation process, but arguably the most valuable. In the event that you and your family lose any possessions to a natural disaster, taking careful track of your personal belongings and necessary documents can be the difference between an insurance nightmare and a relatively smooth rebuilding process.
We recommend taking clearly identifiable photos of each room in your house, along with any valuables that might not be spotted in a broad photo. This includes jewelry, memorabilia, electronics, musical instruments (including type and brand clearly visible), art, and anything else that might be of value.
Once you’ve taken these photos, upload them to the cloud, and back them up on a flash drive, hard drive, or alternative cloud platform.
Step 3: Scanning your essential documents.
After you’ve catalogued the photos of your home, we highly recommend moving through the process of scanning and saving your essential documents. Though this may be a tedious process, particularly for families with multiple children, it’s one of the most critical steps in ensuring your family is safe and that your documents are saved in a location other than your physical home.
Due to the sensitive nature of essential documents, we recommend saving them onto a flash drive, unless you have access to a cloud service that features a high level of encryption.
Documents we recommend scanning include: driver’s licenses, medical records, proofs of insurance, social security cards, passports, birth certificates, immunization records, trusts, personal contact lists, and any additional information you would deem essential.
Step 4: Build out your food and water rations.
Once you’ve taken care of the household elements of your family go bag, move on to the more practical items. Focus on non-perishable food (think freeze-dried meals that only require water, or easy to open soups, beans, etc.) and at least 1 gallon of water per person per day.
We can’t recommend enough throwing in a pack of Liquid IV’s Hydration Multiplier, which can hydrate your body 2-3 times faster than water alone. Having a few of these packets around could mean your fluid supply lasting an extra 1-3 days in the event of an evacuation or other high-stakes event.
As far as food goes, the traditional camping meals and high-carb, high-protein bars are a must, but consider packing a few additional items, particularly if your family includes young kids:
- Multivitamins. In the event that you’re stuck outside of your house for a lengthy period of time, having multivitamins on hand can help to maintain the high nutrient levels that children demand.
- Baby formula.
- Natural fruit and vegetable bars. These might not have as long of a shelf life as a traditional protein bar, but they can help to contribute to a balanced nutritional supply.
Step 5: Clothing.
Each member of the family should have at least one extra set of clothes. A good rule of thumb in packing extra outfits is to pack 2 extra outfits for your child for every one you pack for yourself. While it’s tempting to by picky about what’s included, try to pack an outfit that could function in all four seasons (aka don’t pack shorts). For growing children, try packing an outfit that’s a couple sizes too big to ensure your go bag can last without having to be repacked again in a year.
Step 6: Outdoor Gear
What gear you pack is entirely up to you and your family, and should be based on factors like location, your proximity to shelters and other family, and the weather conditions in your area. The must-have items are listed below, along with a couple of additional things worth considering.
- Sleeping bags
- First Aid Kit
- Flashlight / Headlamp & extra batteries
- Camp Stove (for water prep/boiling)
- Hydration Pack
- Water Filter
Step 7: Additional Personal Items.
Depending on your location, your proximity to family, and other evacuation factors, packing a few personal items might be a good choice, particularly if there’s a chance you could be evacuated for multiple days at a time (i.e. in the event of a wildfire, hurricane, etc.). For children especially, this could include a couple of non-battery operated toys, books, or other games to keep them both entertained and in good spirits throughout any emergency.
A Few Final Tips on Family Go Bags
Maintain your go bag regularly. We recommend taking stock of your supplies at least once every 3-6 months. Especially if you have children, it’s vital to make sure that the items you’ve packed are still appropriate to their age, size, and potential needs.
Keep your go bag in a safe, easy-to-reach location. Know where your bag is at all times, and ensure that everyone in your family does, too.
Brush up on your first aid. We understand that going through the trouble of getting CPR-certified might not be an option for most people, but brushing up on your first aid knowledge and skills can make a huge difference when it comes time to apply them. This includes knowledge of things like how to tell if you’re dehydrated (in both you and your kids), as well as basic first aid, with an emphasis on treatment and prevention of minor injuries.
Figure out a communication plan. Right up there with packing your family go bag is creating a family communication plan, including where to meet if you get separated as well as who to call in the event of an emergency. FEMA recommends printing out a family communication plan (complete with cell phone numbers and other contact info of all the people you’d need to contact in an emergency) for each member of the family to keep in their wallets.
Despite the preparation time required, creating an effective family go bag is one the best ways you can ensure you and your family remain safe and prepared in the event of an emergency.
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