Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Disaster Prep: Go Bags for the Family

I suppose I need to cut back on watching the evening news while I prepare dinner.  My children have been asking a lot of questions about tornadoes the last month or so.  My four year old is particularly concerned about one of them coming inside our house, despite our reassurances that the wind stays outside most of the time.  

In our coastal community, hurricane season began six weeks ago, so I have been taking stock of our supplies.  Because we live more than twenty miles from the coast, we rarely evacuate when a storm comes our way, and although I am not ruling that out, we prefer to stock what we will need to ride out a storm and its aftermath.  That means water, non-perishable food, medical supplies, batteries, candles, and plenty of things for the kids to do.

Also, this year, I prepared “Go bags” with emergency supplies for each family member.  I asked the children to help me collect everything and make decisions about their clothes. They actually had fun looking for the toys they wanted to pack and helping me find all the supplies from around the house.

I read about go bags on two blogs recently, and realized we needed to be better prepared in the event of a last minute evacuation.  Jessica over at Life as Mom wrote about her “24 Hour Go Bags” last fall.  Her post is full of helpful hints, such as color coordinating the family bags and when to buy them on sale.  She includes a helpful list of what she packed in each bag, and what she plans to add as she finds other items on sale.  I will do the same below. 

Jessica also created a fill in form for family and emergency contact information to place in each child’s bag.  I really like that the form conveniently has 2 columns and prefills the second column with the family information (address, parent name, etc.) as you type the first column.  In the extra space at the bottom, I wrote that we are Catholic and that my children speak both English and Spanish (she used that space for insurance information).

Bobbi at Revolution of Love wrote about her disaster preparations earlier this year, and included rosaries and other prayer tools in her family bags.  Of course, I had to add those items to my own bags!  

I chose to use some backpacks given to the children at a local home improvement store during a children’s workshop.  We also pick up many similar bags at festivals around town, so if you are looking for something lightweight, you might not have to buy anything.  The children are using bright orange bags (easy to spot), mine is black, and my husband is using our old travel backpack, as he will carry more food and water for the rest of us.

Go Bags Packing List

1. Clothing and Toiletries.  Family color shirt (ours is green), shorts, socks, underwear.  Sunglasses, ponytail holders (comb in my bag), hand sanitizer, bandages, toothbrush and paste.  During the emergency, I will take the bag of sunscreens I keep in my outing bag and move it to my go bag.  My husband will carry anti-bacterial wipes, regular baby wipes, and toilet seat covers for all of us.  I am also going to look for lightweight pants that we can pack instead of shorts; after a storm, the mosquitoes will be out in force.

2.  Food and Water.  Bottled water (2 each), packaged granola bars, trail mix.  As we ride out the storm, I’ll add other food that will keep for a few days: yogurt and plastic spoon, bread, cheese sticks, crackers.

3. Emergency contact and money.  I sealed the contact information card, a family portrait (leftover Christmas photo card), and five dollars in bills and change inside a zip bag.  If the children are separated from both of us, they can make calls and show emergency workers what their parents look like.

4.  Flashlight with batteries.  My husband and I each have a crank operated flashlight that doubles as a radio.  The kids carry mini mag lites.

5. Prayer aids and entertainment.  Each of us packed a rosary and prayer cards.  The kids also decided to pack a small stuffed animal and a small notebook and pen.  I am going to look for other small books and toys to include (such as mini playing cards).  My husband will carry the extra charger for our cell phones.

Here are a couple of pictures that include most of the bag contents; we will add items as we think about them or find useful things on sale.  

child bag contents

adult bag contents

We will also pack our passports, a printout of our bank balances, insurance cards, a flash drive with important information, and more cash in a zip bag that my husband and I will carry, along with extra zip bags for the cell phones and other items we may grab as we head out.

I think we are ready.  In the event a hurricane heads our way, we will move the go bags from the hall closet to the room we stay in during the storm, along with raincoats.  Everyone will wear jeans, socks, and tennis shoes so we can be ready to evacuate on the spot if necessary (if our roof collapses or the house begins to flood).

These go bags are just a brief look at our disaster preparations; we do so much more to prepare our home when a storm is forecast for our area.  In addition to stocking pantry foods, we make other food ahead of time, pack the freezers full of ice, fill the tub with water for the toilets, stock up on propane and charcoal, fill the vehicle gas tanks, do all the laundry, put candles and matches in every room, back up the computers, store important papers and photos in plastic on top shelves, board up the windows, and bring in all the patio furniture and gardening tools.   More details in a later post, if you are interested.

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  1. Oh that must be frightening to have to pack one of those bags. Hope everyone is ok.

  2. Joy, thank you for your concern, but we are all well. One of the ways we avoid fear during a disaster is by preparing ahead of time. This activity has actually helped my youngest with her fear of thunder.


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