Prepare in a Year Month 4: Create a Grab and Go Bag

Man putting go bag in car.

The Washington State Military Department (WSMD) has created a simple one-year guide—Prepare in a Year—to help people tackle one task per month. We will follow it here to help you prepare in one category every thirty days so that you will make progress monthly and feel ready by the end of the year. If you are preparing your family, make sure your family members know what to do as well. If you are preparing your business, make sure your colleagues or employees are up to date.

Our task for April is to Create a Grab and Go Bag.

An important part of preparing your household is making sure you all can leave, quickly, if need be. On Bainbridge Island, we stay in place (not necessarily in our homes) for earthquakes and even for radiologic events, as there is no way to escape quickly. However, there are occasions when we need to get out. One of these is wildfire, when entire neighborhoods might need to evacuate. Another is for more site-specific emergencies, like landslides or coastal flooding.

But there is another reason for Bainbridge residents to have one or more go bags, and that is for commuting. People who commute regularly (including schoolchildren) should keep key supplies with them during their commutes, either in/on their vehicles (car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle) or on their person (for ferries and other public transportation).

Finally, if you need to evacuate from your residence because it is unsafe (post earthquake or storm, for example), a go bag will help you move to another location.

What Goes in Your Go Bag?

Home Bag. The go bag you keep at home, which should serve the needs of all household members, should have the following items:

  • Food (shouldn’t require refrigeration or preparation; should include high energy foods like peanut butter, granola bars, or trail mix and should include comfort foods; consider dry meats like beef sticks and jerky)
  • Water (one quart per person per day for 2 to 3 days)
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries
  • Light sticks
  • Radio (battery/crank)
  • Whistle
  • Toiletries & wet wipes
  • Important documents (or ensure you have online access to them)
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool and knife
  • Garbage/plastic bag
  • Cell phone chargers and cords
  • Medications
  • Pet items (food, water, leashes, harnesses, waste bags, medications)
  • Duct tape
  • A set of extra clothes
  • Hat and gloves
  • Items you need for children and other household members (diapers, games, toys, extra glasses)

Vehicle bag. If your go bag is for a vehicle, include the home bag items as well as the following supplies:

  • Small shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow chain
  • Road flare
  • Waterproof blanket
  • Matches in a water-proof container
  • Seasonal equipment (and warmers, more blankets, tire chains)
  • Extra keys

Commuter bag. If your bag is for walk-on commuting, going to school, or riding a bicycle or motorcycle, reduce the quantity of items, of course. Think about what you will need for a day or two until you can get back home again.

If the bag is for a child, involve the child in making the kit so you can make sure that what they value is included and so they become familiar with the contents.

How to Store an Evacuation Kit

Your go bag needs to be portable, of course. It should also protect contents against water damage, which means you might want to keep its contents in plastic bags.

Your go bag needs to be quickly accessible at all times. Keep it in the trunk of your vehicle or in a front hall closet, for example.

Don’t forget to rotate out items that can expire. And make sure that the clothes in your go bag are items you can and would wear.

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