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Creating a Go-Bag for Use During an Emergency

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In this post we describe what a go-bag is, why you might create one, and the list we recommend following as you prepare.


What is a go-bag?

You’ve likely already heard of the concept of a go-bag, though perhaps with a different name: emergency bag, bug out bag, 72-hour kit, survival bag etc.

A go-bag is a pre-prepared backpack filled with practical items that will help get you through an emergency. The backpack sits packed, waiting for you to grab-it-and-go at a moment’s notice. We emphasize that this bag is prepared in advance.

The idea is “what is the worst that could happen, and how do we mitigate for these issues?”

Why do I need a go-bag?

Emergencies come in many forms.

Common scenarios:

  • Assist someone in a medical crisis
  • Car accident
  • Medical emergency
  • Getting lost while on a road trip
  • Local emergency
  • Robbery
  • Removing yourself from a bad home situation

Widescale scenarios:

  • Loss of infrastructure in your locale – electricity, water, food etc.
  • Sudden natural disaster (hurricane, floods, earthquake, fire, drought, storm, volcano, tsunami etc.)
  • Authority ordered evacuation
  • Pandemic or epidemic
  • (Biological) War

In scenarios involving many people, there will be a sudden rush to access resources including food, healthcare, banking, insurance, etc. Having your own supplies prepared in advance of emergency will help you lessen the strain placed on those suppliers and may be life saving.

What categories should I think about as I prepare a bag?

  • Documents & money
  • Food & water – cooking supplies
  • First aid, medical & hygiene supplies
  • Communication
  • Power, lighting & electronics
  • Tactical gear & tools
  • Shelter
  • Clothing
  • Self-defense

What does not go in this bag?

The bag does not include space for beloved households tchotchkes or valuables. Those items have a place in a larger emergency preparedness plan, but they will not be included in this particular go-bag.

Consider preparing separate go-bags for three different areas:

  1. Your everyday carry bag
  2. Your vehicle
  3. Your home

The types of things that go into each bag will differ.

An exercise

What are the personal items that you would grab in case of emergency, where you may have only a couple minutes to take what you can?

Create a list and share it with the people in your home. Consider taking the necessary steps to safeguard those items. Digitize photographs, insure valuables and make copies of special documents.

The go-bag & preparation list we recommend

For guidance around what goes in your bag, we recommend reading John Ramey’s blog, as brings expertise and readability to the subject matter.

The lists Ramey created were crafted by a diverse group of experts with over 100 years of combined emergency and survival experience, including post-disaster shelter administration (eg. in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina), military SERE instructors who teach pilots how to survive if they eject behind enemy lines, Special Forces operators, doctors, and the mentors behind the scenes of popular survival TV shows.

  1. Emergency preparedness checklist: prepping for beginners
  2. Bug-out bag gear list
  3. IFAK first aid kit list

For those interested in learning more about document and financial preparation, we recommend the following:

U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Evacuation Check List. It is available for download here.

CalFire has a series around how to protect one’s home to maintain defensible space in the event of a wildfire.

FEMA offers an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK). It is available for download here.

Sam at Financial Samurai argues that there is no inherent difference between an emergency fund and regular savings accounts. His post, “How Much Savings Should I Have By Age 35?” gives readers a sense of the savings bands they should have prepared at different life stages.

Bankrate offers tips around keeping various insurance policies up-to-date to prepare oneself for a natural disaster.


What do you keep in your go-bag?

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