Is Your ‘Go Bag’ Ready?

Is Your ‘Go Bag’ Ready?


Climate-related emergencies like hurricanes, fires and floods are becoming more frequent. Here’s how to prepare whether you need to evacuate or hunker down.

By Tara Parker-Pope

Emergencies often are unpredictable. But you can still plan for them.

During this week alone, millions of people across the country experienced catastrophic emergencies. Hurricane Ida left millions of Louisiana residents without power or without access to food and water. Flash floods in New Jersey and New York caught many people off guard. In Lake Tahoe, some residents evacuated in less than an hour after an evacuation order as fires threatened their homes. In August, flash floods ravaged Central Tennessee, and earlier this year, millions of people in Texas were left without electricity and water following a winter storm.

Unfortunately, climate scientists now warn that weather emergencies like these may be the new normal, as global warming leads to heavier rains, stronger hurricanes, more tornadoes and bigger wildfires. The average number of climate- and weather-related disasters per decade has increased nearly 35 percent since the 1990s, according to the World Disasters Report.

The ‘Go Bag’

No matter where you live, every home should have a ‘go bag’ and a ‘stay bin.’ The go bag is what you grab when you have to leave the house in a hurry, whether it’s to get to the emergency room or to evacuate because of a fire or hurricane. The stay bin is a two-week stash of essentials in the event you have to hunker down at home without power, water or heat.

Creating a go bag and a stay bin does not make you an alarmist or someone who lives in fear of the apocalypse. It just means you’re prepared. Over the years, I’ve learned the hard way that emergencies can happen anytime and anywhere. One night while living in London, I came home to a wrecked apartment because an upstairs neighbor had left his water running. (I was able to rescue my passport and my cats, but I lost everything I owned.) Years later I had to evacuate my Pennsylvania home three different times — twice because of Delaware River flooding and once because of Hurricane Sandy.

The first time my house flooded, I was completely unprepared as the flood water was just feet from my driveway. I had to grab my four small dogs, some clothes and whatever else seemed important and get out of there quickly. I couldn’t get home for two weeks. It was then that I realized I needed a real home evacuation plan, not just for me and my daughter, but also for my pets. (I was better prepared when I evacuated before Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast a few years later.)

The hardest part about creating a go bag is getting started. You don’t need to do it all at once. I started with a Ziploc bag and placed my passport, birth certificates and other important documents inside. Then I added an extra pair of reading glasses. Last year, I added a phone charger to my go bag because an emergency room doctor told me it’s the single most requested item in the E.R.

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