My family survived Hurricane Irma, then Maria on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Then, I was sitting on my couch when a small earthquake struck in Los Angeles.
I likely am not the only one with disaster prep on my mind.
If you want to be prepared, there are some key things you should have in a bag that you can grab when you need to get out of the house quickly. The pack is meant to get you through the first few days after a disaster when you won’t be able to use your ATM card and possibly your cellphone. The items I recommend apply for a hurricane, tornado or other disaster prep situations.
If you don’t want to put a pack together, you can buy bags that a ready to go. These are FEMA-approved and sold in one-person, two-people and family packs. Amazon also sells a Bug Out Bag that is nicely equipped. But there are some things of your own that you will need to add.
Identification: Travelers with valid IDs have an easier time evacuating from airports than those who don’t.
Depending on the kind of emergency, you’ll also need your ID to access bank accounts and claim other assets you hold. During evacuations, authorities need to keep records of people who are moved or rescued, and it’s easier to register for help with FEMA when you can demonstrate who you are.
Make a copy of your driver’s license and put that, along with your passport, in a waterproof pouch or plastic bag that zips shut. Keep this in a safe place that you also can access easily.
(Important financial documents should be kept in a home safe or bank safe deposit box and copies uploaded to the cloud.)
Cash: After a disaster, it is likely that no one will be able to process your credit card, so you’ll need money for food, fuel, transport and more. Have at least $250 in your go bag and make sure it’s in relatively small bills. Keep it with your passport in your waterproof pouch.
Water and a good water filter: The U.S. government states that in an emergency, you should assume you’ll need at least one gallon of water per day per person for drinking and sanitation. Keep one full water bottle in your bag and a portable way of purifying water.
Get a compact purification tube, which can filter up to 1,000 liters of water and remove 99 percent of bacteria.
Emergency whistle: One of the main issues in the aftermath of the earthquake in Mexico City was people trapped in buildings. If trapped, you’ll need to signal rescue workers without losing your voice or expending precious energy.
First aid kit: Your kit should include pain killers (both pills and sprays), bandages, gauze, scissors, tape, hydrogen peroxide and any medications you need. Take contact solution and extra contacts and/or an extra set of glasses.
Hand sanitizer and other sanitary supplies: Hygiene is critical during a crisis. Fail to maintain it and you could become infected or contaminated. Keep the following in your bag: one roll of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap and mouthwash. Women should pack tampons and/or pads.
A solar-powered radio and cellphone charger: One of the most helpful things I could do for my family during the hurricanes was to text them weather updates. Because they had no internet, they were blind to what was coming next, so I was their connection to critical information about the next hurricane.
Having a charged device is a big help in a crisis. You should assume you’ll be without power for days or even weeks, so get a combination radio, cellphone charger and flashlight. There are solar-powered and hand-crank ones.
Clothes: Take lightweight items: underwear, a jacket, a poncho, a hat. Remember that go bags should be filled according to climate and region. If you’re in a cold climate, add lightweight emergency blankets; if you’re in a warm, mosquito-ridden climate, take bug spray and sunscreen.
Food: You may need to walk for miles and overcome obstacles during an evacuation. Your body will need fuel, especially if it’s cold out (you burn more calories in the cold).
Have food supplies that can last about five days and remember utensils. Bring high-calorie foods like trail mix, chocolate and dried foods and keep the weight low. MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) and pop-top cans of tuna are also good. Remember these expire, so check the date before consuming anything and replace them regularly.
If you can, make your go bag a bright color because this helps emergency workers spot you. If you need to, you can smear mud on it to avoid being spotted by looters.
If you’re in an earthquake-prone area, be sure to have emergency supplies in your vehicle as well as at home because you may not be able to get back to your house. Prioritize water and a first aid kit.
Depending on how long you’re without power and water, it’s good to have body wipes on hand. You won’t be able to shower, and it’s an easy way to stay somewhat clean.
If you have loved ones you feel are less likely to prepare than you, consider a prep bag for them as holiday gifts.