Aaron Titus is a disaster industry technologist and emergency preparation expert. Here, he shares with us how to build a “go-bag” so that you have the basic necessities on hand during any type of disaster.
Some disasters, natural or man-made, can require you to evacuate. Examples include a flood, civil unrest, a chemical spill, or a house fire. It often takes days or more before you can return. Even when evacuation is not required, many disasters knock out basic services like power, water, and communications for several days.
A go-bag or 72-hour kit helps you meet basic needs immediately after a disaster. A go-bag or 72-hour kit must be tailored to each family and updated as your family situation changes.
Step 1: Download This Worksheet
Download the worksheet “Coping Strategies and Solutions to Disruptions,” and make several copies. Choose a couple of disruptions (for example, heat, power, or finances) that frequently occur in your area of the world, and write one in each row.
Step 2: Brainstorm with Family or Peers
Hold a family night where each member of your family brainstorms what you could do in the case of each disruption. Another effective approach is to brainstorm with friends or neighbors. Families with small children, apartment dwellers, empty nesters, cultural or linguistic minorities, and single adults all have unique needs and challenges.
As you talk with friends, if you hear a useful idea, write it down, and ignore ideas that don’t suit your needs. For example, one mother of six small children used this worksheet to plan family go-bags. She realized that keeping the children’s kits constantly stocked with clothing of the correct size and season was unrealistic. Instead, she suggested the family grab their dirty clothes hampers if they needed to evacuate—after all, the clothes were guaranteed to fit and be in season, and there is almost always a couple days’ worth of clothes in the hamper. That suggestion worked for her family, but it may not work for everyone. Likewise, some families will need to plan for unique medical needs, pets, or special transportation arrangements.
Step 3: Identify Your Support System
After you complete one row, write the names of people involved in the “Support System” column. Make a paper copy of the names and contact information for people in this column, and put it in your go-bag.
Step 4: Identify Your List
Look at what you have written in the “0 Hours–3 Days” column. This list is what you might want to include in your go-bag.
Step 5: Slow and Steady Wins the Race
If you need to purchase items to complete your go-bag or make preparations from your plan, work those things into your monthly budget over time. Using this approach will help you prepare your family with confidence and makes preparedness concrete, empowering, and actionable. As you can see, this worksheet will help you prepare for far more than just a go-bag.