A Go Bag is a bag containing everything you would need to survive when exiting a building or evacuating your home after a disaster. Ideally, each member of your family should have one bag each. The bag should have ample supplies to help you survive while in transit towards the nearest evacuation area or relocation site. Each bag should also be customized according to individual needs – especially in the case when you have elderly or young members with specific needs.
An ideal bag should serve as stand-alone container. My favorite bags are the waterproof ones by Overboard because they can be used as water bucket. When there’s flood, an extra Overboard bag may be used as a floater. You might also want to consider hiking bags with padded shoulder and belt around the waist that are big enough to carry around what you need, about 30 L size. Your Go Bag should come with a rain cover to protect the contents from moisture. It would be practical to put a garbage bag inside your bag, before putting in your stuff to protect them from moisture in case of rain or flood. Some food may develop molds when exposed to moisture. Bandages and band aids will spoil when exposed to moisture as well so keep them water-tight.
It is also highly recommended that you don’t over pack. The weight of your bag should not exceed 30% of your body weight which means, if you are 60 kilograms, your Go Bag should not exceed 18 kilograms. During disasters, it might take hours to even days to go to a potential camping area or evacuation site. Your bag shouldn’t be too heavy to avoid back injury and your hands should be free to hold on to your loved ones, or carry your child and pet.
Your Go Bag should contain water, food, first aid kit, medicine kit, apparel kit, communication and signalling tools, and shelter. Here are some of the information that you need to consider per Go Bag essential:
An adult consumes about 4 litres of water per day. But since water can be heavy, you might also want to consider carrying water purifiers such Sawyer Mini Water Filtration Kit, Sawyer Life Straw, Aquatabs, or Providone Iodine. For silted water from creeks or flood, pass it through coffee filters first until the water coming out is clear. Then purify using 1 Aquatab for every 5 gallons of water. You may also add 8 drops of iodine per liter of water if you don’t have Aquatabs. A Sawyer Life Straw is also a good investment as you can directly straw water from water drainage or even flood as it is very efficient in removing all the nasties in the water such as bacteria and silts.
Each Go Bag should have 72-hours supply of food, 2-3 meals per days, a total of 2500 calories for adults and at least 1000 calories for kids. The ideal food to bring are ready-to-eat meals that come in easy to open packets or cans. This is because cooking food while on the go will only slow you down. Remember, the Go Bag is designed to help you survive while in transit towards nearest relocation or evacuation site. Food should be stored in waterproof, resealable bags as moisture can easily cause mold formation in some food. Check your stockpile every now and then for expiration date.
First Aid Kit:
Below is the basic things that you should have in your first aid kits:
- Non sterile gloves for handling wounds and tools
- 4 x 4 gauze, at least 5 pcs
- 10% iodine for cleaning wounds (don’t use on people with seafood allergy)
- Band aids
- Adhesive tapes
- Triangular bandages
- Safety pins
- Syringe 5 ml with needles
- Tissue forceps
- Cotton balls
- Antibiotic cream
- Burn cream
Your Go Bag should also contain basic medicines in case of minor ailments plus your maintenance medicines and in the case of children, pediatric meds/kits and vitamins. Regularly check your medicine kit for expiration dates. Throw out expired medicines. Below are the list of suggested medicines which you may customize according to your preference:
Your apparel kit should fit the weather in your country. In the case of the Philippines, dry fit, light hiking tops and pants paired with comfortable footwear such as rubber shoes are highly recommended because of the humidity. Have extra underwear and undershirts too for when it gets too cold at night. If you are going to camp in high altitude area, bring along a “malong” which can serve as blanket and a child’s hammock. Bring jackets or thermal blankets for elderly and/or infant who are more susceptible to cold temperature. It is also highly recommended that your apparel kits and the clothes you wear during evacuation are light-colored so that rescuers can easily spot you.
As also discussed during our Earthquake Drill for every Geology Tour I conducted, each member of your family should be protected while evacuating by wearing a pair of rubberized gloves, a hard hat or bicycle hat, an N90 mask or double layers of face masks, and a pair of high quality goggles. Your Everyday Carry (EDC) should include at least a pair of goggles, a pair of gloves, and an N90 mask.
Communication and Signaling Devices
You should include a mobile phone or two-ray radio in your Go Bag for communication. If you’re bringing a mobile phone, carry all type of network SIM cards for options in case network signal loss. Don’t use your cellphone too much during emergencies to avoid hogging bandwidth which can result in interference during rescue operations by the government. Carry spare batteries for your phones/radios or bring solar-charging power banks with you as well. In case of your phone’s battery draining flat, write down important contact numbers on a piece of paper for your backup in red ink as this is the most visible color for a person under extreme stress or during a medical emergency.
When signaling for help, conserve your energy by using whistle instead of shouting or crying for help. Three (3) long whistle blast is a universal distress call. A seasoned rescuer will immediately recognize that you’re calling for help if you give three long whistle blast. Flashlights and headlamps may also be used for signaling especially at night. At daytime, on a clear day, aside from whistles, a signaling mirror may also be used as reflected light from a mirror can reach long distance, as far as 15 miles. Signalling using mirrors is also an internationally accepted distress signal and any rescuer will understand it.
A shelter is necessary in case the evacuation point is too far from you hence, I consider this as an optional addition to your Go Bag. Your malong may be used as shelter already, just make sure you are sleeping under a sturdy tree, or structure. A tarp may be used as your floor to protect you and your things from getting wet from soil moisture. If you want to invest in high quality tents or sleeping bags, you may also do that. Here’s a nice blog that you can read about shelter:
Finally, it doesn’t hurt to have a map on-hand, to help locate yourself. This is why I included map orientation during the Geology Tour. In case you run outta battery, your paper map will serve as backup for Google Map or Waze. Also, teach your family on possible areas to meet up in case the disaster happens while some of the members of your family are not at home. The reason for having a meet-up point or initial way point is for head count. Plan out your evacuation procedure as a family, and practice by going through a series of drills emulating different scenarios at least twice a month. Have an evacuation manual with emergency contact details if you have to!