Health & Environment

Recommendations for Preparing a “Go Bag” for Emergency Situations

A “Go Bag” is a basic collection of items needed to take with you in an emergency, including communication tools, identification, clothing, toiletries, food and water, tools and medical supplies.

You never know when disaster is going to strike. Preparing for various potential emergencies can be stressful, so you should edit the bag to your needs based on the environment in which you live. It is always best to keep things compartmentalized in case you have to shelter in place and then later evacuate. You should consider a “go bag” as a last-resort cache and resist the temptation to raid your bag when you need something on a non-emergency basis.


A heavy-duty, yet light, duffel bag. If you have a backpack you are no longer using, this can work. Ultimately, you want a bag that is large enough to carry the necessary items, but not be filled. Browse the list of recommended items below and determine what you must buy and what you already have.

  • Copy of passport
  • Copy of driver’s license
  • Medication list & extra meds
  • Copy of insurance card / policies
  • Bank account records
  • Pictures of your family (including pets) for identification when separated
  • Cash
  • Family communication plan / meeting place
  • Bottled water
  • A mechanical (charcoal filter) or chemical (most commonly iodine) method of water purification. Iodine lends a bitter taste to water, but mechanical purifiers consume more space in your pack.
  • Non-perishable food (granola bar, energy bar)
  • Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
  • Battery operated flashlight and extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA weather radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Pet-care supplies
  • Infant-care supplies
  • Elder-care Supplies
  • Toiletries
  • Hand sanitizer
  • First-aid kit
  • Tissues
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Whistle
  • Regional map
  • Clothing
  • Blankets
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust masks to help filter contaminated air
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • A Swiss Army Knife as they are small, light and come with a use for various different tasks.

Put items in re-sealable plastic bags to ensure they stay dry in the event of a flood. Store the bag in a safe place where it can be accessed quickly.


  1. Make arrangements for places to stay well ahead of time. Make a deal: If there’s an emergency/evacuation, they can come to your home or you to theirs. Crashing on someone’s sofa or camping in their yard is infinitely preferable to a public shelter.
  2. Pay attention to the news. If there is a fire burning nearby, or violent weather coming, consider staging a few things in boxes to be ready for an evacuation. Consider evacuating BEFORE it is mandatory, and you’ll have a much better time compared to people who wait until everyone else is leaving and get stuck with traffic and shortages.
  3. Consider well ahead of time what you’d take if you had a day’s notice, a couple of hours notice to pack the car, or five minutes notice to evacuate. Make a plan and a checklist.
  4. If you have to take medications, make sure you keep them all in one place and can sweep them into the go bag without any searching. Refill your prescriptions before you’re nearly out of them.

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