Bug-Out Bag Essentials
If disaster strikes, will you be ready? Experts in fire prevention and management and disaster relief recommend having a bug-out bag ready to grab at a moment's notice. So, what is a bug-out bag? A bug-out bag, also known as a BOB bag, grab bag, go bag, survival kit, PERK (personal emergency relocation kit), 72-hour bag, and GOOD (get out of dodge) bag, is an emergency kit designed to hold all the essentials you and your family will need if you need to ‘bug out’ quickly due to a wildfire, natural disaster, or other unexpected event. Keep reading to learn what to put in a bug-out bag to make sure you’re prepared to survive on your own for a few days.
Ready.gov lists water first on their list of the items individuals should add to their bug-out bag. They recommend having one gallon of water for each person in the family per day and packing enough water to last for several days. So, the average family of four should pack at least 12 gallons of water (four gallons per day to last three days). This water will serve as necessary drinking water and can also be used for sanitation and personal hygiene.
Packing food in a bug-out bag is also imperative. ReadyforWildfire.org recommends including enough non-perishable food items to last for at least three days. Energy bars, trail mix, and other high-protein foods are a good pick. You may also consider adding Meals-Ready-to-Eat, or MREs, and meal-replacement shakes to have some higher-calorie options to provide sufficient energy while waiting for help.
Flashlight and Extra Batteries
With natural disasters and fires, you may be trapped outside or in an area with no power. Having a flashlight will make it possible to see in the dark. Don’t forget to also pack some extra batteries to ensure the flashlight keeps working the entire time you need it.
First Aid Kit and Medical Supplies
A first aid kit can help you attend to minor injuries and keep each member of the family safe until help arrives. The American Red Cross recommends choosing a large first aid kit with essential supplies, such as gauze, antiseptic cleaning wipes, triple antibiotic ointment, adhesive bandages, sling bandages, and cold compresses. In addition to packing a first aid kit, don’t forget to also include other essential medical supplies like hearing aids and extra batteries, contact lenses, glasses, and mobility devices.
Pack any prescription medications that you or others in the house will need access to. Many prescription medications are life-saving, and you don’t want to be without them in the event of an emergency. The American Red Cross urges individuals to pack at least a 7-day supply of medications to help ensure that everyone has what they’ll need until being able to seek medical help.
Hand-Crank or Battery-Powered Radio
Power lines and cellular signals are often down during wildfires and other natural disasters. Including a hand-crank or battery-powered radio as one of your bug-out bag’s supplies will make it possible to check on weather alerts, evacuation routes, and other information that can be the difference between life and death. The California Fire Prevention Organization highlights the NOAA Weather Radio as a top choice for go bags.
As the name suggests, a multipurpose tool can be used in a variety of ways during an emergency. These compact devices include numerous accessories, such as pliers, knife blades, saws, screwdrivers, scissors, and wire strippers. A multi-purpose tool will provide you access to an arsenal of tools while hardly taking up any space in your bug-out bag.
Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting
Duct tape, which is strong and water-resistant, offers a plethora of uses that could come in handy during an emergency. Some of these include repairing shoes, making a splint, repairing a leaking container, marking a path, creating a rope, and resealing packages. When you pair duct tape with plastic sheeting, you can even create a makeshift shelter.
Baby and/or Pet Supplies
If you have a baby or pet, don’t forget to pack supplies that they will need in the bug-out bag. Living with Fire suggests including diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, and baby food for babies. Pet supplies you may want to pack include a carrier, cat food, dog food, food and water bowls, leash, and collar. Don’t forget to also include a picture of your pet in the bug-out bag. This can be shared with rescue teams in the event the pet gets lost.
Cell Phone and Charger
Never leave in an emergency without your cell phone. Program the numbers of your emergency contacts, friends and family, and any other phone numbers you may need. Add a power bank and charging cables to your bug-out bag as well to keep the phone charged and ready for use even when you don’t have access to traditional forms of power.
Credit cards and debit cards won’t be of much use during a power outage. You won’t be able to make purchases or withdraw money from an ATM in this scenario. Adding some cash to your bug-out bag can help ensure that you’re able to pay for essentials, such as food, gas, or lodging.
Emergency blankets, which are also called weather blankets or thermal blankets, can be used for much more than just keeping warm and should be included on every go bag list. This essential item can offer protection from the elements, be used to reflect light and signal for help, and be used to improvise a tourniquet, compression bandage, or splint. The California Fire Protection Organization recommends choosing a lightweight foil blanket since they don’t take up much space or add a lot of weight to a go bag.
Personal Hygiene Essentials
Bugout bag supplies should also include personal hygiene items. These can include items such as hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, menstrual supplies, and dry shampoo. You may or may not have access to running water in the event of an emergency, so keep this in mind when shopping for items for your emergency kit.
Extra clothes are another must for a bug-out bag. In an emergency, you can certainly re-wear an outfit a few times, but a change of clothing will still be necessary in the event your clothes get ripped, wet, or dirty. Pack a few changes of clothing for each member of the family, opting for lightweight and compact items that won’t take up much space in the bag. When selecting outfits, choose ones that will help you prepare for different temperatures and weather types, since you don’t know what the weather will be when you need to grab your bug-out bag.
Related: The Best Travel Backpacks
Map with Evacuation Routes
Main roads may not be accessible in the event of an emergency, and familiar routes could be blocked by fire or other hazards. Include a map of your area in your bug bag to help you navigate your way out. ReadyforWildfire.org advises individuals to mark two or more evacuation routes in preparation for the unexpected.
Extra Sets of Keys
If you’re running out the door in an emergency, you may not have time or remember to grab your house or car keys. Keeping an extra set of keys to your home and car in your bug-out bag will solve this problem and also ensure you have a back-up set if one gets lost in the chaos of an emergency.
It can be challenging for rescuers to locate individuals who may be trapped or in need of assistance. Yells aren’t always loud enough for rescuers to hear. Ready.gov recommends including a whistle in your go bag to signal when you need help. An emergency whistle can emit sounds around 120 decibels to alert a rescue team to your location.
The air may be contaminated with harmful particles during a wildfire. Respirator masks cover both the mouth and nose to prevent you from breathing in those harmful particles. The best respirator masks are approved and tested by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), provide a tight seal around the nose and mouth, and have two straps to keep the mask securely in place.
Related: The Best Respirators
Emergency Contact Information
Programming emergency numbers and contact information for friends and family into a cell phone is important, but it won’t help you if the cell phone’s battery dies or the phone gets lost. You will also want to write this information down with a pen and paper and pack it in your bug-out bag to make sure you’re able to reach these individuals.
Copies of Important Documents
Finally, make copies of any important personal documents and add them to your go bag. Living with Fire suggests including documents such as the deed to your home, bank statements, trust and investment account information, proof of address, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, medication lists, and important medical history information. You may also want to back up important files on your computer to the cloud or to an external hard drive to pack in the bag.
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