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Emergency Preparedness Tips #3

By Pam Wilson | July 29, 2021

The CERT logo for Benton County with green letters and the iconic Benton County CourthouseWhether it’s an ice storm, a wildfire, or another natural disaster, volunteers from Benton County Community Emergency Response Team (BCCERT) have been trained to help their neighbors respond. Pam Wilson is a retired teacher and a trained BCCERT member who has created this blog post series to help Benton County residents prepare for emergencies. This is the third installment.

Do you have a “go-bag”? What is a go-bag? Where do I keep a go-bag? How do I start a go-bag?

In Basic CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training, go-bags are part of the first lesson and our comparisons to each other continue throughout the class sessions. When we show our bags, we all want to compare with the leader Aaron when “things go south” – his bag of about 75# which he can carry and with which he’ll survive forever. Other bags look different; mine sure does and probably yours will/does too.

In 2019, I participated as support in the fire evacuation exercise for the Skyline West Neighborhood where they practiced evacuating with everything they needed. Some remembered their pets; others left them home. Many residents didn’t have supplies other than their purse or a coffee mug. Most had no idea where to go once evacuated. And probably 50% did not have a go-bag! Lessons learned in this exercise can help us, so I’d like to offer some basics. Unless you already have a bag and are revising, you will probably not finish this week but you can start. There’s a lot to learn; you will figure out details for yourself but talking to others may help, it has for me. Every family member needs a go-bag – that includes the kids!

  1. A go-bag is basic and personal. The basics – food, water, shelter/clothing, safety/first aid. A go-bag needs to be good for a week at minimum, and it is what YOU need!
  2. Where to keep go-bags? Ours are in our vehicles. I’m either in town or I’m home – either way, my go-bag is where I am. Some people have two, one by the door and one in the vehicle. Many friends
    have one in their office.
  3. My go-bag is a rolling duffle. I can’t move a 40# bag on my back anymore. A friend keeps her kit in a rolling file box. Do what works for you!
  4. Where are you evacuating to? Plan your contents accordingly – friends/family, hotel, camping.
  5. I have a checklist of my additional items to bring, with their location. If there’s time, we’ll put those items in the car – the CPAP, solar generator, NOAA radio, etc.
  6. Using the guidelines from Ready.gov, or from page 10 of the booklet Prepare for an Emergency with 12 Simple Activities, start setting up your go-bag.
    • There are several categories to consider; I mashed them into categories that work for me. Others may want to add categories. Cross out items you do not need. Simplify but be complete.
    • Spread everything out on the floor or bed to get the big picture. I added 3 pairs of underwear and socks but took out a pair of pants. Added another jar of peanut butter and honey 😊 (Honey can be used medicinally).
    • Every 6 months, I take the go-bags apart to make seasonal clothes changes, switch out food and meds, and make sure the mice haven’t been busy.
    • Be sure you know how to use any equipment you purchased – life straw, multi-tool, small stove. Are flashlights charged? Maintenance!

In my next post, we’ll explore go-bag specifics like food, personal items, and first aid. This coming winter, consider holding a neighborhood preparedness gathering to discuss go-bags, generators, water, medical help, and other topics you want to learn more about. Neighborhood meetings are a great way to share ideas, snacks, and warm beverages as we work to build community to support us through disasters longer than the 7 days of ice storm/electricity outage some Benton County residents experienced in February of 2021.

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About the Author

Pam Wilson

Pam Wilson is a retired teacher and a member of and instructor with the Benton County Community Emergency Response Team (BCCERT). To join or take classes with BCCERT, Google "Benton County CERT" and visit their website.

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