What Is In Your Go Bag?


In recent years, the nation has experienced several unexpected adversities. One such ongoing example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which quickly swept across the country, leaving loss, suffering, and financial damage in its wake. It also left a valuable reminder: be prepared for the unpredictable. Although it is not encouraged to have a personal, Costco-level supply of toilet paper in your stockpile, it is wise to have a comprehensive emergency kit, also known as a disaster kit, in your home.

If you walked into an average U.S. citizen’s home, there is a good chance you may not even find an emergency kit. A 2015 National Center for Disaster Preparedness survey indicated that only 35 percent of respondents had an adequate emergency plan and supplies. Many might have extra canned food on hand, but others lack this basic need and other items essential to survival.

Experts recommend keeping your entire emergency kit in one or two bags that are easy to carry. This precaution could be critical for emergencies in which you will need to evacuate your home—and do so quickly. Emergencies of this magnitude range from natural disasters (for example, hurricanes, wildfires, floods, or earthquakes) to national security threats (for example, potential attacks from U.S. adversaries). One disaster that could occur naturally or come from an adversary is an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has the potential to disrupt, degrade, and damage technology and critical infrastructure systems. Although there are differing opinions about the threat of EMPs, just the thought of the country’s power grid shutting down should be cause for reflection and preparation. Additionally, it is essential to prepare for an emergency of a personal nature, one that affects you on an individual level.

Having a disaster plan can be equally as important as having a disaster kit.

With many possible threats, preparing to carry the right items that could keep you and your loved ones safe is critical. For a basic kit, Ready.gov suggests storing the following:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for several days for drinking and sanitation).
  • Food (at least a several-day supply of non-perishable food).
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Weather Radio with tone alert.
  • Flashlight.
  • First aid kit.
  • Batteries (for radios, flashlights, and other items).
  • Whistle (to signal for help).
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air).
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place).
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags, and plastic ties (for personal sanitation).
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities).
  • Manual can opener (for food).
  • Local maps.
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery or portable power bank.
  • Cash


  • Prescription medications (an emergency can make it difficult to refill prescriptions or find an open pharmacy).
  • Vitamins and other over-the-counter medicines.
  • Prescription eyeglasses, contact lenses, and contact lens solution.
  • Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream.
  • Important documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account records, saved electronically or kept in a waterproof, portable container.
  • Feminine hygiene products.
  • Pet food and extra water for your pet.


Having an emergency kit is not of much use if it is not accessible, if it is misplaced, or if it gets ruined from heat or moisture. Make sure to store your kit in a dry area out of direct sunlight. If it has been several years since you put your kit together, some items may have expired. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends checking and updating your emergency kit twice a year. When checking, review food items and batteries for expiration dates and replace them. Organizing your kit by expiration date can help make subsequent checks easy and effective. Also, assess your current situation to see if anything has changed and if additional items need to be incorporated.


Having a disaster plan can be equally as important as having a disaster kit. This step means talking with loved ones about various scenarios ahead of time or thinking through them on your own. Do you have elderly relatives you will need to assist? What if the main highways are not usable? What if your GPS is not operational? Developing solutions for possible contingencies ahead of time will help you move more quickly and effectively when danger is imminent.

Hopefully, we will never need to grab our “go bags,” but the minimal costs and effort involved in getting one ready is worth our peace of mind, knowing that we will be prepared should any disaster strike. Reviewing websites such as Ready.gov can help Americans prepare for more than natural disasters and national security threats, including vehicular emergencies, financial emergencies, medical emergencies, floods, and more. Knowing what to do ahead of time could save your life or the lives of vulnerable household members like pets, children, and seniors.