Preparedness at Home – What’s in Your Go-Bag?

Firestorm is a national business-to-business consultancy focusing on risk analysis, preparedness planning, and crisis management. Our mission is to help an organization uncover its risks and vulnerabilities, develop plans and procedures to mitigate damages (should that risk materialize), then implement a robust training and testing program to quickly and efficiently respond to crises.  You are more likely to be able to count on the employee, who is prepared at home, for helping you in your business crisis.  The employees’ needs at home, with their family, will always supersede your need for them at work.  Knowing that they are prepared for a crisis at home will benefit you at work.  This article can be printed and posted on an employee bulletin board.  A more prepared and resilient workforce will be an asset to you.

The catastrophic hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the daily tornados, floods, and fires remind us that the need to evacuate quickly is ever present. The definition of “quickly” might vary slightly from catastrophe to catastrophe, but whether you have 24 hours or 30 minutes notice, packing a go bag will always be most successful if done early, before you need it.  “Proper preparation prevents poor performance”.  What should be in your go bag? 

A free electronic book, “Disaster Ready People For A Disaster Ready America” is available for download at   This is a well-organized book, written in chapters, with each chapter covering a different topic.  It is designed to support you in spending about a month on each chapter preparing lists, gathering supplies, and meeting with your families to outline responsibilities when speed and accuracy is most necessary.  Over the course of a year, you will have developed a well thought out go bag that might save your life.  Chapters include:

1.  Getting started – The conversation with your family should gain buy in on this family project.  PREDICT. PLAN. PERFORM.®  Predict the risks you’ll face.  Design a plan should those risks materialize.  Practice, practice, practice.  Know that you can implement the plan when needed.  Start a notebook to assemble the plan you’ll be developing.

2.  Identification of risks – What might go wrong? You should consider things in your national zone, in your regional zone, in your neighborhood zone (a 3-mile radius of your work place and home), and your address zone (what is on all sides of you).  In Maryland that list should include:

  • Fire – fire departments report to about 1000 residential fires in the United States every day and the number of unreported fires far exceeds that.
  • Winter storm – stuck on the side of the road without food and water will make for an uncomfortable experience.
  • Hazardous materials spills – particularly if you live near a railroad or large transportation route.
  • Hurricane – or at least flooding, depending on the flood zone you live in.
  • Power grid failure – or at least electrical interruption caused by any event.
  • Terrorism – is the event always in the news, and our proximity to the nation’s capital makes us vulnerable.

3.  Communicable illness – What food and how much food and water should you store?  What else might you need if you were quarantined in your home for a period of time?

4.  Your emergency contacts list – Making a list, sorted by a) your family, both extended and immediate, b) the emergency services you might need, and c) your business contacts, while your computer and printer are accessible.  Assembling this list in a notebook will be necessary if your cell phone is out of service, because like you, I have everything stored on my phone.

  • Think about what family live out of the area, should you need to evacuate.
  • The more ways you have of contacting emergency responders and local sources of help, the better you’ll feel.  Although, understand that during a regional disaster, you will be your own first responder.  There might not be anyone there to answer your 911 call.
  • Without your computer up and running, reaching any business contacts you need to might be very difficult if you don’t have them written down somewhere.

5.  Your family’s communication plan –

  • Where will you meet, both in your immediate vicinity after a fire or locally in your neighborhood?
  • How will you get home from work and school?  Do you have several back up plans?
  • Develop a phone tree – Who will call whom?  Make sure the list circles back to the beginning to ensure all are notified.  During a regional crisis, phone service might be limited, so a call sequence will reduce the number of calls needed.

6.  Should you stay or should you go? – Who will make that decision?  Your plan developed above should include how you’ll communicate this.  Considerations should include staying at school or work.  How will you evacuate if required to do so?  Is there gas in your car?

7.  If you stay, what will you need to shelter in place?

  • Water – how much do you need and how will you purify it.
  • Food and cooking considerations.
  • Emergency radio, flashlights and candles, power inverter for your car, etc…
  • First aid kit contents.

8.  If you go, what will you need to take with you to evacuate?  What’s in your go-bag?

  • After considering all the above, how will you carry it? The typical water requirement is 1 gallon / person / day, but only ½ gallon / person / day for drinking.  For a four-person family that will be 1 gallon X 4 X 7 days = 28 gallons of water which weighs 224 pounds.  How will you carry that or will you reduce your requirement?
  • Extra clothes and bedding, appropriate for the time of year.
  • Important papers – collecting the list of important papers cannot be done with a 30-minute evacuation notice. These should include banking numbers, insurance policies and numbers, proof of residence, stocks bonds and negotiable certificates, wills, home insurance inventory, and treasured family photos.

9.  Planning for your pets to both stay and go, including records and supplies you’ll need.  Before you arrive at your emergency destination ensure your pets will be welcome.  Research what hotels locally and regionally will accept pets.

10. Medical information, history, and consent forms – What should you have?

11. Identity theft – With all this important information on you, how will you protect it?

12. Considerations during vacation and traveling, at both home and your destination.

13. Keeping your plan current and the after-action assessment.  This chapter also contains a nice list of disaster resources available.

Preparedness does not happen by accident or by itself.  You are your own first responder.

It has been my pleasure assembling this series of eleven articles on preparedness.  I hope it has stimulated a desire to improve resiliency.  I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you further, any questions or concerns with your business preparedness.  I can be reached at 410-303-0635 or