Natural Disasters: Be Aware, Be Prepared
Photo: Courtesy of Westchester County
In Your "Go Bag"
Pack the items below in a sturdy, easy-to-carry container such as a backpack or suitcase on wheels. Your Go Bag should be stored year-around in an easily accessible place in case you have to leave your home suddenly and should contain:
- Copies of your important documents (insurance cards, house deed, photo IDs, passport, bank information, physician contact information, family contact information) in a waterproof container
- Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map
- Cash ($50-$100, in small bills)
- An extra set of car and house keys
- Bottled water and non-perishable food such as energy or granola bars
- Cans of pet food and pet dishes
- A flashlight (traditional bulbs have limited lifespans; LED (light emitting diode flashlights last up to 10 times longer than traditional ones)
- Light-weight, waterproof blankets or plastic ponchos
- A first aid kit, with a list of the medications each member of your household takes, why they take them, and their dosages. Store extra medication in your Go Bag and to refill it before it expires.
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Child care supplies or other special care items as needed
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust masks, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- A wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- A can opener
- Cell phone with chargers or solar charger
- A complete change of clothing, including a long sleeved shirt, long pants and sturdy shoes.
Where to Find Items for Your Go Bag
- Non-perishable food (and a can opener): You can avoid hormone disrupting bisphenol-A in the linings of cans by choosing foods in aseptic cartons such as those produced by Tetra Pak and Sig Combibloc. Eden Foods also does not use BPA in their canned organic foods line (edenfoods.com). See "Cans: A Source of BPA" for more information.
- Radios: Solar radios that can also be hand-cranked mean you have fewer batteries to worry about. Freeplay Eyemax includes an LED flashlight and their Companion radio includes a flashlight and cellphone charger (freeplayenergy.com).
- Flashlights: LED flashlights (of which there are many models) will extend battery life considerably or try a handcranked model like the Freeplay Sherpa.
- Batteries and rechargers: Batteries are snapped up quickly in emergencies, but rechargeables can draw on solar energy to keep the power flowing. For rechargeable batteries of all types, see sundancesolar.com. A variety of solar chargers for car batteries are available at batterystuff.com. To recycle rechargeable batteries at the end of their life, check with your municipal sanitation department.
- Stoves: For extended emergencies, you’ll want to cook and may need to purify water by boiling it. Solar cooking provides a clean-energy option where sunlight is plentiful. The Preparedness kit, which includes a pot, water pasteurization indicator, and solar cooker is available through solarcookers.org. Or keep a portable, propane stove and fuel conveniently close to your emergency kit.
- Sewage: Properly handling human waste is a necessity when sewage lines have broken or been overwhelmed by flooding. You can convert your toilet or a 5 gallon pail to an emergency toilet by lining it with two heavy-duty garbage bags and placing kitty litter, fireplace ashes or sawdust at the bottom. Bags should be sealed at the end of the day and removed to a garage or outbuilding. The city may accept bags in the solid waste stream under emergency rules or they may be disposed of in a properly working sewage or septic system. Alternatively, the PETT Portable Toilet provides waste bags and powder to break down waste and render it fit for disposal in regular trash.
Finally, make sure you check all stored items regularly to ensure they still function and confirm with family members regularly about your emergency plans