Hurricane Ian Approaches Florida: Pack Your Emergency Bug Out Bag ASAP

Hurricane Ian has reached the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make landfall Wednesday as a Category 3 storm on Florida’s west coast. If you’ve witnessed the destruction of a hurricane firsthand or simply seen the damage done to communities on TV, you know how terrifying these deadly storms can be. Preparation is key in the face of natural disasters, and if you live in Florida, it’s time to start preparing now.

An example of a good go bag.

Alina Bradford/CBS

Hurricane season brings power outages, storm surges and emergency evacuations. Having a duffel bag or bug out bag handy is one of the most important safety precautions to take before an emergency or natural disaster. Emergency services in affected areas recommend having a travel bag ready at all times.

The idea behind the go bag is simple. In an emergency, you grab your travel bag and… go. It has everything you need to help keep you safe and healthy until you can go home. Often this includes your phone, medication, Important Documents and other necessities. Here are some ways you can save your phone in case of emergencytoo.

Reasons why you should prepare a travel bag now

If you’re lucky enough to have some sort of weather warning, you might have more time to evacuate. But many disasters are so damaging because they happen suddenly. At any time, you may need to flee your home to find new shelter due to:

  • Earthquake
  • Forest fires
  • Tornadoes or hurricanes
  • Tsunamis
  • Flash floods
  • Mudslides
  • ice storms
  • Zombie apocalypse (just kidding… perhaps)

Don’t take three days’ worth of water with you

Although many experts recommend having a three-day supply of water at home in case of an emergency, evacuating with this amount of water can be impractical (especially if you don’t have a car). The alternative is to keep a device in your travel bag that can turn water from ditches, streams, ponds, and other water sources into clean drinking water.

Some options are LifeStraw Go Water Bottle ($30) or the Liberty LifeSaver ($125). Both can be clipped to the outside of a travel bag so they don’t take up pocket space.

Be warned, however. Many emergency filtration devices like these must be prepared with potable water before they can be used as a filter for filthy water. Be sure to read the instructions and prepare your bottle before attaching it to your travel bag.

Keep an LED flashlight handy

Batteries may run out in an emergency. That’s why it’s a good idea to put a lighting system in your travel bag that can be powered by a Renewable resource.

The ThorFire LED Flashlight ($24) can be powered by sunlight or a hand crank. A solar-powered or hand-cranked flashlight that doubles as an AM/FM radio is also a good choice.

What type of travel bag is the best?

The City of Chicago, accustomed to heavy storms, recommends that each member of your household have their own duffel bag. If you are the parent of young children, however, you can use a large bag to hold everything you need.

Remember that the best type of bag is the one you can carry. Don’t get a huge duffel bag unless you’re very strong and can lift it. If you drive, you want a bag that fits easily in your car. You don’t want one that’s so big that you have to leave one of the kids behind to take it with you.

A hiking backpack with multiple pockets is your best bet. Make sure it’s made from a sturdy canvas material and has a strap that secures around your chest. This will relieve your back a little if you have to walk for a long time.

Also look for a pack that has a water reservoir that you can fill with drinking water. These are often called camelbacks or hydration packs. A water-resistant bag can help keep your items dry inside, but you can also line it with a plastic trash bag.

The Sandpiper of California Bug Out Backpack ($149) is an example.

Other emergency essentials to pack

Water and light should be at the top of your list, but there are plenty of other things you should throw in your bag:

  • Non-perishable foods: Ready-to-eat meals, also known as MREs, are a popular choice, but freeze-dried foods also work. Just make sure they are lightweight; provide plenty of calories and protein; and have a lifespan of several months or even years.
  • A good multi-tool which includes knife, pliers, can opener and other tools.
  • paracordalso called 550 cord, can hold up to 550 pounds and is compact, so choose it instead of a regular cord.
  • Carabiners: These metal buckles with a spring-loaded latch have a thousand and one uses, like locking gear outside of your travel bag.
  • A whistle to signal to others if you need help and cannot shout.
  • Something to light a fire, such as a lighter or matches.
  • Solar cream
  • A poncho and a change of clothes.
  • Your family’s prescription drugs for a week and copies of your prescriptions. You’ll probably want to throw them in the travel bag when you leave, as keeping extras in your bag won’t be practical for most people.
  • A small first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, analgesics and gauze.
  • Personal care items such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, etc. Put these items in waterproof bags.
  • Your extra house and car keys.
  • A very warm blanket. Put it in a plastic bag, use the hose of your vacuum cleaner to suck the air out of the bag, and quickly seal it to save space.
  • A recent family photo for identification purposes, also in a plastic bag, protected from moisture.
  • Cash in small denominations and coins.
  • A regional map and compass so you can find your way without a phone when cell towers and GPS are down or busy, or you’re running out of battery.
  • Paper, pens and tape to leave messages for others.
  • A dust mask.
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance information, IDs, proof of address and passports, all in a waterproof plastic bag.
  • Your family photos on a USB key. This one is optional, but I like the security of knowing that I have some of my family’s treasured memories with me.
  • Pet supplies such as a leash, collapsible water bowl, and food.

More resources for you

Natural disasters and storms are only getting worse and happening more frequently as climate change intensifies. Although the devastation of these events can be heartbreaking, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself, your home, and your loved ones from a natural disaster. Here are some additional resources:

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