Skip to main content

Fires, mudslides, tsunamis and earthquakes… Oh my!

By ,

Northern California is no stranger to extreme weather events. The recent Carr and Mendocino Complex fires still raging have become the most destructive and largest wildfires in the state’s history, respectively. Whenever we hear about or see these events on the news they seem so far away and feel like they could never happen where we live. This false sense of security needs to be done away with. Being prepared doesn’t mean you’re paranoid, it means you’re smart. An essential in preparedness is a well-packed “Go Bag”.

Getting your Go Bag together

As a guideline a Go Bag should have enough supplies that can keep you going for at least 72 hours

As the name suggests, a Go Bag is a pack that you can grab and go when things start to get dicey and you have to leave your home or property. As a guideline a Go Bag should have enough supplies that can keep you going for at least 72 hours. You should prepare a Go Bag for everyone in your household, including your pets.

Hiking packs make great Go Bags, but that backpack in the garage that is leftover from school years prior can work too! Ideally you want to have hands free carrying, maximize the amount of supplies and space, while distributing the weight evenly – duffel bags aren’t as good as a backpack or hiking pack for these reasons.

What do I put in my Go Bag?

When packing food in a Go Bag, the name of the game is non-perishable. You’re going to want to go with foods that have high levels of proteins and fats. Things like peanut butter, tuna, granola bars, nuts, or trail mix are all good options. The only beverage you should be concerned with is water, plan on 3 gallons per person. Have a canteen in your bag – if you happen to have a camelbak type water bladder, store it near your GoBag instead of buried with the camping gears. You may want to have water purification tablets or some sort of trusted filtration device to make clean water from streams and lakes, if necessary.

When being evacuated by state or federal agencies the goal is to get somewhere safe and to enable emergency workers to focus on their tasks. That can sometimes mean an evacuation center, a family member’s house or in severe cases a FEMA shelter or camp. Getting to these safe zones is not always a straight line and in frantic situations getting lost or detoured is common. Enabling yourself to be as self-sufficient as possible helps to make sure you get to the finish line.

If you take any medications you’ll want to pack at least a 3 day supply, and sanitary napkins and/or tampons. A complete first aid kit is a must. Waterproof matches, a flashlight, a handheld solar powered battery charger, a utility knife, and an emergency hand crank radio are all great itmes to have in your pack. There are also many companies that make emergency sleeping bags, “space blankets”, and tents that can be folded up to the size of a book. Liquid soap, rubbing alcohol, an air quality mask and of course duct tape are also good things to have.

Water resistant, non-flammable all-weather jackets, hiking pants or jeans, a good pair of boots and gloves should be your primary outfit when on the move. Having a second pair of boots or shoes is a great idea but remember, whatever you want you have to carry and driving might not always be an option. Pack a back up jacket and pair of pants and then make sure you have plenty of underwear and socks. The absolute last thing you’d want to deal with when evacuating is blistering or rashes.

Bring two forms of ID and keep them on your person at all times. If you or anyone you’re traveling with has a health condition, a medical ID bracelet is a great idea. Be sure to bring cash, as well as credit cards if you have them. Keep this in a discrete and secure location like in your boot. It’s important to be able to identify yourself and explain your situation to emergency personnel. During evacuations there can be things like checkpoints or a specific locations for communities to evacuate to. The more confusion you can eliminate the safer everyone will be.

Don’t worry, be happy 

Once you’ve gotten your Go Bag, put it in a handy, out-of-the-way place. The point of a Go Bag and general preparedness isn’t to be paranoid. It’s about positioning yourself to be well equipped for what might happen.

For more information, go to CalFire’s website: and

Zachary Lathouris, SoHum Health Outreach Department

Related: ,