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Are You and Your Family Ready to “Bug Out”?

Washington, DC, July 22, 2008 — A Red Cross “ready to go” preparedness kit showing the bag and it’s contents. These kits are available from the Red Cross and the contents can be customized. Red Cross photograph

In order to be ready to “bug out”, or relocate in the event of an emergency, you and your family could benefit from having a bug out bag prepared and ready to go. A bug out bag is a portable kit, typically packed into a backpack type of carrier, which contains the items you and your family would need to survive for 72 hours in the event of an emergence or disaster. The main purpose of a bug out bag is to prepare you in the event you need to evacuate.

The term “bug-out bag” is related to the military practice of troops being prepared to evacuate or relocate if needed in times of war. It is helpful to have all of the items needed to evacuate in one place so you can evacuate in a hurry. The idea of having enough supplies for 72 hours comes from the estimated time it would take a disaster relief agency to be able to assist you in an emergency.

Here is a typical bug out bag list from Wikipedia with suggested items for your bag:

  • Enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours. This includes:
    • Water for washing, drinking and cooking–typically one gallon per person per day. Don’t forget water for your pets, too.
    • Non-perishable food
    • Water purification supplies
  • first aid kit
  • Basic cooking supplies
  • Fire starting tool).
  • A disaster plan including location of emergency centers, rallying points, possible evacuation routes, etc.
  • Professional emergency literature explaining what to do in various types of disaster, studied and understood before the actual disaster but kept for reference.
  • Maps and travel information
  • Standard camping equipment, including sanitation supplies
  • Weather appropriate clothing and UV protection, including rain gear
  • Bedding items such as sleeping bags and blankets
  • Enough medicine to last an extended evacuation period
  • Copies of medical records for each person in the family
  • Pet, child, and elderly care needs
  • Battery or crank-operated radio
  • Lighting (battery or crank operated flashlightglow sticks)
  • Cash and change, as electronic banking transactions may not be available during the initial period following an emergency or evacuation
  • Positive identification, such as drivers license, state I.D. card, or social security card, plus any medical ID cards if you have them. Those with allergies should have a MedicAlert or similar ID.
  • Birth certificate or passport
  • Fixed-blade and folding knife
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Multi-tool, like a Leatherman
  • Duct tape and rope or paracord
  • Tarpaulins for shelter and water collection
  • Wire for binding and animal traps
  • Compass
  • Firearms and extra ammunition
  • Slingshotpellet gunblowgun or other small game hunting equipment
  • Small fishing kit
  • Signal mirror
  • Emergency whistle
  • Rubber tubing
  • Digestion care medicine for indigestion, stomach ache, nausea, and diarrhea

Some bug out bag lists available on the Internet contain as many as 104 items. You can pick and choose which items best meet your “bug out” evacuation needs: http://www.skilledsurvival.com/free-bug-out-bag-checklist/.

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Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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