When emergency strikes, do residents have Go Bags?

New York City has encouraged residents to prepare for emergencies with Go Bags for every family member, evacuation plans and other measures since 2007


Whether it’s natural disasters — like drought, fire, floods, ice storms, tornadoes or disease epidemics — accidents — like explosions or hazardous materials spills — or terrorism, residents may need to evacuate and a Go Bag at the ready can help them leave their homes in a hurry.

Go bags, or bug out bags, are not just for survivalists. Since 2007, the New York City Emergency Management department has encouraged residents to gather supplies as part of its Ready New York campaign. Each family member, including pets, should have their own Go Bag.

About 52 percent of those living in New York City keep a Go Bag with items like copies of important documents, water and a flashlight, according to a 2015 survey by the department. About one-third of residents are familiar with the city’s campaign.

The Go Bag is one of the most essential messages we have,” Katelyn James, Ready New York outreach coordinator, told Gov1.

She has been working on Ready New York since 2013 and gives presentations to schools and others. In the last few years, more of the kids seem to know what a Go Bag is when she holds hers up for them. The key contents are:

  • Copies of important documents (insurance and credit cards, birth certificates, deeds, photo IDs, proof of address, etc.) and cash in small bills kept in a waterproof container
  • Extra set of car and house keys
  • Bottled water and nonperishable food, such as energy or granola bars
  • Flashlight with extra batteries, though LED flashlights are recommended
  • Battery-operated AM/FM radio
  • Extra chargers and batteries for mobile phones and devices
  • Extra medication and a list of the medications each family member takes, why they take them and their dosages
  • First-aid kit
  • Toiletries
  • Notepad and pen
  • Contact and meeting place information for your household, and a small regional map
  • Lightweight rain gear and a Mylar blanket

Survivalists add additional items, like fire starters or stormproof matches, water purification tablets and coffee filters, a multi-use knife with scissors and a screwdriver and quick sheltering items like tarps and cordage.

Pet Go Bags should contain their essentials, including waste bags.

Restock Go Bags Twice per Year


The city advises residents, “Always have your Go Bag prepared and easily accessible in case of any evacuation. You may not have time to assemble your belongings, and you may not be allowed back until the danger has passed.”

Survivalists recommend that when making a Go Bag, consider shelter, water, enough high-calorie food for 72 hours (1,500-3,000 calories per person per day), a solar charger for communication devices, a signal mirror and a lighter.

In some cases, residents may need to evacuate their homes for a few days, depending on the severity, extent and type of the disaster.

James noted that it’s important to Winterize and Summerize Go Bags. “People will forget their car scraper, gloves, scarfs and hats,” she said. It’s a good idea to remind residents to check and restock Go Bags twice per year — such as when they change their clocks for daylight savings or when they change the batteries in their household smoke detectors, she advised.

In addition, the digital age has changed the way people manage important information, most people keep important information in their mobile phones. Ready New York stresses the importance of writing things down — everything from a family evacuation plan, to important telephone numbers and doctor’s information.

Andrea Fox is Editor of Gov1.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.

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