When the fire alarm goes off in the middle of the night, it can be hard enough to find the focus to get your pants on much less think about important items you may need. So was the case for us recently when, at 11:42pm, our building fire alarm awoke us from a deep sleep. I felt very relaxed until my partner pointed out the flames he could see from our living room window, and that’s when my emergency response training kicked in.
“Warm pants. Warm jackets. Hats. Mittens. Who needs a scarf? Get the dog’s coat. Warm socks and boots! We don’t know how long we’ll be outside. Do you have your wallet? Bring your cell phone.”
Within seven minutes, we’d dressed, grabbed our things, evacuated our home, walked down five flights of stairs, and were watching our regional fire department tackling a vehicle fire that was far too close to our building for comfort.
Standing in the uncharacteristically mild February air, I looked up at our building and thought of all the things I didn’t bring outside with me. Since we were able to see that the fire was NOT in our building, and because the fire wasn’t terribly serious and we knew we’d be back inside soon, it was easy to dismiss. But if it hadn’t been, a great many important items could have been lost. It was a sobering thought.
A “get out” bag (or “go-bag”) is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a bag you grab as you’re getting the heck out of your home during an emergency situation. It needn’t be fancy and shouldn’t be more than you can carry, but it contains important items you may need – particularly if your home should be lost to fire.
I used to keep a “get out” bag near our door, but over time became complacent and eventually stopped doing it at all. Our recent evacuation served as an excellent reminder to make sure I restock and prepare ours again.
Your “get out” bag should include:
- Water and/or reusable water bottle
- Protein bars, granola bars, other snacks (particularly helpful for littles)
- Warm clothing/accessories (hats, mittens, scarf, blanket, etc.)
- Copies of important documents, like passports or birth certificates
- Spare keys (in case you forget yours in the panic)
- Photo copies of health cards, insurance cards
- A list of your current medications, if applicable
- Phone chargers
- Toy or small item for children, if applicable
I’d recommend a bag with sturdy straps or a large, strong backpack.
Keep your “get out” or “go” bag somewhere easy to grab – like the top shelf of your coat closet or next to your door – and make sure someone in your home is assigned to grab it. If you do not have time to safely get it, simply get yourself out. The purpose of the bag is to ensure you don’t need to go looking for things you may need – it should not be something you have to go searching for, climbing on top of things for, or otherwise wasting time obtaining.
Hopefully you’ll never need to grab it and go, but if you do you’ll be glad you did.