Posted by: Donna Cunningham | March 19, 2011

Emergency Preparedness–What’s in YOUR “Go Bag”?

©3-19-11 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Today into tomorrow, a number of noteworthy events are happening:

Oh, yes and it’s the day some geologist is predicting a massive earthquake on the West Coast. 

 As I’ve indicated in recent posts, I’m skeptical about the records of most prognosticators from geologists to weather forecasters to political pollsters to seers to mundane astrologers.

 HOWEVER, since this old globe has been quite seismically active of late, I’ve decided it’s time to update and solidify my emergency preparedness provisions. I do, after all, live on the 8th floor of a high rise, although one that withstood a 5.0 quake here last week without a jolt. 

 I work well with deadlines, and have used them all my life as an impetus to action. What better impetus than the footage of Japan’s devastation we’re seeing on television?  So I am asking my readers to join me in a preparedness project. 

And that’s where a “go bag” comes in. 

It’s a bag that’s always packed and near the door with absolute necessities for a rapid emergency evacuation. It would hold a can opener, flashlight, a few days worth of our medications, some cash, a change of underwear, a radio with batteries—essentials like that.

As of this morning, my go bag is good to go. It’s got small versions of most things I’d need for about a 3-day period. I can’t carry more than that. Right now I’m going out for some last minute additions like beef  jerky and sample sizes of shampoo. 

Additional Resources

From a U.S. government site, Ready America, is a helpful link with  a list of the items that should be in a basic emergency kit:  Click HERE .

If you are a flower essence user or practitioner,  Vibration Magazine and Blog has a new article with links to dozens of articles about essences for crisis here: 

Tomorrow (Sunday) Dr. Deborah Bier, my friend and fellow editor of Vibration Magazine, will lead a special  Q&A session here at Skywroter on Emergency Preparedness. Deborah has been one of the leaders in developing an emergency preparedness plan for her city of Concord, Massachusetts. She’ll be available to answer questions and share her experience and knowledge.  Join us on Sunday, 12:00 PM Pacific for the session.

In the meantime, leave your own suggestions in the comment section of this post. 

More Self-Help Tools in a Crisis:


  1. I recommend scanning photos and documents not needed in original form (medical, insurance, and financial account info) and storing them along with important computer files on flash drives that you keep in your go bag.

    • Hi, Mari, good thought, as in a period of disruption such papers may not be accessible. I have copies of mine in a plastic sleeve, along with my phone contact list and all important medical information. Donna

    • Good one – I’ll do this tomorrow (project deadline TODAY!)

      Hi Donna – long time!

  2. First off, (lol)…Do you all REALLY want a double Capricorn lecturing you on this topic?
    If so, here’s a start: Those are cute ideas for a day or two you expect to spend in a National Guard armory, a Red Cross shelter, or a Holiday Inn without electricity. But for a refugee evac on foot?
    Canned goods are too heavy to carry so unless things get to the point of looting abandoned domiciles you won’t need one…and if you did, better off with a major Swiss type army knife, and don’t forget the hatchet. (Many people died in Katrina for lack of a hatchet).
    Batteries? For a radio? That kind of radio could weigh 8lbs…same as a gallon of water which is also too heavy to be practical added to the gear you would REALLY need.
    A HAND-CRANKED self generating radio is what you MIGHT need, short term. (Mine is a few years old -but smaller and lighter than the just the batteries one would need for that boom-box of doom). This is supposing that there will be any pertinant news re your day to day survival. People died in Katrina because they followed INSTRUCTIONS! (Go to the highest level of your home and await MORE instructions…)
    The main thing to consider is where you live, the terrain, the “escape routes” you could most likely take (ON FOOT), your physical condition, and how far you are willing to “push the envelope” to protect your life and, or, your loved ones.
    I have confidence that I could survive indefinitely in a wilderness situation (ask me about THAT “grab and go”–it is KNOWLEDGE– of edible wild plants, snares, shelter building, water purification, etc.)–ask me about urban chaos survival? HELL, –I don’t even wanna go there. As a life long pacifist, could I take another human life in defense of my own? The answer is always, “NO”. Could I take one to protect my grandchildren? I shudder to ever find the answer to THAT question.

    • Do come tomorrow, Berta. Deborah is coming from a very different place than would you kill to protect your grandchildren. Donna

      • Thanks, Donna. You are very kind and ‘moderating’. I had to miss the Q+A tho just read it through. True, we are only as durable as the communities we build.
        (But as the resident curmudgeon (lol?) I did miss the op to respond to “how should I prepare my pets”?….My advice would have been: “with a mustard vinaigrette marinade”).

    • Here’s a letter sent to the Concord, Mass newslist from an American who lives in Japan. Should we mark it down to cultural differences, or is this human potential we might all achieve?

      Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,
      First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.
      Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend’s home. We share supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.

      During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs and buckets.

      Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an earthquake strikes. People keep saying, “Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another.”

      Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens are constant and helicopters pass overhead often. We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on. But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not.

      No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.

      There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun. People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking their dogs. All happening at the same time. Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered with stars. I usually can see about two stars, but now the whole sky is filled. The mountains of Sendai are solid and with
      the crisp air we can see them silhouetted against the sky magnificently.

      And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on, and I find food and water left in my entrance way. I have no idea from whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic, no.

      They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is better off than others. Last night my friend’s husband came in from the country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.

      Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I felt so small because of all that is happening. I don’t. Rather, I feel as part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.

      Thank you again for your care and Love of me, With Love in return, to you all,

      • A beautiful testimonial to enduring spirit. Magnificent, indeed! Thanks for sharing this, Donna.

  3. We finally got all organised – we live In NZ that has many earthquakes & even life near a fault line – one knows we all should be organised – have meant to but well never did. Finally we did it.

    Love Leanne

    • Good for you, Leanne. You’ll never regret it. I suspect that only about 10% of people in the US have made any emergency preparations, and there really isn’t much of any part of the country that would be totally safe from natural disasters of one kind or another…tornados, hurricanes, floods, droughts. We ALL need emergency kits. Donna

      PS. I was right, it’s only 10%. ABC News’ Lara Salahi wrote yesterday:

      “While there are national and local emergency plans in place, making the big picture response look satisfactory, experts say it’s likely that most Americans themselves are not prepared to handle emergencies…

      “It’s really in the personal preparedness phase rather than the response phase that we need to be paying more attention,” said Jonathon Links, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health Preparedness in Baltimore.

      In fact, according to Links, most cities and towns across the United States have experienced some type of natural disaster. Yet, it is estimated that only about 10 percent of households are prepared to handle emergencies.”

      But the hard part, says Links, is getting folks to buy in to preparedness. For years, health communicators have worked to develop campaigns to motivate citizens to set up a personal plan should there ever be a disaster. But many consumers don’t listen, he said, until an actual disaster occurs.

      One of the major reasons is that many don’t believe what has been happening abroad can happen at home, he said.

      “The essence of the model is you have to convince people that there’s a threat, and that there’s something they can do about it,” Links said.

      And while it seems difficult to motivate many to physically prepare for emergencies, mental preparation may prove even more difficult.

      “When people hear fearful messages of what might happen, they’re more likely to tune it out,” Links said.
      Salahi, Lara. “Disaster Preparedness: Could the U.S. Hold Water?” ABC News. 12 Mar. 2011. ( 15 Mar. 2011.

  4. I’d be nixing the beef jerky…too salty and indigestble! You’d just be wishing you were still toting that 8lb. gallon of water!
    Also, I’d pour out that shampoo and replace it with a few feet of fishing line and a couple of hooks!
    (I’m still gobsmacked about this “beef jerky” thing…is this something Americans have seen in an old Hollywood Western movie? Beef jerky is not pemmican…beef jerky)?

    • I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in the Pacific Northwest they sell it in every grocery store from Safeway on down to the 7-11 convenience stores and dollar stores. Like a snack…like potato chips. I don’t think it’s regional. Donna

      • Late to reply, but yes,- you’re right, Donna. It’s there on the counter display of our local 7/11. My husband, the omnivore, assures me that it is not just a macho “hunter’s snack”.
        Sorry. I haven’t eaten any beef since 1968. Mea culpa.

  5. I’ve had a go bag packed for twelve years. I had a friend who was in Germany being of a good family with connections they were given ten minutes and forty pounds he used to always ask us what we would take if given this option.

    In my go bag along with basic essentials I have the tricks of my trade because money will not be worth the paper it is printed on to survive better to have something to trade. What do you have to trade?

    • Tricks of the trade–what a provacative thought, Sylvia. Interesting to ponder.

      My first thought of what I have to trade was NOT astrology. I am way too retired for that. Nor would writing be much of a sought-after skill.

      I would say that I am a healer/social worker…all I’d really need would be a pair of hands and a brain, both of which I’d hopefully be taking along with me.

      And also my guides/helpers on the other side, who don’t weigh much. Donna

      • I’ve been meaning to ask but never dared. Would you be willing to share more insights into your “guides and helpers”.
        If that is too personal…What about your reader’s potential “helpers” and the methods they might find available in sorting those out? Thanks, B.

      • Oh, boy! Listen, I take great pains not to be seen as weird. It’s mostly a wasted effort, but I persist. My guides and helpers are a motley assortment of non-terrestial or non-incarnate beings. Some of them reside on the Astrologers’ Memorial web page, others on other planes, others aren’t from around here.

        I never seek them out, they just talk to me, and I choose to listen IF what they say rings true, but they are always subject to verification. I kowtow to no one, and especially not to beings I can’t see, and I obey no one without thinking their advice through thoroughly.

        Sometimes trees talk to me too, which comes in handy in making or choosing flower essences. Sometimes body parts–my own and other people’s–talk to me and tell me what’s hurting them. They all seek me out because they sense I’m a good listener.

        So now all I have to do is decide whether to hit the “submit reply” button. Will I? Won’t I? Will I? Won’t I? Donna

      • I do hear you and thanks so much. Being “weird”, yeah…
        Only my husband and son know (very little) about mine. I expect that in a public profession like yours such a “shocking” revelation would tend to undermine rather than enhance your credibility with many clients and/or readers.
        They come and go, maybe leaving to incarnate? My favorite was an- audio only- little girl. She would pop up only when I was challenged or, literally, lost. (if she said, “turn left, turn left!” it was always the right thing to do.
        Here’s a goody. I’ll make it short. At a large social gathering about 25 yrs ago, a man I’d never seen before saw me rummaging in my bag when an astrology book churned up. He sneered and said, “I suppose you can tell me what sign I am”? She came on, all excited as usual, with “Ooo, ooo, he was born on –/–/1951!!! Ooo, ooo!”). I thought, what the hell, looked him in the eye and gave him the date. He paled, sank into the nearest seat, and “converted” right there.
        I made him show me his driver’s license. She was never wrong for 15 yrs. Alas, she never did lottery numbers.

      • What a neat story, Berta. And I can see that you do understand. Donna

  6. I’m worried that (in America anyway) the person with the best Go Bag would also be the juiciest target. I’m thinking along the lines of a large waterproof poncho with lots of inside pockets.

  7. I’ve sewn pockets inside of the cups of my ‘Go’ bra and have money folded in there.
    That’s as prepared as I am right now. Lugged out 2 travel bags yesterday and will fill them over the next week.

    • Also need a decent pair of athletic shoes, the ones I owned had 3 holes in each shoe so had to be disposed of, but I keep hearing ‘athletic shoes by the bed’.

      • I guess you’ll be able to hit the ground running!

        Listen to those promptings, folks. What you’re prompted to pack may not make sense to you, but might be a lifesaver for someone else you encounter. Donna

  8. seeds and trowel.

    • Love that idea! What types of seeds would you include?

      • Squash, beans, corn, tomato,- heirloom varieties only.
        Civilizations have been built on these alone.

  9. Hi,

    I have a few suggestions for your ‘go bag’.
    I’m assuming that you could be out in the elements for several days or longer…
    -two emergency “space” blankets as individually they are too small to cover your entire body . You can also use them to improvise a solar cooker.
    -a small metal pan with a lid for boiling water in (for purification and cooking), a black one is best because you can also use it for solar cooking.
    – oven cooking bags (like for Thanksgiving) for solar cooking.
    -instant soup packets, tea bags, in baggies put – noodles, protein powder, powdered milk, nuts, dried fruit or trail mix. Peanut butter cracker- type snacks (like from a vending machine) are also good. You need a collapsible cup and a spoon. Help may not get to you for awhile and you may need to feed others as well as yourself.
    -sugar and salt packets in case rehydration is needed.
    -a bottle of sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, alcohol pads, tweezers, a large tube of antibiotic ointment, medical gloves and gloves to protect your hands ( in the event of a massive earthquake there may be injured people and sharp objects everywhere ), eye protection, spare glasses, sunglasses. sunscreen if it fits.
    – a baggie with individual does of otc meds for pain, allergies, diarrhea, sleep, and also an antacid . I like Pepto-bismol tabs because they are multi-purpose. Benadryl (allergic reactions, sleep aid, itching) is also very useful.
    – also all your prescription meds. You may not be able to reenter your home ever and in the case of a wide-spread disaster it could be a while before prescriptions can be refilled.
    -depending on where you live, some kind of bug repellent may also save your sanity it you are forced to sleep outside. A small mosquito net would be wonderful if it fits.
    – a water bottle for storing water.
    -printed instructions of how to purify water, make a solar cooker, make a solar still, start a fire, make an insulated cooking box, do first aid – keep all these instructions in a water proof bag. Or buy a paperback book that discusses
    survival topics. Cody Lundin in one such author. There are many. If you know how to do CPR, a protective CPR mask could come in handy.
    – trash bags, particularly heavy contractor bags, can be used for many,
    many things from collecting rainwater to collecting human waste, take them out of their box and just put the roll in your backpack.
    – clear trash bags could also be used to tie around the ends of trees to collect water – you need to research the proper way to do this first however.
    – some rope or twine to use with the contractor bags make a shelter , also a tarp is good if you have room.
    – a lighter or matches.
    – duct tape if you have room – a huge number of uses.
    – a solar flashlight or one that runs on AA batteries, a small radio that runs on AA batteries, extra AA batteries….small and lightweight.
    – a boy scout knife and a collapsible camping saw. A hatchet would be very helpful
    if you are going to have to get through debris or cut firewood.
    – a jacket or coat, even if the weather is warm. A heavy cap is particularly helpful in maintaining body heat at night. A rain poncho that folds into a small pouch.
    I would put everything in a backpack (one with a frame) then you could tie the jacket to the frame). Then line the backpack with a heavy trashbag, I would also keep an large umbrella ( like a golf umbrella) where I could grab it on the way out. It could be a defensive weapon in addition to what it is designed for. It could also be a component in an improvised shelter and protect you from the sun
    Of course I would take the originals of all important documents put them in a folder and put the folder in a gallon sized freezer bag ( if they fit, in a doubled
    clear trash bag if they don’t).
    – a whistle to call for help if you get trapped in wreckage. Your cell phone, but it might not work.
    -pepper spray if it is legal where you live.
    -if there is a place to tie it on your backpack frame, a bedroll or sleeping bag.
    – I would have all my important phone numbers written down in pencil especially my emergency contact person.

    I don’t have any experience with Katrina-like disasters, but I have camped a lot
    with few supplies, sometimes in remote areas and I find that if you are going to be out in the elements it it better to have all the protection and tools you can carry on your back. I’m also accident prone so I don’t skimp on the first-aid stuff.

    In advance of a disaster you might want to consider taking CPR and first aid classes and making sure that your immunizations, especially for tetanus, are up to date. Also, I learn a lot from watching survival shows on the Discovery Channel and videos on Youtube . Youtube has a lot of good information on making solar cookers, water heaters, solar stills (how to purify/distill seawater, urine or just dirty water using the sun) as well as how to make shelters, catch fish —- a ton of useful topics.

    It seems like a lot of stuff, but you will be around other people most likely –
    including the elderly and small children who may need some of what you have and who may have to rely on your skills just to go on living.

    Best of luck to you.

    • All good suggestions, Kate. I’d already incorporated some of them, but as a single non-driver who’d be on foot, I’m limited to what I can carry. That’s a good tip about watching the survival shows–and I think they help us to overcome the panic of the unthinkable. Donna

      • Hi Donna,

        Thank your kind comments.

        I was thinking about what you said and I believe that you could fit most, if not all, of the suggested items with (some careful packing) into a medium-sized hiker’s backpack (not a daypack ) with a frame.

        The dried food could be put in baggies, the otc medication (I suggest prepackaged single dose packets) could as well – make sure the air is rolled out of the baggies/freezer bags beforehand. The quantity of each doesn’t have to be large – unless it is cold out, most adults can live weeks without food. Also you don’t need a huge amount of otc medication but the ability to treat severe diarrhea could be the difference between life and death. (Plus disasters are stressful maybe hitting you in the head and tummy). Sugar and salt packets can help with rehydration in the event of dehydration children, elderly particularly susceptible. Tarps, mosquito netting come flat and can be put in the bottom of your bag. You could get a water bottle with a built-in filter – just make sure you read what it will and won’t filter out. Some are designed to hook onto the outside of a backpack.

        You don’t need a large pan with a lid, a very small black one purchased from a thrift store will do. You can place items in the pot or pan and then place the pan in the backpack. Work gloves, medical gloves and first aid supples can be purchased at a dollar store. The medical gloves etc. can be repackaged into freezer gloves. Dollars stores around here also sell freezer bags, radios with ear buds that would fit in the palm of your hand as well as small flashlights and AA batteries. Again I would put what I could in freezer bags and then put it all in a contractor bag in the backpack-I’ve had too many experiences with the power of pouring rain. The extra contractor bags and rope can stay rolled up to save space in your backpack.

        Camping stores specialize in space-efficient, light weight tools. That’s were you could also get space blankets, the collapsible saw and a good knife and maybe bear spray- an upgraded pepper spray.

        I am a single person as well. I also have two bad knees and am sensitive to cold – and don’t want to be out in it without protection from the elements! So my coat and umbrella go with me even in mild weather. Cos’ you never know!

        Unless you are blocking a stairwell you could probably toss/slide your backpack down exit stairs in front of you to save time exiting your building. Nothing in it should be fragile. I had to get out of a building once in an earthquake – it was amazing how long those few seconds seemed.

        If you are concerned about becoming a target because you have supplies, you may want to research stealth shelters called scout pits and stealth firepits called Dakota pits or Dakota fire pits. Even urban areas have wooded patches that can conceal you. Probably best to find your “hidey hole” in advance.

        Anyway, thank you again for providing a place to discuss these thing. Hope to never need this information or these supplies , I think often about the babies and others that survived the Hurricane but then died in New Orleans and wonder how they could have been saved.

        Anyway, thanks agin,

        Take care,


      • Thank you, Kate, for taking time to give us all that valuable information. Donna

  10. Just to clarify, I meant to put the sugar and salt in water to make a rehydration solution. There may even be commercially available packets specifially designed for this.



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