Natural or man-made disasters will strike without warning. The first three minutes after the disaster are the most crucial. This is when you will be glad if you have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) for each family member.
What’s a BOB?
A BOB is a small kit with the things you will need in the first minute or two after a disaster. It is designed to get you safely out of the building and to your family’s designated meeting place. Once everyone is safely assembled at your meeting place, you can all make decisions on what the next steps are to respond to your disaster.
Every member of the family who can put their own shoes on should have a Bug Out Bag (BOB). All BOBs should have the five things each family member will need in the first three minutes of a disaster:
Gloves: to protect their hands in case they need to clear debris.
Whistle: if someone gets trapped and needs to call for help, the whistle is a lot louder than yelling.
Flashlight: if the power goes out, everyone will need something to see to get out of the house.
Shoes: to protect their feet when they get out of the house.
Light weight clothes: a light-weight jacket or long-sleeved shirt, in case they need extra clothing
Two other things that are not essential but may prove to be useful:
A multi-tool with a knife and other implements. This may come in handy if you need to pry open or cut something to disentangle you.
A pad of paper and a pencil. The paper should include names and phone numbers of people to contact outside of the area. This is especially helpful if a family member finds himself separated from the family and cannot get to the meeting place.
Put these items inside a draw-string bag and keep it near the bed or closet so that each family member grab it at a moment’s notice. Once everyone is outside the house, each person can tuck their BOB inside their 72-hour kit.
How does this work?
Make a family emergency plan. This plan should include a safe meeting place where everyone will go at the sound of alarm. This should be something close by that offers some degree of protection from the danger. A detached garage or neighbor’s house might be a good place. You should do a practice run to see if you’ve forgotten anything in your emergency plan. Then run a family drill—much like a school fire drill—a few times to make sure everyone is confident knowing what their response should be.
Keep the BOB where family members can easily grab it in the dark at a moment’s notice. In case of an emergency—such as a fire, tornado, or earthquake—sound the alarm. Tell everyone to grab their BOB’s and head to the designated meeting place. Don’t wait to put on coat or shoes. Your priority is to get out of the house safely. That’s why the BOB has a jacket and shoes in it. You put those on once you are safely out of the house.
72-hour kits—the kind that are designed to sustain you for 2-3 days or more—should be stored somewhere where they out of the elements but easily accessible. This might be the trunk of a car, the garage or a closet near the front door. Parents and older children who are capable should grab these kits if they can do so without endangering themselves.
Once everyone has safely arrived at the pre-arranged meeting place, put your BOB’s inside the 72-hour kits and use them as needed.
Now you will begin assessing the emergency to determine what your next steps will be.
- Are you able to call for help?
- Does anyone need medical attention?
- Will you need to find shelter?
- Are there any neighbors or others that need help?
- What are your most immediate needs for the next 2-12 hours? Are you able to address those needs?
With the arrival of emergency responders, most natural or man-made disasters are quickly resolved. There may still be a period of putting everything back together, but once you are safe and have what you need to survive the next 48-72 hours, the crisis is in hand and all your preparations will be a cushion for what’s to follow.
A note about kits:
The kind of kit you put together is based entirely on the types of disasters you are likely to encounter and your family’s unique situation. Read here to learn about the different types of emergency kits you may want to have for your family.