Hurricane Harvey is expected to hit Texas tonight — and residents of cities like Corpus Christi and Port Mansfield could face coastal flooding, torrential rains, and winds of up to 110 miles per hour. In such emergency situations, it’s smart to have a Go Bag ready with basic necessities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends stockpiling enough emergency supplies to last you, your loved ones, and your pets roughly three days. These emergency kits should be ready before the hurricane hits, so you can grab them quickly in case you need to evacuate. Also, have your gas tank topped off and be prepared to respond to any evacuation orders.
To be clear, there’s a lot more to bracing for a disaster than packing the right gadgets. FEMA outlines how to prepare your home and your family for a hurricane, like bringing loose objects and patio furniture indoors. It’s also a good idea to map out an evacuation route ahead of time and how to contact one another if phone lines go down. (And don’t delay evacuating or put yourself in danger to run out and grab supplies — your life is more important.)
There are excellent, comprehensive packing lists for your survival kit all over the internet (see the sidebar). We’ve rounded up a few things you might want to include:
You should store enough water to last at least three days, although two weeks’ worth would be ideal. A good rule of thumb is a gallon of water per day per person (and pet), but you might want more if it’s very hot out or you’re pregnant.
You should also be ready to disinfect the water. If there’s been flooding, even if the tap turns back on, the water might not be safe to drink because of bacterial contamination, says Chris van Deusen, a spokesperson for the Texas Department of State Health Services.
You can disinfect water by boiling it for at least a minute on a stove or fire, or by using water purification tablets like iodine or chlorine dioxide. (CDC has tips for other DIY disinfectants.) In my emergency kit, I have a filter you can stick directly into a water source or vessel filled with contaminated water, called a Lifestraw. It’s supposed to remove most waterborne microbes from my water, although I have yet to test it out.
You should store at least three days of non-perishable food, including canned and dehydrated food. A mix of both is best: canned food is heavier but dehydrated food needs water to be eaten, and if you’re rationing water already, that might a problem. Also, remember a can opener!
Try to go for familiar foods: you don’t know how your gut will react to a can of beans if you don’t usually eat them. Plus, your favorite comfort foods can be a good mood booster, the CDC says. If you’re packing for an infant or a pet, don’t forget baby formula and pet food.
Medical supplies and personal care products
Pack a week’s supply of your prescription drugs in a waterproof container or bag. CVS and Walgreens recommend visiting your local pharmacy to stock up ahead of time. If your medications need to be kept cold, have a small cooler and ice on hand, too. And don’t forget spare parts and batteries for medical devices.
You’ll also want to make sure to have a first aid kit, bandages, hand sanitizer, and the over-the-counter meds you rely on. For me, that means ibuprofen, antihistamines, and a source of caffeine to stave off caffeine withdrawal headaches. If you smoke, you might also want to tuck away some kind of nicotine replacement.
If you’re a person who menstruates, pack pads, tampons, or a menstrual cup. If you’re packing for a baby, don’t forget diapers. Also, pack condoms. (Not to be flippant, but blizzard babies are a thing.)
Aside from cash, copies of your credit cards, insurance policies and some form of ID (passport, or driver’s license), you want to pack hard copies of your prescriptions and your health insurance card in a waterproof container or ziplock bag. You’ll need those if you have to stock up on meds at a pharmacy that’s not your own. Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson Chris Van Deusen also recommends keeping a utility bill, and a copy of the title to your home and car, in case you need to prove ownership and residency status when you’re allowed to return to evacuated areas.
A cell phone can be critical during an emergency, so you’ll want a way to recharge it if the power’s out. You can do that with a USB battery pack, a DIY phone charger (just, don’t electrocute yourself), and/or a power inverter that will let you charge your devices with your car’s battery.
Just in case something happens to your phone during an evacuation, Consumer Reports recommends keeping a prepaid phone and a spare battery in your emergency kit, as well. You’ll also want an emergency radio, possibly with a hand crank so you can easily recharge it, to keep track of weather alerts.
You’ll want changes of underwear, comfortable shoes, and clean wool socks. (Wool is better for preventing blisters, if you have to walk long distances.) You can vacuum pack clothing to save on space, or try the skivvy roll to pack your undies into a neat, sock-encased bundle.
You might also want to include some kind of multitool or knife, a wrench so you can turn off the gas line to your house if necessary, flashlights, a tarp or shelter, fire starters like lighters or matches, a notebook, and pencil. You might also want to grab valuables and items of sentimental importance, like photos, Bug Out Bag Academy’s Andrew Pontius says.
Every person has slightly different survival needs, so pack accordingly. (For example, if you’re prone to diarrhea, pack some rehydration salts and anti-diarrheals with your doctor’s approval.) Also, keep in mind that prescription drugs can expire and plastic water jugs can degrade. So remember to check and update your Go Bag on a regular basis. And if there’s any gear we’ve forgotten, let us know in the comments.