Preparing for Wildfire Season in Nevada County – Week 9: Go Bags

NEVADA CITY, Calif. February 4, 2019 – Hopefully you’ll never have to hear the words “You have to evacuate. Go now.” But every year the likelihood of it happening is increasing, at an increased pace with peak fire season extending longer than ever before.

Living in the Wildland Urban Interface or Intermix (WUI) increases the possibility of wildfire and evacuation in your community. Minimizing the stress that leaving your home inevitably causes starts with being prepared. Now is a great time to assemble or refresh your emergency supply kits – your “Go Bags.”

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Go Bag at home

CAL FIRE recommends to “put together your emergency supply kit long before a wildfire or other disaster occurs and keep it easily accessible so you can take it with you when you have to evacuate. Plan to be away from your home for an extended period of time. Each person should have a readily accessible emergency supply kit. Backpacks work great for storing these items (except food and water) and are quick to grab. Storing food and water in a tub or chest on wheels will make it easier to transport. Keep it light enough to be able to lift it into your car.”

The checklist for your primary Go Bag:

  • Map marked with at least two evacuation routes
  • Prescriptions or special medications
  • Change of clothing
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • An extra set of house and car keys, credit cards, cash or traveler’s checks
  • First aid kit (more on that below)
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)Sanitation supplies
  • Copies of important documents (birth certificates, passports, etc.)
  • The family emergency communications plan
  • Emergency blanket/sleeping bags
  • Chargers for your cell phone and other devices
  • N95 respiratory masks
  • Multi-purpose tool and a can opener
  • Duct tape

Store the food and water in a separate box, or an ice chest on wheels. Plan for:

  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and three gallons of water per person

Customize the primary kit according to your needs. Additional items could include:

  • Medical supplies (extra batteries for hearing aids, extra eyeglasses or contact lenses)
  • Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
  • Games and books
  • Pet supplies (leash, collar, carrier, food, bowls and litter)
First Aid Kit with dressing material

The First Aid kit should include any personal items such as medications and emergency phone numbers or other items your health-care provider may suggest. Check the expiration dates regularly and replace any items that are expired or have been used.

The Red Cross recommends that all first aid kits for a family of four include the following:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

Weight is a issue, be sure you and your family members are able to grab the bag and carry it to a vehicle. Place the primary kit in an easily accessible location, close to an exit. Make sure your bag has a name tag with your phone number on it.

Check your Go Bags every 6 months and replace any outdated items – especially food – with fresh supplies.

It’s perfectly acceptable to have your Go Bag right next to the door and point to it when you have family, friends or neighbors come over. Encourage them to assemble their own kit!

Go Bag in your car

An emergency supply kit in your car should contain the same items as your primary kit, especially if you leave home every day. Add a few specific items to the car kit:

  • Tire repair kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Flares
  • Bottled water
  • Non-perishable foods such as granola bars
  • N95 masks
  • Sturdy gloves
  • Hat or baseball cap to protect you from embers if you have to exit the vehicle in a fire

When you have to grab the bag and leave your home, be aware that you might not return for days, or maybe your home will be damaged or destroyed. The heft of the bag in your hand is small consolation only, but your safety is more important than any “stuff.”

This concludes Week 9 of 25, next Monday we’ll provide tips and plans to prepare your kids for a possible emergency.  

Find previous stories in our special Ready for Fire Season section.