Jan 28, 2024

What to Pack in an Emergency ‘Go Bag’


By Tara Parker-Pope

This article was originally published in the subscriber-only Well newsletter.

No matter where you live, every home should have a “go bag” and a “stay bin.” The go bag is what you grab when you have to leave the house in a hurry, whether to get to the emergency room or to evacuate because of a fire or a hurricane. The stay bin is a two-week stash of essentials to be used in case you have to hunker down at home without power, water or heat.

The hardest part about creating a go bag is getting started. Grab a zipper storage bag and add your passports, birth certificates and other important documents. Then add an extra pair of eyeglasses (if needed), a phone charger, emergency cash and a list of important phone numbers. Add some face masks, too, which can help if you are fleeing a fire or a chemical spill.

Once you’ve collected the basics, consider using a backpack or duffel bag to hold a few more items, such as a flashlight, batteries, a small first aid kit and a small supply of your essential medications. Pack a few water bottles and granola bars in preparation for a traffic jam on the evacuation route. A simple whistle to get others’ attention can also be a helpful addition.

If you have a baby, add diapers, wipes, bottles, formula and baby food to your go bag. If you have pets, add leashes, portable bowls, some pet food and copies of veterinary records.

In the event that you need to stay put instead of flee, keep a stay bin in your home. Use a large plastic bin or a similar container to set aside the essential items for a two-week period. The stay bins should contain bottled water, nonperishable food, pet food, toilet paper and personal hygiene supplies. Flashlights, lanterns, candles, lighters and firewood are important to have on hand, too. A battery-powered or hand-crank weather radio, as well as a solar charger, will help you cope with power outages. Extra blankets are useful, as are duct tape, a multipurpose tool, trash bags, hand wipes and sanitizer. If your prescription plan allows it, order an extra supply of your medications to have in case of an emergency.

The website has a checklist to help you build your stay bin, and the American Red Cross has more advice on emergency preparedness. Pick and choose the items that make sense for your family.

Tara Parker-Pope is a columnist covering health, behavior and relationships. She is the founding editor of Well, The Times's award-winning consumer health site. More about Tara Parker-Pope


Tropical Storm HilaryThe hardest part about creating a go bag is getting started.In the event that you need to stay put instead of flee, keep a stay bin in your home.