Is Your ‘Grab & Go Bag’ Ready to Go?

I don’t know about you, but this past year’s weather has made me very aware of the large number of people who’ve had to abandon their homes with little or no warning due to floods, forest fires, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes . . . the list of disasters seems endless. It could happen to any one of us, and I decided I’d better have a plan.

Creating a Grab and Go Bag has been on my “Important Things I Have To Do” list (especially after I read APH member Annie Payne’s blog post about it in 2012), but in light of so many recent weather events, it recently moved to the very top. Whether a house fire or weather event, none of us can safely say “That will never happen to me.” If I’m fortunate enough to find no need of the kit myself, my sons will still appreciate my thoughtfulness (dare I say, “great wisdom?!”) in having important information easily accessible at my death. I’d like to think that will never happen either, but at some point in time, I suspect it’s inevitable.

So without further procrastination, I began creating my own emergency kit. Phew! It seemed overwhelming, and suddenly, everything I looked at had sentimental value! I had to pick something that was truly “Grab and Go” (no footlockers) so I selected a large gym bag with lots of pockets, and used that as my measure of what I could include. That might seem a little backwards, but it worked for me!

So what to pack?

First I added a pair of jeans, a t-shirt, and a sweatshirt. The comfort of having a set of clean, dry clothes can’t be underestimated.

Next, I fitted a fat three-ring binder with sheet protectors and filled it with  copies of all our important documents. It includes:

  • archival disks with our family stories and pictures, including pictures of things of sentimental value that are too large for my bag (Example: my grandmother was an artist, and her oil paintings are beautiful but large, so I have taken pictures of them.)
  • insurance papers (cars, home, life)
  • a copy of our will
  • our funeral plans and obituaries
  • financial information, including last year’s income tax return
  • copies of credit cards, drivers license, social security cards etc.
  • medical records, including a list of prescriptions and allergy information
  • a copy of our address book with friends, family members, doctor, dentist, etc.
  • an inventory of items in the safe deposit box
  • a list of passwords and computer access codes
  • an inventory of furniture and the most important items in each room of our home

Among the miscellaneous items tucked into those zippered pockets of the gym bag:

  • A key ring, including house keys, extra car keys and safe deposit box key
  • A blank notebook and two pens (there will be a story here somewhere, and I’ll be ready!)
  • A box of our favorite granola bars (for me or someone who needs them more)

Our bag, as the whole family knows, is currently on the floor in the corner of our front closet next to the door, easily accessible to “grab and go!”

I plan to update my bag every six months or so (especially the granola bars!) and as time goes on, new things will be added while some old things will probably go. The size of the jeans may possibly change. (Possibly?)

It’s a start. I’m certain it’s not perfect, and if the bag is used, I’m sure there will be something I will desperately wish I’d added, but I am also certain it will be better than no bag at all. So, share with me: What’s in your Grab and Go Bag?

~APH: The Life Story People~

About today’s contributor: Born to a newly widowed mother, Patty Tomaszewski grew up fascinated with her own elusive family history and stories. After years of collecting stories for family and friends, she began her business, Committed 2 Memories in 2009. She joined APH and also became a certified instructor of Guided Autobiography workshops in 2011. Patty now devotes herself full time to spreading the word about the value of preserving personal history from her home in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

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4 Responses to Is Your ‘Grab & Go Bag’ Ready to Go?

  1. Patty, we have talked about this before, but I think you really have identified the things that should be in the grab and go bag. I know what you about needing to update the jeans in the bag, not to mention the granola bars.

    Nice job.

  2. Great article! I now live in an area that experiences frequent forest fires. I’m also presenting a show and tell night next month. Would you mind if I presented this tip info in a handy list form as a take away from the evening? Good advice!

  3. Fran Morley says:

    One thing I like about Patty’s use of a gym bag for her ‘grab & go’ is that it’s so innocuous. Should it be seen by anyone with nefarious intentions, so what? Who would guess that a gym bag on the floor in the hall closet would contain anything other than gym things? Excellent idea, Patty!

  4. Patty Tomaszewski says:

    Rebecca – I think giving something like this out as a take away is a great idea. Go for it! I may think about doing that myself!

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