Get ready for the unexpected with a disaster go bag

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Joshua and Jocelyn Parker prepare a go bag.

Submitted by Jehovah’s Witness communications desk

Flashlights, cases of bottled water, a first aid kit and ready-to-eat meals cover the Parkers’ living room table. The family isn’t going camping — they’re preparing for disaster by putting together a “go bag.”

Joshua and Jocelyn Parker of Natchitoches never used to worry about natural disasters, but after the hurricanes, tornadoes, and ice storms of 2020, they don’t want to leave anything to chance. “In the state that we live in, you definitely have to be prepared,” said Jocelyn. “Anything could happen at any given time here. It’s just wise to be ready.”

When Hurricane Laura struck last August, a tree limb pierced the roof of their house, but the couple immediately made use of the tarp they had in their go bags. Then, when February’s Winter Storm Uri left them stranded at home without power, they had enough food, water and supplies to hunker down and even share with extended family.

Preparing in advance with a disaster-ready kit has helped families nationwide through extreme and abnormal weather events, which experts warn are on the rise.

“Having a personal preparedness plan increases your chances of staying safe,” according to a training program from the Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness.

Jolted awake by a neighbor’s urgent knocking, Aaron and Jacqueline Pate were horrified to see the encroaching flames of the fast-moving Woolsey fire that had been miles away when they went to bed. It burned to within 100 feet of their Westlake Village home in 2018 as part of California’s deadliest wildfire season on record.

“Because we had go bags, we weren’t running around trying to pack things at the last minute,” said Jacqueline. “We had the time we needed to comfort our kids and get everyone safely into the car.”

The Pates credited the disaster-preparedness help they received as Jehovah’s Witnesses, both through periodic reminders at their congregation meetings and from tips for putting together go bags on the organization’s website, www.jw.org.

“Life is precious, so we encourage all to heed the Bible’s advice to take practical steps to protect ourselves from danger,” said Robert Hendriks III, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States.

Go bags also have proven useful in the opposite circumstances as “stay bags.”

When February’s Winter Storm Uri left millions of Texans without heat, electricity, and running water, many go bags there saw their first-ever use outside of hurricane season.

Houston residents Dan and Rhiannon Muey’s advance preparation enabled them to shelter in place for days, even as many in their area braved treacherous road conditions to scour barren store shelves for supplies.

The Gauthier family regularly sits down to review and replenish their emergency supplies. Their efforts paid off last August when Hurricane Laura hit them in Lake Charles. “Having our go bags allowed us to act faster,” said father-of-two Matthew. “If we had to start from scratch, it would’ve slowed us down a lot.”

Disaster-preparedness suggestions and tips for putting together a go bag are available from FEMA at ready.gov and from Jehovah’s Witnesses at https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/awake-no5-2017-october/disaster-steps-that-can-save-lives/.