Episode 15 - Emergency Preparedness

It was Emergency Preparedness Week last week...which, at least for our Canadian crew, has been given a very pointed example in the Fort McMurray fires.

It was Emergency Preparedness Week last week...which, at least for our Canadian crew, has been given a very pointed example in the Fort McMurray fires.

Podcast Topics

The purpose of a go bag is to provide the user with the bare necessities for safety and survival in the event of an emergency that requires the user to leave his or her home. If a go bag never gets used, that is of course the best-case scenario, but in an emergency, it is far better to be prepared for the worst than not.

The Bag Itself

The go bag should be a sturdy backpack that the user can wear easily. If you are preparing multiple go bags for multiple children in the same age range, selecting backpacks that are all of the same design is ideal (older youth can carry larger bags, but younger kids cannot). Equally, selecting bags of different colours, and assigning each child a specific colour, is a good practice.

24-Hour Go Bag

A go bag suitable for a 24-hour departure from home should contain the following supplies, at minimum. Parents (and children) are encouraged to add additional things to their bags if they feel there is a need for them. At the same time, portability is key; don't overload the go bag or make it too cumbersome for a child to carry.

  • Emergency contact information
  • $10
  • A recent family photo
  • An extra change of comfortable (play) clothes; try and avoid cotton if possible.
  • Toiletries - toothbrush, toothpaste, antibacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, kleenex, and band-aids
  • Any necessary medications
  • Flashlight - with spare batteries (if needed); wind-up flashlight models are also available
  • Glowsticks
  • Bottled water - at least two bottles
  • Non-perishable snacks - granola bars, trail mix, etc., enough for two good-sized snacks
  • Emergency “space” blanket
  • Emergency poncho
  • Whistle

Money, toiletries, medication, and batteries should be kept in Ziploc bags if possible so that they don't become lost/jumbled up in the go bag. If the backpack selected for use has small compartments either inside or outside, these items could be placed therein.

Three-Day Go Bag

A go bag suitable for a 72-hour departure from home should contain the above supplies, but should also contain the following additional supplies:

  • Two additional changes of clothes (for a total of three changes of clothes)
  • A set of sleep clothes
  • A hat (ideally one which covers or shades the ears)
  • Additional bottles of water, for a total of up to twelve bottles
  • Additional non-perishable food
  • Soap, a washcloth, and a small towel
  • Additional money

For Cub & Scout-Aged Kids

While the key for younger kids is to keep the go bag on the light side, older kids (10 and up, especially) can be expected to carry a bit more weight. Kids 10 and up, especially, should be able to carry all their own gear.

Generally speaking, the go bags (both 24-hour and 72-hour) will have the same items in them as have already been discussed. However, kids in this age range can also add at least one extra thing:

  • A knife or multitool (or both...both is good)

For Older Youth & Parents

Older youth (13+) and adults can take on additional responsibilities in an emergency situation, which may include shelter building, fire building, etc. So, in addition to what's already been discussed, go bags for this age range can include:

  • Fire-lighting equipment (multiple methods)
  • A small axe
  • A small/folding shovel

The Family Go Bag

One other option is to put together a family-sized go bag, which contains — in one larger bag or backpack — all the gear needed by a family for a 24-hour or 72-hour emergency. The plus side to this is that it's a single bag that's ready to go at a moment's notice; having each kid grab his or her bag will introduce a slight delay (even if, as a family, you practice emergency evacuations periodically). The downside is that it'll be quite heavy; the person carrying the bag will be carrying a lot.

Alternatively, a family could opt to prepare 24-hour go bags for each child to carry, and then collect the additional items for the 72-hour go bags for the entire family into the family go bag. If there is a mix of older and younger kids in the family, the older youth could carry all their own gear, for the full 72 hours, with the family go bag consisting of the parents' gear and the extra gear needed to supplement the 24-hour go bags of the young kids for a 72-hour emergency.

Optional Items

  • One or two comfort items - a stuffed animal, deck of cards, a box of crayons and a small notebook, etc.
  • Mobile phone (per go bag) - could be pay-as-you-go devices
  • Extra socks, in addition to those already packed
  • A small pillow
  • An extra toque and set of gloves/mittens
  • Stove and fuel
  • Survival manual/Scouting Field Book
  • Compass/GPS units
  • Extra batteries/solar battery charger
  • Extra power for mobile devices/solar battery pack for mobile devices


The people of Fort McMurray, Alberta, who have shown exceptional resilience in the face of a massive wildfire that has threatened, and in some cases already destroyed, their homes and workplaces.


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