SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Avoiding Irene: The Importance of Packing a ‘Go Bag’


Mother Nature has given Americans a number of reasons to rethink emergency preparedness this year, including monster snowstorms, flooding and now, for those on the East Coast, hurricane Irene. Experts say that it’s a good idea in general to have a “go bag” of vital papers and other supplies ready if you need to leave home — fast — in any emergency situation.

The number of storms, floods and other natural disasters reaching catastrophic levels — meaning they caused in excess of $25 million in damage — jumped 22% last year to an all-time high of 247, reports reinsurance firm Munich Re. This year is a contender to beat that, given crippling snowstorms across the Midwest and Northeast in January, spring tornadoes in the South and extensive flooding along the Mississippi. “You never know what could happen,” says James Judge, a member of the American Red Cross Scientific Advisory council. (He’s also executive director for Lake-Sumter EMS in Mount Dora, Fla.) “It’s always best to be ready.”

A “go bag” should literally be grab-and go, Judge says, so it’s smart to collect the things you need when there’s no emergency in sight. Pack them in a plastic bin (available at any home goods store) and stash it under the bed or in a closet near your front door. A good kit can also double as a store if you need to weather a hurricane or other disaster at home.

Here’s what to pack:

  • Cash. If the power is out, it’s unlikely that ATMs will be functioning, or that banks will be open.
  • Water.  One gallon per person per day, and plan for a three-day supply.
  • Food. Pack a three-day supply of non-perishable, easy to prepare foods.
  • Flashlight.
  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio. It’s your best bet for weather updates, Judge says.
  • Extra batteries for those devices.
  • First-aid kit. Customize a store-bought one with things your family uses, Judge says – extra hearing aid batteries, contact lenses, diaper rash cream, etc.
  • Pet supplies. Pack a three-day supply of food, and other items like medication or a leash.

Of course, you’ll also want to grab important papers. Pack anything irreplaceable, like birth and marriage certificates, Social Security cards and passports (see our How-To for a comprehensive list). Also take copies of your insurance policies — Judge recommends putting those on a flash drive, along with recent photos of your home, in case you need to file a claim for damages.

Make a list of any other must-grab items and where they’re kept — say, the family photo album – and stash that with the kit. You should also include a list of emergency contact numbers and a list of hotels along your route so that you have a few options to evacuate to, Judge says.


We welcome thoughtful comments from readers. Please comply with our guidelines. Our blogs do not require the use of your real name.

Comments (5 of 8)

View all Comments »
    • By WebOsPublisher

      Icon Film Studios
      Pick up the latest issue of HORRORHOUND and see the ad for THE SLEAZE BOX inside.
      TASTE ME wins two awards at The Reel Terror Film Festival 2012! Best Porntastic Theme Song and Best Cameo – Joel Wynkoop! CLICK HERE TO VIEW TASTE ME!
      Watch this video of photos from The Reel Terror Film Fest featuring the cast and crew of TASTE ME! Video by Shade Burnett.
      Check out the post on CYNDILAND about THE SLEAZE BOX Halloween Special!
      Check out an article on SLEAZE BOX’s own, John Miller on SLASHER STUDIOS.COM!
      DARK COMEDY, ICON’s latest horror short film is now online! CLICK HERE TO VIEW!
      VOMIT SOUP, a film directed by John Miller and produced by Miller and Chris Woods. CLICK HERE TO VIEW!
      Audio Review for TASTE ME from Gruesome Hertzogg!
      Check out the post on CYNDILAND about ICON’s latest horror short film TASTE ME.
      ICON’S WEB SERIES: THE SLEAZE BOX which is show where we discuss Cult and Grindhouse films. Hosted by Chris Woods and John Miller and featuring The Grindhouse Girls. CLICK HERE TO WATCH!
      STRIP CLUB KING: THE STORY OF JOE REDNER IS NOW on DVD! Go to Amazon.com to buy and StripClubKingMovie.com for more info on the documentary.
      Dark Cross Productions and Red Woods Productions is a division of Icon Film Studios. ©2012 Icon Film Studios. ©2012 Dark Cross Productions. ©2012 Red Woods Productions.

    • Why will a person wirhtaw up to $50,000 to pay his mortgage,when this does not guarantee him he can make future payments when his fund is depleted.As I understamd deficiency judgement can not go after your 401k and retirement like SS.I will agree more on the bill if it allows to use your own money (401k) to pay for hardship without the 10% penalty.Writing a bill to save the banks again Borrowers could pull as much as $50,000 from their retirement account or one-half of the current value of their account, whichever is smaller, and avoid the typical 10% tax penalty. The cap is a lifetime cap, and does not expire on a particular date. Borrowers are eligible to make multiple withdrawals until they reach the cap.The money must be put directly toward the mortgage within 120 days of withdrawal.

    • While I agree that there is a definite beineft to increased levels of education, I’m not sure how meaningful this chart is. It appears to only include wages and excludes other forms of compensation like health beinefts and the impact of taxes. But perhaps I am being too picky.I enjoy the new blog, keep at it.Press

    • This is awesome! I know that you have not been able to paint as much this last year but I see aecmnvdaent! Sometimes time away actually causes this. We are still artists in our minds, never ceasing. Growth still takes place.Please don’t think I’m saying that you needed improvement, but we all wish for that, don’t we. I see more sophistication of color and brushwork. The composition is excellent.

    • Also for the Go Bag: guns ‘n ammo.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.