Go-bag Considerations

Mulling over some things, slowly and (with luck) with a little help from my friends.

A “go bag” (also known as a “bugout bag” and a “jump kit”) is a pre-packed bag that you grab when leaving in a hurry. Depending on your job and situation, this could be for emergencies, or for relatively normal quick departures (if you make a lot of them).  People thinking this way often keep some stuff permanently in their car, and have other stuff packed to grab as they run out of their home in a hurry.

Jim Macdonald (author, EMT, and Making Light moderator) has written on the topic in various places.

Except for his consistently omitting firearms, and packing amounts of medical supplies suitable for an EMT (him) rather than an out-of-certification lowest-level first responder (me), I find his thinking sound (Jim is ex-Navy, and not by any sane definition “anti-gun”). Still, people live in different places with different terrain and climates and have different skill-sets. I think my ideal bag is different from his (and I’m sure he’d agree, at that level).

So I need to go through the analysis from the top.

First stage: what types of situations might require bugging out from your home, or from anywhere you were with your car, and how likely are they? Once these are identified, we can (in a later article) start figuring out what tools and supplies will be useful in which situations.  (While it doesn’t quite fit the definition, the stuff in the car is also what you’ll use if you come across an accident and need to help people, so those cases are included too.)

The probabilities will no doubt shift over time in response to my thinking and to comments, so please if you take issue with a probability in a comment, mention what you’re taking issue with!  Don’t just say “You’ve set the chance of civil unrest too high”; say “I think ‘very high’ is an absurdly high setting for civil unrest’.  That way your comment will make sense when I’ve agreed with you and altered my description.

Probabilities are set to “very low”, “low”, “medium”, and “high”.  Note that this is scaled; the actual probability of having to flee my home due to weather is rather low, but that’s the most likely reason I’d have to flee, and I’m calling that “high”.  In terms of emergency preparedness, it’s one of the most probable things.


Particularly car accident.  Either one I’m involved in, or one I come across when I’m in my car.

Probability: high.

Authoritarians / Assassins / Mob / Gang

Attack targeted at us.  Very low probability?  Contact lists can give information to enemies if we’re into insurrection.  Don’t forget to clean them out when necessary!  Note this category includes the government.

This may lead to a need for NOT being seen.

Probability: low.

Bomb Scare

Warning, pre-explosion.  Also chemical spill scare, etc.  Ordered to evacuate.

Probability: very low.  (low-density residential neighborhood)

Chemical Spill

Spill from truck, or commercial plant I hadn’t noticed was hazardous. Deliberate aerial application.  Ordered to evacuate.

Probability: very low. (4 blocks from the freeway, though many trucks take the bypass; no major chemical-using industry anywhere near that I’ve found).

Civil Unrest

Riots, etc.  This may result in staying in, or getting out.

Probability: low.


New Madrid will be huge, but it’s fairly far away.

Probability: very low.


Not likely to require quick departure.  Maybe if ebola has broken the boundaries?  Quarantine.

Probability: very low.


Gas explosion for example.  Or any kind of bomb scenario. (In theory flood can be triggered by explosion, but the scenario here looks unlikely.)  Ordered to evacuate.

Probability: medium.

Fire (huge)

Could be ordered to evacuate.

Probability: low.

Fire (nearby)

Could be ordered to evacuate.

Probability: low.

Fire (our house)

Fire extinguishers can help get out even if you find it to late to kill the fire. We have smoke detectors wired to the alarm system and its siren.

Probability: medium.


Very low probability at our location of normal weather-based flooding.  Sewer backup is always possible, or major water main break. Mostly it’s at the “water in basement” level rather than the “house floats down river” level. My office, however, is in the basement.

Probability: medium.


Fallout, dirty bomb, deliberate dissemination.  Ordered to evacuate.

Probability: very low.

Utility disruption

Gas and electric in winter for example.  Don’t have to leave that quickly.  Ordered to evacuate.  Not counting half-hour outages of electricity, which are unfortunately common.

Probability: low. (hasn’t happened anywhere I’ve lived in 55 years).


House crunched by tree or tornado, etc. Area of damage / devastation? (Fire and flood can be triggered by weather.)

Probability: high.