Building a Go Bag for writers

Our house is not a very very very fine house, with two cats in the yard. It’s an old house, with old wiring. Sometimes animals get in my house, like bats and squirrels. Funny story, I once opened my lazy Susan to hear chittering. There was a squirrel in there, chilling with my spices. We had to open the back door, and kind of encourage it to leave with a broom. It literally ran over my foot in its mad dash to leave. Actually, it was really adorable, but terrified.

I told you all of that for two reasons. One, so that you understand why I so dearly wish to move. And two, because I want you to understand just how terrified I am that my house is going to catch fire like a matchbook one day and we’re all gonna die. I have nightmares of the turtle getting boiled in his tank and all my manuscripts going up in flames.

Even if you live in a nice, new house, it could still go up in flames. Or your basement could flood, your power could go out, you could have a tornado or an earthquake. Shit happens, is what I’m saying. And we all think it won’t happen to us.

I’m not saying all of this to panic or depress you. I’m saying it because we need to be prepared in case we need to leave our homes in a hurry. For that reason, I’m working on making a Go Bag. This is also known as a bug out bag, and I think it has a few other names. I like Go Bag because it’s also something used in the journalism community. For them, a Go Bag is for when you have to go out of town right now to chase a story. I know that’s not the same thing, but I like the comparison.

Of course, we are writers. So, we do things a little bit differently. Here’s a list of things I include in my Go Bag.

  • A flashlight that no one is ever allowed to use unless we have grabbed the Go Bag and are leaving!
  • Extra batteries for the said flashlight because no one will ever listen to the above statement.
  • A change of clothes for everyone in the house. This is why we all have individual bags because this alone would take up all of the room.
  • A large water bottle, filled.
  • Granola bars.
  • Rain Ponchos.
  • Light jackets.
  • Playing cards, for something to do.
  • Emergency blankets.
  • Some hard candy.
  • A small medical kit.
  • A notebook.
  • Pens, pencils, and some sort of drawing tool. I suggest crayons because they don’t have to be sharpened and they can’t leak. Hard charcoal is another option if you don’t like to color.
  • An extra leash for the dog in case we can’t find his.
  • A harness for the cat.
  • Small packets of food for the dog, cat, turtle, and rat.

If you’ve ever seen a list of items to include on other sites or Pinterest, you’ll know that there are some things that are on other people’s lists that aren’t on mine. Things like your marriage certificate, pet vaccinations, social security and ID cards and any other vital paperwork you have in your house. I didn’t include any of this because I don’t keep anything like that in my house. I have scanned these, except for our birth certificates. Those I have in my Go Bag if only to know where the damn things are. If we have to leave in a hurry, I’m going to grab my tablet without fail. So, I’ll have my vital information.

Here is a list of crucial things that I keep on Evernote. These are both for my family and my writing life.

  • A list of medications that my husband and kids are on.
  • Our social security cards and driver’s license/ state id. (Yes, I do lock my tablet. Thank you in advance for your concern.)
  • Outlines of my current works in progress.
  • Outlines of my whole series.
  • All financial receipts for writing stuff.

Sadly, I’ve come to realize that if my house goes down, I’m losing my old manuscripts and my computer. I have two kids, a husband and four pets to get out of my house. I will grab my Go Bag, purse, and whatever animals I can. Even if that means tossing a bitey turtle into my hoodie pocket. I will never get my manuscripts back, but I will not care as much about losing those as I would my pets.

I didn’t collect all of this at once, of course. I built my Go Bags over the span of a few months, and a few paychecks. I also didn’t use anything fancy. I just put all of it in a book bag and sat it near the door of my bedroom. I do advise packing the clothes at the bottom, water on top of that, and jacket on top. Flashlight went in the side pocket, in case I need it fast.

I do want to extend a few other pieces of advice, in case a disaster strikes your home.

  • Have a plan of exit for you and every member of your family.
  • Make sure your kids know to leave, just leave, and not worry about anything else but leaving.
  • Have a plan for your pets. The better you plan, the more likely your pets are to survive.
  • Back up everything to do with your writing. I back up everything weekly, without fail. So at any time, I will only lose up to a week’s worth of work. That still sucks, but I can live with it.
  • Fire drills aren’t just for school! Make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. Make sure your whole family knows how to use a fire extinguisher and when it’s appropriate to use it. If you have little ones, know who’s responsible for getting them out.

I pray that you never have to use any of this. I pray that you go through your life, occasionally switching out the granola bars when they go bad, and never have to use your Go Bag.

But realistically, it’s very likely that at least one of you reading this will have an emergency that causes you to flee your home. I want you to be prepared, just like I want my family to be prepared when a squirrel eventually chews through a wire and sets my house on fire.

Because that’s almost definitely going to happen.

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