In the event of an emergency, the most important thing on our mind is keeping our family and loved ones safe from immediate harm. After we know our loved ones are safe, then we think about the multitude of other things needed, such as food, shelter, water, and other necessities of daily life.
Anyone that knows me, knows that I lived in Florida most of my life and raised my family in Florida. Hurricane preparedness was a way of life. Every year as summer approached, families were ready to flee if a hurricane was heading our way. When I moved to Colorado, I quickly discovered that with a wildfire, often times you didn’t get as much advanced notice, so emergency preparedness became even more important. I quickly learned that it is vital to stay prepared and have supplies packed in the event that you and your family have to leave at a moment’s notice.
The concept of the “go-bag” originated with the US military. All military personnel are required to keep essential survival items sufficient for at least three days, packed and ready to go. We need to be just as prepared. When you have just minutes to evacuate, you won’t have time to think about what you should pack to survive the days—or weeks—to come, so the time to prepare for your family’s safety is now.
This year, we are not only dealing with deadly wildfires in Colorado, hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts, and several devastating tornadoes and floods in the Midwest, but we are also still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is highly unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
Although most of the items you need in a go-bag remain the same across most scenarios, in light of the increased dangers posed by the pandemic, we decided to cover the supplies and documents you should have in your go-bag as we deal with COVID-19. Whether you are forced to temporarily relocate, require hospitalization, or are subject to quarantine, there are unique risks that we all must be prepared for.
Before we discuss the estate planning and other key documents you should include in your go-bag, here are some general supplies to include in your COVID-19 go-bag:
● Face masks and/or face coverings
● Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
● Lysol or other disinfectant sprays
● Disinfecting wipes
● Disposable gloves
Also, consider packing the following:
1) ID and other essential documents: Bring copies of your passport, driver’s license, and/or state ID card stored in a sealed Ziploc bag. Also consider packing the deed to your home, vehicle titles/registration, printed maps, and a recent family photo with faces clearly visible for easy identification.
2) Cash: Carry at least $250 in relatively small bills and keep it with your ID in a waterproof bag.
3) Shelter: A lightweight tent, along with Mylar emergency blankets can help keep you warm and dry.
4) Water and a water filter: You’ll need at least one gallon of water per person per day. Bring as much bottled water as possible, but also include a water purification straw and/or purification tablets, along with a steel container to boil water in.
5) A multi-tool: These modern-day Swiss Army knives come with a wide array of essential tools, from a knife and screwdriver to tweezers and a can opener.
6) First-aid kit and prescription medications: The likelihood of injury skyrockets in the wake of disasters. A first-aid kit, including any of your prescription medications and other life-sustaining medical supplies, is a necessity.
7) Light: Flashlights with extra batteries are great, but headlamps are even better because they are ultra-compact and leave your hands free.
8) An emergency whistle: Emergency whistles can alert rescue crews and help locate others in low-visibility conditions.
9) A solar-powered emergency radio and cellphone charger: Without power, you will need a way to stay in touch with the outside world. Today you can find devices that include a combination radio, cell-phone charger, and flashlight all in one, with the extra option of hand-cranked power to keep things charged even in the dark.
10) Sanitary items: Pack toilet paper, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, soap, as well as tampons and/or pads if needed.
11) Clothes: You only need enough clothes to keep you warm and comfortable for a few days. Don’t overpack! Stick to essentials like underwear, socks, extra shoes, a jacket, a poncho, a hat, and gloves. Tailor your clothing to the particular climate and region you live in. In colder locations, think about layers and bring heavier outerwear.
12) Food: Focus on high-protein, high-calorie foods that will give you the energy you need to live and get from point A to point B. The most recommended options include energy bars, MREs (Meals-Ready-to-Eat), freeze-dried survival food, and meal-replacement shakes.
When it comes to your estate plan, even if you have all of the necessary planning documents in place and updated, they won’t do you any good if your loved ones don’t know about them or can’t quickly locate them during an emergency. Without immediate access to your plan, if you become seriously ill or injured, medical and financial decisions can be dangerously delayed or be made by someone other than the people you would want.
The need for your plan to be easily accessible is particularly urgent during the pandemic. Due to the highly contagious nature of COVID, there’s a good chance your family members will not be allowed to accompany you if you are hospitalized or forced to quarantine. For these reasons, adding your estate plan and other important documents to your go-bag is a must.
While all of your estate planning documents should be included in your go-bag, having your medical power of attorney and advanced healthcare directives readily accessible is especially vital for medical emergencies. Without these documents, doctors and other healthcare professionals won’t know your wishes for treatment or which of your loved ones should help them make decisions.
At the same time, you should review and update your medical power of attorney and advanced healthcare directives to address the unique medical scenarios and treatments related to COVID-19. The specifics of what this entails can be found here: COVID-19 Highlights Critical Need for Advanced Healthcare Directives.
Copies of your health insurance or Medicare card, along with a summary of your medical history should also be included in your go-bag. In your medical history, you’ll want to mention any chronic underlying medical conditions and illnesses, as well as list all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or supplements you are currently taking—and don’t forget to list any known allergies.
You may also want to have your financial power of attorney and inventory of assets on hand so that your loved ones would know what you have, where it is, and how to access it in the event you become incapacitated. If you have not yet created an inventory of your assets or the other legal documents you’d need, this may be a valuable next step for you to ensure you have everything you need in place for the ones you love.
As noted before, including your ID and other essential personal documents in your go-bag should be a top priority. Among these items, you should also include contact information for your primary care doctor and other medical providers, as well as listing your emergency contacts, particularly your agents for both medical and financial power of attorney.
Make sure your loved ones know about your go-bag, and where to find it. You might even want to keep the bag near your home’s primary exit, so it’s there for you or someone else to grab on the way out the door. To make it as portable as possible, download your plan and other essential documents to a thumb drive you can carry in your go-bag and upload additional copies to the cloud.
Safeguard your belongings—and memories
While protecting your family’s health, safety, and well-being is the primary purpose of packing a go-bag, you should also take steps to prevent the financial devastation that can result from having your home and other property destroyed in a disaster. Obviously, having the appropriate levels of insurance coverage in place is your first task—and we can help with this.
But to make sure the insurance companies fully reimburse you for what you stand to lose, you should also take video and photos of all your belongings. We recommend walking through each room of your home, opening all cabinet and closet doors, along with desk and dresser drawers, to record everything stored inside. Such visual documentation can not only ensure you can replace your assets but that your insurance claim is processed as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Of course, not all of your belongings can be replaced, so you should take additional precautions to safeguard your most precious sentimental items—photo albums, home videos, old letters, family histories, and treasured cards from the past. Since you won’t have the time or space to bring these items with you in your go-bag, you should make digital copies of these keepsakes and store them in the cloud.
Keenly aware of the priceless value these items represent, we believe safely storing your sentimental things online is so important we offer this as a service to all of our clients. Be sure to ask us how we can help you preserve your family’s precious mementos.
Planning Ahead is Key
Given the chaotic times we’re living in, it’s no wonder people are experiencing increasing levels of fear, anxiety, and confusion. Although it’s not possible to totally prevent you or your loved ones from experiencing injury, illness, or death, putting proactive planning strategies in place can significantly minimize the suffering and conflict that can result if something tragic does occur. We can help ensure you’ve taken every conceivable precaution to protect your family and assets from today’s growing litany of threats. Contact us today to get started with a Family Wealth Planning Session™.
This article is a service of Cris Carter Law, the attorney with heart. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session,™ during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before, and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session and mention this article to find out how to get this $500 session at no charge.