The need for a go-bag is possibly more important during a pandemic than when we wrote a previous article explaining why your family should have a “go-bag” ready, in response to a series of wildfires that ravaged Southern California in 2017. Go-bags originated with the US military, which requires its personnel to always keep one on-hand packed with the essential items needed to survive for at least three days following a disaster.
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.
In 2020, we’re not only dealing with deadly wildfires again in California, but we’re also experiencing multiple hurricanes on the East and Gulf Coasts, and a number of devastating tornadoes and floods in the Midwest. And on top of all that, we’re still in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already killed more than 180,000 Americans and seems unlikely to disappear anytime soon.
The go-bag basics
In light of the increased dangers posed by the pandemic, we decided to update our previous go-bag article. Although most of the items you should have in your go-bag remain the same, here we’ll cover the supplies and documents you should pack to deal with COVID-19. Whether you are forced to temporarily relocate somewhere other than your home, require hospitalization, or are subject to quarantine, the pandemic comes with unique risks that call for additional preparation.
Personal Protective Equipment
We need to mention some general supplies to include to help protect your family from contracting COVID-19. Along with the personal sanitary items we listed in our previous article, you should add the following items:
- Face masks and/or face coverings
- Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- Lysol or other disinfectant sprays
- Disinfecting wipes
- Disposable gloves
Since this is a pandemic, a health crisis, your healthcare directives should be in place and up-to-date. It’s also important that your medical history is available and your loved ones know about them and can quickly locate or access your healthcare directives. 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.
- Make sure your healthcare directives are up-to-date. You may want to address the unique medical scenarios and treatments related to COVID-19. We have a “COVID-19 Addendum” document that is one approach. We have also added custom provisions within plans we’ve drafted since the pandemic began. You can read more 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 prescriptions drugs, over-the-counter medications, and/or supplements you are currently taking—and don’t forget to list any known allergies.
- Tell your loved ones that you have healthcare directives and how to access them. We make this easy with the Docubank Emergency Card. If the plastic wallet card is in your wallet or in a phone pocket, or somewhere on or near you (in your purse), emergency personnel will be able to use it to get pdfs of your Healthcare Directives. This ensures that your medical decisions can be made without delay and by the people you chose.
The rest of your planning documents
The rest of your planning documents should be accessible to you or others, if needed. If you are unable to make decisions and loved ones need access to your financial institutions, it is very important that they have a way to access your financial power of attorney. Adding information on how your loved ones can safely access your plan documents to your go-bag is important. Or, you can 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.
For our clients, we upload their documents to a secure vault – LawConnect, and/or the SAFE feature that Docubank also provides. In that way our clients have access to a digital file of their documents at any time. If our clients have shared these document with their loved ones, their loved ones will have access, too.
You may also want to have an inventory of your 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, please watch this training by my mentor on creating your own personal resource map for the people you love.
Other Critical Items
As noted in our first article, 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.
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 are able to 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 may choose to take photos or videos of these keepsakes and store them in the cloud.
Part of what we offer our clients is a Legacy Interview Video where you can talk about your keepsakes as well as your values, history, traditions, stories, so they are preserved for your family.
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 to review and update your current plan, or create one if you have yet to do so. You can click here to schedule online or give us a call at 732-743-5120 to schedule.