The following article is submitted by Dustin Smith, Jehovah’s Witness Public Information Desk
Two backpacks fully equipped with emergency supplies sit neatly under the couch in the home office of Dustin and Hilary Smith. The Accomack County, Virginia, couple’s ‘go bags’ have food, water, clothing, glow sticks, rain ponchos, and more.
“On the eastern shore, storms can be disastrous. Having a go bag allows the flexibility to leave when the authorities tell you,” said Dustin, who evacuated with his wife in 2018 in anticipation of Hurricane Florence.
The Smiths credit their preparedness to the timely information from the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christian organization’s official website, jw.org.
Ready.gov, a FEMA website, urges families to have basic supplies for each household member. With catastrophic weather events increasing in magnitude and frequency, a well-thought-out plan enables families to make tough decisions quickly.
Annually, the Smiths dedicate one evening to disaster preparedness planning, where they update the contents of their go bags and discuss their evacuation route.
“We have a sense of security and protection,” said Hilary, who is grateful for the tips from jw.org. “We won’t be in a bad situation because we are prepared and can care for ourselves.” Dustin agrees. “Instead of making snap decisions when a bad storm is blowing, our go bags prevent us from scrambling around or feeling panicked. Knowing what to do, we don’t have added worry. We can just leave.”
“Being ready to face a natural disaster may be the difference between life and death when it unexpectedly hits,” said Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesperson for the Christian organization. “We can’t just say life is precious; we need to live it. That’s why the Bible’s advice to take practical steps to protect ourselves and our families from danger makes so much sense — even if threats seem far off.”
Until recently, Colorado couple Michael and Crystal Brook only thought of wildfires as a threat to those high on the slopes of the Rockies — never imagining that their suburban home in the foothills would be at risk.
Last December, their efforts paid off when the Marshall Fire, a record-breaking inferno fueled by drought conditions and high winds, ravaged homes and businesses in Boulder County.
As flames leapt across the interstate highway near their home and billows of smoke darkened the midday sky, the Brooks grabbed their go bags, along with pillows and stuffed toys to help keep 6-year-old daughter Annastyn calm amid the chaos of evacuating their community.
Michael recalls the panic within the community. “They didn’t know what to do,” he said.
Though the Brooks’ house sustained only minor smoke damage, and their go bags went unused, the couple feel being prepared helped them remain calm and act swiftly under pressure. “Having the go bags made things simple,” said Michael.
“These days, anything can happen anytime, anywhere,” added Crystal. “It’s good to be prepared.”
In flood-prone Louisa, Kentucky, Brandon and C’onia Fitch made preparing go bags a fun activity for kids Nolan, Gavin and Stella, letting them pick out their own bags and add their favorite toys and nonperishable snacks.
“Everyone in the family had a role in preparing the bags,” said Brandon. “They know what’s in them, and they know where to find them.”
The importance of being ‘go bag ready’ was put to the test last year when floodwaters surrounded their home in rural Appalachia.
In pitch darkness and with freezing water rising steadily in their home, the Fitches loaded their go bags — and Princess Pickles, 6-year-old Stella’s beloved guinea pig — into the family car and drove to higher ground.
By morning, four feet of muddy floodwater had devastated the Fitches’ home and brought into sharp focus the true value of their efforts to prepare.
“It took a bit of the panic away,” said C’onia. “It seemed like a daunting task … but I’m so glad we did it.”
“You’re not going to regret it,” agreed Nolan, 16. “It could save your life.”