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'Go Bag' Disaster Kit Could Help Close America's Preparedness Gap

07/08/2014 11:28 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2014

Knowing what to have on hand in case of an emergency can be difficult, so the folks at The Open Company have created a “Go Bag” that they hope will help you be prepared for a disaster.

The project's lead, Eric Meltzer, told The Huffington Post that he was inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which left many people stuck without supplies for days. “I wanted to design a bag that would keep people comfortable and safe with or without outside assistance.” Now the company is hoping to send the project into production through a Kickstarter campaign.

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In recent years agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tried to emphasize the importance of preparedness to the American public. FEMA dubbed September "National Preparedness Month" and created a smartphone app to share information. The CDC even launched a highly successful campaign on “Zombie Apocalypse” preparedness, which included talking points on emergency planning applicable to any disaster. But many people are still woefully unprepared.

A 2009 FEMA survey on how ready the American public is for a disaster, such as pandemic flu, extreme weather or act of terror, found that not enough Americans stock disaster supplies, and many of those who do often fail to replace them or stock only things like food and water, not equipment such as flashlights or a first aid kit. One of the key reasons for this is that people expect help from emergency services.

In fact, the survey found that 61 percent of Americans planned to depend on first responders for help during the first 72 hours after a disaster.

FEMA stresses that, while emergency services personnel will be doing their best to perform their duties as normal, the public needs to be aware that this is not always possible in a disaster. In situations like these, having a disaster kit that can help you through those first 72 hours is the best way to be prepared.

But who has time to find out which equipment is most important and then track down and purchase all that gear? For many people this is a major barrier to preparing for a disaster. That’s where The Open Company hopes to help. Using the advice of emergency responders and doctors, they’ve made the gear selection for you. Meltzer told HuffPost that “there was a surprising amount of consensus” about what to include in the bag. “People who have thought about this stuff a lot seem to have converged on a set of really useful stuff, and that's what we put into the pack.” The Go Bag, which is priced at $225 on Kickstarter, includes tools, first aid and hygiene supplies, food, water treatment and ways to keep you warm.

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Having the right equipment is important, but it’s not the only part of disaster preparation. FEMA advises that each person should make a plan and educate themselves about warning systems and evacuation options in their area. Knowing what to do in different types of disasters is also important. If you’re caught off guard by a situation, TOC’s Go Bag includes an easy to read survival guide. The guide shows “how to do each procedure using a step-by-step illustrated checklist, which eliminates a lot of room for error and enables even folks with no training to get things done," Meltzer said.

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