THE BLOG

Go Bags: Why You Need One Right Now, Especially Kids

02/10/2015 10:59 am ET | Updated Apr 12, 2015

We didn't get the snowpocalypse two weeks ago, but don't curse out the officials who urged you to stock up on water and flashlights. They actually did you a favor. If you live in New York City, as I do, you should be prepared for any emergency, and the easiest way to do that is to have a plan, and a go bag.

In the last 13 years, we have had a major terrorist attack, a complete blackout, a hurricane that left us without electricity or heat for weeks, and even an earthquake! Three of those events occurred without warning, and caused destruction, confusion, and mayhem. Aside from the stress of the actual events, most of us simply were not prepared.

Growing up in South Florida, I was raised a prepper. Not the weird kind you see on the "Learning" Channel where "Doomsday Preppers" in full camouflage ambush their unsuspecting families to see how fast they respond to a zombie or government attack on civilians. I was raised to prepare for hurricanes.

We had storm warnings every season. We filled the bathtub with water. Pulled out the flashlights. My dad owned a Shell gas station, so we put our cars on the lifts to keep them from flood damage. We would tape the windows (a technique that doesn't help, by the way).

But even in Florida many people wait until the last minute, and then the news outlets roll the footage of empty shelves at Home Depot and long gas lines, as they interview people in stores fighting over the last loaf of bread.

This is a fact: there will be another emergency, a substantial one. You can be sure of it.

So these are your choices.

Do nothing, and pray that some kind soul will show up with diapers and formula after.

Or leave it until the last minute, and buy whatever leftover junk is left on the shelves. You may even experience price gouging.

Or you can buy those supplies ahead of time, online, or when they go on sale. You will need to buy this stuff anyway. Why not just have it, and have peace of mind? Then when all of those poor unfortunate souls are lined up waiting for the last pack of D batteries, you'll be picking up cupcakes and a nice bottle of wine to ride the event out.

If you're lucky, you'll get advance notice of the emergency. But suppose you don't? If you have 2 minutes to leave home, what do you take? Loved ones and pets, of course, but then? Your shoes? Your wallet? Can you find your kid's asthma inhaler? Say it is a catastrophic event like Sandy, where you lose everything, and can't go to the local store to buy basic supplies the next day, or even the next week. The ATMs are down, banks are closed, stores can't accept credit cards or are demolished, and you have $20 in your wallet.

What do you do? Wait for the Red Cross to show up? When I worked as a Sandy relief worker in the Rockaways, the American Red Cross was nowhere to be found. Entire neighborhoods were displaced, freezing, and literally starving. We had to feed, clothe, warm, and help our neighbors. Most people were just not prepared.

My point is, being prepared isn't weird or a luxury -- it's a necessity. It helps our first responders be free to help people who really need it, the elderly or disabled. It helps us, to help our neighbors. If you have a family and are unprepared, that's irresponsible.

The best and easiest way to start with your preparedness plan is to have a go bag. Have the essentials in it to last you the first 72 hours. Put it in a closet near your door. Keep sensible shoes near it. Put food, water, first aid and spare clothes into it. Then grab it, and your family, and go. You can buy ready made bags online, but you will find that they have things in them you don't need, and you will need to add things that only you can add. Like prescriptions, cash, and documents.

I have made this video to help you make your own go bag, and to also give some tips for including and preparing your family. My six year old daughter, Bee is in it as my assistant. I hope you find it informative and entertaining.

Make your children a part of your preparedness plan. If you make it a family, fun, and matter of fact activity, you are empowering not only yourself, but the kids too.

Why do I care and who am I? I'm a single mom, a relief worker, an activist, I studied Urban Humanitarian Emergencies and Crisis Management at Harvard University, I'm your neighbor, I love all of my family that IS New York and I want everyone to be ready and fearless next time...I also can't stand the thought of any of you waiting in line for hours at Wholefoods because someone bought up all of the kale. Stay safe, everybody.