10 Things Communicators Need In Their Go Bag

September 4, 2014

What would you grab if you were headed to your Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for an elongated crisis? Some things you just don’t realize you need until you need them. I’ve been activated into multi-day emergency ops during Colorado’s two most devastating wildfires the past two years, let me provide you with 10 tips on things a communications person will need to survive.

1. Charging Stations / Cables

During a crisis you will be tethered to your phone, tablet or laptop like never before. You’ll find that your battery life will quickly disappear and fail you when you need it the most. Every EOC needs a rapid charging station like this one from ChargeAll. You should also consider a portable charging station you can carry with you like the New Trent Powerpak Xtreme.

You should also consider packing a 50 foot Ethernet cable. Wireless can sometimes be a challenge in your EOC and you can’t afford not being connected.

2. Lists, lots of lists

Large disasters often involve an interruption in electrical power or even overloading network switches. That means your cell phone or tablet could be useless. Make sure you have lists including contact information for Public Information Officers (PIO), law enforcement, fire department, city officials and media outlets. Don’t count on Google or having Internet access to look up contact information.

3. Surge Protector 

When you’re switching between the main power grid and emergency power there is real danger from power spikes. The last thing you want is a power surge toasting your electronics when you need them most. It’s a great idea to carry your own quality surge protector like the Fellowes Mighty 8 which you can get for under $20 from Amazon.

4. Flash Drives

You may need to transfer files, photos or other materials to members of your team or other agencies. Don’t count on being able to Dropbox them or send them via e-mail. Flash drives are incredibly cheap so it’s worth picking up a handful. Don’t forget to grab a couple that are high capacity (> 32GB) for transferring rich media (photography, video, etc.)

5. Batteries

You never know what devices you could be using that need batteries.I recommend grabbing packs of AA, AAA, 9V, C and various lithium cell batteries. Batteries are cheap and will be worth their weight in gold during a crisis.

6. Energy Bars

There is no time to grab lunch during a crisis, especially early on as things are changing rapidly. Plan on having some energy bars packed in your bag and not eating an actual meal for 12-24 hours.

7. Pencils/Paper

That’s right, good ol’ fashioned pencil and paper. This is great for taking notes, creating sign-up sheets for press conferences and giving you an outlet to save battery on your portable electronic devices when necessary.

8. Solar Energy Panel

If you lose power you can’t beat having solar energy as an option. Most emergency operations centers have backup generator power, but in a pinch you may need some solar rays to charge your phone or iPad. Check out something like the Renogy E-Flex Portable Solar Panel which you can pick up for around $50.

9. Medications

You could be held up in the EOC for days without an opportunity to go home. Make sure you have a 72 hour supply of any prescription medications you need. Also, put some aspirin in your bag as a headache is sure to happen when you’re under tremendous stress. Don’t forget a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant and wet wipes.

10. Phone Book

You may not have the luxury of using Google to find the information you need. An up-to-date phone book could be a huge resource for you in the EOC when you need to find addresses or phone numbers.

This list is not mean’t to be comprehensive. These should give you a starting point of putting together a great Go Bag. Talk to your organizations emergency manager about what else you should include in your bag. Did I miss anything? Share your experiences in crisis communications by leaving a comment below.

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