So what else does Mother Nature have to throw at us after last year? Are you out of ideas? We are. But she isn’t.

The truth is that emergency situations appear rapidly, and they often don’t give us much notice.

A decade ago, if you had a “Go Bag” or a “Bug Out Bag” or some other kit filled with disaster supplies waiting by your back door, you were seen as a crazy end-of-the-world disaster prepper.

But even before the pandemic, being prepared for anything was always good common sense. Heck, being prepared has been the motto of the Boy Scouts since 1907. If you’re ready for an emergency, you’re in good company.

The federal government, and even New York State, have been urging members of the public to prepare a household emergency kit since well before the pandemic, with the state even going so far in recent years as to have the National Guard lead Citizen Preparedness Corps classes where attendees get their own bag stocked with emergency supplies.

If you’ve gone through one of these classes or if you already have your own bag, chances are you’ve begun to raid it in times of semi-crisis. Need a flashlight with fresh batteries? It’s in there. Need a portable radio? That too. The state bag even came with one N95 mask that we sent our kids off to the grocery store with back in March of 2020. We definitely didn’t replace that mask. 

While we were digging through the kit looking for a mask, we noticed our MREs were about to expire, so we attempted to wolf them down, then realized we would have to drink all the purified water in the bag just to hold down the MREs. 

We’re not alone in neglecting our “Go Bag.” Orient Fire Department Rescue Squad Second Lieutenant Douglas Gray gave a presentation on his bag to a Zoom session of the Orient Historical Society just before Christmas. He confessed that a thumb drive with all his vital documents had rusted and some animal had raided the bag, which he’d left in a backyard shed, and  had been sowing Bananagram letter tiles all over his backyard.

A Bananagram set is a great thing if you’re stuck in a shelter, and playing cards are even more vital. Did you ever wonder why all your relatives who lived through World War II knew how to play every card game? There’s a lot of waiting that goes on in a crisis. Surely you are waiting for something now — an Amazon package, or a vaccine, or to come out of quarantine. 

A good book isn’t a bad thing to have either, though we are reevaluating our choice of Stephen King’s “The Stand” for our kit.

Now an emergency kit and an emergency plan can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be, but there are a few essentials. 

The most important thing is to make photocopies or digital copies of your vital documents — driver’s licenses, health insurance cards, birth certificates, vaccination records, prescriptions, your pet’s vaccination records (super important!) and passports. These things are very difficult to replace if you don’t have a backup.

But your family is even more irreplaceable, and if you can’t find them in an emergency things aren’t going to go well. We all lean so hard on our cell phones now that we don’t even know our mothers’ cell phone numbers, especially if our mothers have had five different Go Phones in the past five years. Is your mom’s current cell phone number written down anywhere, in pen and ink? Get on it.

In all seriousness, if a true disaster strikes, our cell phones might not be any good for some time due to power outages or circuit overloads. In that case, you need to talk over with your family where you would meet in the event of a disaster. 

A local school or community center is a good place to meet — many of them are already set up to be utilized as shelters if an emergency strikes.

Mr. Gray, of the OFD, also suggests you have photos of your family members and pets in your emergency kit, so that you can give them to emergency responders to help identify them. 

A closet near your front door is a great place to keep your emergency kit. Take it out every six months (maybe when you’re checking your smoke detectors), and make sure everything is working and nothing is expired.

 The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website is filled with suggestions for these kits, and more localized advice can also be found at    — BY

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at

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