“A matter of seconds,” said Sebastion McNett, describing how fast he and his younger brother, Dante, could be ready to leave the house in an emergency.
This Naples teenager and his family leave nothing to chance when it comes to their safety. “It's better to be over prepared than under prepared,” said his mother, Lisa, explaining how she and her husband, Gordon, feel about being ready for a disaster.
With extreme weather events escalating in frequency and severity in recent years, experts urge families to plan ahead for natural disasters. Ready.gov, a FEMA website, recommends putting together a “collection of basic items” to last for several days, including food, water, a change of clothes, cash and a flashlight.
In the McNett’s home, four backpacks full of emergency supplies sit ready for action in a closet by the front door — one “go bag” for each of them. Their emergency plan includes a location to meet in the event they are separated and lose cellular service. Having a plan and preparing what they need for an emergency ahead of time has helped them have peace of mind. Gordon feels that including his sons in the process is extremely important. He said, “... they can feel confident that even if they're on their own, they are prepared.”
The McNetts credit regular disaster-preparedness reminders through their congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and on the Christian organization’s official website, jw.org, for helping them to keep at the ready.
“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.”
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.”