What is in a get home bag depends on several factors including:
- how you commute to work
- how far away from home your workplace is
- what you are allowed to take with you into your workplace
All get home bags should be designed to help you during a natural disaster or other emergency while you are away from home (at work or school). Most get home bags have under 24 hours worth of food and water, especially if you work close to home. Get home bags may also have unique items specifically designed for urban survival such as a four way water key, lock picks, etc.
Unlike a bug out bag or survival kit, the get home bag is a lot lighter, smaller, and discrete. You could say that the get home bag has the exact opposite purpose of the bug out bag: namely, to survive until you can get back home (instead of surviving after leaving your home).
You should feel comfortable using many of the items in your get home bag throughout the day. Just because the kit is designed for an emergency doesn’t mean that you can’t constantly use (and rotate) the items inside. In fact, the more useful items you have inside your get home bag the more you will actually take it with you and know how to use them.
Some people can pack their get home bags in their lunch boxes so they can take it into work with them without raising any suspicions. However, be sure to follow school and/or company rules by not bringing unauthorized weapons/items into the building.
If you work somewhere that requires business attire, then it would be a good idea to pack a good pair of shoes and a change of clothes. Not all survival gear has to be stored within the actual get home bag, but can be laid out in a tiered system. The tier systems allow you to more efficiently organize your survival gear so you can have what you need when you need it.
Tier 1 is what you carry with you whenever you leave the house (every day carry or EDC), the Tier 2 is what you can can carry with you into work (get home bag), the tier 3 is what you can leave in your car (car emergency kit or items you can’t logistically take into work), and tier 4 is what you can store at home (bug out bag), etc.
First Aid Supplies
Most schools and workplaces already have their own first aid stations for treating minor injuries and discomfort; however, it is always a good idea to pack your own first aid kit – especially if you have specific medical needs or extensive medical training.
Don’t forget to pack an additional day’s supply of prescription medications in your get home bag if you are required to take them.
Familiarize yourself with where the first aid stations, eyewash stations, fire extinguishers, and Automatic External Defibrillator (AEDs) are located at your school or workplace, as well. These are provided for workplace emergencies, but they may prove useful during natural disasters or other emergencies. That way you can conserve your own supplies.
Shelter In Place Supplies
Most emergencies that would affect you while you are away from home would require you to shelter in place, such as: workplace violence, tornadoes, or other environmental health hazards. Shelter in place simply means finding a safe location and staying there until local authorities say it is safe to leave. Most schools and workplaces have an emergency plan and location to gather, as well.
If you know of a fallout shelter nearby and have the time to get there, take shelter inside it. However in most situations, the first floor or basement of a building is the safest place to be – especially towards the center. That way you have as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
In the event of a chemical, biological, or nuclear attack/accident, you can add some additional protection for yourself using some thin plastic sheeting and duct tape around the doors, windows, and air vents. This can keep harmful pollutants away from you and your lungs. A N95 mask can filter out larger particles like dust, pollen, and ash.
Lock picks may be included in your get home bag, as well. However, they should not be used unless you are in an actual emergency and need immediate shelter! Try to enter into public buildings or pavilions before using them. Abandoned buildings may be your best bet; otherwise, you will be breaking in and be treated as an intruder by current occupants.
It is always important to stay hydrated, and water bottles are one of the best ways to ensure that you have water available when you need it. You can rotate through a case of water bottles or use a reusable water bottle in your get home kit. Refill them as often as needed while at work or school.
Your get home bag should include some additional items for when you need to refill your water bottle when conventional water sources are unavailable. You may want to include a small water filter and a four way water key. That way you can refill your water bottle from any body of water or public building.
Only use the four way water key when there is no other water source available; otherwise, you may get in trouble for stealing water. Remember that this is one of the items that should only be used during an actual emergency!
For short term emergencies and maximum concealment, snacks are acceptable. Items that do not require microwaves or refrigeration are a must, but you may want to include more nutritious options such as food bars, jerky, and trail mix.
Be sure to rotate the food inside your get home bag so you will always have access to good food. Pack food that you already enjoy and eat normally. Comfort food can greatly improve your mood by bring back a sense of normalcy during emergencies. Candy, gum, and other treats may be included, as well, for pick-me-ups during hard days.
If your commute is more than 50 miles, then you may want to include freeze-dried meals and a collapsible stove. Better food in the form of a hot, cooked meal will help you to keep you going with better morale and meal satisfaction if you have to walk back home.
If you work somewhere where there are a lot of people around, then you may want to think about how you would protect yourself during an emergency. Disasters can bring out the worst in people – especially during an emergency.
Looting, rioting, and other dangerous behaviors can be exhibited during severe emergencies, and you may become a target if you are seen with more resources than those around you. Nonlethal weapons such as pepper spray, tasers, and tactical pens make a great addition to a get home bag.
If you decide include lethal weapons in your get home bag, then you must OBEY the laws in your area and get a concealed weapons permit/training. Otherwise, you may be seen as the aggressor and be arrested or fined.
Never point any weapon at anyone unless they are threatening you and you are responding with an equal display of force. Also, never point a gun at somebody unless you are 100% willing to shoot to kill. Maintain control of your weapons at all times.
Hygiene is an easy need to forget about; however, in an emergency good hygiene can help you maintain your health by preventing the transmission and contraction of infectious diseases. A get home bag should include wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and biodegradable soap for washing your hands.
Follow basic guidelines to wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating meals, etc. Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands and should be done whenever you come in contact with any kind of bodily fluids.
“Following simple handwashing practices is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness at home, at school and elsewhere,” says Theresa M. Michele, MD, of the FDA’s Division of Nonprescription Drug Products. “We can’t advise this enough. It’s simple, and it works.”
A medical mask can prevent bacteria, viruses, and other airborne pathogens from entering into your mouth and nose; thereby, reducing the probability of infection. However, a medical mask is also used to cover patients’ mouths and noses in order to avoid spreading airborne diseases from people who are already sick.
You should have a cell phone charger in your get home bag and car, if you have one. In most emergencies your phone will still work, but you may run out of batteries within a day or even a couple of hours. Cell phones charge faster when put in airplane mode; however, you will not be able to receive phone calls or text messages if you put it in airplane mode.
Cell phones may not work during some emergency situations because the cell towers can be destroyed or overwhelmed by the amount of people trying to communicate with each other. Short text messages are sometimes able to be sent when the cell towers to overwhelmed for a phone call.
A get home bag should include a portable radio with AM, FM, and NOAA bands can help keep you informed by local authorities during weather emergencies. These radios can either be battery powered or hand crank; however, if you do have a battery powered radio then you should have extra batteries on hand just in case.
A get home bag should at least include a multi tool, such as a Leatherman. However, the more tools and knowledge you have the more useful they will be during an emergency.
Familiarize yourself with which kinds of disasters and emergencies are more prevalent in your area and which tools will be the most useful in those situations. Tools are only useful if you have access to them when you need them and you know how to use them properly.
You should have a car survival kit if you drive your own car to work. A car survival kit should at least have jumper cables, a tow strap, and a flat tire inflation canister. If you want to learn more about car survival kits then read my post “What is in a car emergency kit?”
You should have some cash in your get home bag just in case for buying food, purchasing other supplies, or even staying overnight in a hotel, if needed. You should include a change of clothes if you work far enough away to anticipate needing to stay overnight.
Be sure not to carry too much money on you or in too large of denominations. Usually $100 in smaller bills of 20s, 10s, 5s, and 1s will be enough to get you through. Bartering items like silver coins, alcohol, and cigarettes work well especially when cash in unavailable.
A get home bag should at least have the following in black bullet points:
- a first aid kit
- items for your specific medical needs
- an extra day of prescription medication (if applicable)
- medical or N95 mask
- thin plastic sheeting and duct tape
- lock picks
- a water bottle
- small water filter
- four way water key
- lightweight, non-perishable food
- lightweight stove with fuel
- metal cup for boiling water
- a nonlethal weapon (pepper spray, taser, etc.)
- lethal weapon (only if you have a concealed weapons permit/training)
- wet wipes, hand sanitizer, or biodegradable soap
- phone charger
- portable radio
- multi tool
- additional tools
- hiking boots and a change of clothes
Is there anything that you would put in your get home bag that I didn’t mention? Please leave your comments below.
Prepare for the worst and hope for the best,
Founder of Survive and Thrive with Permaculture