Get Ready for the Unexpected

Get Ready for the Unexpected with a Disaster Go Bag
provided by Joshua Caleb Johnson

— Don’t think you need an emergency kit?
Think again, say families who needed one.

Preparing in advance with a disaster-ready kit has helped families nationwide through extreme and abnormal weather events, which experts warn are on the rise.

“Suddenly the weather changed, and we saw a tornado coming,” said José Alvarado. “I couldn’t believe my eyes.” José and his wife, Maritza, along with their two children, live in Amsterdam, New York. “We never expected, or heard about a tornado in this area,” Maritza said.

They hurried to gather their children and retreat to the basement of their home. Their daughter was 11 years old when the tornado whirled through their neighborhood. She remembers being inconsolable as her parents swooped her up to carry her to safety. “It was so loud, there was thunder and lightning,” she said. “It was by far the most terrifying experience I have ever gone through in my life.”

The Alvarado’s home was spared, but part of their neighbor’s home was damaged, and the wind snapped and uprooted nearby trees. “As fast as it came, it suddenly just went up the hill to the other side of town,” José said. The tornado that swept over their neighborhood and across Montgomery County, touched down just weeks after Hurricane Irene drenched the East Coast in 2011. Then Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc the following year.

José said that the frequency of damaging weather and unexpected events helped him realize the importance of taking steps to keep his family safe. “Seeing that disasters are possible anywhere, even in my area, made me aware that I had to have a go bag,” he said.

New York City’s Emergency Management department recommends go bags for all New Yorkers. This emergency kit should be easy to carry and include essentials such as bottled water, non-perishable food, flashlights and medication. New Yorkers are also urged to think ahead about unique needs, such as tire repair kits for their wheelchair or scooter.

As Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Alvarados appreciate receiving suggestions during their congregation meetings and on about how to prepare for emergencies. “We receive good information on what we can include,” José said.

“Life is precious, so we encourage all to heed the Bible’s advice to take practical steps to protect ourselves from danger,” said Robert Hendriks III, spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States.

The Alvarados purchase their supplies based on a list that appeared in a 2017 Awake magazine “When Disaster Strikes—Steps that Can Save Lives.” They made an emergency plan and exchanged ideas with friends about other items they might include in their go bags. Each family member has a bag stored in an easily accessible location.

“I feel at peace being prepared to face these situations,” Maritza said. While it is impossible to know every disaster that will strike, having a go bag can lessen the anxiety.

Their daughter said having a go bag brings her a measure of comfort: “I feel safe knowing that it’s there, and I can just grab it, throw it on my shoulders and go.”

Disaster-preparedness suggestions and tips for putting together a go bag are available from FEMA at and from Jehovah’s Witnesses at

The Alvarados, of Amsterdam, N.Y., pack their go bags with up-to-date supplies in case of an emergency. Disaster preparedness suggestions and tips can be found on and – PHOTO COURTESY OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

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