Photo Credit: Emergency Flashlight

Washington State experienced the worst wildfire season in its history last summer. There have been many byproducts of this season of fire, but one of the most positive has been an increased focus on community and individual preparedness.

In order to better facilitate preparedness, the Chumstick Wildfire Stewardship Coalition has been assembling a “go bag.” Dubbed #makeakitmonday, each Monday we focus on a new component and add it to our bag. Those following along at home via social media are (hopefully) doing the same.

Our friends at Firewise of Southwest Colorado have joined us and have posted several of the kit components. Other fire departments and emergency managers have shared the posts as well – extending the reach of our Monday posts! To date, we have covered the following kit components:

  • The bag
  • Flashlights
  • Pet preparedness
  • Emergency radio (including National Weather Radio)
  • Paperwork (important documents, wills, insurance, home inventory, passports)
  • Preparedness for kids (special comfort items and helping kids cope)
  • First aid kit (including prescription medication)
  • Electronic data
  • Food and water

Each post is available on our Facebook page. We have a few more posts on deck: The Stuff in Your Pocket (extra car keys, credit cards, cash, eyeglasses), sanitation supplies and evacuation plans (map, contact numbers, the plan itself).

(Example of items found in a “go kit.” Photo Credit: Annie Schmidt)

Emergency preparedness can be overwhelming. We all know we need a “go kit” and yet few of us have them! Prior to this exercise, I will admit that I didn’t. The goal of #makeakitmonday was to break down the process into concrete and manageable steps. The order of the kit components was, in part, designed to spread out the cost of kit assembly over a number of weeks.

So what has worked? The best response to our posts (according to our Facebook Insights) have been the posts about bags (and the #makeakitmonday concept), flashlights and radios. Common to all of the best performing posts were real pictures (not stock photographs) and a more thorough discussion of the items in question. Our posts fall short of reviews and we have tried to avoid making recommendations. Different items will work for different individuals and families and we are certainly not the experts on flashlights or radios! That said, the level of engagement has been best when the posts have been real people, talking about real items.

We have also incorporated #makeakitmonday into our National Community Preparedness Day project, funded through NFPA and State Farm. Residents of this area will be able to pick up their own “go bag,” provided they agree to fill it, and then receive small kit components at Wildfire Preparedness events.

Next year, we would like to see more local organizations participating (e.g., have the local hospital talk about first aid kits, the Humane Society talk about pet preparedness, etc.) in order to take advantage of the expertise in the community. It would also be fun to see more communities participating– Firewise of Southwest Colorado has been a great partner.

All in all, the inaugural #makeakitmonday campaign has been a success for us and we would invite anyone to participate, use the hashtag, and adapt any of the existing posts to his or her own community.

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