How to Pack a Bag to be Prepared for Emergencies

Outside of my wallet, keys and phone I have never thought much about what to pack in my purse or work bag in case of emergency. I usually have some backup makeup and maybe some hair ties, and there is usually an errant granola bar in there if my kids haven’t found it already.

But I had honestly never really been in an emergency situation before until recently. And I hadn’t given a thought to what was in my work bag beyond some lipstick, wallet, keys and a pack of gum. But it just so happened that while I was at work one morning an announcement came over the PA system that said there was an armed intruder in my building.

Yep, that’s right. It turned out that there was not an armed intruder, thank God. Someone had pushed the alarm on accident, but know one knew that until much later, so it was pretty much a flee for your life situation. In fact, the message actually said to “run, hide or fight.”

So most of us quickly headed for the exits, though some people chose to hunker down in their offices, thinking a shooter might be waiting in the stairwells.

It was a tense couple of hours to be sure. I apparently have the “flight” instinct, and managed to grab my work bag and phone on my way out, so I had my wallet, keys and a way to tell my husband I was safe.

Packing a Bag for Emergencies

But I didn’t have much else other than that. Which got me thinking about what should be in my purse or work bag in case of emergency. What if I was stuck in the building, or stuck in an elevator or stairwell for hours and hours? Or what if I fell while fleeing the office (in high heels no less)? I didn’t have any band aids, wipes, or even an aspirin.


So I decided to do a little research on what would be good to keep in my purse or bag in case of emergency. Of course, Google is very handy for lists of practical things to carry on your person, from the very extreme survival-type lists to those for non-life-threatening situations (like you spill marinara on your work shirt, or get a run in your hose). This was a very good video I found by a retired Navy SEAL on how to be prepared for emergency situations.

So I put together a list with mostly practical items – it’s not like I’m going to pack my bag with a whole roll of toilet paper or tent or anything – but just some practical “tools” that might come in handy if I ever do have to flee for my life again, even in a false alarm, or just find myself in unusual circumstances.

What to Keep in Your Purse or Bag in Case of Emergency

  • Cash: I’m so bad about this one. If I have it I spend it. But cash can be handy if you find yourself in a place where you can’t use plastic (like if there’s a major power outage, for example). I decided $40 was enough to fill my gas tank most of the way, buy a meal or two, or pay for an Uber ride home. But it’s not so much that if it got lost or stolen I wouldn’t be sick about it. And this isn’t “oh, I really want a Chick fil A diet lemonade” money. This is emergency money, so it’s off limits unless I truly have no other option.
  • Pocket knife
  • Mace
  • Lighter
  • LED Flashlight
  • Small First Aid Kit: Bandaids, Neosporin, pain meds
  • Sewing Kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissues
  • Pen & Pad
  • Protein or granola bars or other snack
  • Travel umbrella
  • Phone charger
  • Hand Wipes
  • Gun/Breath mints
  • Back Up Makeup/Toiletries

Super Survivor Extras

I didn’t include things in my bag. I live and work in the suburbs in a heavily populated area so I didn’t really feel the need. However, if you are going to be traveling to exotic locales or heading out to remote areas, these were some things other lists included that might come in handy.

  • Paracord
  • Bandana
  • Small multipurpose tool
  • Duct tape
  • Roll of quarters (apparently if you hold one of these while punching someone you can do a lot more damage. Or you can drop it in a sock to use it to whack someone. You learn something new every day!)
  • Emergency blanket

I hope this list gets you thinking about what you keep in your purse or bag. My next mission is to improve upon the basic emergency bin I have for our home. Plus, I plan to create a couple of “go bags” for us to take if we ever have to leave our home in a hurry.

Let me know if there are other items you think should be on the list. I’d love to hear other suggestions!

Want more tips and tricks? Check out my tips on saving money on a road trip or the best way to enjoy a Glacier National Park vacation.

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