Planning for disaster? Fill your go bag with precious belongings

My favorite television show is “The Big Bang Theory.” I particularly enjoy the character of Dr. Sheldon Cooper, the genius physicist played by actor Jim Parsons. Dr. Cooper is quite quirky (“I’m not crazy; my mother had me tested.”).

One of Sheldon’s quirks is that he always has an emergency “go bag” packed and under his bed in case he has to flee his apartment due to an earthquake, alien invasion or any of a hundred other bizarre scenarios he deems likely.

While the idea of an emergency go bag is played for laughs on “The Big Bang Theory,” it’s really not such a bad idea when you think about it.

I began to realize this Aug. 25 while watching TV news reporters interviewing survivors of the tornado that destroyed 30-plus homes in Kokomo the previous afternoon.

Several of those who lost everything they owned said roughly the same thing: while their homes can be rebuilt and furniture and housewares replaced, some things inside those homes are gone … forever.

This situation is hardly unique to Kokomo. Right now, flood victims in Louisiana are experiencing the very same sense of loss, as are those out West whose homes have been destroyed by fire and those in Italy digging out from a devastating earthquake.

Insurance money and FEMA loans might help some of these folks rebuild their homes. But they won’t replace the Mother’s Day card handmade 30 years ago by a small girl who now has children of her own. They won’t replace the shoebox full of love letters written by a husband killed in Iraq or the heirloom jewelry passed down for generations.

Or the photos. It always comes down to the precious family photos that have been burned, blown away or ruined by floodwaters.

They’re just paper prints in frames. In most cases the images on the paper are already permanently burned into our memory banks. But for many of us, those paper prints are more valuable than three houses and a truck load of new furniture.

During the past several weeks, my wife, Brenda, and I have watched many news reports on the wildfires destroying everything in their paths in the western United States. Many of the people interviewed who have lost everything spoke about how little warning they had and how they tried to grab what little they could before fleeing for their lives.

The most frequently grabbed item? Photographs.

As we watched one evening, Brenda said, “If that ever happens to us, what would we grab?”

The obvious answer is photographs. But would that even be possible? At our house, we like our family photographs. We have shelves and shelves filled with photo albums. We have boxes and boxes of photo prints waiting to be put into albums. And we have photos hanging on the walls of every room in the house except the bathrooms.

Should a disaster strike, we would have only enough time to grab a few photos from the walls. Even our more recent photos backed up on computers would be lost unless we took the computers with us.

My favorite TV character, Sheldon Cooper, might be “quirky,” but I think he’s on to something with his go bag.

It’s pretty obvious to anyone paying attention that natural disasters are becoming something of a regular occurrence. The flood of 2008 showed us even Columbus is vulnerable.

So maybe it’s time for my wife and me … and maybe you? … to get our go bags, fill them with our most precious cargo and keep them where we can grab them and run, even if it’s only to the basement when the storm sirens go off.

Mother Nature can decide at any time to take our house. But, with a little preparation, maybe we can preserve at least some of what makes that house a home.

Doug Showalter can be reached at 379-5625 or