Ahead of the Pack
Home emergency kits have gone mainstream
Nearly two years ago, around the time of Donald Trump’s inauguration, go bags became a popular topic of discussion. “Am I the only one feeling compelled to put together a go-bag like we all did in NYC post 9-11?” Elly Lonon, author of the satirical Mcsweeney’s Internet Tendency’s column turned book “Amongst the Liberal Elite,” posted on Facebook. Many of those who responded agreed with the sentiment.
Go bags, also known as bug-out bags, are usually duffle bags or backpacks filled with essential items one would need to survive for seventy-two hours, meant to be used in case of a sudden evacuation. Their contents typically include a change of clothes, enough food and water for each person in the household for three days, batteries, candles, a solar-powered or crank radio, flashlights, and photocopies of essential documents, among other things.
Until very recently, it would have been rare to find anyone beyond fervent doomsday preppers or conspiracy theorists with any motivation to put one together. But go bags had a brief surge in popularity in the United States after 9/11 and again during Barack Obama’s second term—at the time, the far right anticipated a civil war. Obama, after all, was plunging America into moral and financial ruin, or so some claimed.
During Trump’s first year in office, go bags went mainstream. In the lead up to the election, Cards Against Humanity, the company behind the Nsfw fill-inthe-blank party game, created a limitededition Donald Trump Bug-out Bag, which included among its contents a gold locket with a photo of Obama and a copy of Plato’s Republic; the 10,000 on offer sold out within seven hours. Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, included a two-week survival bag (for $12,500) in its 2015 Ridiculous (and Awesome) Gift Guide. And a number of American media outlets, including GQ and the New York Times, have published tongue-incheek-but-actually-kind-of-serious howto articles on surviving the apocalypse, complete with gear suggestions. There are even monthly subscription services that deliver a box of survival tools to your front door, and yes, many deliver worldwide. According to one Reuters report last year, some survivalist gear shops saw sales triple in the weeks following a series of hurricanes and earthquakes and the threat of nuclear war with North Korea.
As a Canadian, I’ve always assumed I am pretty safe. I don’t think I’ve ever believed the extreme scenarios my American Facebook friends worried about would cross the border nor that I was under any threat of a large-scale disaster. While we have occasional climate-related events that require people to evacuate — flooding in Manitoba and Alberta, ice storms in Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes—these types of scenarios feel rare. Or, at least, they once did. Then there was the 2016 Fort Mcmurray wildfire, which required mass evacuations. This past summer, BC experienced the worst wildfire season on record in the province. Climate-changerelated extreme weather events, such as