Get Your Go Bag Ready


Get Your Go Bag Ready

Get your escape to safety on the right track by packing a bag that's ready to go when you are

The go bag (aka bugout bag), once thought of as a security blanket for the conspiracy theorist, has gained the status of a legit safety item that you need in your home. In fact, government and city officials recommend having a go bag ready at all times.

The idea behind the go bag is simple. If an emergency happens, you grab your go bag and... go. It contains items that help you survive until you can return home. Here's everything you need to know.

Why you need a go bag

Global warming has made weather patterns unpredictable and dangerous. Mix that with the current civil unrest around the world and you could have all the reasons you need to keep a go bag ready.

Think you needn't bother? Here are some reasons why you may need to flee your home to find new shelter at a moment's notice:

  • Earthquake
  • Tornado or hurricane
  • Flash flood
  • Wild fire
  • Mud slide
  • Ice storm
  • Zombie apocalypse (just kidding... maybe)

What kind of bag is best?

The City of Chicago recommends that each member of your household have their own go bag. If you're the parent of small children, however, you can use one big bag to hold everything you and your children need.

Remember, the best kind of bag is the kind you can carry. Don't get a huge duffle bag unless you're very strong and can heft it. Also, you want a bag that will fit easily in your transport. You don't want one that's so big you'll have to leave one of the kids behind to take it with you.

A hiking backpack with various pockets is your best bet. Make sure it's made from a strong canvas material and has a strap that secures around your chest. This will take some of the strain off your back if you need to walk a long way.

Also, look for a pack that has a water reservoir you can fill with drinking water. These are often called camelbacks.

I recommend the GTH III three-day pack, which is what my husband used in the military. It's currently our family go bag. It sells for around $65. Another good choice is the All Hazards Prime Bag ($166).

Water is important, but make it, don't carry it

Though many experts recommend having a three-day supply of water in your home in case of an emergency, running with that amount of water can be impractical, especially if you don't have a car. The alternative is keeping a device in your go bag that can turn water from ditches, streams, ponds and other water sources into clean drinking water. Some good choices are the LifeStraw Go Water Bottle ($45) or the Icon LifeSaver ($150). Both can be clipped to the outside of your go bag so they don't take up precious room in the pockets.

Be warned, though. Many emergency filtration devices like these need to be prepped with drinking water before they can be used as a filter for yucky water. Be sure to read the directions and prep your bottle before clipping it to your go bag.

Get lighting that lasts

In an emergency, batteries may be in short supply. That's why it's a good idea to put a lighting system in your go bag that can be powered by a renewable resource. For example, the ECEEN Flashlight ($15) is solar powered while the ThorFire LED Flashlight ($13) can be powered by sunlight or a hand crank. A solar or crank flashlight that doubles as an AM/FM radio is a good choice, too. We personally like LuminAID.

Other essentials

Though water and light should be at the top of your list, there are some other things you need to toss in your bag:

  • Nonperishable food. MREs (meals ready to eat) are a popular choice, but freeze-dried items work, too. Just be sure they're light, provide a lot of calories and protein and stay good for months, if not years.
  • A good multitool that includes a knife, pliers, a can opener and other tools.
  • Paracord, also called 550 cord, can hold up to 550 pounds and is very compact, so choose it instead of regular rope.
  • Carabiners: These metal loops with a spring-loaded latch have a million and one uses, like latching gear to the outside of your go bag.
  • A whistle to signal others if you need help and can't yell.
  • A poncho and a change of clothes.
  • Your family's prescription medications for a week and copies of your prescriptions. You'll probably want to toss these in the go bag as you leave, since keeping extras in your bag will be impractical for most people.
  • A small first aid kit with bandages, antiseptic, pain killers and gauze.
  • Personal care items such as soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products and so on. Put these items in waterproof baggies.
  • Your extra house and car keys.
  • A warm blanket. Put it in a plastic bag, use the hose on your vacuum to suck the air out of the bag and quickly seal it to save room.
  • A recent family photo for identification purposes, also in a plastic bag, to keep it safe from moisture.
  • Cash in small denominations and coins.
  • A regional map so you can find your way without a phone when cell towers and GPS are down or busy, or you've run out of battery.
  • Paper, pens and tape to leave messages for others.
  • A dust mask.
  • Copies of important documents such as insurance information, IDs, proof of address and passports, all in a waterproof plastic bag.
  • Your family photos on a USB drive. This one is optional, but I like the security of knowing I have some of my family's precious memories with me.


Authored by Alina Bradford; reprinted from; edited by Virtual Halo.


Tips For What To Do If You're Being Stalked


Tips For What To Do If You're Being Stalked

It’s that time again, January is National Stalking Awareness Month. If you are a victim, here are VITAL tips that will help you navigate your case with the police and keep you safe.

Safety Checklist:

  • What to do if you're being stalked:
    • Make it clear to the stalker that you don't want any further contact.
    • DOCUMENT ALL INCIDENTS IN A JOURNAL: Include time, Date and description of event
    • Save all the evidence - Phone messages, emails, letters, gifts, etc.
    • Contact the Police - Bring all evidence to the Police Station
    • Keep a camera or videocamera on hand - Snap his picture or videotape his antics. Do not put yourself in danger to get the shot. Stay in your car or home when taking the picture and make sure the environment is safe before you videotape any damage that has been done
    • Make an emergency contact list for you and your family - Include phone numbers of Police Station (911 if it’s urgent), Name and Badge number of officer assigned to your case, Child Care or School contact numbers, name and number of attorney or prosecutor
    • Subscribe to [Virtual Halo][1] so you can let your family or close friends know if the stalker comes near you or is harrasing you; they will know your location and can talke swift action to minimize a bad outcome.
    • Avoid any further contact with the stalker: Do not communicate with your stalker in any way. Change your daily routine. Shop at a different grocery store; drive home a different way every day. If your situation is extremely dangerous, relocate. (Talk with police officials or victim assistance organizations for help) For more information, read [College Safety 101, Miss Independents guide to Empowerment, Confidence and Staying Safe][2] (Chronicle Books).

Reprinted from


Holiday Safety Tips


Holiday Safety Tips

As the busy holiday season approaches, so does the chaos that goes along with it. This is one of the most wonderful times of year; unfortunately, it can also be one of the most dangerous. We run from errand to errand, shopping mall, to shopping mall, and something happens that makes us really attractive to criminals. We are preoccupied, scattered and definitely not focused on what is going on around us; perfect prey for an opportunistic thief.

I have trained with all different types of professionals in personal safety, from ex-navy seals to SWAT officers. There is one common thread that runs throughout any self-defense or security training; common sense. With all the hustle and bustle throughout the holiday season, that is the one thing that people loose all sight of. The following are some safety tips you need to be aware of to keep you and your family safe this holiday season…

How to protect yourself from being a victim of credit card fraud:

Many criminals do their shopping on someone else’s tab. They usually get their card number of choice from an unsuspecting victim’s discarded receipt. Make sure any credit card slips or receipts are tucked safely in your wallet. Do not throw them away at the mall. If a store clerk asks you for personal information such as address, telephone number, or driver’s license number, be sure to ask why they need the information, and any information you give them should be out of earshot from other customers lurking behind you. Department stores like to input all your private information to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in marketing fees, that way they can develop a mailing list or do market research, all on your dime. Never give out your private information to a store clerk unless it is related to the transaction. For example, when you return an item, many stores will mail you the refund. Another risk of giving out your personal information is identity theft. 500,000 people a year are victims of identity theft. Many people’s lives have been destroyed by their personal information falling into the wrong hands. Simple information such as an address, driver’s license number, or most dangerous, a social security number, allows a criminal to assume another persons identity complete with credit cards, new bank accounts, and even a new home or car loan. Be sure to question why a clerk needs to have your personal information. Remember, you are the customer; it is your right to keep your private information private.

How to stay safe at the mall:

How many of you have rushed to your car after a marathon day of shopping; bags wrapped around your wrists like handcuffs? Or how many of you have thrown all your packages in the back seat, hopped in your car, and started to back out, only to find you had left the back door wide open? Criminals love to attack in parking lots the darker and more isolated the better. So this holiday season, use common sense. Park in a lighted area, the more people the better. Use a shopping cart to carry your bags to the car, or at least make sure you hands are free if an emergency should arise. As you walk out to your car, look around the parking lot. Be aware of who is in front of you and in back of you. As you get towards your car, look to see if anyone suspicious is standing close by. Is your car the way you left it? If you notice anything unusual, do not go to your car. Go back in to the mall and find a security guard. This should not feel like you are being paranoid, just Street Smart. From the time you leave the mall to the time you get home safely, don’t let the preoccupation of daunting holiday tasks take you away from using common sense and focusing on your surroundings.

How to get home safely:

Many carjackers like to follow their victims home. As you leave the mall, glance in your rear view mirror to see if anyone is following you. If you feel like you are being followed, make a turn and then another. If the car is still behind you and you have a cell phone, dial 911. No matter what, drive straight to a local police station. There aren’t too many criminals brazen enough to commit a crime in a police parking lot. These safety tips are not meant to scare you or make you paranoid, they are to empower you and make your holiday season crime free. There are some personal security devices to assist you in keeping safe. Pepper spray or foam can be attached to your key chain and is as easy to use as hair spray. When sprayed into your assailant’ eyes, it causes their mucous membranes to swell, their eyes to shut, and they have difficulty breathing. This gives you time to get away and get help. A personal safety alarm is also helpful. It looks like a pager, and can attach to your purse or belt. It has a little pin on the top that when pulled, causes a very loud, high pitched shrieking noise that will either make your assailant run or attract attention from other people in the area to come to your aid.

Traveling During The Holidays:

If you are planning a trip out of town for the holidays, put your holiday lights on a timer. Also be mindful that if you run extension cords to your outdoor lights, the window providing access to the cords may not be properly secured.

Try not to advertise your plans to be gone for the holidays online. Broadcasting the location or duration of your trip on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be dangerous. It may be something exciting you really want to share, but be aware that you could be blatantly telling criminals, “I’m not home.” The AAA organization suggests asking a neighbor to check on your home (and your mail) while you are out of town. This is a great way to give you peace of mind that all is well back home.

Make sure your close family and friends know where you'll be and how to get in touch with you in case of an emergency on either end. Outfitting your family with the Virtual Halo app will help everyone keep in touch - especially when going to a big place like Walt Disney World. The Check In feature is ideal for famlies to be able to rendezvous at a specific location.

Remember, simple common sense actions can keep you from becoming the next crime victim. Don’t live in fear, relax, make smart personal safety choices and ENJOY the Holidays!

Reprinted from and Johns Eastern Blog


Halloween Safety Tips


Halloween Safety Tips

  1. Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  2. Look left, right and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross.
  3. Put electronic devices down and keep heads up and walk, don’t run, across the street.
  4. Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
  5. Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible. Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
  6. Watch for cars that are turning or backing up. Teach children to never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
  7. Trick or Treat With an Adult
  8. Children under the age of 12 should not be alone at night without adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, they should stick to familiar areas that are well lit and trick-or-treat in groups.
  9. Keep Costumes Both Creative and Safe
  10. Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, if possible, choose light colors.
  11. Choose face paint and makeup whenever possible instead of masks, which can obstruct a child’s vision.
  12. Have kids carry glow sticks or flashlights to help them see and be seen by drivers.
  13. When selecting a costume, make sure it is the right size to prevent trips and falls.
  14. Drive Extra Safely on Halloween
  15. Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
  16. Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  17. Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  18. Eliminate any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
  19. Drive slowly, anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on earlier in the day to spot children from greater distances.
  20. Popular trick-or-treating hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. so be especially alert for kids during those hours.
  21. Make sure your children have Virtual Halo on their phone so they can send an SOS if they get seperated from you, that way you will know exactly where they are.


What To Do During An Earthquake


What To Do During An Earthquake

The major earthquake that happened in Italy last week should be a reminder to all of us that mother nature needs to stretch every now and then as well. For us, we were especially shaken up because two close family members were vacationing near the affected area in Italy when the earthquake happened. 

Focussed on an unplugged vacation, they felt the earth shake around 3:30 in the morning, but didn't understand the shear magnitude of damage and severity until late the following afternoon. They got up at the normal time and went out on an excursion in the ocean. Meanwhile, our family was trying to reach them all day. Not until they got back to their hotel and saw all fo the missed calls did they realize that something wasn't right. A couple quick texts and a Virtual Halo Check In put everyone stateside back at ease.

When you're traveling in an area that has a natural disaster, think about those close to you - chances are they're more worried than you are; make sure to give them peace of mind by knowing you're fine.

If you find yourself in an earthquake, follow the steps below - they could save your life (reprinted from the Earthquake Country Alliance). In most situations, following these precautions will greatly reduce potential for injury.

  1. Drop - onto your hands and knees (before the earthquake knocks you down). This position protects you from falling, but still allows you to move to safety.
  2. Cover - your head and neck (and your entire body if possible) under a sturdy table or desk. If there is no shelter nearby, only then should you get down near an interior wall (or next to low-lying furniture that won't fall on you), and cover your head and neck with your arms and hands.
  3. HOLD ON - to your shelter (or to your head and neck) until the shaking stops. Be prepared to move with your shelter if the shaking shifts it around.

The area near the exterior walls of a building is the most dangerous place to be. Windows, facades and architectural details are often the first parts of the building to collapse. To stay away from this danger zone, stay inside if you are inside and outside if you are outside. 

Indoors: Drop, Cover, and Hold On Drop to the floor, take cover under a sturdy desk or table, and hold on to it firmly. Be prepared to move with it until the shaking stops. If you are not near a desk or table, drop to the floor against the interior wall and protect your head and neck with your arms. Avoid exterior walls, windows, hanging objects, mirrors, tall furniture, large appliances, and kitchen cabinets with heavy objects or glass. Do not go outside! 

In bed: If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow. You are less likely to be injured staying where you are. Broken glass on the floor has caused injury to those who have rolled to the floor or tried to get to doorways. 

In a high-rise: Drop, Cover, and Hold On. Avoid windows and other hazards. Do not use elevators. Do not be surprised if sprinkler systems or fire alarms activate. 

Outdoors: Move to a clear area if you can safely do so; avoid power lines, trees, signs, buildings, vehicles, and other hazards. 

Driving: Pull over to the side of the road, stop, and set the parking brake. Avoid overpasses, bridges, power lines, signs and other hazards. Stay inside the vehicle until the shaking is over. If a power line falls on the car, stay inside until a trained person removes the wire. 

In a stadium or theater: Stay at your seat and protect your head and neck with your arms. Don't try to leave until the shaking is over. Then walk out slowly watching for anything that could fall in the aftershocks. 

Near the shore: Drop, Cover, and Hold On until the shaking stops. Estimate how long the shaking lasts. If severe shaking lasts 20 seconds or more, immediately evacuate to high ground as a tsunami might have been generated by the earthquake. Move inland 3 kilometers (2 miles) or to land that is at least 30 meters (100 feet) above sea level immediately. Don't wait for officials to issue a warning. Walk quickly, rather than drive, to avoid traffic, debris and other hazards. 

Below a dam: Dams can fail during a major earthquake. Catastrophic failure is unlikely, but if you live downstream from a dam, you should know flood-zone information and have prepared an evacuation plan. 

Additionally, we recommend that you and your entire family have Virtual Halo installed and active on your cell phone. By sending a Check In, you're able to let your family know where you are in case you get separated, and they'll know you're ok.