First of all, I’d like to say that I grew up calling it a ‘flee bag’. No, not ‘flea bag’. F-L-E-E. Like to run. But apparently many people call the bag that you prepare to grab in case you need to, ahem, flee in an emergency a ‘bug out bag’.

Whatever you call it, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies no matter where you live. And the best time to tackle this kind of project is before there’s a need for it. So this morning I decided to procrastinate work be proactive and get our flee bag ready. It took me 22 minutes to look up a few lists online and get our stuff ready in one grab-n-go gallon ziplock bag, our essential medical records in a second bag and our essential legal files in a third bag. Boom, boom, boom.

Flee Bag List
• Passports. If due to expire in less than six months, renew it.
Carte d’identité (or the récepissé saying you applied for residency six years ago but are not bitter that it still hasn’t been processed…)
• Credit cards and ATM cards. Check the expiration dates.
• Cash. Ideally both CFA and US dollars/Euros. The amount recommended to us was $100 per family member.
• Immunization cards. Now is a good time to be sure everyone is up to date on those shots.
• Checkbook
• Spare keys
• Phone list (Embassy, family, credit cards and banks…)
• Other important documents (birth certificates, social security cards, banking, etc…)
• Back-up hard drives or critical data on flash drive
• Phone credit, additional SIM cards if you have them
• List of other items to grab (specific legal files, medical records…)

A few tips from the evacuation experienced
– “Put original documents in one file and copies of them in another. Have one person carry the originals and one person carry the copies.”
– “Same with cash. Split it up between family members.”
– “Ask your child what one thing they would take if they had to leave right away, then write that on a list that is in your flee bag and be sure to grab it before you dash out the door.”
– “Email scans of your important documents to yourself (including passport ID pages) so that you can access them from any cybercafé in the world.”
– “Make a list of irreplaceable items. Pictures, recipes, kids’ artwork, etc. Clothing, etc, can be replaced, but these things can not.”
– “Have current maps in your car and always at least half a tank of gas.”
– “I used to keep a change of clothes and diapers packed in a bug out bag, but then realized that going to Europe in winter would require totally different items than driving across the desert. Plus the kids grow so fast that I realized what I packed wouldn’t fit them in a couple months. So now I keep the bug out bag ready and would grab clothes depending on the destination.”

Sign up
Americans, register with the US Embassy. This is important for receiving important information about safety conditions and helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans. This also allows the U.S. Embassy to contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest or family emergency. If you have questions about the role of the State Department during an emergency, this may be helpful.

The latest alerts and messages from the US Embassy in Dakar can be found here.

Listen up
• BBC will broadcast information critical to Americans on behalf of the US
Embassy if necessary, so know your BBC frequencies (ENG: 105.6 FM in
Dakar; FR: 88.9 FM in Dakar, 106.3 FM in Saint-Louis, 93.7 FM in Thiès,
102.8 FM in Mbour).