The concept behind go‐bags or go-kits is that you have pre‐staged, tested, and understood equipment and supplies ready to go at a moment's notice. Go‐bags will contain your equipment and supplies needed to support your assigned task and personal comforts during an assignment. When you are called out, this is not the time to scramble looking for items. You will end up grabbing items not needed, missing obvious ones, and being delayed and unprepared.
The purpose of "go" equipment is for you as a radio operator to be able to perform your task and independently sustain yourself during a callout. As a volunteer, you will want to be part of the solution and not become part of the problem. While volunteering, whether it is an active disaster area or a race, you will not be an effective communicator if you are experiencing discomfort because your personal needs are not being met. The goal is not only to survive, but to be effective and comfortable.
In the simplest terms, there are 4 goals that should guide you in equipment preparation: 1- Get on the air 2- Stay on the air 3- Be an effective communicator and 4- Have fun. If you keep these goals in mind when planning, you will be better prepared and effective to complete your assignment.
The go‐bags and other equipment need to be durable, adaptable, and modular so you can respond appropriately for your assigned task. The key to success with go‐bags, is to break them down into smaller, modular bags based on activity, duration, or capability.
Types of Assignments
If you could know exactly what your assignment would always entail, you could build a bag for that purpose. However, a key to being effective is being agile and adaptive. Your range of assignments could be operating at a base station such as a hospital or incident command center, or operating at an aid station or shelter. Another possibility is a request to be vehicle mobile such as operating a relay station or a ride along. Lastly, you could be assigned to be on foot shadowing a leader or search and rescue group. Because you do not know your possible assignment, you need your equipment to be adaptive and modular. Your length of assignment may be a few hours or overnight or an extended period. Your equipment preparation needs to reflect the adaptability of duration and assignment. You may or may not be supplied with long term power or rations. You need to be prepared to stay on the air.
Just as you prepare your equipment, you need to prepare yourself mentally. If you have a set preconception of your role or duties and then get assigned otherwise, this can cause stress and anxiety in a possibly already stressful event. You need to practice with your equipment and understand its capabilities and limitations. Use your equipment in the field; things are different when you are under a tree versus in your home. The more practice you have the more confidence you will have when the time comes to be an emergency communications operator.
This can seem very overwhelming, but the key to success is to address one small item at a time, imagine a specific scenario, document your thoughts and build a kit for that need. Realize that this kit is not going to be all encompassing to the scenario and it will not solve every issue. You may have parallel issues, for example, operating a post and providing for your own meals and shelter. A good idea is to compartmentalize the operating a post and address the other needs separately in a different bag. I find thinking in this modular design can simplify the process and keep you from being overwhelmed.
Now that you have all of this equipment prepared, you will need to identify where to stage the equipment. As you plan this modular design, there is no harm in redundancy of equipment in different locations as appropriate and financially feasible.
You want your equipment to be pre-staged, tested, and understood. Experience is invaluable, as you need to understand each item and be well versed in its capabilities. There is no better way to prepare than to test and validate your plan and equipment. Use your kits for events you volunteer for. You will quickly discover what works and what needs to be modified. Remember, get on the air, stay air, be effective, and have fun.