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What You Need In Your Solar Eclipse Survival Bag

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Eclipses are amazing, but with them comes a surge of visitors! This article is for families living in the path of totality, as well as those visiting for the big event. We’ll show you how cities prepare for large crowds for the eclipse and offer tips to keep your family safe and healthy during the event.

family wearing eclipse glasses

The excitement of an upcoming eclipse can be heard across the nation. The radio and news stations keep tabs on the weather and hope for clear skies. I totally get it. I experienced totality during the 2017 event. It was a visceral experience I will never forget. While we look forward to the minutes that the sun will be completely covered, impacted cities focus on other aspects of the eclipse. In terms of emergency preparedness, we often think of our food storage pantries, or whether we have enough water stored, or are we prepared for a tornado. But there are other events to prepare for like concerts and even eclipses. Here’s what to expect, what to do, and why.

Your Solar Eclipse Survival Bag

Build a solar eclipse survival bag for a more stress-free and enjoyable experience.

  • A mobile phone, charger, and powerbank.
  • Paper maps and a compass. Cell phones may not work which will hamper your ability to access online maps. In the Eastern Idaho area, “travel was reduced to one lane in each direction on four-lane highways and to one lane on two-lane routes, with signs or flaggers directing traffic through the work zones.” Plan alternative directions, and read here to learn more about the importance of using a map.
  • Proper eye protection. You need ISO-certified eye-wear to view the solar eclipse.
  • Sunscreen. If you forget, here are some herbal remedies for sunburn.
  • Food. Bring a cooler with snacks and easy-to-prepare meals. Read this post for a sweet little portable cooking method for hot meals. (I’ve used it and LOVE it!)
  • Drinking water.
  • Insect repellant. There could be ticks, mosquitoes and other insects. Many carry disease, so wear insect repellent and read this article about dealing with mosquitoes.
  • Insurance cards
  • Carry extra supplies with you in your vehicle. You may be stuck somewhere longer than you plan. Purchase a battery operated radio to hear any emergency updates.
  • Cash. You may need it to pay for items. That could include renting a parking spot from an entrepreneurial property owner or church.
  • Fuel. Keep a full tank of gas. Gas prices will increase in the area and stations could even run out of fuel. Tune in and listen to local radio stations for up to date information and keep cash on hand.
  • A toileting plan. Where and how will you pee? When that many people descend upon a place, restrooms could be full, closed, or out-of-order.
  • Pet supplies. If you bring your pet(s), also bring your pet evacuation kit.
  • Patience. Lot and lots of patience.

Personal Safety Tips for the Eclipse

The following advice is from the Eastern Idaho Public Health and the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, plus a few extras. The advice is valid for any of us outside Idaho and for can be applied to other situations.

  • Stock up on groceries and other items. Residents should plan easy-to-prepare meals. It may not be easy to get in and out of grocery stores quickly.
  • If you will be out camping or hiking, take note of your surroundings and be aware of any wildlife.
  • Pack folding chairs, maybe a small camping table if you’ll be at a rural location. It will be smart to get there early, so you want to be comfortable while you wait for the big moment.
  • Always be aware of where you park and where you are at. Are you blocking access to emergency vehicles? Are you in areas of potential danger?
  • Learn the area and know the locations of local medical offices, hospitals, and fire and police departments. Check the city’s website for information about utilities, city services, and other community information.
  • Residents should consider filling some gas cans in addition to topping off their vehicle tanks.
  • Be considerate about the property of others. Don’t trespass or assume that you can park or camp anywhere.
  • Have family members download the Life 360 app or something similar to keep tabs on each others’ locations. Families and groups get separated all the time in large crowds, and this might be very helpful. Also have a meetup location in case of separation.
  • Learn how to stay safe in a crowd.
  • If you’ll be parking your car somewhere and leaving it for a period of time, make sure nothing of value can be seen through the windows. Personally, I’d put everything that isn’t part of the car in the trunk. A parking lot filled with empty vehicles is going to be tempting for thieves who know they have plenty of time to steal, vandalize, and do other criminal damage.

How Cities Prepare for Large Crowds

We know that businesses, cities, counties and states look at possible disasters and do their best to mitigate any potential problems. But how could an eclipse be a concern to cities across America? Idaho Falls, Idaho is a quiet city of about 60,000. For the 2017 eclipse, they began planning in December. It seems like a long time to prepare for something that only lasts a few minutes. However, Idaho Falls is very easy to travel to. If you live if California, Arizona, Nevada or the other surrounding states, it is an easy drive. The skies are clear and there is an abundance of natural beauty. It is an inexpensive and nice town to visit.

What the city of Idaho Falls realized is that they could have 150,000 visitors, maybe more, show up for the eclipse. We don’t need to live in Idaho Falls to learn from their preparation, though. So, how does a city and its citizens prepare for that many people?

A large influx of people requires extra planning for public safety. This includes managing traffic flow, ensuring a fast response from first responders, and taking precautions to prevent fires. Let’s look at those more closely.

Traffic Management and First Responders

The emergency management department knows the importance of their first responders. All responders worked the week of the eclipse and were spread out over the city to have fast access to any area they may be called. Response times were longer because of the increased traffic. While the infrastructure may work well for the size of the population now, when you double or triple that number, plan for delays. (For the 2024 eclipse, many schools are switching to online learning because of anticipated traffic and other complications.)

Educating the public was one method to help prevent some of these delays. Citizens were reminded about when they should and shouldn’t call 911, and each fire station had a first aid station available to help. Learn more about how authorities respond to disasters.

Check your preps: Are you prepared to perform first aid if medical help isn’t available? What education and supplies do you need to have to help yourself and your loved ones?

Fire Safety

Wild fires at the end of summer are always a possibility. Area Command along with command centers were established in the communities of eastern Idaho. This allowed the firefighters to travel to any area they may be called to. Even with burn bans, fires can start by parking a hot vehicle in tall grass. Also, careless campers were expected. Communication with the community was done in advance with citizens, but it’s difficult to educate those who are coming into town. Visitors were encouraged to think of the fire risk and how they can prevent fires.

Check your preps:  Do you have what is needed to survive a wild fire? What about a home fire? Are fire extinguishers located in the proper areas in your home?


What should I wear to be comfortable and safe during the eclipse viewing?

Consider weather conditions, comfortable shoes for potentially crowded areas, and eye protection. Pack a rain jacket for inclement weather. An umbrella can double as a sunshade.

What should I do if it rains or there’s bad weather during the eclipse?

Have a backup plan or alternate activities. Especially if you’ve traveled to view the eclipse, it could lessen the disappointment.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re traveling to watch it or staying put, use this information to prepare for the eclipse and ensure a safe and memorable experience. By following these tips and staying informed, you can make the most of this astronomical event.

How would you prepare for an eclipse?

Originally published 8/18/17 and has been updated.

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