Consider packing extra ammo cartridges, first-aid supplies, hand-cuffs, zip ties, water and power bars. (Photo Daniel Dipinto)
FEATURED IN TRAINING
"Cover me! I'm going in! But first, I'm gonna grab my Go Bag."
There was a time when wearing gun-toting fanny packs was considered the fashion accessory for off-duty cop wear. I'll admit that for some time during my career, I too carried my off-duty gun in such a pack. These days, however, the packs have become so well known including among the criminal element that it might be more accurate to refer to them as shoot-me-first bags. There are enough negatives attached to this off-duty option that I stopped using it.
Then one day while working day watch, I was talking with another officer when I noticed that he had a fanny pack on the passenger seat of his patrol car. I asked if it was intended for off-duty use. He told me it wasn't. Rather, it was his Go Bag. Curious, I asked for a look. The bag contained a number of worst case scenario items he thought he'd need if the radio call from hell ever came his way.
I liked the idea so much that I retrieved my old fanny pack from a closet at home and modified it to fit this new equipment role. This was well before the Columbine school shooting and all of its implications for law enforcement. After that incident, it made even more sense for me to have my rapid response go bag with me when I worked the streets. The more recent horror of the terrorist attacks on several sites in Mumbai, India, is probably still fresh in our collective minds. With the recognition that something similar could happen here in America too, it seems to me that every officer with even a remote possibility of responding to a violent critical incident should always have a Go Bag with them.
So this month, instead of my normal focus on training issues, I'd like to share with you the contents of my Go Bag and the reasons behind them. If you like the idea, get your version started today and share the idea with patrol officers at the next opportunity. Our jobs are unpredictable, and I'd like to see every officer have a Go Bag with them. This is especially true if you're teaching officers to be ready to respond to worst case scenarios such as active shooter incidents.
Some commercially produced rapid response bags are available for purchase. So if you've got the money and like a particular design, by all means go for it. But if you want to customize your bag, I suggest a shopping trip to your local swap meet (or similar vendor) to buy a standard fanny pack. If you decide to go this route, here are a few points to consider as you explore the available bags.
First, look at the strap that goes around your waist and snaps or buckles together. Check the stitching where the ends of the strap attach to the bag as well as the buckle. Make sure the stitching is solid. Consider the design of the buckle. It should be fairly rugged and capable of standing up to normal cop abuse. Given that abuse, the buckle may get broken. Determine if it's relatively easy to replace or will cost more than the bag is worth.
Next, wrap the bag around your waist and envision how it will blend with your duty rig. I found that positioning the bag portion on my support side with the strap over the holster (but not in a position where it would hinder my handgun draw stroke) would work for me. The bag would sit just below or at the same level as my handgun magazine pouches. I would suggest a snug fit around the waist rather than letting it hang loosely. Another option I experimented with was looping the bag over my head and putting my support arm through it in bandoleer fashion.
My Go Bag has three zippered compartments. I added to each zipper's tab a finger loop made of zip ties. (Small pieces of 550 cord work as well.) I found that this modification allows for quicker access.
Carry the Essentials
Extra ammo: The first, relatively small, zipper compartment is located on the front of the bag. I used it to hold extra magazines. At the time, I was carrying a Glock 17. I invested in one of that company s high-capacity (33 rounds no less!) magazines and carried it as well as one regular magazine in this section. (This immediately added weight to the bag, which justified paying a few bucks more for a better quality bag with good stitching.) A pro tip: Carry loaded magazines instead of boxes of ammo. If a critical need arises, you probably won't have time to reload expended magazines round by round.
Since I started teaching patrol rifle classes, I have experimented with 30-round 5.56 mm magazines and found that I can get at least one of them into the front pouch. I suggest that those adopting this option make the magazine more accessible by opening the zipper, repositioning the magazine with the follower down and then running the zipper tight up against the mag. This will keep it in place and still allow for quick access if a magazine exchange becomes necessary.
I reserved the main section of the Go Bag for the following essentials:
Blood stoppers and other emergency medical supplies: I carried two trauma bandages. Originally, these were the U.S. military-style blood stoppers, but a while back, I changed them out for a more versatile version developed in Israel. Not to sound selfish, but one big reason I carried two bandages was to have at least one for me if I needed it and one to use on a wounded civilian or another cop. I ve also added a mechanical tourniquet, which I think is a valuable street-level medical tool. With the prevalence of bloodborne pathogens these days, I have a couple of pairs of gloves as well. I keep the gloves in a clear plastic envelope rather just stuffing them into the bag.
I chose these supplies based on the premise that paramedics may not be readily available. EMS providers may not be there as quickly as you need them. I suggest you consider this and prepare for the worst case scenario.