Every time I hear a helicopter, I look to the mountains…not because I’m curious, but because over the past few years, the sound of a helicopter has often been associated with the outbreak or fighting of a major fire. It very well may be something that stays with me for the rest of my life.
A few years ago, my town experienced three devastating fires in barely a year’s time. Hundreds lost their homes, and tens of thousands were evacuated; so whenever I hear of another fire outbreak somewhere in the United States, my heart breaks for everyone: the front line firefighters, the volunteers, and those who are driven out of their homes at a moment’s notice, and have no idea whether or not they’ll have a home to go back to.
Because I experienced first-hand just how horrible these incidents are (and felt so grossly unprepared when my own home was placed on a standby evacuation notice), I took some steps to make sure I would be prepared if this ever happened again. Here are some of my lessons:
1) Phone a Friend
I made sure an out of town contact knew that I was safe and asked that person to call the rest of my friends and family…Cell phone reception can sometimes be tricky when cell towers are being destroyed, and I didn’t always have reliable cell phone service.
2) Have a Plan. And a Back Up Plan.
As soon as I found out I was in an “evacuation warning” neighborhood, I figured out exactly what I was going to take with me if I was evacuated, and put it in my car so all I would have to do was walk out the door if I received a call from the Reverse 911 system. ALL of my important documents (copies of my passport, insurance, birth certificate, etc.) have since been scanned and backed up on an external hard drive, and are floating in a secure cloud storage system (in case I can’t get home to get my hard drive). Get all of your important stuff together. Maybe put a digital back up in a safety deposit box, or give it to a friend/family member in another city to hold.
3) Determine What’s Important
During one of our town’s evacuations, a friend called his roommate to tell him they were being evacuated and asked what he wanted “saved” in case the house burned down. The roommate quickly spurted out that he wanted his Joe Montana memorabilia…I’m sure with a little more thought he may have wanted to remember something sentimental from a family member. It’s a good idea to have a list of “absolute must have’s” prior to an evacuation warning, so panic doesn’t set in and you forget something important as you’re leaving. I am always of the mindset that your Red Cross Kit essentials MUST be pre-packed, however, there are a few things around the home that you might not want to lose…like that picture of your grandmother, or your favorite antique. Have those things pre-selected and gathered during an evacuation warning.
I would highly recommend taping an “evacuation checklist” to the inside your hall closet, or other door near the front door to your home. Have your Disaster Supply Kit in the closet and a list of those little essentials that you would be absolutely need when evacuating. If you remove the need to think when you’re possibly panicking, you’re giving yourself and your family the best chance of getting out of your home faster and with peace of mind.
Fires are absolutely devastating – and all I can do is hope that you’ll want to take a few steps to be prepared so that if the unthinkable happens, you’ll be ready to face it.