Imagine this scenario…
You look outside your house and see this:
Within two minutes, a firetruck is rolling down your street announcing a mandatory evacuation for the area and you have five minutes to get out of your house.
You have five minutes…what do you take?
Now, this can easily turn into an episode of “Supermarket Sweep” where you just grab as much as humanly possible and hope you’ll be OK…OR you can have a plan in place, practice it a few times, and KNOW you’ll be able to get what you need out of your house in five minutes.
Sadly, my area has been through this drill a LOT in the past five years, so I have this down to a science. I can get my important paperwork, extra medications, dog + supplies, and any “irreplaceables” in the car in this amount of time. But it took practice. I remember the first time I had to evacuate, I had absolutely NO IDEA where anything was or what I should even bring! Thankfully, our Red Cross Wildfire App can really help you figure out what to have ready ahead of time, and what to do if you’re ever told by authorities that you need to leave the area immediately.
Let’s walk through this (as seen through using the app on my phone):
1) As soon as you know there’s a fire in your area
2) Make sure you have at least these things packed
3) Then pack things that YOU and your family may need
This can include toys/items for your children, your pets food/leash, your important documents (mortgage/lease papers, ID, Passports, etc.)
4) Lastly, just get out and know where to go.
You can do this by looking at the Shelter portion of the Wildfire App. You should also tune into a local news station or check in with a local fire authority’s website or Twitter feed to learn more information.
Here are a few personal tips for making this 5 minutes go as smoothly as possible…
1) Have a lot of your important stuff “grouped” – for instance, I have ALL of our mortgage papers, IDs, bank info, etc. stored in one of those large file folders – it’s in a safe spot, so all I have to do is grab ONE thing and I know I have ALL of our important paperwork gathered. This alone will save you 5 minutes.
2) We store all of our dog supplies in one area, and we have a little bag with an extra leash, bone (to keep her occupied), and water bowl. All of this is stored next to a ziplock bag of extra food. Dog is officially taken care of in 10 seconds or less.
3) We had the conversation on what are the “irreplaceable” family items that we knew we’d be devastated if we lost. While not all of those can be in the same spot, having the items identified ahead of time will easily save you some time.
4) Everything else is in our “go kit” – extra food, emergency blankets, first aid kit, flashlight etc. – it’s all in one of those plastic storage bins ready to go when we need to.
Make a plan. Practice the plan. It will make a world of difference if you hear “you have five minutes to evacuate”