Emergency Preparedness

You just got a reverse 911 call telling you that a wildfire is fast approaching your home and you need to evacuate immediately. You have only ten minutes to decide what to take and what you leave behind for the fire to destroy. So what do you take? Pictures? Clothes? Jewelry? Heirlooms? A few years ago, friends of mine had to make just such a decision.
 
One night in October 2007, as they were getting ready for bed, they noticed a faint orange glow in the distance. Recognizing it as a fire, they briefly discussed the possibility of it reaching them, but dismissed it and went to sleep.

Four hours later, they were awakened out of a dead sleep to a thick smell of smoke and a reverse 911 call telling them to evacuate immediately. Ten minutes later, in the wee hours of the morning, they were in their car running for their lives with only the clothes on their back and a few non-essentials.
 
When catastrophe strikes, you don’t have the luxury of time. Natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, and wildfires, rarely hit with enough advanced warning for you to grab everything you might need to survive. The exception to that rule is hurricanes, which could have as many as 3-5 days of advanced warning. But even in those cases, you may still not know where it’s going to make landfall.
 
Whether you have advanced warning or not, natural disasters are high-stress situations. And the less warning you have, the more difficult it is to think clearly and rationally. In fact, my friends that survived the fire had 10 minutes to grab whatever possessions they could. But they didn’t take their go-bag, their passports, or their photo albums. They drove away with a few items of clothing that they only realized later no longer fit them…and of course, the plasma TV in the back seat of the car. Rational? Hardly.
 
Since we are once again in hurricane season, I want to make sure that I am ready to either evacuate or ride out the next storm with as little stress as possible. So this month I am going to prepare, plan ahead and, if a  storm hits, be practical.
 
Prepare – I don’t want to wait until the last minute to get food, water, and other essentials. If I wait, I will be too late.
 
I want to make sure I have 7-10 days’ worth of water and food on hand for me and for Judah. (Read last week’s blog to find out how much water that is.)
 
In the summer months, Judah never wants me to let the gas tank go below half. The last thing he wants is to be told to evacuate and find out the gas tank is close to empty.
 
We don’t have a barbecue of our own, but if you do, the same rule for gas in your car applies to the propane tank on your barbecue—never let it get below half of a tank. And if possible, always keep a spare. If you are without electricity for a prolonged period of time, you can use your barbecue to cook your meals.
 
We want to keep our cellphones fully charged and have a fully-charged spare battery nearby.
 
Plan ahead – Judah and I have discussed what we will do if we are separated in an emergency. We also have a designated meeting place.

​We have our go-bags ready at all times. But we also discussed ahead of time what extra items we will need to grab and who will grab them when a disaster strikes.
 
It’s a lot to think about and, in the heat of the moment, it may be difficult to remember everything. So I think some practice sessions will be helpful so we know our emergency routine by heart.
 
Be Practical – When Maria hit, we filled every available container with water, including one of our tubs. Granted, it would have been good to fill both tubs with water, but we were taking shelter in one of them…
 
It’s also my determination to use what I have. Keeping the refrigerator and freezer doors closed will keep our food cold for 24-48 hours, but after it loses its seal, we will have to work fast to save what we have.  Therefore, I plan on using what I have in my refrigerator and freezer to help me minimize my losses.
 
Amazingly, my friends did not lose their home. But the homes on either side of them, and directly across the street, burned to the ground. While they were extremely fortunate, it was a reality check. They realized they had been completely unprepared for an emergency, causing them to make poor decisions in an intensely stressful moment.
 
So whether you live in earthquake country, tornado alley, or hurricane central—prepare, plan ahead, and be practical. Taking all the necessary steps you can now will help to minimize your stress then. This in turn will give you peace of mind and clarity, which will help you to make better decisions when disaster strikes.

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