Plan & Prepare to Evacuate
As I write this article, I am counting my blessings. Over the past two-months, two wildfires have devastated our community. Looking out my office window to the south, I see the charred Galena hills. To the north, I see the charred aftermath of the Caughlin fire. Receiving the reverse 911 phone call at 5:00 am to evacuate for the Caughlin fire was quite the wake-up call but, who could have imagine that this devastation would strike twice! As a professional planner and organizer, I should have a home evacuation plan, but until this weekend there was no plan in place.
I began our home evacuation plan by researching the subject online. I instantly found several comprehensive sites that outlined emergency steps to be taken. I highly recommend the Red Cross and the Office of Emergency Management web pages. I will not recant the information contained other than to stress that fire spreads rapidly and can leave you and your family with as little as two minutes to escape safely so.... having a fire escape plan that everyone in your family is familiar with is imperative! As noted, having received the reverse 911 phone call for the Caughlin fire, the safety and welfare of our family was assured. However, recognizing that every minute mattered, we were forced to make a spontaneous decision as to what to take from our home that could quickly be gathered and placed into our vehicles. As recommended by the Office of Emergency Management, one should have a "ready to go emergency bag" complete with prescription medications, special needs items for infants, the elderly or those with disabilities, credit/debit card information, and some hard cash accessible for placement into your vehicle. If ample time to evacuate has been granted by the emergency service personnel, one then has the opportunity to gather a few personal belongings. Some soul-searching should be done well in advance to determine what is absolutely irreplaceable or important. We each will have a different response to this looming question but, for me, it's my cats and family photos; both of which are precious and irreplaceable. For others, it could be family heirlooms, jewelry, artwork or some other tangible object. Whatever is your answer to this question, there should be a plan or a means to protect it. I began our evacuation plan by ensuring emergency transport for our two cats. I located and placed their two cat carriers in an accessible area of the garage for quick retrieval. Inside each carrier I placed a plush towel, a small bowel for water and a few cans of pop-top cat food. As for my family photo's, we recently began to save our digital photographs on an external portable USB hard drive. All I need to do, is unplug the devices as well as the computer modem, and place them in the car along with my husband's laptop. All of our personal records, business files and tax records are backed up on the hard drive. It is quite unfortunate but we live in a litigious society. There is no time like the present to take a second look at insurance policies to ensure that you have adequate coverage in the case of a disaster. We went one step further and photographed the entire house and copied the photos to a memory stick which could be placed in a safety deposit box or kept off-site. This data can even be stored in the cloud these days. ... Amazing! Another technological wonder is the smart-phone. My phone is a super-mini-handheld-computer. All of my contact information including our physicians, insurance policy ID & group numbers are conveniently recorded in the memo section of my contact list. Also, I have photos, web access and GIS conveniently accessible in the palm of my hand. If I have my phone, I can retrieve information which would be vital in dealing with an emergency of any kind. In conclusion, a home or office evacuation is something we tend to think could never happen. However, as we have all learned, it does happen and we should be prepared. Should you desire assistance in planning and organizing your home or office for an evacuation, if you just wish to get a bit more on top of organizing vital documents, please contact me and I would be delighted to assist. All you need do is Just Ask!