Be prepared for next time

Please don’t consider this closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, but while members of this staff were preparing in case of evacuation from the Caughlin Ranch fire, it became pretty obvious that there is no preparing for evacuation during the time your home is threatened. Part of the reason for this is that there is no internet for many of us when the electricity that runs our routers and modems is turned off so it’s hard to find instant information.

By the time this issue is on the stands, the fires will, we hope, be extinguished. But here’s a short list of things to have prepared—or at least, know where they’re located—the next time our city is threatened. It may do to invest in a fire safe so that some of these items may be protected even if you’re away when the fires come. This safe is also where you would put small valuables, like jewelry, so you don’t have to carry it with you if evacuated.

First, it would be a good idea to have a first aid and emergency kit ready at all times.

Know how to turn off natural gas and other utilities.

Have a plan for family members who may be separated during the day. For example, if children had been in school at the time of the disaster, how would you have dealt with it? What about elder members of the family? Pet carriers should not be at the bottom of a stack of boxes in the garage. Bring along some food and any required medicine, for pets and family members. Make sure that emergency contacts are programmed in everyone’s cell phones, and perhaps have an out-of-the-area person designated so that family members outside the area can call a single number for updates. Bring cell phone chargers. Know the various routes to safety, as some may close without a moment’s notice.

Have originals and copies of important documents together—maybe a safe deposit box off-site and/or a fireproof safe. These documents include identification like passports or driver’s license, birth certificates, medical records like prescriptions or dosages, wills, insurance information, Social Security numbers, banking and credit card information and tax information for last year and the current year. Write down all account numbers and passwords on a single sheet of paper and—again—make sure it is in an utterly secure place. Documentation of your possessions, including video or photo, would be handy as well, and can be kept on a single DVD or external hard drive.

Extra blankets, clothes and pillows may be useful. Perhaps a few days worth of packaged prepared foods.

Have a plan for family mementos such as photographs or heirlooms. A list of the things you’d want to grab would be handy in those desperate moments after you are told to evacuate. Don’t forget to lock your house when you leave.