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Fire, Fire, Everywhere: Prepare to Evacuate!

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

Fires are once again threatening in many states and throughout the world. This is a really bad fire year. Are you ready to evacuate? Do you know what to do? We may be talking about fire today but it could be flooding, hurricanes, even civil unrest which will cause us to flee. Another town in California has just been evacuated. Our prayers are with all those facing this challenge.

First a few tips about fire evacuations.

1. If there is a fire within 3 miles of your home prepare to leave now.

2. Collect important documents and Five Day kit.

3. Park your cars so they face the street so you don’t have to back out.

4. Pack the car. Packing the car early gives you time to reprioritize items when not everything fits. Listen to police bands and radio for evacuation routes. Have more than one route planned in case your preferred one is blocked.

5. Evacuate early. This step is crucial as it always time for a safe escape when you are still relatively calm. It also clears the road of traffic later when fire fighters need to get in to save your home. A mistake many make is not taking all their vehicles when evacuating. If you leave early you will be less likely to feel you all need to travel together. By using all your vehicles you can take more of your belongings and preserve one of the most expensive items you own, your car or truck.

6. Leave a note for fire fighters on your front door with the location of explosives such as propane tanks or ammunition on the property so they can protect themselves.

7. Take lots and lots of photos if you don't already have a home inventory.

8. Leave lights on. This will help firefighters see your home thru the smoke so they can defend it.

9. Do not lock your doors. If there is a question someone may be inside a home, such as a family member who calls and tells first responders you can’t be located, your home will be searched. Doors will be destroyed if they are locked so the home can be checked.

For all evacuations the first thing you should grab is your Five-Day kit. For those who have been diligent many of the following items will already be in your kit. If you haven’t already created a kit, make it a priority now. Grabbing a kit full of most of what you will need will save time and frustration. For help with evacuating quickly and efficiently check out the Evacuation Checklist.

In Addition:

· Social Security card. Having your card will speed up the process of applying for and receiving government aid as well as insurance payments.

· Credit cards. Often power will be out after a disaster and your cards will be useless until the power is restored.

· Cash: Speaking of cash, it is a must have. First, when power is out cash is king. Food, fuel, water, clothing, housing, all will require cash. Accumulate a cash reserve in your home. This may take some time depending on your financial situations and the extras you are willing to forgo for a short time but get started now. Cash should be in small denominations, preferably no larger than ten dollar bills.

This leads to the second reason for our stash, the inability of retailers to make change for larger bills. If everyone seeking items from a store has twenty dollar bills and you want a five dollar case of water the merchant may not have change. Are you willing to give up the water or will you forgo the change and pay the twenty dollars? You will not walk away from food and water when you are hungry and thirsty so be prepared with small bills so change isn’t needed.

· Insurance documents. It’s much easier to file a claim when you have the phone number of your agent and your policy number with you.

· Pink slip for all your vehicles and boats. You can’t file a claim for a vehicle if you can’t prove you own it.

· Health records. Your doctor’s office may have sustained damage or they may be without power and the ability to access records. Records will be extremely important should a family member be injured and need medical attention.

· Medical records for your pets.

· Phone list. When charging your cell phone becomes impossible your phone numbers may not be available. Add a hard copy of important numbers to your Five-Day kits now and if you don’t have a kit print off a phone list and tape it to the inside of a cupboard door where it can be quickly grabbed when leaving your home.

· Medications. Several years ago a friend’s parents evacuated quickly due to a wildfire. By the time they returned home several days later they had spent over $300 on prescription medications. Mom fell and was admitted to the hospital. Since she didn’t have her medications she had to pay hospital prices for them the two days she was there. After being released they moved to their evacuation destination where they had to refill their prescriptions. One hundred dollars of prescription, a one month supply, ended up costing them over $300. This is extremely important if a family member is dependent on medication such as insulin.

· Eye glasses and contact lenses. Neither are easily replaced.

· Shoes. Be sure everyone has shoes on, not sandals, as they leave home. It is surprising how many arrive at an evacuation center without shoes.

· Wallet and/or purse. Again, people often forget their wallets and purses.

· Cell phone with car charger. It is difficult to charge a phone at a shelter so having one for the car is a huge advantage.

Most if not all of these items could be included in your Five-Day kit. Having most items in one place will make knowing what to take when leaving home less stressful.

Don’t be caught without a plan for a quick evacuation.

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