Here in California on the Monterey Peninsula, we are currently experiencing one of the most destructive fires to property in the region’s history. The Soberanes fire has burned fifty seven homes in the Big Sur and surrounding areas and it is still burning. Hundreds of residents have been displaced due to mandatory evacuations, and many will not have homes to return to.
My family was not immune to this fire. A couple family members were evacuated and were unable to return to their home until a week later. Thankfully, they did not lose their home. Our community has rallied to help with housing for people and pets—both large and small animal, shelters have opened, and donations of water, clothing, pet supplies, and food have begun to pour in.
When I was talking with my family members as they were preparing for evacuation I rattled off a list of items for them to be sure to take. Now that I can take a breath, I thought it would be helpful for others who may face similar situations to know how to prepare. Due to this experience I understand on a visceral level how preparedness is key, it helps reduce some of the stress during an exceptionally stressful time.
In an emergency or during a natural disaster, it is less stressful to be prepared and not need it, then it is to need it and not be prepared.
Please note: when you first receive an evacuation warning, this is when you make sure you are ready to go at a moment’s notice. However, sometimes the warning may be short and you have to leave quickly. If you have family with limited mobility, or health issues evacuate them as soon as possible. Check to see if they can stay with a relative until it is safe to return home. Sometimes during an event that continues to unfold and is unpredictable, for example in a fire, authorities may not be able to give you much advance warning before you must evacuate.
There are some helpful ideas below. They are disaster preparedness and planning ideas, which you can start today and work on until completed. Hopefully long before you are in the midst of a disaster. Some of the natural disasters we experience here in this region are fire, earthquake, landslides, and floods. What type of natural disaster does your region typically face? This will also determine what you include in your preparations. When you are as prepared as you can be, it helps decrease panic, anxiety, and the stress of “Did I get everything? Did I forget anything?”
Does your family have a plan? Do you have an evacuation route and rendezvous location? If the family is split up where do you rendezvous? Map two evacuation routes one for inside your neighborhood and another outside your neighborhood at a nearby city. For example your house catches fire you can rendezvous at a neighbors, if your neighborhood is threatened by fire, you rendezvous at a nearby city. Make sure everyone in the family is aware the plan along with the rendezvous location. If you have children and they are at school, or daycare, who picks them up? Do you have family members that are elderly or have limited mobility and need extra help?
Do you have household pets? Do you have carriers for your pets? During an emergency it is not an ideal situation to have animals free in a car, especially if they suddenly panic. If possible, it is best to have a carrier or other container for each animal. Be sure your animals have collars with identification tags and your contact information. If they are microchipped, make sure your address and contact information is updated at that organization. If they get separated from you and are found, you can be contacted and reunited much quicker.
If you have to evacuate large animals how will you get them out? Do you have a trailers or access to one? Where will you take them? Are the animals familiar with being loaded, unloaded, and transported? It might be helpful to practice prior to an emergency.
Do you know who to call? Make one person the go-to person and recipient for information, phone calls, and social media updates/posts. This way it reduces the number of people on the phone lines and increases the likelihood that your information is communicated effectively and accurately. Consider having someone out of town be the go-to person, especially in the event of a major disaster where local phone lines might become jammed. Consider texting family members instead of calling, it is one way to effectively communicate that doesn’t tie up phone lines.
Do you have first aid kit? You can find many resources online for purchasing one or making one yourself.
What do you take with you? This is where preparation and pre-packing is key. If you have pre-packed plastic bin(s), a backpack, or other storage containers, in the event of an emergency evacuation with little time for preparation, you can just grab and go.
Some items you might include are listed below:
PRE-PACKED IN PREPARATION
- Extra keys
- Copies of driver’s licenses, work identification, and passports
- Credit cards
- Copies of deeds and insurance information
- Copies of titles of vehicles, copies of vehicle registration, and vehicle insurance information.
- A copy of important phone numbers, include your doctor, veterinarian, and microchip numbers of all pets. It is helpful to have them written down, especially if you lose cell service, or batteries run low and you cannot access them in your cell phone.
- Non-perishable food
- Battery operated radio with fresh batteries
- Flashlight with fresh batteries
- Blankets or sleeping bag
OTHER ITEMS TO REMEMBER TO TAKE DURING AN EVACUATION
- Prescription medication including inhalers and oxygen tanks, nebulizers, C-pap machine.
- Leg brace, canes, walkers, wheelchair
- Contact lenses, containers and lens wash, eye glasses.
- Hearing aid with fresh batteries
- Cellphone with chargers
- Favorite dolls, stuffed animals, blankets, or toys for kids.
- Diapers and wipes
- Bottles, formula
- Clothing, shoes, personal hygiene products
- Hair brush, toothbrush
- Medications and medical history
- Vaccination history
- Food and water, plus bowls or containers for them
- Extra leashes, toys, comfort items, and beds/ blankets
- Bags for waste cleanup
- Photograph, for identification purposes if your pet gets lost
- Litter box, cat litter
- Dog crate, cat carrier
This list is by no means exhaustive. However, it is a helpful tool for you to use to plan and prepare in the event of a natural disaster. If you begin to prepare today, it will be less stressful if the time comes and you are facing a disaster. My sincere hope is it will not be necessary, but if it is, you will be glad you did.
© 2016 Liisa Gavlick, MA-Full Circle Wellness. All Rights Reserved
- This site lets you download an emergency communication plan. https://www.ready.gov/make-a-plan
- SPCA offers helpful tips for preparedness http://www.spcamc.org/disaster-preparedness/
- Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/location/home-family/plan?utm_term=emergency+evacuation+checklist&utm_content=p2-main-3-title&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=msn_s&utm_campaign=adid-abd5ea49-45be-4ae7-af0b-e447aff7a35a-0-ab_mse_ocode-34461&ad=semD&an=msn_s&am=exact&q=emergency+evacuation+checklist&o=34461&qsrc=998&l=sem&askid=abd5ea49-45be-4ae7-af0b-e447aff7a35a-0-ab_mse
- Helpful checklist found here https://www.ready.gov/evacuating-yourself-and-your-family?utm_term=emergency+evacuation+checklist&utm_content=p1-main-3-title&utm_medium=sem&utm_source=msn_s&utm_campaign=adid-abd5ea49-45be-4ae7-af0b-e447aff7a35a-0-ab_mse_ocode-