Experience is an excellent teacher but often the cost of such experience can be extraordinarily high and even catastrophic. So rather than having to personally deal with each potentially devastating consequence of every possible personal experience, we can show true wisdom and learn from the experiences of others.
Unfortunately, far too often we catch ourselves saying, “That would never happen to me” or “I’d be smarter than that” or “What’s the big deal? Can’t people just take care of themselves?”
Even though there is an overabundance of examples of individuals and families experiencing terrible consequences of their poor decisions or lack of good judgement in the preparedness aspects of their lives, far too few of us take heed and try and learn from such experiences.
One prime example of this deals with the devastating wildfires that are sweeping through many areas of California. As of the date of this blog, there are 16 wildfires raging throughout the state of California. The city of Redding has been hit especially hard where 90,000 residents have had to evacuate due to the wildfires.
According to local officials, “Thousands have fled a terrifying wildfire, the so-called Carr Fire, as it tore through an area of northern California after tripling in size to 28,000 acres. Late yesterday, crews found the body of a bulldozer operator, who had fought to contain the fierce blaze. The wildfire crossed the Sacramento River and now threatens hundreds of homes on the western fringes of the city of Redding. ‘It’s just chaotic. It’s wild. There’s a lot of fire, a lot of structures burning,’ said Scott McLean, a Cal Fire spokesman for the crews battling the wildfire.”
As individuals, there’s not a whole lot we can personally do to stop a wildfire. It is far beyond any one individual’s ability to control such a devastating event. So what can we learn from the experience of others who are caught in such a difficult situation?
According to some reports, “Roads out of the city were jammed with motorists trying to escape the flames, social media postings showed. Thousands of residents were forced to flee the blaze.
Residents of western Redding who had not been under evacuation orders were caught off guard and had to flee with little notice, causing miles-long traffic jams as flames turned the skies orange.
‘When it hit, people were really scrambling,’ McLean said. ‘There was not much of a warning.’”
That last line should cause us to evaluate our preparedness levels. “When it hit, people were really scrambling. There was not much of a warning.”
In most cases, there is very little warning that extreme danger is imminent. We usually assume such events would unfold like the forecasting of an approaching hurricane where one might have several days to prepare. I happen to live in earthquake country and unfortunately, there will be no warning before an earthquake strikes – one must simply be prepared assuming it could take place at any minute.
Many of those who fled the wildfires in the Redding area lost everything as their homes were consumed by the fires. Even though “things” can be replaced, there are items of sentimental value as well as medications, important documents and survival essentials that could all be lost if proper preparation and practice are ignored.
What would you do if you had only ten minutes to evacuate your home? What would you take? What would you leave behind?
Under stressful, panic circumstances, ten minutes may feel like 60 seconds and as a result, precious lifesaving preps may be left behind never to be used. Now there is little that can be done to alleviate or remove the stress that will naturally occur when such a sudden event takes place but one can make the few available minutes far more productive in taking the items that are most important and potentially lifesaving.
There are two basic levels of emergency evacuation preparedness that each individual and family need to understand and embrace if we are to learn anything from the experience of others.
1) Essential life-sustaining bug-out-bag. This is a project where you can take the time to make sure all the essentials are safely packed away in a backpack for each family member. The items would include water, food, emergency light and heat, shelter and first aid just to name a few of the basics. Each kit should have enough food and water to last for at least 72 hours. Personalize each backpack to the needs of the individual.
What is equally critical is where you keep your bug-out-bags. If you store them away somewhere in the basement or garage where they eventually get covered up by stored Christmas decorations or miscellaneous “junk” we accumulate over time, under a panic scenario, we may not be able to locate them.
Make sure they are in a closet or room close to an outside door and check them often to make sure any expired items are replaced and they are easily accessible to everyone in the household. Now everyone knows exactly where to go to get and take the essentials of survival.
2) Important and meaningful documents and items. This area can be quite a bit more involved and time consuming depending on the number of items you choose to include in this category. This is definitely an area that cannot be left till the last moment of you will potentially spend all your precious little time trying to locate just one or two items.
The best method I’ve seem is an old-school approach that can easily be modified or updated to reflect what’s most important to you. It all revolves around the simple 3X5 cards we’re all very familiar with.
This is how it works: Enter each room of your house and list on a 3X5 card the items in that room that if possible, you’d want to take with you. Now you have to be careful and keep the list very brief. Remember, almost everything in your home can be replaced. So on you 3X5 card, list only the critical items in order of importance so if there’s only enough time to grab one item, the most important one is at the top of the list.
Make this a family project. Get everyone’s input and make sure everyone’s in agreement as to these additional important items. Review the location of each item. It may be helpful to list the specific location of each item on the card as well.
Now it’s essential to keep this card in its specific room in a location where’s it’s easy to find by everyone. Over time, you want need to update the items on each card. Every three to six months, it would be wise to go through a dry run with your family to make sure everyone not only knows where the bug-out bags are but understands how the 3X5 card system works.
Now, should a stressful emergency evacuation be required, you can with confidence assign each family member to be in charge of one or more rooms of the house and gather the items on the list. This will significantly increase your ability to remove all the most precious items from your house in the most organized fashion possible.
Don’t forget the gear bags! The last thing you want to have to deal with is how to carry all the additional items out of your house. You shouldn’t have an issue with your bug-out-bags as all of your survival gear is neatly packed inside a backpack. But what about all the other miscellaneous individual items you’ve listed on your 3X5 cards. You need a way to easily pack them up and haul them out of your house.
Keep an appropriately sized empty gear bag in each room that is designed specifically to hold the items listed on the 3X5 card. This will greatly speed up the process of gathering and removing everything that’s important to you.
Through the tragic events of these wildfires, we have one more opportunity to learn from the experience of others so we don’t need to deal with the painful consequences of not being properly prepared ourselves.