It was a quiet Tuesday night. My family and I had an early dinner because I was headed off to martial arts. After participating in class, I returned home. We showered off the day's grime, brushed my four year old's teeth and put him down for a long night's sleep. My fifteen year old son was finishing up his video gaming and heading to bed as my husband and I enjoyed a few minutes of quiet time. We finished watching America's Got Talent and as we prepared for bed, we heard a siren in the driveway.
My first thought was the police were at my home and I wondered why. We live out on forty acres in the foothills of California and sirens are not something we hear often. I immediately headed out onto the balcony to see what the problem was. To my surprise it was an ambulance. Now my curiosity was going crazy. Who was hurt? Why were they here?
They informed my husband and I that there was a fire and our house was in the direct path of it's blaze. It was time to evacuate, right now! Even though I pride myself on preparedness, my mind still skipped a beat when reality came knocking on our door. This wasn't something that really happened, it is just something you see on tv, right? Wrong! My husband immediately ran and shut down our computer and then began pacing the floor back and forth. He asked me, "what do we do?" My son told me, "just tell me what to do." Calming my brain, I told them, "guys, we have a game plan, execute it!"
The first thing we did was make a pile of our essentials that needed to be loaded into vehicles before we left. That way while I was gathering the essentials my husband and son could be loading everything into the vehicle. First on the list was our "go-bags". They are backpacks that we keep ready for just this type of emergency. If you want to know what we keep in there, I give a free "go-bag" guide away when you sign up to The Changing Earth Newsletter on the right of this article. Included with our "go-bags" are our sleeping bags and tent.
The second thing we grabbed was any item that had a high monetary value, for example: money and valuable jewelry (leave the cheap stuff behind). The third thing on our list was our guns and ammo. The next thing I grabbed was a folder that I keep all of our important documents in. These documents include birth certificates, social security cards, our marriage certificate, and insurance policy numbers. I work from home so the other essential thing that I grabbed was a back up hard drive that I have for my computer.
While everything was being loaded, I had my fifteen year old son go and calmly wake my four year old and get him dressed. We tried to remain very steady with my young son so he would not freak out. We put him into his car seat and then turned our attention to the dogs. We have an older great dane-boxer mix that rides well in a car but we just got a new puppy. We quickly found out we would need to use the smaller crate that we have for her. With our family, pets and valuables loaded, we headed out of the driveway.
I was proud of my family. It took us about fifteen minutes to load all of our essentials and leave the house. I would like to get it down to five minutes but for a family of four and two dogs that's not half bad. We went to our friend's home and waited. It didn't take me long to realize that I had left book three of The Changing Earth Series, all my character outlines and notes behind. I write all of my books by hand first so none of this was stored digitally. My husband and I left the kids and dogs in safety and headed back to the home. Luckily, we have the very best fire crews in California and they had the fire firmly under control by the time we made it back to the home. We grabbed my documents and headed back to my friend's house, just in case there was a resurgence during the night.
The whole experience was very surreal. I don't think any amount of preparation really prepares you for the day you are faced with losing everything. Even though the house was fine, we still walked around shell shocked for the next day. The bottom line is: You have to be ready! Emotionally an evacuation experience is going to rock your whole world so you need to have a clear plan that you can execute if you are ever faced with the moment when you are told to evacuate now!
These are some steps you can take if you face evacuation. Number one, remain calm. Your family will need a calming energy to avoid going into freak out mode. Number two, have a predertimed game plan and all of your items that you will be taking with you in a centrally located area so it is easy to gather and load into vehicles. Number three, your family and pets come first. If you can't take the time to get your valuables, forget them. Make sure your family is safe. Number four, be prepared to lose a lot of things you love. It is not easy but you will have to take a look around and decide if items are worth bringing or not. Finally, move quickly and with purpose. Don't waste your time in a frenzy. Maximize each movement's purpose so you can accomplish a lot of things in very little time.
It is my hope that readers can learn from my experience and prepare yourselves. Sometimes the knock comes on your door and you have to move.