If they didn’t wear masks in California before, they certainly do now. Smoke and ash obscure the dark orange skies as millions of acres burn out of control encroaching on homes and entire towns. It is the kind of apocalyptic event that makes me glad I live in New Jersey.
But even so far away, it makes me wonder. What would I do if a natural disaster threatened my home and I had 15 minutes to evacuate to safety?
I scoured the Internet for recommendations. And, as a public service, I give you this practical guide to emergency evacuation.
Step One. Grab Your Emergency Evacuation List.
This is the list that is taped to a cabinet or tacked on a bulletin board that you and your family can access in the event of an emergency. It is the list that you have thoughtfully prepared in advance and lists in detail all of the vital things you must grab immediately and where in the house they are located. It identifies evacuation routes and important sources of information you will need when the zombies enter your neighborhood and you are forced to run screaming for your lives.
Step Two. Take a Deep Breath.
Ok, so your Emergency Evacuation List is really more of a To Do List. Now is not the time to panic. You will have plenty of time for that later when you can actually see the flaming asteroid hurtling toward your home.
Step Three. Think Ahead.
It is time to quickly ask yourself, what are the things that I can’t live without? I am not talking about cold beer or Netflix or a steaming cup of joe in the morning. I am talking about the things you will need to reconstitute your life once your home lifts off for Oz without you. I am talking about the things that were identified on the Emergency Evacuation List you didn’t make.
Over prepared evacuation experts who have successfully evacuated with a lot of stuff will tell you to quickly collect vital documents like passports, the deed to your home, birth certificates, etc.
Nonsense. What you can’t live without are the hundreds of passwords that give you access to all of your Internet accounts. If you have written them down and they are in the desk where the electrical fire just started, you might want to revisit Step Two.
Step Four. Dash and Stash.
With your digital life intact, it is time for supermarket sweep. I am not going to tell you what to look for in your own home, or where, but there are two hard constraints that you must consider: the size of your escape vehicle and the amount of time before you no longer have an escape vehicle.
Items of value and sentimental objects are usually the first to get snagged. Expensive jewelry, works of art, irreplaceable photographs, important keepsakes, and the contents of the liquor cabinet should be considered in your sprint around the house. Hopefully you are not too attached to pianos, antique grandfather clocks, or intelligent refrigerators.
I realize you don’t have much time, but here you might want to be sensitive to your spouse. Guys, she may not be as attached to that electric guitar as you are. Ladies, he may not have the deep appreciation for shoes that you do.
Step Five. Hit the Road Jack.
OK. You can feel the very real heat of steaming lava and volcanic rock creeping into your yard. You have loaded up the car with kids and warm blooded pets and as much stuff as you can cram in. Now what?
Well unless you want to be fleeing for your life in your underwear without water, clothes, medications, or a bottle opener, I would suggest you reach for your Go Bag and split immediately. Your Go Bag contains all the essentials you will need to survive for 72 hours. It is stored in your garage in case you need to evacuate immediately. Like right now. It is the second item on your Emergency Evacuation List.
Oh right. The Emergency Evacuation List.
Step Six. Panic.
Your heart is racing. Your adrenaline is flowing. The only thing you can think of is your safety and the safety of your family. Everything else is expendable.
This is exactly what you want when the ground starts shaking below your feet and the back half of your house is suddenly suspended over a chasm ready to topple into the abyss. You don’t want to be thinking about evacuation instructions.
You have your loved ones. You have a car. What more do you need besides a compelling desire to live? And maybe your smartphone.
Step Seven. Update for COVID-19.
Don’t think you are safe just because you got out of your house.
You need to have a mask. It is essential to evacuation survival. You can’t enter a Seven Eleven or check into a hotel without one.
Add it to your Emergency Evacuation List when you make it.