Are you prepared to evacuate your home with a moment’s notice?
For over 25 years, responding to house and apartment fires, I have seen it all. In a matter of seconds, people’s lives can change forever. Many lose their valued possessions, their photo albums, and other essential items they have collected over the years. They stand on the sidewalk in utter disbelief, wondering what to do next. They shake their heads, this was not supposed to happen to them!
And it doesn’t stop there – I listen as they try to make sense of it all. Will we be allowed back in our home to grab our keys, our medications, will we need to relocate, what do we do now? I see the panic on their faces as their minds race as they try to piece together what has just happened.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
The biggest lesson I have learned responding to countless house and apartment fires is that we need to be ready before facing a disaster. Once the disaster strikes, its too late, you will not have time to grab what you need as you flee your home.
Safety Tip #1 – Insurance
Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Frequently, I hear from folks who thought they would never need insurance. Their furniture was old and not worth much, so why bother spending the money to buy insurance.
Often, when your home has smoke or water damage, you will be unable to stay in your home until the restoration company has completed the repairs. Depending on the damage to your home, I have seen situations where families could not move back into their homes for several months.
Talk to your insurance company and make sure you and your family have the insurance coverage you will need to support you during times of disaster.
Safety Tip #2 – Family Meeting Place
Establishing your Family Meeting Place is so simple to do, yet often overlooked. It’s the place where you and your family will meet when forced to evacuate your home. When evacuating your home, you are going to leave by the quickest and safest exit to get to safety.
Once outside, how will you connect with your family if everyone has gone out different exits? How will you know your family has made it out safely if you are scattered around?
This is why you have a Family Meeting Place – until you need it, you don’t realize how important it is to have a Family Meeting Place. It provides a pre-planned location to meet with your family and quickly identifies if everyone has made it out safely. If someone does not show up, let the Fire Dept know so they can assist. I have arrived at countless fires to see Mom on one side of the house, Dad on the other side and the kids somewhere in between. The sheer panic of not knowing if everyone has made it safely out of the burning house can easily be eliminated by having a Family Meeting Place.
So you ask – where is the best location for your Family Meeting Place? Usually, across the street from your home or apartment works well. Avoid right in front of your house as there will be lots of activity with the Fire Department and other responders on-scene. Sit down with your family to identify what location works best for your Family Meeting Place.
Safety Tip #3 – Grab & Go Kit
Ensure each member of your family (including your pets) have a Grab & Go Kit with necessary supplies they will need to get through the next several hours. As you flee to safety, grab your Grab & Go kits and go to your Family Meeting Place. Your Grab & Go Kit contains the essential items you will need in the short term. Don’t confuse your Grab & Go Kit with your Home Kit, which is for the longer term. A home kit will be the topic of a future post.
Let me ask you this “Imagine, evacuated from your home due to a disaster – what would you need or like to have with you?
If you evacuate in the middle of the night a change of clothes would be nice, what about a jacket, maybe a blanket to keep you warm. If you are taking medications, ensure you have enough to get you through the next couple of days (check with your Family Dr. before storing any meds.)
A spare set of glasses – yours may be left on the night table, house, or car keys would also be handy if you need to go somewhere and yours are left behind on the kitchen counter. Essential documents can be useful, such as insurance, adoption papers, marriage certificates, immigration papers, to mention a few. These are basics you may need access to help you get through the disaster.
Besides your supplies, don’t forget to pack a Grab & Go for your pets.
People assume they won’t forget to grab their cell phone, their keys, medication and all the other items they rely on – but believe me, when you are fleeing from a fire, you will forget essential things, and you may not be able to and retrieve them.
Keep your Grab & Go kits by the door you are most likely to use to evacuate, so it is easy to grab and go! If you are not able to grab your kits, leave them behind and ensure you get out of your house to safety. Life safety always comes first.
One final thought for your Grab & Go Kit – make sure the items are updated. You don’t want to be going to your kit for medications or a snack to find out the items have expired.
Facing a disaster is not the time to start planning your response. I guarantee – you will not have the time to gather what you need, and essential items will be left behind. Being prepared before the disaster strikes could save your life and the lives of your family and pets. Also, it will significantly improve your quality of life in the aftermath of the fire.
Your Key Message is “Disaster can happen, and they do happen.” What are you going to do to get you, your family, and pets ready for a disaster? It could be an earthquake; it could be a flood or fire. We don’t know – but what we do know is – families who are prepared will better survive whatever disaster comes their way.
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