I have just come through the most damaging forest fire in Colorado’s history. As of this morning, the fire burned 14,000 acres and 502 homes, displacing over 38,000 people for a week. Because I lived north of the starting point of the fire, I was able to evacuate several days before our area was on the mandatory list. Because I chose to evacuate early, I was able to coolly and calmly gather most everything I needed to protect from the fire.
Emergency evacuation plans will most importantly save lives. But well-made plans can also save those special possessions connected to cherished memories such as furniture, artwork, mementos, and photos.
What exactly do you do if you only have 1-2 hours? Or just 15 minutes? I have a friend that goes to my church and she was shopping in Denver about an hour away from her home, heard about the fire, rushed home and had about an hour to evacuate. She lost her home.
Being a professional organizer by trade, this experience highlighted some simple ideas on what to have ready in the event you face an emergency situation and must leave your home at a moment’s notice.
1. Create a list and post it in plain sight. Think through the most important things you want to take with you. I had that list and carried it from room to room, packing as I went. I thought I had been thorough. Though I had written flat screen TV on my list, I forgot to include the DVD player and the DirecTV box that goes with it! I made the same mistake with my antique bed, forgetting to include the bolts on my list. Fortunately, the young man that disassembled my bed put all the bolts and screws in a safe place.
2. Make sure you have enough boxes for quick packing. When time really matters, a lack of resources can make or break your emergency plans. I’m sure there were hundreds of people who had to ransack their houses for just the sacks or bags or boxes to pack up their pictures. I had dozens of boxes from my last move and made packing so much quicker and easier.
3. Create a mini-office that you can pick up and run with. When I showed up at my friend’s house with my car load of stuff, in minutes I had set up a mini-office in her guest bedroom. Now I could continue to run my business in case I would have to live with her family for more than just a few days. I shudder to think of the people who are living in motels, having to put together all those pieces of paper for their insurance and don’t even have a pen, scissors, tape, file folders, a stapler or rubber bands. One box can hold most everything you need to keep minimally organized.
4. Plan your evacuation like campers maintain their RVs. I have some friends in CO who are avid campers and keep their RV loaded whether they are camping or not. If you had that camper, what would you keep stocked? A mini-office, a few cooking utensils, a portable Coleman stove, sleeping bags, a few clothes to last a week? So why not go ahead and box up those clothes, those pans – whatever you can live without – and put them somewhere in your home stored in bins or boxes and labeled – Ready, Packed, Evacuate!
Emergency evacuations can happen smoothly, safely, and with reduced stress. When you have merely minutes to get up and go, fetch those packed boxes and focus on your list, gathering up the valuables located around your home. Our lives, our homes, and our family’s most cherished belongings and memories are worth the extra planning and effort.