Fire Proof Your Family ~~ Survival Mama Style
Disasters can show up anytime. Don't wait until the disaster to decide what items in your home can't be replaced. This list is based on my experience with fire and evacuation, but should work for most natural disasters. No matter where you live, be a survival mama and get prepared!
1. Plan Ahead. Being evacuated is stressful enough. Having to make critical decisions about “what to take” and “what to leave” is unneeded stress. Taking the time before the emergency is setting up for success.
2. 5 Minute List. Sometimes there are mere minutes to get out. If you only had 5 minutes to get out, what items are critical? For me:
Children and Pets (we have One Dog – check out my post for Evacuating the bigger ones).
Documents in the safe (emergency binder, life insurance policies, passports)
3. 20 Minute List. Most disasters give a bit of warning. I had a few hours before the fire was too close for comfort. 20 minutes should be plenty of time for a full-on evacuation of all the critical (READ: NON-replaceable) items.
How do you decide what goes on the list? And not end up packing the entire house? Again, planning ahead will alleviate a bit of the stress.
All documents in the safe.
All household documents (it’s only two boxes – this year and previous years.)
Emergency Binder – copies of credit cards, passports, contact information and account numbers for all bills.
Mementos/Photos – ONLY the ones that aren’t scanned.
4. Involve the whole family. If you weren’t home, would your spouse or kids know what to do, what to take, and where it is? Is there a list posted somewhere in the house? Does everyone know where the list lives?
Is everyone’s list the same? Does your spouse have a non-negotiable item you didn’t think to add to the list? Would your youngest manage this kind of stressful event without a lovie or woobie or pacifier?
5. Write it down. I love excel, so it was a natural place for me to create my 5-minute and 20-minute lists. It doesn’t matter if your list is fancy, or spaced evenly, or even printed. What counts is writing it down, posting it in a central location, and telling everyone where it is. Use crayon if you have to, but WRITE IT DOWN.
My list lives on the inside of the pantry door. I review it every year on my birthday, or in case of emergency, and update as needed. Since my monkeys are little, their needs are changing quickly, so I’m updating about twice a year.
6. Post it. Once you’ve written the list down, it won’t do a bit of good if it’s sitting on your computer’s hard drive. Hit print, grab some tape, and stick it up.
My list in the pantry is a master list. For each room containing 20 minute evacuation items, I posted that room’s items again on the back of the room’s door (i.e. in the office: household documents, harddrive). I didn’t want to waste precious minutes running up and down the stairs grabbing forgotten items.
7. Share it outside your family. What if you were out of town? Share your list with a family member willing to come evacuate your essentials if a disaster showed up while you were on vacation. Remind both of you before you leave.
8. Consolidate. I made the mistake of listing photos/memorabilia on the list and had a vague sense of where everything lived. What I didn’t realize was how disorganized all the boxes were. I had a few photo boxes full to overflowing, a few childhood goody bags from moms tossed on the wrong shelf, and a few huge boxes with only a few items in them. After consolidating everything, I ended up with a manageable 5 boxes, well-packed and (MOST IMPORTANT) well-labeled.
9. Organize. Where is everything on the 20-minute list stored? Are they in separate rooms? If there was a flood or other disaster, would they be safe? If you had to leave them, would they be safe? Can EVERYONE find them?
When storage is tight, creativity is king. Sometimes photos and memorabilia goes to the bottom, out of the way, out of sight, out of place. If possible, find a location that puts them out of harms way for most disasters.
10. Practice. Once the list is complete (both the 5 and 20 minute), items are organized, and labeled, it’s time for a Dry Run. Set the timer, grab the family and see what happens.
This seems silly, but it’s a critical test. Practice eliminates panic.
11. Bonus Tip #1. Change it. While you practiced, what did you notice? When I did my dry run, a lot of issues and obstacles surfaced. You can either change them as you go, like I did, or jot notes on your list and change them after you complete the entire Dry Run.
12. Bonus Tip #2 ReOrganize. Based on the changes to the list (#11) do things get to move around? Are they logically together? Are they easy to get to? I changed the height of items in my main closet. I had empty boxes on the top shelf because I wanted them out of the way. As I put the mementos back I realized I wanted them on a taller shelf in the event of flooding in the basement. Don’t just plan for one emergency – plan for all of them.
With a little planning, you'll be ready for anything Mother Nature throws you!