Thursday, January 4, 2018

Fleeing Wildfires, Floods, Earthquakes or Tsunamis




Dangerous wildfires, burning all summer in Western Canada and last month around Santa Barbara and Los Angeles have forced the authorities to tell nearly 200,000 people to flee their homes, some with very little time to prepare.
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What to Take and When to Evacuate
It is never too early to plan for a potential evacuation, even if you’re not in an area immediately affected by flood or flames.  Natural disasters can quickly travel great distances and move in different directions - especially when driven by the wind, such as in the California and British Columbia fires.  Take it seriously and follow the emergency procedures.  Better safe than sorry…
You never know how long you might be away in such cases, or whether there will be a home for you to come back to. Here are some suggestions to prepare for such an emergency - well in advance.
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Always and Especially Before a Fire or Flood 
It does not need to be a disaster - an imploding computer can also wipe out the work of years - if you have no current backups.  Make it a habit to copy the content of all computers in your household on an external hard drive AND on a powerful memory stick.  Attach the later on your keyring and bring your hard drive to a family member or hide it somewhere in your car, or stash it in your bank safety-deposit box.

Take pictures of your bookshelves, valuable antiques, of birth certificates, property titles, insurance records and other crucial paperwork, and add all these images immediately to your back up or send it to a cloud service. Same with your computer files. The benefit of having all your computer content in the cloud: You can work on it even without having any internet services - which might not be the case in a new environment or after you return to your destroyed home.


Create a Family Plan Long Before Disaster Strikes
Set a meeting point (and a second one farther away in the first cannot be reached or is in a flood or fire region. Just in case you are not leaving your home together as a family at the time of evacuation.  Let everyone have a list of important phone numbers, such as relatives, authorities, social services, friends, and insurance companies.  Designate an out-of-area friend or contact, and let that person know that the family is evacuating, and to where. If family members are separated, or phone systems are overloaded, sending a text message to the contact might be the only way to let others know you are safe.
Map at least two evacuation routes.
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Prepare, Prepare, and Prepare More
Get as much cash as possible at the nearest bank or ATM. Fill your car tanks up with gas, check fluids and tires, and pack your car well in advance. Backpacks are better than suitcases.  Prepare an emergency supply kit, such as flashlights for everyone, batteries, and food and lots of water, and other items that you would pack going on a camping trip for two weeks.  Also pack a change of clothes, prescription medications, and extra eyeglasses or contact lenses. Don’t forget to gated all the necessary cables and chargers for your electronic devices.  If you have pets, do not forget about pet food and medication.



More than clothes, pack irreplaceable family photos, jewelry or heirlooms, and make room for them in the evacuation kit as well.  Clothing, shoes, handbags, or cosmetic articles can easily be replaced but family treasures not!
Keep important documents in your hand luggage, like birth certificates, bank and credit cards, social security and health insurance cards, passports, property titles, insurance records etc.. In addition to being difficult to replace, some of the documents could be needed to file claims with insurers or FEMA after a disaster.

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When Disaster Approaches
Prepare your home. If you have time, remove flammable items like wood piles, brush and propane tanks at least 50 feet away from your house, same with patio furniture and umbrellas.  Take your boat or any other devices that carry gas away from the house and to the edge of your property if possible.
Attach garden hoses to the outlets to give firefighters a water source if they need it, but don’t turn the water on. Shut all windows and doors, but leave them unlocked once you evacuate, so firefighters can get in. Turn on outdoor lights so firefighters can see the house through the smoke. Shut off the gas at the meter, and turn off the air-conditioning. Unplug all electric devices, lamps, and kitchen gadgets.
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Tune in to Local Media 
Monitor their websites because as things come in, they’re sharing them on social media.  You don’t need to wait for an order. If your home is threatened by water or fire and you’re able to leave, there’s no need to wait for warnings. History shows us that those who leave the earliest often fare the best. That is especially true in densely populated areas where roads are jammed and ambulances and firefighters have little space to move.

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When You Decide to Leave
Dress in pants, long sleeves, sturdy shoes, sunglasses and a hat.  If there is a flooding situation wear even your life-jackets if you have any.
Electronics, cell phones, personal computers, backup hard drives, and chargers should all go into the car, along with the emergency kit, personal documents, family keepsakes, cash and credit cards, and certainly your pets.
In fire and smoke situations close your car windows and use recirculated air-conditioning. Tune in to the local radio station to learn about safe routes and traffic situations.
GOOD LUCK!


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