ICE–Are you prepared?

The summer of 2011 has been brutal here in San Antonio and surrounding areas.  Extreme heat, no rain, exceptional drought.  In short, perfect conditions for fire danger!  And the danger became real in these last few weeks.

You’ve probably seen reports of the horrendous fires burning around Texas, particularly in the Bastrop area.  Over 1500 homes–gone!  Damages in the millions of dollars!  Several lives lost, countless lives turned upside down.  Sometiimes it’s strange to watch all that on TV and think, “wow, what if that happened here?”  Well, Labor Day, it did–in San Antonio!  Every day for a week, new fires broke out around the city–in all parts of the city.  And given the extreme dryness of plants, yards, trees, these fires spread like, well, wildfire!  One of them was just a few miles from my home and watching the local news coverage, I saw people I know who had had to evacuate their homes in minutes, most of them with nothing but the clothes on their backs and whatever few things they could grab, throw in the car, and get out with.

That was scary!  And it’s really gotten me thinking about what I would do if that ever happens to me.  The police are banging on the door and saying you have 10 minutes or less to get out–what do you take?   Family and pets first, of course–hoping you can find your pets and get them into the car (could be harder than you think!).  But beyond that, what else?  Here are a few suggestions:

Important papers. You’ll need to be able to prove your identity, your residence, and have access to your financials.  Grab your passport, your birth certificate, military discharge, insurance documents, credit cards, cash, anything you would store in a safe deposit box, if you haven’t already.

Family heirlooms. Even if you have insurance coverage, sentimental value cannot be replaced.

Cash, jewelry, gold/silver coins, collectibles. Don’t forget your checkbook, credit cards, coin collections, stamp collections, anything of value.

Photos/photo albums. Treasured family photos should be digitized and backed up, but if you have some that are not, grab ’em.  Also any artwork that’s not scheduled on your homeowners insurance policy.

Anything else that cannot be replaced.

OK, you have an idea of what to grab, but do you know where it all is?  If you had only minutes to find all these things, could you?  If the answer is no, then now’s a good time to gather these things together and put them in a bag that you can pick up on the way out the door.  Better yet, scan and save the paperwork items to a jump drive and keep that in a safe deposit box or somewhere you can find it quickly.

Consider taking some pictures on your smartphone of the rooms in your home and items of value so you’ll at least have that for insurance purposes.  Keep you computer files backed up with Carbonite or some other backup system. That way you’ll be able to access your files even if your equipment is lost.

Make a plan and be sure everyone in the family knows it! Decide on a place to meet, be sure everyone has access to a cell phone, have a number to call to check in if you get separated.  Cell phone service could possibly be disrupted so decide in advance on a location where everyone can convene.  Also have a plan to get out of your home in the event of a real emergency and be sure everyone knows the plan and has practiced it.

God willing, you will never need to use any of these suggestions, but if you ever do, being prepared can make all the difference!