Ultimate Disaster Evacuation Checklists

10.31.2017

0600

Note: I created 5 downloadable documents in this post, feel free to download.

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Sonoma County, California Wildfires Force Evacuations Near San Francisco, Image of NBC News, http://www.nbcnews.com

The Northern California Wildfires that recently occured left a devastating amount of damage. More than 160,000 acres—or 250 square miles—have burned in Sonoma, Napa, and Solano counties, just north of San Francisco. Another 36,000 acres have burned farther north in Mendocino county. The fires are still not 100 percent contained. About  8,400 structures have been destroyed, according to Cal Fire, the state’s wildfire-fighting agency. The California insurance commissioner reported that about 5,500 homes were completely destroyed, with an additional 4,000 partially burned. Santa Rosa alone lost 3,000 homes to the fast-spreading Tubbs fire.

At the peak of this catastrophe, 11,000 firefighters across the state—including 3,800 inmate volunteers from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—battled the flames. Firefighters would work anywhere from 24 to 80 straight hours, dousing active fires and chopping down trees and brush to prevent their spread. About 4,300 still remain on the frontlines as of 10/25/2017.

The devastation from those fires echoed across the state. A lot of residents, business owners lost everything. The fires burned so hot that the foundations of these homes were the only structural elements that survived. It also made me wonder if I was truly prepared for a disaster like this to strike in my own neighborhood. I decided to assemble the disaster evacuation checklists for anyone to download, for such a catastrophic event like these widlfires.

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Aerial view of a Santa Rosa neighborhood, after the wildfires settled. Image from http://www.CBS.com

Now, most people know that you should have Emergency Kits in your home. In California, our most well known natural disaster are earthquakes. If you grew up in California, you would have practiced earthquake drills at school or at home or were simply reminded what to do during an earthquake each year via public service announcements. However, it seems that there is little talk about evacuation disasters, where you have to leave everything behind, to save your life, your family’s lives, in order to survive. There’s a chance you may be alerted to prepare to evacuate, and sometimes you will not get that chance and have minutes to get out of your residence. This is a comprehensive post and I hope it can help someone out there.

 

2017-10-31

Before Disaster Strikes

So before any evacuation disaster strikes, there’s a lot that needs to be done. Take your time, be patient and go through these steps carefully. Since it’s a very detailed process to go through, keep pushing forward and by the end of it all, you’ll feel more prepared for the worst case disaster scenario.

Scanning and Photographing

  1. Transfer all home videos you’d like to keep into a digital file. You can save these on an external hard drive,  in your cloud, or both. If you want a simpler solution, transfer all VHS format videos to DVD format so they will be salvageable later on.
  2. Scan or photograph all photos you would like to keep, and organize them. Save on an external hard drive, cloud or both
  3. Scan or photograph all personal legal documents per person
    1. Diplomas
    2. Birth Certificate
    3. Social Security Card
    4. Immunization Record
    5. Health insurance card
    6. Medical Record & current prescriptions
    7. Car Titles
    8. Passport
    9. Take photos of all cards (front and back). I usually organize mine (face up) on a sheet of paper, then I flip the cards over to take pictures of the back of the cards. You can group 8 cards together on a single sheet of paper or take pictures of them individually. I tend to group cards into three categories.
      1. Membership cards (these cards will not likely change)
      2. Legal and important cards
      3. Cards in my wallet (these cards will likely change due to the expiration dates, so you can group these together and retake the picture as needed)

Create a Home Inventory of all of your belongings

 

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In the event of a fire or other disaster, would you be able to remember all your possessions? Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you get your insurance claim settled faster, verify losses for your income tax return and help you purchase the correct amount of insurance.

I thought I’d tell you how I approached my home inventory list. This Home Inventory project was also the perfect opportunity to declutter and clean up. It’s a lot easier to do this project when your drawers are cleaned up and organized. Since I was going through this project room by room, I first inventoried my first room and subsequently used that first room to store all of the items I planned to donate or not keep. I needed these items out of the way and I also planned on moving these items to my car, when I made the walk through video.

  1. Download a copy of the Household Inventory Checklist
  2. I like to take a picture of each wall of each room, then open up and examine each furniture piece on each wall. I then examine all of the items within each furniture piece. I always inventory items Left –>Right and Top–>Bottom.
  3. You can also do a walk through video to give an overall view of your possessions.

Checklists

 

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The American Red Cross Mile High Chapter put together a very useful American Red Cross_Emergency Preparedness Checklist (Edited)  in which, they listed out Who you should contact for information regarding the emergency, Creating an emergency plan, Preparing a Disaster Supplies Kit, Emergency contacts and physician contact numbers, Floor plan evacuation sheets, Home hazard awareness and an Emergency Kit for your car. I actually edited this PDF to accommodate two contacts per category, so that you could include a back up contact.  I placed a few symbols for reference to be used on the Floor Plan sheets like these below. The other items on the list are easily identifiable, so I didn’t include symbols for those, but you can add those in.

Floor Plan Key Sample- From Doc Hub

Create an Emergency Go Bag Checklist per member in the household. I combined an Emergency Kit and a Go Bag Checklist to create this Emergency Go Bag Checklist. This bag will have legal paperwork, pertaining to your health, home and finances. It’ll include some electronics and emergency items. Depending on what you take for sentimental items and valuable jewelry, this bag may become bulky and heavy. The bulkiest items on this checklist is clothes, food and water. I keep these bulk items outside of the Emergency Go Bag, so I know to grab those items on the way out. If you have to evacuate quickly, you may have to leave some of the bulk items behind. I would try to grab some water and food though. The highlighted rows are documents, so these should take up little space, or at least be able to lay flat.

If you want extra safe keeping, I created a Keep Away From Home Checklist so that certain legal documents can be kept in a separate safe location. If you choose to not have a separate location to keep these documents, this checklist will be combined with your Emergency Go Bag documents.

During an evacuation, there is very little time to organize what to do and where to go. In these stressful situations, saving yourself and your family is the primary focus. I put together another checklist of what to do Before, During and After An Evacuation Checklists. Keep this list along with your other checklists. These checklists will only be used upon evacuation. If you have already scanned and photographed your legal documents, you’ve already done half of the work. The other half of preparing for such a disaster is completing the home inventory.

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Ideally, the Emergency Go Bag will be light and easy to evacuate with. Because majority of the items listed on all three lists are documents, these items should be able to transport easily. Once you record these documents into digital files, you can back these digital documents up with cloud storage or with an external hard drive. I do both to cover my tracks.

I really wanted to make these checklists because I never realized how much goes into being prepared to evacuate. Even putting these documents together was a lot of work. If you declutter as you go, the work will be less. When you list out your room inventory, just go room by room so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. You’re literally going through every single item you own, so go at a comfortable pace. Set goals for each part of the project so at least you complete this project in sections. At the end of the day, stuff is really just stuff. Your life and your loves ones are priceless. I hope this post helps organize your home and help you become more prepared for disaster evacuations. Stay safe out there!

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No Batteries Please

 

07.27.2016

0800

So, I’m not allowed to own products with batteries. It’s actually a rule I’ve laid out for myself. I’m not the most reliable person to keep track of what items need new batteries so it’s just a lot easier for me to not own items that need them. On top of that, I don’t like using a product and then realizing that the product is loosing power, and then decides to stop completely. I’m just not good at owning those types of products. I also hate keeping track of what kinds of batteries I need on hand.

On the other hand, I do own items that included a rechargeable battery when I first purchased them. These products include my Nikon DSLR camera, laptop, ipad and iphone. With those products, I know the battery will eventually give out, which is why I’m almost considering to not purchase another ipad after this one. I can imagine my life without my ipad, but we will see what the future holds. I know that with every iphone and ipad model, there will always be a newer and “more efficient” model to come, and I’m not sure how much I want to keep up with it. It’s that decision between what I need versus what I want in my life.

The reason for this rule, is because I tend to forget about the products that had batteries in them, and the batteries end up corroding through their shell, which subsequently destroys the integrity of the product. I’ve had to say goodbye to quite a few products over the years due to this lack of attention to my things. But now, I currently own three products that require alkaline or lithium batteries, which includes my television remote control, my car key FOB and my Fitbit. The Fitbit and the key FOB require Lithium button batteries and the remote control requires alkaline. I do own a DVD player but I don’t currently keep batteries in my DVD remote control and it’s used very infrequently, so I don’t really deplete my battery supply for it. When I do use it, I’ll actually install two AAA batteries as needed then remove them when I’m done. I pretty much only have to pay attention to my television remote control and replace those batteries on time. I keep four extra AAA batteries in my emergency kit but no button batteries. I do have an extra emergency radio/clock that I keep in my emergency kit but it requires two AAA batteries which I don’t keep in it. If I ever need to use it in an emergency, I’ll insert the AAA batteries when I need to. Also, if I really need another button battery, I’ll just go out to get it. I might actually stop using the Fitbit for awhile just so that I don’t have to buy button batteries for it. I’ve considered not using my key FOB, but when winter rolls around, the parking lot around my job gets really dark and I’m slightly wary about walking out to my car alone. I’d prefer to be able to hit a panic button to attract attention to myself with the tool. I have opted out of using it during the rest of the year though.

I have a wind up flashlight as well as a solar powered clock/radio in my emergency kit, which work pretty well. I use a Seiko Women’s Stainless Steel Analog watch, which has automatic self wind movement through my body movements. This means:

  1.  The watch does not contain a battery and is powered solely by the movement of your arm while you’re wearing the watch. If you don’t wear the watch for long enough every day, you won’t provide enough power to keep the watch running.
  2. An automatic watch is less precise than a quartz (battery powered) watch, therefore the time can be off as much as 10 seconds per day. So even if you keep your watch powered up, you’ll probably have to adjust the time every now and then.

I do love that my life became simpler and when I stopped buying so many batteries for so many different products, it was one errand that I could cross off my list and not worry about.

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My Emergency Kit

04.04.2016

0845

I have a small emergency kit and most of it is pictured here. In any emergency, it’s always a good idea to keep certain items on hand and ready at a moment’s notice.

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In my small electronics bag: (green flowered bag)

  • Small battery operated radio and clock
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Extra AAA batteries
  • Flashlight/hand crank radio accessories

In my first aid kit:

  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Styptic pencil
  • Mercury- Free Oral Thermometer
  • Compact scissors
  • Bandage

Items that are not pictured are:

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food

I also have a flashlight/hand crank radio, butane lighter with butane gas refill and candles. I use bandanas as dust masks to help filter contaminated air.

This is just a simple overview of what I have in my emergency kit for living in the city that I live in. Understandably, the most common natural disaster in my area are earthquakes, so preparing for all natural disasters wouldn’t make any sense. Depending on each family’s’ dynamic, this kit is essentially  for only one person. There are a lot of websites out on the internet that suggest to have a large emergency kit at all times, but ironically, my kit is based on FEMA’s outline. (you can find it HERE). All of the items listed may not apply to you but the list is a comprehensive one. Due to the fact that I’ve experienced a few earthquakes in my life, these items are exactly what I need in case of an emergency. It’s a slim and small kit, but it has been working for me. This post was to simply give an overview of what I keep in my kit.

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Know Your Knots

02.22.2016

0845

Materials:

  • Rope

Tools:

  • Pole to test out knots on

As someone who loves to keep extra rope and twine around, it makes sense that I made it a point to learn how to tie knots. But in addition to that, is that I actually carry a 100 foot parachord (Parachute cord) in my snowboarding backpack when I go up to the mountains. If you understand how to tie certain knots in certain situations, that knowledge can help you survive a situation, or help you while working over heights or water. Just knowing how to tie a few knots can still help you in many situations. Here are some knots that might be helpful:

  1. Reef Knot- This knot is a binding knot for connecting two lines together or a line around an object. It’s simple and effective and it is also known as a square knot.
    1. 01- Square Knot
  2. Clove Hitch- This knot can secure a line to a tree or post quickly, but it needs an anchor or it will slip.
    1. 02- Clove Hitch
  3. Bowline- This knot can create a nonadjustable loop at the end of the line, so the shape stays fixed.
    1. 03- Bowline
  4. Figure 8- This knot creates a stopping knot at the end of a line. This prevents the rope from unraveling and can also keep the rope from slipping past another rope.
    1. 04- Figure 8
  5. Sheet Bend- This technique can tie two different types of rope material together. This knot allows the joining of different thicknesses of rope as well.
    1. 05- Sheet Bend
  6. Two Half Hitches- This knot allows a line to be secured to trees or poles
    1. 06- Two Half Hitches
  7. Taut Line Hitch- This is an adjustable loop knot that will grip as long as there is tension on the “taut” side of the loop. Tension is maintained by sliding the hitch to adjust size of the loop. It can be used to secure tent lines or securing loads on vehicles.
    1. 07- Taut Line Hitch
  8. Improved Clinch Knot- This knot is used to secure a fishing line to a fishing lure or an artificial fly.
    1. 08- Fisherman's Knot
  9. Water Knot- This knot secures webbing, belts and straps together
    1. 09- Water Knot
  10. Rolling Hitch- A rolling hitch is used to attach a rope to a rod, pole or another rope.  It is used for lengthwise pull along an object rather than at right angles. The rolling hitch is designed to resist lengthwise movement for only a single direction of pull.
    1. 10- Rolling Hitch
  11. Prusik Knot- This knot is a friction hitch and it is used to put a loop of cord around a rope. It is used in climbing, mountaineering and rope rescue.
    1. 11- Prusik Knot
  12. Timber Hitch- This hitch will secure a rope around a cylindrical object. It is secure as long as tension is maintained but can be easily untied even after hauling a heavy load of weight.
    1. 12- Timber Hitch
  13. Blood Knot- This knot is used in fishing to secure two lines together. It will join sections of nylon line, while maintaining a high portion of the line’s inherent strength.
    1. 13- Blood Knot
  14. Artillery Loop- This knot creates a loop on the bight (the slack part between two ends of a rope). As long as the artillery loop is loaded, it will not slip and contract.
    1. 14- Man Harness
  15.  Carrick Bend- This knot is used to join two lines together. It can be used for heavy rope or cable that is too stiff to bend into other hitches.
    1. 15- Carrick Bend

If you keep in mind a few of these knots, they may very well help you in dire situations. It is a simple skill to know these knots by heart, but it can be one of the most useful as well. I always use ropes for a number of projects and situations and I have learned that the physics that go into tying a knot is so self sustainable, that I don’t have to worry about much else.