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.

 

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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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Time Marches On

07.24.2017

0600

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Time, it moves fast yet it’s all we have as we live day to day.

The past month has been a difficult one. A lot of that has to do with deaths and a series of unfortunate events around me. Although deaths happen a lot, from a variety of situations and circumstances, these deaths were directly linked to me somehow.

Whenever I receive news about the demise of other people, I always reflect on my own memories, knowing I won’t ever see or talk to those individuals anymore. I reflect back on the happy times and what they brought into my life. For a moment, time seems to stand still, as if my brain can’t comprehend the news. It’s a weird feeling and the moment feels like it’s never going to end. When I think back on the last time I spoke with the person or saw them in person, I always wonder if I said everything I needed to say and meant to say; wondering if I missed any moments.

It’s amazing how fragile life is and how fragile people are. At the same time, people are strong enough, and powerful enough to hurt each other too. There’s always so much going on in this world from health issues, the future of this country, environmental issues, selfishness, greed; it’s a lot to take in. I’ve talked to a few of my friends about television and watching the news. I know a few of my friends don’t watch the news because they say it’s too depressing. I watch it because I want to be informed about events happening,  not necessarily the views of each television network. In a weird way, I want to know about all the bad that’s going on. I simply need to know.

Those more weighted news stories tend to take over social media and the evening news.  Then there are the other struggles that live between the lines, between those stories. The silent struggles that no one may notice because it lives in between the noise. Sometimes those silent struggles, only come to light when another person leaves this world. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Even after our loved ones or other people in our lives pass, time still marches on. It’s an uneven struggle between the event that just happened and life simply continuing. Technically, that’s the only way the world exists. The sun will still rise and set, people will still wake up and go to work, go out to eat, go workout, go do whatever. And yet your reality has just changed indefinitely.

I do believe time heals wounds, maybe not all wounds, but most. The earth will still rotate, the sun will still rise and set, but after losing a loved one, you’re life changes. There’s a collateral effect when death occurs. Hopefully, you can take away something powerful and positive.

My hope is that everyone finds happiness among the noise; that the good outweighs the bad in your lives. Fight for your happiness, because you deserve to be happy. We’re all on our own journeys here on earth. The people who cross your path may not stay for long, but I believe that they were meant to cross your path for a reason. Talk to one another, reach out to one another, even if it’s only through a text or a message on a social media site. Love conquers hate on any given day. And if you can’t do that, just smile. Those are infectious.

Personal Note:

Thank you Chester Bennington, thank you for sharing your pain and reality by singing words that so many of us appreciated. You gave a voice to so many who were at a loss for words. You are truly loved and the loss of your musical talent and brilliance, will forever be remembered as you helped shape and change the music industry. You will be missed, rest in peace. Heaven gained another angel.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

(800) 273 – 8255

 

Adopted 16 Acres Of Wildlife Land

05.30.2017

0700

Who knew that when I joined TerraCycle, that I would end up adopting and protecting 16 acres of land. Let me start from the beginning…

I first joined TerraCycle in an attempt to recycle my beauty products, this included my makeup and bathroom product bottles. They offer programs that will collect certain kinds of trash and recycle them. They have free recycling programs, large scale recycling programs as well as zero waste boxes, which are not free.

There were about 28 free recycling programs when I first joined in 2015 and they now they have about 36 free recycling programs. The programs all have a different point reward system for how much trash you’re able to return to the program. They also offer a variety of contests and promotions for different programs at different times.

You can collect points and either receive a cash reward, collect point for a specific school or organization or donate the points to a good cause.  The organizations can provide resources such as clean drinking water, provide a meals, adopt wildlife land, reduce two pounds of carbon from the atmosphere, provide education or even help disaster victims.

As for me, I donated my points to adopting 1,800 square feet of wildlife land and I wanted to know more about the program so I visited National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program.

Here is the conflict:

Yellowstone is home to the most diverse assortment of wildlife found anywhere in North America. But once these iconic species leave the protected borders of the park—they are often at odds with neighboring ranchers who utilize public lands for livestock grazing. Grizzly bears and wolves are often killed or relocated when they attack livestock on National Forest lands where ranchers hold grazing privileges.

National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program addresses the conflicts between livestock and wildlife with a voluntary, market-based approach. We offer ranchers a fair price in exchange for their agreement to retire their public land grazing leases.

In most cases, livestock producers use our funds to relocate their livestock to areas without conflict. Wildlife has secure habitat, and rancher’s cattle can graze in an area with fewer problems.

It’s an interesting program and I really liked contributing to it. I initially donated my points to towards this program but then, decided to make a donation to cover more of how much I was helping protect the wildlife land.

This goes without saying, but there are many different organizations to donate to and it’s up to you to decide how much you want to participate in each. I wanted to share what the decision of joining a recycling program lead me to.  I never thought I’d adopt 16 acres of wildlife land. This has been an amazing journey and I’m so glad I took a chance to start with this organization.

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Freebies And Give Aways

01.24.2017

0800

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I don’t like to receive freebies and giveaways. I tend to refuse small gift bags and trinkets that are included in them. When I received them from family members and friends, that’s when I came up with a plan that I implemented years ago, when I lived in San Francisco.
Years ago, when I lived in San Francisco, my studio was directly across the street from Golden Gate Park. This park is the largest park in San Francisco and it was approximately 1,017 acres and over 3 miles running West to East and  half a mile running North to South. I would visit my family on the peninsula and always ended up bringing back food. I was given Nutrigrain bars, health bars, and even packaged produce. Because I was starting my zero waste lifestyle in San Francisco, I didn’t want to open these individually packaged items. Instead, I would create care packages for the homeless population, who slept in the park after everyone left.
Let me explain, Golden Gate Park is open from 9am every morning, and closes at 5 pm each evening. Since I lived across the street from the park, I was very aware of the public presence in the park. Each night, after the park closed, the homeless population would move in and set up camp for the night. I used to run along the street that framed the park’s north edge. I would run West and head out to Ocean Beach, then turn around and run back, and I would see them heading into the park.
During that time, I worked the swing shift when I was and EMT, so my hours were strange. But I would put together care packages in which I would hand out to the homeless when I can back from work.
I know that those individually packed items still produced trash but I had a decision to make. The dilemma was, either I refuse the items and inevitably they go into the trash, or I can somehow make good use of it. Not everyone can live a zero waste life and I understood that. Not everyone cares to live a zero waste life and I understood that too.
This was my way of trying to make a positive contribution to a situation I was aware of. When the packages were made, I would hand them out. None of the individual packages were opened so the recipients knew that the food had not been tampered with. Most everyone was open to accepting the food and were thankful for the snacks.
I wrote this post because recently I received a few airline amenity kits from a relative who travels on Delta Airlines for work.  She travels a lot so she had a bunch stocked up. I decided to go out and find recipients to give these kits to.
In the day-to-day rush that we live through, it’s reasonable that not everyone is noticed or acknowledged. But if you slow down and look closely, you’ll notice a population that sits in the shadows; a population made up of many circumstances and perhaps painful past stories. Living in California, has its risks and high stakes to bet on. It takes a lot to survive here, much less start a family and establish yourself here. I accept that anyone can become homeless at anytime and it’s always an unfortunate outcome.