Evacuation: It’s scary, but don’t be afraid to study up

We are thrilled with the recent rains, and it appears our monsoon is having an effect. Many of us survived without rushing home “in case of fire evacuation.” We all had friends, co-workers or family getting that 15-minute warning to evacuate.

Looking at the map of fires and smoke around the state certainly makes us more aware of the dangers and that it could be any of us at any time (www.wunderground.com/wundermap, then scroll to fires on the right side).

Years ago, I remember evacuating my home in the middle of the night because of a home fire. The helplessness, the memories and the intensity of needs remain strongly etched in my memory. A few of the memories include the smoke- or heat-damaged furniture and clothes, the water damage and dealing with an insurance company.

At the time, we asked ourselves what did we do well and what would have made life easier? Say you had to evacuate your home within the next 30 minutes – what would you collect, how easy would those items be to find, where would you go? Is every member of the family (including pets) secure if this were to happen? Do you have a bit of cash stashed in an emergency location for just such a need, or would you be that wild-eyed person with the shirt on his back and nothing more?

Colorado State University Extension has centralized a very extensive resource list (www.ext.colostate.edu/fire/index.html) from organizations such as Federal Emergency Management Agency, Red Cross, Ready Colorado as well Extension offices in Colorado and other states. The list on the left of the Web page allows one to personalize available resources based on specific needs (agriculture; livestock and pets; resources; finances; preparing family and home before, during and the aftermath). There’s more information than one would want; select a few to peruse. Much of the information is relevant for needs other than fire.

What can be done before evacuation is necessary? One list discusses the inside and outside actions that can be done to help protect your home (www.fema.gov/news/newsrelease.fema?id=7533). With limited time, what would be most important? As you look through the lists, actions can be taken long before notice is received (for example, keeping debris swept off decks or keeping equipment away from structures to provide access to house by emergency vehicles). Most important, evacuate as early as possible to prevent getting stuck in traffic or being overtaken by fire.

Topics listed include assessing home after a fire, financial emergency preparedness, picking up the pieces after a disaster, managing stress during tough times and even smoke damage after a fire. The 72-hour emergency kit from Ready Colorado (home kit, office kit, pet kit and car kit) has lists specific to your needs.

Take a few minutes to see what the resource list contains. Even if you are not in an area deemed high danger, there is a great deal of information useful for many situations. Please don’t wait for the next warning. Do some preparation now.

ricekw@co.laplata.co.us or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.