There is so much to say about the recent (October 2019) PG&E blackouts I could write a book, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that I have been right in line with everyone in being grateful that there is one less thing to worry about starting fires. At least that was the BS speak we got from the powers that be. I am furious! Now that I have let you know how I feel, I hopefully can offer you some ideas that might help you through the next public safety outage.
First, be prepared ahead of time for evacuation. Fire safety in the foothills did NOT begin with this summer’s traumas. It begins all year round when you are driving in and out of your drive way. Ask yourself, “If I had to get out of my driveway quickly, could I do that? How many minutes do I have to do that?” One of the best tips I received when I moved here was to have a go-bag packed every summer with copies of my personal information, bank statements, checkbooks, and real money in it. Have the photo albums in a “grab quick” space. Have on top of the go-bag a copy of your “get this first” list. That might include: address books, back up clothing for several days, prescription bottles to grab that you might take everyday, and maybe a copy of your insurance coverage.
Second, take that list and actually gather things up and get them in the car. Time yourself. How long does it take you? Ten minutes? In my opinion, that’s too long! Begin to either get quicker at loading the car, or reduce what you are grabbing. I practice my fire escape at least twice a year. When I hear of ANYONE else being evacuated, I do what I would do and time myself. The longest I have taken was ten minutes but that included putting art and personal treasures in the car.
Third, place your car in an escape parking mode. I had to learn to park backwards in the summer months. I come home, unload, and then go back and set the car in “escape posture” so in the event I need to get out at night, I don’t have to navigate turning the car around. I load things near the back door before bed: go bags, overnight suitcases, box of pictures, and jackets! This stuff lives in the laundry room most of the summer into the fall. Some of the escape stuff is already loaded in one of the cars.
Be ready mentally to get your shoes on, grab your phone, wallet, purse and get away! Now! Do not worry about anything but life and limb. OH, and about limbs, be sure you practice your escape route when you do the fire drill. Get in the car, GO, and ask yourself what you would do if a tree limb was in the way? Remove it quickly from the road or turn around? Practice! Be aware of what you need for animals and any passengers who may be in the vehicle.
Why practice? Because when you actually do the physical movement you learn what you don’t know! Like how to get the garage door opened in a power outage, or how to get your stuff together when it’s pitch dark because a fire started and the power is now out! A tip I share is to have a headlamp device on the bedside table. Putting that lamp on my head allows both hands to be free to tie shoes, grab with both hands, and run for the keys. Make sure if you have a gate that you know how to get it OPEN in the power outage!
Finally, I will put a short list of what is in my go-bag.
- Money, check books, and emergency credit card
- Copies of all my IDs (including my passport and drivers license)
- Change of clothes for three days
- Jacket, shoes, and medicine bottles
- List of things to do and grab so I don’t have to think
- Food for the dogs for two days, water, leashes and dishes to feed them.
- Protein bars and water
- First Aid kit with band aids, scissors, gauze, antibiotic cream, and burn spray
- Emergency numbers and address book in case my cell phone is not working
- Back up batteries, phone charging cords, flash light
- Small backpack kept empty in case you must abandon the car you can grab the essentials and run.
Too dramatic? I think not. After this past couple of fire seasons, we must be proactive to sleep nights. The winds come, always. Sometimes horrid for days and days. Whether you live in So Cal with Santa Ana’s or in Nor Cal with the north winds, we have hot dry winds every year.