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If you had to leave everything behind what are the important things you should take? If you have tim

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As we watch the news from Huston, Texas and hear of the tragedy caused by Hurricane Harvey, I wonder how many of us have taken the time to prepare in case we needed to evacuate with little or no warning!

What items are important to you? Is it the financial papers? The priceless pictures of family and friends? Family Air looms? What exactly are those items that you need to put your life back together?

I want to share with you a friend’s personal situation. My friend hadn't been home in several days as he was away on a business trip, when he walked inside his apartment he was greeted with a situation that left him in utter shock. The upstairs neighbor decided to plug his sink, turn on the water and walk away on his last day of being a tenant! My friend (Let’s call him Jim) told me he thought he got home 3 or 4 days after the neighbor did this. There was water EVERYWHERE! Talk about an unexpected flood, ugh! The ceiling was falling in, the walls where oozing water and when he opened the door to my place…. Jim said it felt like he was wading into a swimming pool.

It seemed like everything was partially underwater, completely underwater or just plain wet. Lucky for me Jim, he had a grab and go bag and in it where the important papers and other items that are listed below. The feeling of being completely overwhelmed is beyond words. It’s a typical loss and you experience all of the various steps of losing someone or something dear to you. Jim said then reality sets in; where will I live? How will I replace these personal items? What about my life as I knew it? Oh boy.

Having taken the time ahead of the flood to build an inventory list did make things a little easier but still… after the water subsided and the place was being dried out, Jim started to deal with the insurance company, the landlord, salvaging whatever he could in the form of clothes, furniture, computers, DVD’s, books, etc.

Now don’t think that I am comparing Jim's experience to the tragic experience that the people in Texas are living, because I am NOT!

I am just laying the foundation for you the reader to think about, if you had to leave everything behind what are the important things you should take? As you may know evacuations happen quite often and for many other reasons besides flooding.

Evacuations in the U.S. are more common than most people realize, according to FEMA. Natural disasters aside, people are forced to leave their homes hundreds of times a year because of transportation and industrial accidents.

Here’s a list of things you can prepare now in case your home is ever in harm’s way:

Have a grab-and-go kit. Include essential supplies, such as water, food, and first-aid supplies.

Have copies of important papers. Keep these in a plastic, waterproof case. FYI, this stuff is priceless; because you may need to prove who you are and that you own your house. Include:

  • Your driver’s license.

  • The deed to your house.

  • Proof of insurance.

  • Medical records.

  • Passports.

  • Social security cards.

  • A list of personal contacts.

Safeguard pets. Make sure they’re micro-chipped and have I.D. collars. Create pet grab-and-go kits that include leashes, medications, meal bowls, and three days worth of food and water.

Prep your yard. Maintain your trees and shrubs so diseased or weakened branches won’t fall down and damage your property.

Know your utility shutoffs. Learn now how to safely shut off all utility services in your home. Visit FEMA’s website for tips on how to turn off utilities. Note: To turn off gas you may need a special wrench.

Stockpile sandbags materials. If you live in a flood prone area, keep sandbags on hand or the materials to make them. It takes 100 sandbags to create a 1-foot-tall wall that’s 20 feet long. If you’re filling bags on the fly, two adults can create the wall in about an hour.

Protect windows. If you live in an area susceptible to hurricanes, install shutters that are rated to provide protection from windblown debris.

Before you pick up and go (and if you have enough time) follow these steps — they’re designed to protect your pets and help prevent property damage:

Clear your yard. Remove any objects hanging on trees or your home’s exterior, such as birdhouses and wind chimes — they can break off in high winds and cause serious damage. Bring inside anything that’s not nailed down including lawn furniture, trashcans, toys, and garden equipment.

Shut off utilities. Turn off electricity, water, and gas. Doing so will help prevent additional dangers including flooding, fire, and explosions. Keep in mind; you’re going to need the utility company to turn your gas back on when you return home.

Windproof windows and doors. If you don’t have storm-proof shutters, fit plywood coverings over all windows. (FYI, using just tape on windows is not recommended because it will not stop windows from breaking, just shattering.)

Protect indoor stuff. Move valuables to higher levels in your home to prevent water damage. As an extra measure, wrap electronics and furniture in sheets, blankets, or plastic drop cloths.

Gather up pets. If it’s not safe for you to stay, it’s not safe for Fido. Make plans to stay with friends or at a pet-friendly hotel — most emergency shelters will only accept service animals that assist people with disabilities.

Lock your house. Because crooks and looters take advantage of evacuations, lock all doors and windows and don’t leave house keys in an obvious place, such as a mailbox.

Important Stuff to Remember

Whether the order is voluntary or mandatory, if officials in your area tell you to evacuate, you should do so before things get worse. Although laws vary from area to area, you may receive a hefty fine or face a jail sentence if you don’t follow a mandatory evacuation order.

Failure to follow an evacuation order can place your life in danger by leaving you stranded in an area with no basic services or food and water.

When you return home after an emergency, don’t use matches, lighters, or any sources of flame or spark until you’re 100% certain that you don’t have a natural gas leak inside your home — you’ll need a gas company service technician to confirm that it’s safe.

Stay Informed with Emergency Alerts

Smartphone technology has made it easier to receive disaster alerts free of charge. You’ll automatically receive alerts if you have a phone capable of receiving Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) and your wireless carrier participates in the program. To find out if your mobile device is capable of receiving WEA alerts, contact your mobile device carrier or visit CTIA - The Wireless Association.

Now let’s really look at what should be in your grab and go kit!

Preparing Your Evacuation “Grab and Go” Box Recent natural disasters have emphasized the importance of emergency preparedness. Everyone should have individual and family evacuation plans in place. Extensive planning should include all members of the family. Keep in mind that an emergency plan may be different for every family, yet there are common elements. It is critical that each family have a planned evacuation arrangement and an evacuation “to-go” box ready for emergencies.

Your “Grab and Go” Box Should Include:

  • Cash or traveler’s checks for several days living expenses.

  • ♦ Rolls of quarters.

  • ♦ Emergency phone numbers:

  • Doctors, pharmacies.

  • Financial advisors.

  • Clergy.

  • Repair contractors.

  • Family.

  • ♦ Copies of important prescriptions:

  • Medicines.

  • Eyeglasses.

  • ♦ Copies of children’s immunization records.

  • ♦ Copies of health, dental, and/or prescription insurance cards or numbers.

  • ♦ Copies of auto, flood, renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policies (at least policy numbers).

  • ♦ Insurance company telephone numbers, including local agent and company headquarters.

  • ♦ Copies of : Steps to Creating Your

  • Deeds. “Grab and Go” Box ►Step 1 • Place papers in sealed, waterproof plastic bags.

  • Store in a durable, sealed box. (A portable, fireproof and waterproof box or waterproof backpack is recommended.)

  • ►Step 2 • Store box/backpack at home in a secure, easily accessible location.

  • ►Step 3 If you must evacuate:

  • Grab box and take with you.

  • Keep the box with you at all times.

  • Do not leave box unattended in your car.

  • Titles.

  • Wills and/or trust documents.

  • Durable power of attorney.

  • Healthcare directives.

  • Stock and bond certificates.

  • Recent investment statements.

  • Home inventory.

  • Birth, death, adoption, and marriage certificates.

  • Passports and other identity documents.

  • Employee-benefit documents.

  • First two pages of previous year’s federal and state income tax returns.

  • ♦ Back-up copies of computerized financial records.

  • ♦ Keys to safe deposit box.

  • ♦ Combination to safe.

  • ♦ Negatives for irreplaceable personal photos.

  • ♦ Computer user names and passwords.

  • ♦ List of numbers:

  • Social Security

  • Credit card

  • Bank account

  • Driver’s license

  • Loan account

  • Investment account

  • ♦ List of debt obligations, due dates, and contact information.

As you can see the list can be endless. Being prepared is the first step to getting your life back in order. Salvage what matters most and remember Human life comes first property can be replaced!

There are many more items that can be listed and set aside. For a comprehensive list please refer to the FEMA website.

Inform Others: Informing friends and family about your evacuation plan is beneficial in case of injury or if families become separated. Having other people aware of your plan will reduce anxiety during stressful situations. It is also beneficial to prepare an emergency contact card for each family member to keep on their person. This card should contain contact information for all household members, an out-of-town contact, and other key emergency and medical providers.

To be safe your best bet is to consult with experts that will help you identify common problems and make suggestions for change before it's too late. C & A Safety Consultants has over 30 years experience in working with business, government agencies, schools, churches, and youth groups, camps (day and sleep away). Group CPR and safety classes are available too.

C & A Safety Consultants is located in Southern California.

C & A Safety can be reached at: or by telephone: 805-750-0915

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