What do you remember of 2017?
It’s almost or already is 2018 depending on where you are reading this.
2017 is in the history books with lots of history. The recent wildland fires of Southern California, Thomas Fire (largest in California History… still burning), Rye Canyon Fire, Sylmar/Creek Fire, Getty/Bel Air Fire, Liberty Fire, Lilac Fire and the Monrovia Fire all in December! Total damage and cost are still being assessed.
Have you forgotten about 17 Hurricanes of the year? Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe and Rina! Harvey broke a rainfall record for a single tropical storm with more than 4 feet of rain. Puerto Rico is still mired in the longest blackout in US history. All between June 1st and November 20th. Total damage $369.86 billion dollars with 882 fatalities.
The October fires of Northern California were a series of 250 different fires burning at the same time, with 5600 structures destroyed, 245,000 acres and 22 fatalities. The Tubbs fire is now known as the most destructive wildland fire in California history. The October group of fires set a record for a cost of at least $9.4 billion in insured damages.
Then looking back to our winter here in California, it started off with torrential rainfall making it the wettest winter in a century. As the storm moved east it created significant flooding in Missouri and Arkansas with a price tag of almost $1.7 billion. I can only imagine what it was like for the rest of the country with hotter then usual, colder than usual, dryer then usual or wetter than usual events!
I remember some of these events in a different way. The time spent sitting in Los Alamitos on an air field waiting to go help victims of a hurricane. Being sent to Oregon for the record setting fires in Oregon, being on the line watching structures spontaneously combust from the heat of the fire 2 or 3 homes away from the flames. Wading through knee high water helping people who thought the water in front of them was not that deep only to find themselves in water window high on their car. Emergencies and disasters!
“Look for the silver lining” is what my father would say. “Don’t look at the loss or destruction!” Easier said than done. So, I looked and what did I see? I saw a side of people that is kind, caring, concerned and compassionate. Strangers set up “Go funding me” pages to raise money, donations to the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and other charities. Temples, Churches, Mosaics and Synagogues fund raising to help those who were affected.
One small frustration did appear that I am not aware of an easy solution, that is what if someone or a company wants to donate something other than money or food? Say like clothes, bedding, shoes, etc. other than the handful of individuals who organized a material drive to collect and deliver there is no system to make it happen. Look at government relief which most of the time is food, water and medicine with a declaration of an emergency or a proclamation which can make low interest loans or grant money available.
I have talked to people who opened their homes to neighbors to give them some place to stay, others who offered the use of a 2nd car or truck, groups that held holiday meals for responders as well as those affected by disasters or emergencies. Children who took of their own toys, clothes and gifts from the holiday’s or from their own personal belongings and told their mother’s or father’s that they wanted to give these items to some other boy or girl who lost everything!
No matter how kind neighbors, friends or stranger are there are many pre-needed things we can do to help an unexpected situation. Build a jump kit, take some time to think; if I had to evacuate… what would I take?
Here is what should be in a jump kit:
A pair of shoes and socks for everyone in the household (buy a cheap pair of shoes in the needed size from a second-hand store)
Minimum 1 gallon of water
A handful of high-calorie energy bars
Pen and paper
Key to one of our cars
Hand crank weather/AM-FM radio (also has flashlight and emergency alert sound)
First aid kit
Accordion folder with important paperwork
Copies of our IDs (driver’s license, green card, passports)
Copy of our lease or deed’s
Animal or children’s vaccination records
Birth certificate copies
$50 cash (small bills)
List of emergency contact info
Change of clothes for each person
Diaper’s, wipes and other infant supplies
Extra leash and collar for pet’s
Two Tupperware containers, one empty (to give pets water) and one full of Pets food
Being a first responder, I sometimes have a unique opportunity to not only be that person who help’s when needed, but sometimes I see some of those victims afterwards and can chat with them about what has been going on since whatever happened, here is some of what I have heard.
The weather radio. This “lives” in our jump kit, it was priceless in keeping us up to date on news that affected us.
The water, Tupperware containers and Pet food. When we grabbed what we needed to take with us no one thought about food or water for our pets.
Accordion folder with paperwork. Victims were able to call their insurance agent and filed a claim in about 5 minutes. Other people weren’t so prepared.
Paper and pen. There are lots of things to write down. Names of people. Claim numbers. Phone numbers. Trust me, you want to have this.
So now you are probably wondering what victims\said they would add? Some said, if they had their druthers, they’d add pretty much everything under the sun! But that isn’t the point of a jump kit. A jump kit is supposed to be relatively light and portable. Easy to pick up and move with only a second’s notice. With that in mind, here are the things they’ll be adding:
Medications. Over-the-counter and Prescription medications, trust me stress does some crazy things to your body. Adding a small bottle of Pepto Bismol, some aspirin and some Tylenol PM.
Feminine hygiene stuffs. Women, stress can also trigger a period.
Toilet paper. A roll of toilet paper is never a bad idea.
Deodorant. You probably won’t be able to take a shower for days. And will be dirtier than you’ve ever been in your life. We’ll be adding one travel size deodorant in a neutral scent.
Toothbrush and toothpaste. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel after you’ve brushed your teeth and put some deodorant on. It’s almost like taking a shower. Almost.
A cell phone charger to plug into our weather radio. Some were very fortunate that some buildings had power and victims could charge phones and other electronics. But without that a portable battery for charging is needed, need to get the cord. Also of note, we have a car charger that works for both of our cell phones and that was used, too.
A key to our new car. Our car became our home base. We were able to put our pets in the car keep them relatively comfortable and safe. And we could just toss whatever we grabbed from our home in the back. We were lucky that we had keys with us. We did have a key to our other car in the jump kit, but hadn’t gotten around to getting one for the new car. Having both options is important. There were people two parking spots down that had cars that were undriveable because of damage. Having two cars available doubles our chances of having a mobile home base.
Our passports. We used to keep our passports in a filing cabinet, but now they’ll be added to our jump kit. For most people, the passport isn’t that big of an issue most of the time.
A list of local hotels that take pets and contact information. In about 30 minutes of panic-filled fun, we drove around to every hotel in the area only for them to tell us that they either (a) didn’t take pets or (b) were booked. It was not fun. And there were some tears every time someone told me, “No.” Phone calls would make it moderately better next time.
List of important things to grab. When we were finally allowed to go back into our home, we kind of ran around like chickens with our heads cuts off trying to remember what important things to grab. I want to make a checklist of the essentials. External hard drive, underwear, shampoo, etc. We’re lucky we’ve been able to go in and out of our place for the past 48 hours. If we had only a few minutes to grab everything, we would have been screwed.
A disposable camera. We had SLR’s and used our cell phones but soon realized that our batteries were dying, we would have had no way to document things for insurance once the batteries died. Sometimes analog is the way to go.
There will also be some things I’ll be rearranging. I had the pen and paper in a separate part of the jump kit, but I found that whenever we had to deal with paperwork stuff, I’d just grab the accordion folder and go. I’ll move the pen and paper into there.
Mostly, even with the things missing from our kit, I am so very, very thankful that we had one. Even if we didn’t use a lot of the stuff in it, just knowing we could if we needed to took a huge weight off our shoulders. And I know I now sleep better knowing that we have it stashed in our closet. Seriously kids, go make one. Now.
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 of experience in working with business, government agencies, schools, churches, youth groups, camps (day and sleep away). Emergency supplies, CPR/AED/First Aid and safety classes are available.
C & A Safety Consultants is in Southern California.
C & A Safety can be reached at:
CNASAFETY1@gmail.com or by telephone: 805-750-0915