Preparedness Corner
June 2005
By Paul Vircsik

Special Edition

Hi Neighbors,

Cedar Fire 2003
I have been reading about the interest in wildland interface training, fires, and exit worries on the web site.  This prompted an edition of the Preparedness Corner.  It is great to see interest in the safety and well being of our ranch.  May I direct your attention to the left tool bar where older columns reside gathering moth balls from previous years.  They still apply and I want to mention a few dates of columns that are especially poignant at this time of year.  February 2001, July 2001, June 2002, March 2003, April 2003, June 2004  Feel free to read others as well.  They all have something to educate the new additions to our ranch and may spark (fire pun) some of the older residents to dust off the knowledge bin.  As I was reviewing this article I looked at the current weather for the ranch.  90 degrees and 6% humidity with 12 mph winds.  Prime fire weather.

Being prepared for an emergency evacuation is very important for us out here in the sticks and can be stressful while just thinking about the dos and don’ts.  If there is ever an emergency and you have to evacuate your home quickly, there will only be a few minutes, if any time at all, to gather up a few necessities before heading to safety with your loved ones.  More than likely, you won’t have the time or mindset to evaluate what financial information and important documents you’ll need after the emergency to get everything back in order.  Evacuating in a panic situation is just that, a panic situation.  Practicing from start to finish will help you retain what you need to know and what you need to take.  We have a good ESC in place and our volunteer firefighters are very good at what they do, but remember that out here any fire department will not be able to cover the expanse of acreage that we have.  So you need to be prepared.

It is essential to prepare not only a list of must dos before leaving but also a financial emergency evacuation kit that includes an after plan.  First, check out the mentioned articles to give yourself a heads up for preparing your home and family, including pets, for leaving.  Then buy a durable, fireproof container that you would be able to easily carry to your vehicle during an evacuation.  When you begin putting items inside the container, store them in airtight plastic bags.  Once complete, keep the lightweight kit near an emergency exit in your home so it can be grabbed easily as you leave.  When you read the rest of this information put yourself in an evacuation frame of mind.  After you come back home to whatever is left of the ranch picture your life without the items mentioned below and how you would function without them.  The following are some items you need to include in your emergency kit:

Home Inventory

I have been in many of my neighbors homes and we have not only valuables but life time memories as well.  Create both a thorough written and video documentation of all your belongings.  Record each item, its value, and any additional information such as serial numbers and warranties.  Collect appraisals for appropriate valuables and gather copies of receipts.  In addition to having a copy of your inventory in the evacuation kit, also store a copy in a safe-deposit box and with a distant friend or relative.

Emergency Money

Have a 7 day supply if not more or cash that can be used after an emergency.  Don’t think you can rely on ATMs or banks because they may be affected by the same disaster.  Funds may not be readily available for many days, if not weeks, after the situation has passed.  Many of us use local banks that do not have ties to the outside world.  Electricity and phone lines even in the city may not be working for a long time in a major emergency.

Financial Documents

Social Security cards, your last three income tax returns, deeds, passports, birth certificates for the entire family, your marriage certificate, insurance policies, stock certificates and financial account numbers are only some of the information to store in your kit.  You’ll also need such things as keys to your safe deposit box and backups of your computer files.  Sit down and make a list of all your important financial information, and then add that to your kit.


Think ahead and write a “to do” list for what you will do after a disaster.  Figure out the people you would need to call and where you can possibly stay if it became necessary.  Have their phone numbers in the kit.  Also have information about shelters and government assistance programs.  Good luck getting that locally.  None of these are pleasant tasks, but any preparation you do beforehand will go a long way to help you when you need it most.

While writing this from notes from articles recently seen thought why someone would need to go to such extent.  How much over kill is necessary to feel safe? Then I remembered some of the emergencies that we have had and have happened around us.  The Southern California Cedar Fire in 2003 that put 2300 households without a home even in city areas.  The Los Alamos fire of 2000.  The current fires in Utah, New Mexico, Arizona.  Many neighborhoods were evacuated not due to the threat of fire but because of the dangerous pollutants in the air.  The floods and tornados that occur annually.  The recent land slides that after needed rains from fire season caused unpredictable losses.  I just recently bought a piece of property.  As entailed as that is in a normal environment, can you imagine what it would be like if you didn’t have any of your important documents?

People always say after a fire “We got out safe and no one got hurt, that’s all that matters”.  This is true.  Then real life snaps back and everyone you need help from will ask you for all the stuff mentioned above.  It will be a wonder feeling to pop the trunk and pull out the kit and tell them “Exactly what do you need?”

Have a safe summer and I’ll see you all soon,

Meet the author: Read about Paul Vircsik's background