Where’s the Fire?

As a native of California, I’m quite familiar with disaster preparedness.  If the “Big One” hits, and half our apartment caves in and we’re sleeping under the stars for a while, we’ve got it covered.  Those of you in other areas with your own unique natural disasters probably also have an idea of what you would do in the case of those emergencies.

Here’s the thing…having a vague concept isn’t enough.  You know what to do in theory, but when you’re in the moment, it’s amazing how all rational thought can go out the window.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at home, working on my novel, when I saw smoke start spewing from the house across from my apartment.  I didn’t have a clear view with the tall fence between us, but it pinged my internal warning system.  Still, I didn’t see any flames; surely there were lots of reasons for there to be random smoke, right?  Well, I’ve seen enough TV shows to know that a lot of people don’t call 911, whether because they’re in a haze of denial/disbelief, or they assume someone else already did.  I didn’t want to be that kind of person, so I called.  Turns out, I wasn’t the first; the operator knew the address already and that it was a fire.

So I stood there in my bedroom, watching out my window while I waited for the sound of sirens.  Then the flames broke loose.  One minute it’s just smoke, the next the entire roof is engulfed in huge flames.  I could feel the heat through the glass.  And, I’m ashamed to say, I just stood there, watching.  Perhaps it was shock.  Perhaps it was due to a firm belief that the fire department would arrive and save the day.  But the winds were already going 30+mph and I still couldn’t hear any sirens.  Finally, it’s like, maybe I should get the hell out of there.

We’ve probably all thought about what we would grab in the case of an emergency, but I’m going to tell you that it won’t mean anything unless you make a list and tack it to your refrigerator or somewhere else you’ll be able to see it.  I scrambled about for a couple pairs of clothes (though somehow missed the shirts), medical supplies, and of course, the cat.  Now, we already have her carrier plus a go-bag with leash, body harness, and blanket ready for an earthquake, but it was just as well for this situation.  Thankfully, I got her in before the police started banging on the door ordering an evacuation, because that’s when she freaked.

Though I had the presence of mind to grab some important things, I missed some other crucial stuff.

* Credit cards  (I don’t happen to carry these on me, and you can’t get a hotel without one.)

* Phone charger  (If your house is gone, that phone is your only connection to the world to get things done.)

* All your medication  (I remembered to grab my diabetic supplies, but forgot other important pills.)

I know it sounds like a lot to grab, but in my case, I had time.  I just didn’t use it.  Trust me, it’s less of a hassle to unpack everything for a false alarm than it is to be without important items and barred from your place.

All in all, my apartment was safe and we were allowed back several hours later.  The house in the back was destroyed.  I am so thankful because it could have been so much worse.  I’m making a list for next time.  Will you?

Do you have a go-bag for your pets?  For yourself?  Do you know what you’d grab, and is it within easy reach?

On a side note, ever since that day, my stress level has been steadily increasing.  Some of you may have noticed I haven’t been as present lately, on other blogs or my own.  With working full time and getting my next book released, I’m starting to feel like a puddle of mush.  I’m thinking of taking a vacation, unplugging and focusing on recharging myself before my head explodes.  That would be messy, and I’m sure cleaning it up would cause me more stress.  😉

28 comments on “Where’s the Fire?

  1. Susan A. says:

    A lot of people don’t think to plan ahead. Years in the military and having to leave at a moment’s notice has prepped me better, but it’s good you made a list. Last year we had a tornado warning and I had everything I absolutely couldn’t live without packed. If the tornado turned out to be an F4 or F5, we’d have to run because the apartment building would be leveled. So in the space of no more than ten minutes I had mine and my husband’s wallets packed, the file with our most important documents (birth ceritificates/marriage license, etc). Since he wasn’t born in the US and we got married in a country that is currently in a state of civil war, I cannot replace those things which means I always grab them first. I put it all in a backpack along with my medicine, the ipad (it has all my digital pics so I won’t lose them), the hubby’s laptap, cell phones and chargers, under-clothes, and some cat food.

    On the greater chance it would be a smaller tornado, I also threw a flash light, bottled water, and some food in the closet where we would hide. The backpack could go anywhere with me. Aside from getting dressed, I didn’t worry about extra sets of outer clothes but I was trying to keep the load manageable. Of course, thinking on it now I could probably pack a seperate bag for the hubby to carry that had a couple changes of clothes if necessary.

    In the case of a fire, though, I’d probably grab as much of the above listed stuff as I could and race for the car. Planning ahead of time definitely makes you more prepared. One other thing I do that you might consider is identifying anything in your house that could be used as a weapon. That way if you ever get an intruder, you can grab it without thinking. I have it planned out down to lamps used to crash over a guy’s head to hairspray and a lighter in the bathroom. I’ve even decided on the best definsible positions in each room and keep a knife within hand’s reach by the bed. You can never be too cautious, but admittedly, my husband thinks I’m weird, lol.

  2. Wow Angela, I can’t begin to imagine how terrifying that must have been. It’s a good lesson for all of us to be more “prepared” in our lives. We learned something similar when hubby’s Mom was killed suddenly. It’s important to make sure you have a will drawn up, a list of all your accounts (credit/bank), life insurance policies, and some details about your final wishes – that way your family can take care of your estate with ease at a time when they are swamped in grief.
    I never thought about what I’d do if an emergency happened and I had to leave the house but after hearing your story, I will definitely take head and make that list and get a few things together. Just in case. One hopes we never have to use it but if we do, we’ll be grateful it’s there.
    Thanks for sharing and TAKE CARE of you! A vacation and some time off to relax and unwind sounds just fabulous!!!

  3. Luckily we have a lot of warning for hurricanes, so packing the cats and dogs up and getting out wouldn’t be that difficult (except for the traffic, but they have a pretty awesome traffic plan now because Floyd was a mess). But I never did think about fire. Luckily our cats are indoor/outdoor, so we could in theory just open the door and let them run outside to safety, but perhaps it’s time to start storing the carriers somewhere other than the attic.

    • Becka, I’ve heard stories of owners who ran back into the fire to get their pets. They died; the pets found a way out. So opening the door is a good idea. My cat is indoors, so if I let her out, I’d probably never see her again. But I would definitely suggest getting those carriers out of the attic. 😉

  4. First of all, glad to hear you’re okay!

    I used to be more prepared than I am now. So thank you for the reminder! Since getting all the animals, I do have a bin with a couple days worth of food for each in the garage. I cycle out the food each time we buy a new bag so the stored stuff doesn’t go bad. But I really should be better about other things.

    • Thanks, Raelyn. We didn’t have food in the go-bag, but now we will. We went to a friend’s house for the day who had a cat, but my kitty wouldn’t touch the kind of cat food they had. Gonna get a ziploc baggy of food and treats that she will eat.

  5. Great words of advice. I know where all that stuff is, but in an emergency you can bet I’d forget all of it. I’d be the one out there in my pj’s begging someone to let me use their phone. Thankfully I live in a small town and my family lives close by, but that’s no excuse for being lazy. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I can’t even imagine how scary this was for you, Angela! I would have had a heart attack…probably literally. I don’t do well in situations that I can’t control — tornadoes and fires to name two. I would have for sure grabbed my animals (I don’t have a “go-bag”), my flashdrive, my purse, my cell, and my grandmother’s wedding ring. I could live without everything else. Oh, and my guy. Heehee Everything should just take a matter of seconds to grab because I am OCD and keep everything in the same place all the time. Well, everything except my animals. They’d probably be running around chasing me. My guy says that they pick up on my panic and then they panic too.

    • Hey Tiff. Yep, I like to be in control too. Hah! It’s an illusion. 😉

      Animals are very perceptive. When the smoke started spewing and seeping through my window, my cat left the room and went out to sit on the tv stand in the living room. Smart girl not to sit and stare. 😉

  7. How scary for you, Angela! I guess I hadn’t really thought about it. But I will now. Thanks for the reminder. And to think I was just trying to talk my aunt into watching the first season of Walking Dead with me the other day so she’d be prepared for a zombie apocalypse. 🙂

    • Haha. Fire, zombies, they all require planning. 😉 A teacher today was saying how she always keeps a pair of tennis shoes in her car so if the “big one” hits CA and the roads are destroyed, she can walk home.

  8. I was director of photography and, later, telecommunications manager for my newspaper in Florida. Wearing those two hats had me writing contingency plans for covering everything from hurricanes to nuke plant meltdowns. I also covered 13 hurricanes outside of our area (my house experienced 6 hurricanes in those 35 years).

    You can’t plan for everything that’s going to go wrong, but by going through the process, you are able to account for all of the things you KNOW can go wrong.

    On the telecom side, I built an elaborate matrix that started with everything working: commercial power up, generator fueled and working, UPS batteries fully charged, all voice and data circuits functioning, all wireless services up…

    Gradually I started having each system fail until I was left with everything down and having to go to the roof to send messages with smoke signals. That’s when the rain doused my match.

    You can’t protect against everything.

  9. Alina Sayre says:

    This is good advice, Angela. We daydream about what we’d take with us, but in a moment of emergency, that rational thinking just vaporizes. My family recently packed emergency bags and put them in the car, but these additions are good ideas. Phone charger? So necessary, and yet so forgettable.

  10. Ali Dent says:

    Angela, I’m happy your apartment was saved. It is a tragedy when a home burns. I don’t have a list and yours is great. My medications have never been on my mental list.

    You are right about panic freeze. We do this in many areas. There is something about the body’s memory through practice that is an asset and even that doesn’t help every time.

    A year ago I trained in a Kenpo self defense course. A whole year, 2-3 times a week. When we moved to San Antonio, a man molested me at the grocery store, in front of the cashier. I froze. The cashier froze. It is startling, unbelievable. I was MAD. So mad that I was trained and froze.

    We must make a list as you suggest, practice it, hope to apply it and if we fail, rest that the outcome is for some reason I can’t understand. Lofty words but I find no other peace through and after tough situations.

    This post is a perfect read. I need to get ladders that hang from our windows on the second story. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Ali, that’s terrible! I am so sorry. I’d be mad too. It’s like our brains can’t really believe this thing is happening. And I have to believe that God will make something out of the bad things; it’s the only thing that keeps me going. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Elena Aitken says:

    I can’t imagine how scary that was. I don’t have a go bag. Actually, I’m ashamed to admit that we don’t even have a fire proof safe! We just recently discussed this. Definitely given me something to think about. So glad you’re okay.

    • Ooh, a fire proof place for documents is definitely important. I think my mom has a lock box that would survive a fire, unless it melted. :-/ Another good thing to consider. Thanks, Elena.

  12. Oh my darling, that was such a scary time for you (and your friends worried for you). Luckily, it was minor, but I totally get what you’re saying. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t have a single thing ready in case of fire or an earthquake. It’s been on my ‘to do’ list forever. I know, I know, terrible. I need to make it a priority now.

    Take a bloggy vacay and unplug for awhile. Get your self rested and your head back to a clear place where you can think and feel and focus once more.

    Hugs to you my sweet!

  13. T. F. Walsh says:

    Sounds scary…. I would have probably panicked as well. My husband recently said we should have a backpacked ready to take if such an emergency hit, along with the cat box for the puddy cat… sounds scary, but better to be prepared…hubby calls it the zombie pack…hehe

    • Maybe if we all start pretending to take the zombie apocalypse seriously, we’ll be ready for the mundane stuff too. 😉 Even though there were ways I could have been better prepared for myself, I am so, so thankful we had the cat’s go-bag. I would have been an even bigger mess if I’d been forced to leave her and wonder if she died. Make a bag for the puddy cat, T.F. 🙂

  14. That’s so scary. Thanks for the reminder, Angela. I’m a Californian too and haven’t finished putting together my “big one” evacuation kit.

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