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.  😉