Tips to help you plan for the next unexpected natural disaster

Get ready to be ready: what will you do when the unexpected happens?

Once again, a reminder that things you take for granted can turn on a dime.  I was cleaning my gym this past weekend so it was tidy to take pictures to post on my website.  From the window, there was a dark smoke plume billowing up on the hills. Yes, it was a fire, the Chaparral fire(pictures taken from my house – flames were 4 miles away) in Southern California.  As of this writing, it is mostly contained in a forest area where there are no homes. We are fortunate. I have experienced the 1991 Oakland, California fire and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Each took their own toll, but made me more prepared for an emergency.

The fire from my house

Events as they unfolded

The Chaparral fire was only a few miles from our home and was spreading fast. Evacuation orders were quickly issues and those closest to the fire were scrambling to evacuate.  Neighbors reached out to help other without hesitation. Many were sourcing trailers to evacuate their horses and livestock (all were successfully evacuated!). Going down the road to safety was a steady line of horse and livestock trailers. Going toward the fire were our courage firefighters. Engine after engine headed directly towards the flames.  It was amazing to see the ingress and egress of vehicles. We held tight with an evacuation order pending and made calls offering help if needed. People in this area are prepared and moved quickly to keep all safe.

It was a tense weekend as we watched trucks, plane and helicopters work to contain the fire. We could see lines of ground crew walking up treacherous, hot, poison oak and snake infested hills. I have utmost respect for those who put their life at risk to help us.

Preparation for life AND the unexpected

Last week I blogged about things you need to do to prepare as you get older, but I did not mention what you need to do just in case you have to leave your residence immediately. So I wanted to add to last week’s blog post, 7 things you must do before you die, some are fun. Think fire, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, all are becoming too commonplace these days.

Each disaster has its own nuances, but there are some common themes as you think about how prepared you are or should be.

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best

Safety First and Don’t Panic

Today Text to NOLA

The first thing to think of is your safety and that of your family. Staying behind for almost any reason is not worth your life. For us that includes our two dogs. During the Oakland Fire, I was alone (my husband got called to the hospital) with 2 dogs (a Great Dane and Lab) as well as 2 cats. The car I had was a piece of sh*t Saab hatchback. It was pretty small and very unreliable. Just the critters and their food/water took up most of the car.

What’s your plan?

Do have a plan? Will you know where your family members are?  Do you have a meeting place in case you get separated? Maybe a local grocery store or a friend or relatives’ house. Is there a contact person everyone can touch base with.  With cell phones, it’s a little easier, but don’t depend on phone coverage, it might not work. Even today, I am trying to reach my friend in New Orleans and the message reads Not Delivered. Have the discussion with your family, today.

To Go Bag or Box (quick stuff you will need)

A quick grab bag should contain medications, credit cards, essential documents, cell phone charger (lots of documents are kept online these days, if they aren’t maybe it’s a good time to scan them in), any special items you may need for family a family member (walker, infant supplies, person with a disability). Do you have a box or luggage to put things in?  It’s always great if you can have something packed in advance.


Financial information and insurance papers are key.  See above for having information already online.  If not, do you have a grab and go system. I have binder where many of my papers area kept. I have not yet scanned them, but I should and will. In the meantime, I use the PortaVault system.

Other things to think about


If you have time (you should do this before there is a disaster) take pictures with your cell phone both inside and outside of your house. Rooms, paintings, furniture, etc. It may come in handy if you have lost or have had damage to your home.

Valuables (jewelry, artwork, etc)

Take pictures and grab what you can, especially things that have sentimental value. Family photos can and should be scanned in advance, artwork can be removed from their frames and rolled up (if there is time). Jewelry – it is somewhere when you can quickly and safely grab it.

Clothing for 3-5 days

You may not get back in your home any time soon and will need a change of clothes. Think comfort and utility.


Gas in your car! I have been mocked for freaking out because I have less than ½ tank filled with gas. I think of those pictures of people trying to get out of town in terrible traffic jams.  I saw that in the Oakland fire (some did not make it out and died in their car) and I see it with today’s fires and people trying to leave at the last minute as a hurricane approaches. Is there time to stop for gas?  Is the gas station even open or have gas?  Call me crazy, but I don’t want to be stranded because I did not stop and get gas in my car.


Below are several checklists you can download depending on the area you live and type of disaster you may face. I hope you never need these, but they are good to keep handy in a central location for you and your family to see. Look at the and read them. Be prepared!






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Sandi Feaster

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