Try to imagine for a moment the following horrific situation:
It’s 2 a.m. You and your loved ones are sleeping soundly. Suddenly you’re awakened by sirens. And then, someone is pounding on your door.
Frightened and confused, you rush to open the door and stare into a face you’ll never forget — a sheriff’s deputy or firefighter who has come to save your life.
He tells you that a wildfire is burning out of control on the ridge behind your home.
“You and your family need to get out of here,” he says. “Now!”
As he turns to go warn others, you call after him.
“Wait! How long do we have?”
“Maybe 15 minutes! Go!”
For a moment, you stand there smelling smoke and watching your neighbors frantically tossing bags in their cars.
And then ... what do you do?
I’ve never had to flee from my home, and I pray I never will.
But my husband and I live in an area that’s considered to be at high risk for wildfires.
It’s called California.
I wish you could see it.
It’s a glorious place of hills and mountains and spectacular coastlines. We love it. We’d like it even better without the threat of wildfires. But most people live with something catastrophic — hurricanes or tornadoes or blizzards or droughts or flooding or earthquakes.
Sometimes, all the above.
The best that we can do is to be as prepared as possible.
That’s what my husband and I finally decided. We had put it off for too long. So this week, we began working on a plan for “emergency preparedness.”
If you had 15 minutes to leave your home, knowing you might never see it again, what would you want to take?
We started with legal papers that we stored in a fire-proof bag: our marriage certificate, wills, trusts, Social Security cards and proofs of insurance for home, health and auto.
We each packed a duffel bag with three changes of clothes; a week’s supply of medications; a spare toothbrush and toiletries; and a pair of comfortable shoes. Plus a sweater, and my purse, which I always take with me, along with my phone, keys, credit and debit cards, driver’s license, passport and cash.
I wanted to pack photos. Of our children when they were small. Of us when we were young. Of our family and our grandkids growing older.
Fortunately, most of those photos are copied on our phones or on the “cloud” we subscribe to. But to be sure, I’ve been snapping photos on my phone of old irreplaceable photos — of my parents and grandparents and children and friends — images I never want to lose.
I also made photos of paintings my youngest painted; gifts from my daughter; and stories written by my oldest.
My husband and I have a “joy box” filled with drawings and notes from our grandkids. We’d definitely want to take that.
And we would both grab our laptops and their backups.
Fifteen minutes isn’t much time to gather all the keepsakes we cherish from a lifetime.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start gathering in advance.
As much as this week has told me about what to take, it’s also told me a lot about what I’d have to leave behind: The table where my kids did homework; the butter mold that belonged to my grandmother; the painting of Yosemite given to us by my husband’s parents; and so many other irreplaceable treasures.
All those things would be hard to lose. But when it’s time to go, we can only take what we can.
I want to believe that if only my family and my neighbors and I were spared, that would be enough. And I’d be so thankful.
What will you take with you?
(Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, Calif. 93950 or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.)