How Much Preparation is Enough?

I am writing tonight with a haze of smoke in the sky. There is only one topic of conversation in Tasmania, and that is, the fires. And although I am safe in the suburbs, half an hour's drive from the nearest fire, my mind keeps turning to the question, 'What if...?'

So many people have had to leave their homes with little or nothing, the fire travelling so quickly, and so many more have been stranded without electricity or water until the roads open again. Of course, I don't necessarily need to prepare for a bush fire, but there are so many situations that are far more likely that I'm not prepared for either.

And here is how prepared I am for an emergency. Several weeks ago I updated our first aid kits, and changed the torch batteries. Which is good as far as it goes, and of course, turned out well for The Boy, but I could probably do better.  Here are some of the areas that have occured to me:

Insurance: We have it, which is all good, but most importantly, we have a local insurance broker who handles all our insurance, and who knows us. I can't think of anything more stressful in the event of a car accident or the house burning down, than having to have endless conversations or disputes with a disembodied voice, possibly from India, from a huge insurance company. This way, I get to make one phone call to a nice local man who will sort it all out for me. Not necessarily the cheapest option, but peace of mind, priceless.

Petrol: I hate filling up the car, and always put it off until it is nearly empty. Sometimes the car sits in the driveway, unused for a day or so, on empty, even though there is a petrol station just down the road. Not useful in an emergency. You don't really want to run out of fuel as you are fleeing from a bushfire. But as Melissa discovered, there are emergencies short of a bush fire that require fuel in the car..

Pets: If I had to leave the house fast, I would want to grab the cats of course. We have two medium sized cats and one small cat crate. That equals one big cat fight. I should get another crate. Also useful if I needed to get them both to the vet at the same time, or cat-sat.

Important documents: My dad is nothing if not organised. As we were growing up we lived in lots of different houses, but wherever we went, important documents such as passports, wills, insurance etc were always kept in a big old Milo tin. It always lived on his bedroom closet shelf, which ever house we were in, and that was the first thing to grab in an emergency. Of course now it is possible to do technical things like sending photos of documents to clouds somewhere, along with our fave photos, but do we? I know The Man has some on various files different places, because he travels so much, but I've kind of abdicated responsibility on this one due to technical difficulties (mine). I could nag though... I'm good at that...

Decluttering and Organisation: If the power is off, or the house full of smoke, or I need to fly interstate right away for a family emergency, I need to know exactly where the torches are, not have to trip over things in the dark, quickly find the clothes or other items I need without sorting through piles of clutter. I'm doing OK with this. Decluttering, done, but always ongoing, torches in cupboards at front and back doors, and under our bed. Candles and matches together in sideboard. We have two battery boxes, one for regular, one for rechargeable batteries. Tripping hazards in Posy's room - ongoing. Clothes - generally sorted and in cupboards. I'm pretty sure I could pack up a bag for a week and leave in fifteen minutes if I really had to. A few years ago when all my clothes lived in a giant pile on the floor... that would have been a different matter.

There are some thoughts, but more keep occurring to me. Does anyone else out there have plans for when things go wrong?

Edited to add: Here are some more things I thought of overnight..

Updated your will lately? Nope? Us either.

Does everyone in the family have clothes they could wear to a funeral? I remember when my mother-in-law died twelve years ago I spent half a day rummaging around in friends' closets for suitable clothes for the children before we left to fly interstate, and then had to borrow something for myself from my sister-in-law because what I took didn't fit..

Is there enough extra bedding, blow up mattresses etc for a couple of guests if family and friends are left stranded after their own emergency? I discovered recently that we can accomodate an extra eight, but again, only after half a day of hauling out camping gear from under a giant mess in the shed. I have now stored sleeping bags, extra pillows and blow up beds in the cupboard under the stairs. Also useful for sudden teenage sleepovers. I would so much rather have The Boys' friends sleeping on my floor than attempting to drive after drinking.

Battery operated radio. The entire Tasman Peninsula has lost power, and will be without it for weeks. No phones or computers to find out what is going on. I have a very old radio by the sink that I listen to while I'm cooking, and the local ABC radio station has been amazing over the last few days, providing incredibly detailed information for people affected by the fires, with people phoning in local information as well, and that would be some of the only information reaching some people on the Peninsula.

OK, enough already. Cleaning, cleaning, making jam...


Jen's Busy Days said…
Papers... hmm, I know where the birth certificates are and all the insurances for everything except life insurance are with the one company so I don't need to think. Again a bit much like you, not necessarily the cheapest, but it is easier for this old brain. Also where I live I have to consider flood insurance which drastically shortens the list of insurers who will insure us anyway.

With regards to bedding etc we just went camping and have one old wooden wardrobe in our backshed stacked with all the tents, lilos etc.

Clothes, hmm, does 6 baskets, 1 for each person, sorted in my walk through lounge in front of the fire place count as sorted enough? It would take me about an hour to quickly fold and then decide on what to take in an emergency. Had to do it about 5.5 years ago when our nearby river was getting very high and we were evacuated so that one I know.

Funeral... nope unless black t-shirts with vikings or some such thing on the front would count as suitable?!

I need to look into a radio for us. I think we would be stuck using the one in the car.

And my first aid kit really needs a clean out and date check. I am thinking of using lots of little containers all sorted and labelled nested inside on large box. Doesn't that sound lovely and tidy? Of course, will only stay that way until the first bandaid is needed by some little or big boy.

Gee, hope you wanted an essay in reply. lol

Got me thinking anyway,
Jen in NSW
We got caught in a bad storm two summers ago--big power outages--that made us start thinking about preparedness. We now, for instance, have a weather radio as well as a solar powered/crank radio, and we have a big plastic bin filled with pasta and a week's worth of water in jugs. I try to keep the car gassed up, too. But I don't know if we've thought about papers ... I'll have to check!

Hope all is well there!

hello jo, i'm only just comignback to your site. thank you for all the wonderful thoughts and wishes you have left me over the last couple of days at dig in.
this has certainly made me think about what i'd grab if i had to evacuate, and i made a list and bought a box to put all sorts of treasures in - so it's just one grab. but you've given me other thinkgs to think about which is really good. batteries for the radio, for one thing; we would be lost without the valuable uodates of the local ABC.
my candles melted in the heat last week so i need to buy new candles, and matches, and get the torches sorted.
thanks for some guidance/ideas, and thank you again for your kind thoughts.
Terrific post- we should all be more prepared. Terrible pictures on the news over here- I do hope you stay safe x
Jo said…
Hi all, thanks for your thoughts. A crank radio is on my wishlist Frances, and e, I like the idea of the treasure box. Hoping your parents doing OK - but that will be one long road back to normal for them. You are in my thoughts.
Jen, always love an essay! Must have been scary evacuating from the floods..

Yesterday Rosy and I got stuck in a car park for one and a half hours with a flat battery, and by some wonderful quirk of fate, we both had books. Moral: always keep a book in the car, because stuck in a car without a book for over an hour - now that's an emergency.
Jen's Busy Days said…
Where's the like button Jo? I will make sure to stash a variety of books under the car seats this week. lol

Jen in NSW
just coming back... i must find my will! i have one, somewhere. it was last updated when i bought my house so it is up to date (wherever it is). also i like the recommendation to have a book. will add that to the small overnight bag i have created for if i need to leave in a hurry.
once again thanks for getting us to think about these things XX

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