Wild Fire! Are You Packed and Prepared To Leave Your Home?

If disaster strikes, do you have what you need to start over?

Posted Nov 06, 2019

Carrie Knowles
What defines you when you leave your home, your country behind?
Source: Carrie Knowles

Wild fires. The loss of your home to a natural disaster: a hurricane, tsunami, flood, volcanic eruption, or an earthquake. War. Famine. Fear for the safety of your children. Drought. Ethnic cleansing. Mass genocide.

There are many reasons to pack your things and leave in the middle of the night. You don’t have to be poor to seek asylum. You just have to be in a bad place.

The wealthy, from Los Angeles to Sonoma County have recently been told to be packed and ready to abandon their homes and go on a moment’s notice as the latest California fires burn their way through gardens and golf courses, shopping centers and cul-de-sacs, highways and hillsides.

Packed and ready to go.

My husband’s parents left Germany just before WWII. At that time, it was illegal for German Jews to take any money out of the country. They could, however, take household goods and clothing. Consequently, we inherited thirty monogrammed damask linen tablecloths: some used, some brand new.

What, beyond loaning the tablecloths to friends and fund raising events, were we going to do with thirty damask linen tablecloths? We eventually distributed them among our children and my husband’s cousins and their children.

We also inherited a set of gold-rimmed Hutschenreuther bone china, service for twelve, and some German silver.

If the wildfires were burning through our backyard, if we were facing famine, flooding, or fearing for our lives and the lives of our children, would I pack those dishes and the silver into our car?

I don’t think so.

What would I take? What do we own that would provide a sense of identity, or of comfort? What do we own that would help us make a new life somewhere else?

For sure, I would pack passports and other forms of identification. I’d grab those important documents that prove we have money in bank accounts and investments. Money is always a good thing to have along when you are faced with starting over.

There are stories of refugees carrying seeds to plant so they will have food to eat when they settled into their new home. I don’t have seeds. Most urban dwellers don’t have gardens large enough or abundant enough to provide seeds for a new beginning. Instead, we carry plastic credit cards.

But, here’s the question: Will the cards still work? Will they be enough to make a fresh start in a new world? Would we be better off carrying seeds?

Clothes would be good. We’d need sensible walking shoes. Clothes that would protect us from the elements: anything fancy or fanciful would have to be left behind. It might be wise to have a blanket or two and some pillows. How big is our car? How much can it carry?

We’d need food and something to drink: food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or cooked, and lots and lots of water. We won’t live very long without drinking water.

Our children would need those things that bring them comfort: a favorite toy, a collection of baseball cards, colored pencils, and books to read. Anything requiring batteries or electricity would have to be left behind, that is, except for cell phones. We’d need cell phones as well as phone jacks so they could be juiced up. Might be wise to have a solar powered battery pack.

As the natural disasters get bigger and more frequent, not to mention the political unrest rocking the world around us, the prospect of some day being faced with having to evacuate, to pack our cars and leave is getting all too real.

It is hard to imagine being a refuge. Of having to flee our homes, our livelihoods, our earthly possessions, and walk away with nothing but what we can carry because our lives are no longer safe. That scenario seems farfetched and unimaginable for most of us living in the United States.

But, what about fire? An earthquake? Hurricane? Tornado? Flooding?

What do we own that is essential? What identifies and defines our lives? What can we live without? What would we pack? What would we leave behind?

It’s worth thinking about. The world is rapidly changing.