The first I heard the word Evacuation, in the form of a directive from higher authority, was in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. I was living in a remote village in southern Iran on a construction project that had at least five more years to complete. I was aware that the revolution was in full swing, but my sense was that the Shah would be ousted, the Mullah’s would move in and everything would be back to normal. There were signs that the situation was getting hostile, so when the company finally said leave, I was ready. Life as I knew it was about to change drastically. I was never to return; my job, our only source of income was gone; I had no home so there was no place to go. My young wife and I were adrift.
We were young and foolish, full of confidence and adventure and ready to face whatever came, so we decided to take a six week vacation and tour Europe. I don’t really remember thinking about, fretting about or worrying about what was to come next. We were smart enough to realize that what was happening to us was completely beyond our control, and we could only make the best of what we could control.
Now, 39 years later, the call came again in the form of a mandantory evacuation due to the Carr Fire in the Trinity/Shasta county forest area. We didn’t have a lot of time, so we finished our dinner, gathered up the dogs, vital papers, three days of clothes and left quickly. Our plan was to drive south and find the first hotel that would take our pets , ride out the storm and deal with the consequences later. I felt eerily calm and resolute. Again, everything was out of our control. At stake this time, however was, our retirement home, 40 years of memories and priceless (to us) collectibles; in other words all we had worked for. I knew that I, my wife and my dogs would live through it.
On our 2nd day of evacuation, our local TV weatherman posted a map, showing where the fire was and what the containment levels were. The fire was barreling toward our home and we were resolved that we were about to lose everything except our insurance policy. On day four of evacuation the weatherman updated his map and low and behold our home appeared to be spared. Fire had raged all around us, but through the smoke and ashes we could see that our property had been spared. It took us six more days to get to our property, but get home we did. What did we learn, or re-learn, about evacuations, in the process.
1. As long as you have your life, everything is going to be alright. It may take you awhile to figure out the where’s, why’s and how’s, but you will and life will go on. Heed evacuation orders, nothing is more valuable than your life and the lives of those you love.
2. Fretting and stewing is a natural reaction to stress, but preparation, heeding instructions and an excellent insurance policy goes a long way to releaving much if not most of the stress.
3. Have the things you value most identified and listed, and have managable containers available and ready for quick and easy use.
4. Some valuables are unmanagable in the short time period you have to evacuate from a fire. Photograph, document and evaluate these items and keep this information with your valuable papers and documents.