Last October, I found myself in the path of Hurricane Matthew and a mandatory evacuation. We had just moved everything we owned into our new dream home on the coast. The weather forecasts were dire and there was the real possibility that everything we owned could be blown away or ruined by rising tide water. The Golden Isles of Georgia had not been hit with a hurricane of this magnitude since 1898, so I did not prepare and in the rush of the moment made some rather strange choices.
My husband Chris remained calm and packed the computers, hard drives and important papers but my logical thought process stopped. I focused on the horror stories of evacuation traffic so I packed five boxes of grain bars, blankets and pillows to sustain us on our three-hour journey inland.
I packed a suitcase of only old t-shirts and jeans, my worn tennis shoes and a pair of rubber boots in case I had to be rescued in a boat or wade in floodwaters like I’d seen on tv. I brought one dress for church but no dress shoes.
That night as we wondered what was happening at home, I thought about the things I had left behind. I wondered why I didn’t bring the Japanese teapot carried home after WWII by Chris’ grandfather who served in occupied Japan, or the perforated paper needlework stitched by my great-greatgrandmother that has hung in the oldest granddaughters home for generations. I remembered the china and silver inherited from my grandmothers.I mourned my collection of Christmas ornaments. Why did I bring so many grain bars and old shoes instead?
I am grateful that Hurricane Matthew did no damage to our home. We were safe and our belongings intact. But important lessons were learned.
Making quick decisions under pressure is tough and at that point I vowed I would be more prepared moving forward.
I began researching emergency preparedness, talking to professionals and crowdsourcing information from my friends and colleagues. Granted, it’s unlikely Fayette County residents will need to evacuate for a hurricane but home damage from ice, flood water, wind or fire can happen anywhere. So, here is some of the best advice:
“I would suggest gathering items that can be difficult or time consuming to replace.” – Richelle Mathis Financial advisor
Purchase a fireproof box for your important papers.
Include birth/marriage/ adoption certificates, wills and directives, immunization records, car and auto titles, passports, social security cards, copies of auto, home and medical insurance, a list of financial accounts, important phone numbers, inventory of household items.
“Being organized could save your life. You may have the supplies but without them organized and placed, they will be useless in an emergency.” – Lauren Wise Owner, Lauren Wise Organize
Create an emergency kit. Include a three-day supply of nonperishable food plus water, a manual can opener, flashlight with batteries stored separately, hand sanitizer, basic toiletries, whistle, cash, a roll of quarters, a change of clothes, tarp and a blanket.
Don’t forget your pets. They will also need water, food and a leash. Make sure your pet has an id tag and have a current picture in case they get loose. Have a record of their shots.
Make a grab list. This will include the everyday items like your medicines, eye glasses, purse/ wallet, drivers license, phone/ipad/ computers and chargers, credit cards and checkbook. Include your fireproof box and first aid kits on the list.
“You don’t realize all the little things you have until you open a drawer and they are gone.” – Rebecca Stone, Fayette Woman cover girl, March, 2017
Inventory your home. Make a list of important items and take pictures. Go room by room and take a picture showing all the furniture. Take individual photos of items of value. Open all drawers and takea picture of contents. Upload the pictures to the cloud and/or thumb drive. Store the disk (if there is one) in the fireproof box.
“Evaluate your insurance yearly. Go over your coverages. It is important that as you accumulate assets your insurance also increases to cover the costs of having more.“ – Jessica Drinkwater, Farmers Insurance Agent
Know your policies. Understand what will be covered and what won’t under different circumstances. Make sure you carry enough and the right type of insurance. If necessary, have appraisals for special items like antique furniture, jewelry or art work.
“Backup all your financial files, important documents and photos to the cloud.” – Rhonda Holifield, Financial advisor
Back up your files. It is a good idea to scan all the papers in your fireproof box, receipts for large purchases and important photos. Upload those to the cloud or external drive. Choose a secure, password protected cloud based service such as Carbonite, Sync.com, SpideroakONE or Dropbox. If you use a financial planner or tax preparer ask if they would be able to provide you with back copies of taxes and financial documents. If not be sure you scan your most recent tax returns.
“ My husband and I took the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training offered by the PTC Police.” Bonnie Helander, Fayette Woman writer and cover girl, March, 2014
Be ready. Learn CPR and first aide. Keep a basic first aide kit on hand. Understand your community alert systems and pay attention to the local news outlets.
“The biggest things are the most simple.”- Capt. Stan Pye, Peachtree City Police
Memorize phone numbers and have a family plan. You may find yourself in a situation where auto dial isn’t available. Challenge yourself and family members to memorize important phone numbers. Write out a list of contact information for five to six people including family or friends outside your immediate area, schools and work. Store at least one emergency contact under the name “ICE” for all mobile phones and devices. This will help someone identify your emergency contact if needed. Everyone may not be together when an emergency hits. Have a meeting place in your home, yard and neighborhood and beyond.
I agree it is just stuff, but before the time comes, evaluate the items in your home and think about what things are irreplaceable. Do you have special mementos or family heirlooms you would like to try and save? You may not be able to take all the china or christmas ornaments if you need to evacuate, but you can take a piece like the teapot, a special picture or a few ornaments. Most importantly, keep your family safe and remember it really is just stuff.