Disasters: Are You Prepared?

My Christmas and New Year, like so many other Australians this year was almost a non-event. With half of Australia burning, no-one felt like celebrating. As it is, I’m writing this through tears after seeing so many heartbreaking images of our beautiful country go up in flames.

So many people now no longer have a home, a business, or a farm that until just a week or two ago, did. Over 100,000 people have been displaced from Victoria, with many 1000s more from New South Wales. There are many thousands of people from right across the country that have dropped everything to go fight these ‘unstoppable’ fires, not to mention others who have come from overseas. The pets, native animals, wildlife and stock loss is staggering – 500,000,000 (half a billion) – and the numbers keep rising as the fires continue to burn.

I have family and friends that were impacted by the recent Cudlee Creek fires in the Adelaide Hills … and while that fire covered a fair portion of the Adelaide Hills, it is small in comparison to those in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. I’ve been to Kangaroo Island and seen it’s incredible beauty, and now over the period of two days, about half the island has been turned to ash.

I’m not going to get political here – this is not the place.

But rather I want to say – how prepared are you?

If you saw the “watch and act” or the “emergency warning” message come in to your inbox, or heard the evacuate siren sound from your local fire station – just how ready are you? What would you do?

Having been through this scenario five years ago with the Sampson Flat fire, when I did have to evacuate, I am pleased to say that I am now more prepared than I was back then. As much as I’d like to, I still don’t believe I would be able to save my house, so instead I have a bag with a number of things already packed, and a Go-Bag list printed out and pasted up ready to use and tick items off if the time come.

Some of the items already packed are irreplacable heirlooms – letters written by my great great grandma, cards from various early ancestors, jewellery from my grandma, and then there’s my own legal documents (certificates, passports, home loan stuff etc), photos and so on.

But one of the first things I packed was my portable harddrive which has the latest copy of my genealogy files, along with copies of all my photos – that was important. While computers and software programs are replacable, the years of research work often isn’t. And despite the 1000s of photos that people take these days, photos often get lost on various SD cards, flashdrives or harddrives too. I keep mine in date order on my desktop, and copy them regularly to my harddrive.

I recently read a blog post titled “Preparing for Disasters: Saving Your Genealogical Treasures” and was written by someone for those in California, in relation to dealing with potential disasters there. The author writes that “take time well in advance of a real emergency to think about what you value most. What things would you try to save if you had to evacuate your home during an emergency? And write it down so that when the time comes you won’t have to think about it”. This I can wholeheartedly agree with, because when that siren sounds and you have to get out, trust me, you are not thinking straight. So the more you have written down as a list to follow, the easier it’ll be.

I know this post will be too soon for some, as the emotions involved in dealing with any disaster are too raw. I can understand that – I’ve been there. It does take time. But for others who are not in the middle of it all at present – don’t underestimate Mother Nature. She can come at any time, and the more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. So don’t say “I’ll do it next week”, DO IT NOW! You just don’t know what next week will bring.

I have seen too many people say they didn’t have time, and only got out with the clothes they were wearing. Get a bag, pop some things in it in advance, have it next to the door so then you can just grab it as you race out the door.

Want to know what to pack in your Go-Bag? Here are some suggestions:
Get Packing
Emergency Pack List
How to Pack a Go-Bay for Emergency Evacuations

Stay safe everyone. Most stuff can be replaced. Lives can’t.


7 Responses to “Disasters: Are You Prepared?”

  1. Kerry says:

    Hi Alona, congratulations on a timely reminder.
    After evacuating my parents late last year during the fires in northern NSW, I thought I had all my bases covered and everything important was with me when I travelled over christmas/New Year. What wasn’t thought out was what would happen if we had to evacuate and leave the car. And that was exactly what happened. I have now lost those things that are irreplaceable, my wedding ring, my grandmother’s brooch and other items given to me by family and friends. My hard drive, laptop and camera were also lost, as well as clothes and other items Luckily my 2nd hard drive I left behind! This week I will be replacing my identity and my bank cards etc.
    At the end of the day, the most important thing is we are safe, I still have my memories and those other items can be replaced. But it does leave a hole in your life.

    • Alona says:

      Oh no, I’m so sorry about your loss Kerry. Certainly painful having to deal with replacing everything that can be, but as we all know it’s nothing compared with a life. I’m so glad everyone is ok.

  2. LOUISE says:

    Hi Alona, having evacuated several times in the past few years due to fires, I found having more than one external hard drive handy for all photos etc. In fact I have 3 stashed at various safe places around the district. At the start of every summer I make sure each hard drive is updated, I collect my “irreplaceables” and take them to my friend’s house (who does not live in the danger zone). One less thing to worry about!

  3. Pauleen says:

    Thanks Alona for sharing your experience. We were more alert to preparing when we lived in Darwin but have become more casual here. Time to give it some thought again.

  4. Emily says:

    A great piece, and something we don’t think about until too late. Fire proof safes are pretty cheap at Officeworks, and I recently upgraded my Cloud space so all my family history is also on that. I have shared folders on it with family members too, so it isn’t just me with the access. Hope everyone is staying safe!

  5. GenieJen says:

    Thanks for excellent post. I need to check our emergency bag and those links are very handy. I was thinking about all your amazing family memorabilia when the fires were heading your way so good to hear you are prepared.
    While we should be safe most of the time, since the Sampson Flat fire, I have purchased several shopping bags which hang in my study ready to pack with my genealogy files.
    I always have a back up drive with one of our chn but that backfired several years ago when their house was broken into and it had to be replaced as it was stolen! Now I have another one in my handbag as well. I’ve also tagged the household files re insurance etc, I should grab.
    But after reading Kerry’s post, I hadn’t thought about what happens if you are away from home. Guess, I’d better up the scanning.

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