What would you take with you if you had to evacuate?

It’s a tough question. And we can speculate all we like, but no-one can really answer that until they’ve been through it. Not to mention that each scenario is different anyway.

Every year you hear of Mother Nature hitting various parts of the globe with floods, fires, earthquakes, cyclones, typhoons, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis, even avalanches and landslides. Each having the potential for devastating consequences. And all of them life threatening and life changing. Australia cops its share of natural disasters, usually of the fire, flood and cyclone type.

During the past week South Australia has been hit with the worst fires since the Ash Wednesday fire, which was our BIIIIG one back in 1983. In fact some people are saying this one was worse.

Named the “Sampson Flat Fire” after the tiny town in the Adelaide Hills where it started it began on a 44C day and swirly winds – never a good mix. Starting at about 12.30pm on Friday afternoon, 2 January 2015, I can assure you that I never expected to have to evacuate my house less than 12 hours later. But that’s exactly what I did.

Mr Lonetester is in the local fire brigade, and he was part of the crew that took over from the first responders, and did the night shift (initially from 9.30pm till 9.30am, then continued into the next shift). While he was out, I stayed up listening to the radio hearing that it was getting closer and closer. I also started to pack a few things … “just in case”.

At 11.30pm Frinday night the local fire siren to evacuate sounded. So I loaded up my car, grabbed one of my cats (I couldn’t take all four), and headed to family who live in the suburbs.

Well it ended up being a mix of practical, sentimental and heirloom stuff.

I took a few changes of clothes, toiletries (including my toothbrush and hairbrush). I took a few knicknack sentimental items, the laptops and tablet, phone charger (that’s important), my portable harddrive which has a copy of all my scanned photos, documents, genealogy files and other files as well. My diary so I can record everything, a photo album of my wedding photos which I haven’t yet scanned. And I also took what I call a tin of treasures. This is a tin that contains letters and documents that belonged my great great grandma and date back to the 1860s.

This tin is one of the many heirlooms my dad has, but I had borrowed it and have been slowly going through the contents. But you can imagine that would be totally irreplaceable.

Phebe Randell (nee Robbins) tin of ephemera

Phebe Randell (nee Robbins) tin of ephemera

the pile of old letters in the tin

the pile of old letters in the tin

a letter addressed to Phebe Robbins. Postmarked at Gumeracka in 1865.

a letter addressed to Phebe Robbins. Postmarked at Gumeracka in 1865

One other thing I packed was my little portable radio. This radio isn’t battery powered. In fact it is solar, USB  and wind-up (hand crank) powered, so you don’t have to worry about batteries going flat when you need to be listening for important details.

I would strongly urge everyone to get a portable non-battery powered radio. It’s there “just in case” you need it. It is so important to be able to keep up to date with details.

The one I have looks like the one below which is available from EcoDigital … but if you  just Google wind-up radio, there’s a heap, including some with built-in torches.


The aftermath in relation to the fire … I shouldn’t really call it aftermath as in reality this fire is still going. Even six days and a whole heap of rain later, though it is now contained … finally.

There’s no doubt that this fire has changed many lives forever. For me personally, I am fortunate as I do still have a house to go home to, as not all along our road were so lucky.

Being put into that situation really makes you think about what is REALLY important. It puts things into a whole different perspective. And also as a result of this whole saga, it has given me new priorities on what I need to get done scanning-wise and documenting-wise, which I’m hoping to get onto early this year.

I don’t wish anyone being in the situation of having to evacuate. It’s not a good place to be. But I was fortunate that I had firstly had a place to go to, and that I had a heap of family and friends to help me through and sending me wishes. So THANKYOU for that. It was nice to know that others we thinking of me and my family.

But ultimately the BIG, BIG THANKYOUS needs to go all of those who were out their fighting the fires. The firies, the locals, and the other volunteers. The interstate crews, the waterbombers and even the guys getting the water and power back on once they were allowed into the area.  They are they people that made life get back to some kind of normality.

22 Responses to “EVACUATE!!”

  1. Judy Webster says:

    It must have been a terrifying experience. I’m so glad that you are OK, and I join you in thanking and praising everyone involved in fighting bushfires and restoring services. If we don’t see you online so often in the next few weeks, we’ll know that you are busy with all that scanning!

    • Alona says:

      Thank you Judy. Yes all ok, but it certainly was an experience. A very stressful, trying one indeed. And yes, I do need to get started on that scanning!

  2. Sharon says:

    I cannot imagine what you went through. Fire is my biggest fear! Glad you are safe and hoping that you get all your scanning done!

    Yes the fire fighters and volunteers are amazing and very deserving of recognition and thanks!

    • Alona says:

      Thankyou Sharon. The firies and other emergency personnel were fabulous. As were the locals who provided supplies (food and water) to the firies. I know they don’t do it for recognition, but in saying that they don’t get the recognition they deserve.

  3. Celia Lewis says:

    Your grab-bag of what to take is similar to mine. We’re not likely to be hit by external fires (living in the ‘wet’ coast, Vancouver BC), but house fires happen, earthquakes could happen… I have a very short list of what to grab as I race out the door, with or without warning.
    Glad the fire is cooling down – best wishes to you and your family, particularly the fire fighters!

    • Alona says:

      Thankyou Celia. There’s a whole lot more I would have loved to have taken. But I got the ‘essentials’. And just crossed my fingers. And fortunately all worked out ok for us. Not so good for some of our neighbours.

  4. Gen says:

    So glad you and the family are all ok.

    • Alona says:

      Thankyou Gen. It was close, but as I, as well as my parents, and brother and his family all live in the Adelaide Hills, were affected. But all of our houses are still standing.

  5. Helen Connor says:

    It must have been horrific Alona – I had a similar event in the 1974 floods in Queensland – fortunately I didn’t have so much family history collected by then and it was prior to computers – glad you were OK

    • Alona says:

      Ooh floods are horrifying, I can’t imagine being in one, but I’ve certainly seen the devastation they can do. And when it’s a case of your life or genealogy – seriously it’s a no brainer.

  6. John Sparrow says:

    Hi Alona
    I’m in my local RFB here in QLd (Sunshine COast). So we I hear of fires interstate, my ears prick up. I’ve never been in your situation or in fires that Vic, SA and NSW get. We don’t get them like that up here.
    All the best and my thoughts are with you in the aftermath.

    • Alona says:

      John be thankful that you don’t get our fires up there, though I’m sure you get your share of other things to deal with. But good on you for being a volunteer. It’s a tough gig, I know from being with wife of one … and I’m not even out there. And thankyou for your kind words. 😉

  7. Chris says:

    Thankful to hear that you are ok. And, definitely a big Thank-You to all the people who give up their own personal time to fight fires like this.
    It sounds as though you were pretty organised, my ‘treasures’ are all over the house, I really don’t know if I could think straight enough in the time available to gather the most important.

    • Alona says:

      Chris, there were many other treasures that I did leave behind. But once again it’s priorities. And in reality I had a couple of hours to think and pack before the actual evacuation siren sounded. Once that went, I assure you I wasn’t thinking straight. But at least I was beforehand.

  8. I’m so glad you are OK. I’m glad you were organized about the evacuation, and you’ve made me think about putting together some sort of box or list to grab if I was ever in your shoes. We recently moved, so everything is consolidated and boxed up for now, so it would be fairly easy. But I expect that over time it will spread out all over the place again!

    • Alona says:

      Aww thankyou Heather. In our ridiculously hot summers, it does pay to have some idea of things you’d grab if ever needed. So I guess that made it a bit easier. But of course it also depends on so many things (where you are when the fire starts – home/work/out), and which way it’s going etc etc. But all is good now, thankyou.

  9. Nancy says:

    That must have been a frightening experience, especially the not knowing if or when fire would touch your home. How fortunate that you, your husband, and your cats are okay and, especially, that the fire did not invade your home.

    The possibility of a house fire occasionally crosses my mind – and then I quickly put it out of my mind. (Too horrific to think about!) Your post emphasizes how important it is to really think about and come up with a plan of action. Thanks.

    • Alona says:

      Nancy, apart from knowing if Mr Lonetester who’s a volunteer firefighter was ok (as a few fireies were injured), not knowing if my house was still standing for two days was the hardest part. Be it fires or any other catastrophe, it does pay to have some kind of basic plan. I know I did the right thing leaving, as with our current house fire prevention setup, I wouldn’t have been able to defend it by myself, so I left it to those who could.

  10. Pauleen says:

    Firstly, thank heavens you are all safe!! All the CFS fairies are brave men and women but your plight makes another aspect clear…families, of necessity, are left to fend for themselves and home without support so another sacrifice is made. I am so glad we don’t have to deal with fire. Cyclones are scary enough but mostly you get some warning. Fires are just terrifying. I have a check list in my head but I need to check whether my backups are still in Brisbane, and the other side of town.

    • Alona says:

      Thank you for your thoughts and kind words Pauleen. You’d have cyclones and floods to deal with rather than fires, which I reckon would be just as scary and life threatening. But anything like that does make you stop and realise what is truly important.

  11. Kim says:

    Hi. I am just wondering what your emergency plan was for your other 3 cats and why you couldn’t take them with you? If the fire did take your house, wouldn’t they have been trapped and died? I like history but I do think life is more important. Please let me know if I misread that sentence, as I am quite puzzled by it. Glad you are safe though. Thanks.

    • Alona says:

      Kim yes, unfortunately I could only take one of my cats with me. And it was a case of having to hope for the best for the others (and our house). But fortunately all worked out in the end.

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