Emergencies happen — keep your bags packed

A few years ago, while visiting my sister in California, I came across a small packed piece of luggage near her front door.

Later, as we were getting something from the trunk of her car, I saw yet another. I asked, “What is with the luggage?”

Her answer? Earthquake preparation.

Being an Ohio flatlander, I was curious and was told it is very common for Californians who have been through an earthquake to keep an evacuation bag packed and ready to go. Smart.

This past week, we are still seeing the ravages of Hurricane Florence and hearing about the California wildfires, but few of us are actually prepared for a natural disaster. Few of us are prepared to leave our homes in 30 seconds or less, and probably fewer are prepared to live in our homes for two weeks without power, water or heat.

We should be. Let’s take a minute to think about being prepared.

For the last 40 years, I have carried a small kit in my car that includes a flashlight and extra batteries, water bottles, a few candy bars or snacks, a blanket and even a candle for heat. I have been in some fairly remote places in this business and I can tell you I have needed each one of them.

My husband goes a step further and has a tow strap, jumper cables and flares in his truck. It seems like at least once per year we need one or more of those items, and they are all stored in a bag that is about one foot square in each of our cars.

At our home, I keep a flashlight at every exterior door and next to the bed. We travel a bit so I always have a half-packed bag that will keep me warm and dry for at least two days, and a travel pouch full of my medicines. We can “bug out” of the house in 30 seconds and at least be able to take those important bare essentials.

Even more, we keep a spare sump pump and propane tank for the gas grill, extra batteries, a couple full gas cans and more on hand. There is always enough firewood for weeks if we need to keep a fire burning 24/7. Many times, entire regions are stuck at home for days without electricity.

Remember the 10 feet of snow in Boston a few years ago? Forty years ago, we had what is referred to as the blizzard hurricane here, and 30 years ago, we had a monster F5 tornado go through the valley too.

Although we struggle to keep it fully stocked, we try to keep a few gallons of water, cans of soup, extra food for the cats and general staples around the house. If we lose power, there are candles on hand, and my husband even purchased a small solar panel setup to charge cellphones. Small portable generators are a godsend if used correctly.

Are we prepared? Barely.

We have just witnessed millions of people who are now displaced by a once-in-a-generation hurricane. Much more common are tornadoes, regional floods, ice storms or common house fires. Some of these events give us a few days’ notice, others wake us in the middle of the night and we can only grab what is between us and the doorway to safely get out.

Realtors often talk about the security of a home. However, we know that security is a feeling that either comes from ignoring the possible danger, or being prepared for it. We prefer to “keep our bags packed” and be prepared knowing we can help ourselves but can also help others should the unexpected happen.

Darlene Mink-Crouse is the 2018 president of the Warren Area Board of Realtors.