In my post yesterday Survival Learnings From A California Fire Evacuee, I promised to share the specific resources that have proved especially valuable during my family’s emergency evacuation due to the Kincade fire. So I’d better get to it…
Gas & Cash
Having now been surprised by two massive fires (the Tubbs and the Kincade) within the past two years, in both instances, the preparation I was most immediately grateful for — hands down — was having sufficient on-property stores of gasoline and cash.
The moment your community realizes that flight may be necessary, forget going to the gas station. In my area, the lines were 20+ cars deep.
Waiting in those kind of lines (when there’s no guarantee there will be gas left when your turn finally comes) can easily cause you to miss your window of safety. As I mentioned yesterday, my friends who tried to evacuate just 45 minutes after I did eventually had to turn back home because the roads out of town had become hopelessly gridlocked.
So get in the habit of keeping your cars’ fuel tanks topped off, especially during times of seasonal risk (fire season, hurricane season, flood season, etc). Make it a point never to return home with the gauge below half-full.
Also, keep at least a tank’s-worth of gasoline stored on your property. In my case, I have four 5-gallon gas cans. This ensures I can get to safety even if I’ve forgotten to keep the car tank full. And if I’ve remembered, I can throw the cans in the car for an extra 300+ miles of range.
Similarly, once the electricity goes out, the ATMs stop working. Having $500-$3,000 of emergency cash on hand to take with you makes a huge difference.
First, you don’t need to attempt to hit the ATM on your way out of town, losing valuable time. Those long gas lines? You’ll have the same experience at the ATM (provided it’s still working).
Second, you never know where you’ll end up. Your escape route can easily change based on the on-the-ground realities. You may end up in an entirely different place than your intended fallback destination due to road closures, etc. Having cash on hand gives you plenty of opportunities you may not have otherwise for obtaining food, lodging, medication and other essentials.
As I type this, due to PG&E’s mandatory blackouts, there are still millions without power in the areas surrounding Sonoma County. This is a stark reminder that you may end up fleeing to a place that is similarly compromised, where credit cards may not work. Cash goes a long way in those situations.
Your Smart Phone
As strongly as I advise you be prepared for situations in which your phone doesn’t work (dead battery, downed communications grid), if mobile service is available to you, a smart phone is practically invaluable.
In addition to the basic calling function, which by itself is extremely useful for updating and coordinating with others, today’s apps and services have turned our phones into a Swiss army knife-style smorgasbord of utility.
GPS/Maps are incredibly valuable for navigation and directions, and increasingly suggest alternate routes when your intended path is compromised by accidents or traffic. Weather apps with forecasts tell you what to prepare for. Heck, most phones can now operate as pretty effective flashlights.
But beyond those standard apps, there are a number of others I’ve found particularly useful in persevering through these latest fires.
Nixle sends you text and email updates from your local public safety departments. It’s invaluable during an emergency; letting you know when and where power shut-offs will occur, which roads are being closed, what actions are being taken by the authorities. It has been the primary source of information for everyone in my community during this crisis. When I got the notice that evacuation in my area was mandatory and I had to leave? That came from Nixle.
Nextdoor is a local group messaging provider connecting neighbor-to-neighbor. It’s an easy way to communicate with folks in your immediate neighborhood to keep each other updated, or ask for assistance. During the past few days, neighbors have used Nextdoor to report where the fire was spreading, identify who in the area needed assistance with evacuating (e.g., the elderly and infirm), and ask for help with transporting heavy livestock to safety.
Social media & texting have proved to be an effective way to broadcast your status to those worried about you. Many of you have tracked my posts to Facebook throughout this fire situation. I’ve really valued how this one-to-many form of communication saves me lots of time that would otherwise be spent on the phone updating folks one at a time. By being able to blast my status out to my entire community within minutes, I have had a lot more time and mindspace to devote to the primary task of keeping my family safe.
Radio streaming apps like TuneIn have been surprisingly valuable. Our local radio stations banded together to create a war room that reported on the crisis, and all channels broadcast the same feed. This was incredibly appreciated and was the best resource for staying informed of where the fires were, what the authorities expected, and what they planned to do next. But as we were mobile, in many areas, my actual radio encountered trouble finding and/or holding the signal. Using TuneIn, I was able to stream the broadcast through my phone at a much more dependable and higher-quality fidelity than my actual radio.
During a crisis, authorities will often post interactive maps to show where the danger is, where it’s mostly likely to progress next, and which towns could be affected. In my region, everyone has been glued to this fire incident map, and Windy.com‘s wind forecast map for the area.
With much of the power still out, finding a working television to watch live news updates is challenging. But with today’s mobile internet, you can stream most TV station live feeds online.
All the above shows how your smart phone is truly a miracle resource — as long as the cell towers are still operational. Or as long as your phone has battery life.
Which is why having multiple ways to recharge your phone is highly advised. Probably more than any other responsibility, keeping an eye on our phones’ juice has occupied my family’s attention constantly since we fled our home.
There are great portable battery rechargers available for between $60-$200. Get one. Keep it charged up at all times and ready to grab & go. It will be worth its weight in gold should you be forced to hit the road.
We’ve been making good use of a battery-powered LED lantern that has USB ports for charging digital devices. It charges our phones pretty quickly, and will keep doing so as long as our supply of batteries lasts. I recommend getting one (or several) of these.
Video Record Of Your Possessions
If time allows, before you leave your home for safety, take a few minutes to walk through your house while using your phone to make a video recording of each room and its possessions. This will prove extremely useful should you file an insurance claim for any damage incurred during a disaster.
I did this once evacuation became a possibility. It only took about 5 minutes, walking around the house and providing some high-level narration to the video for clarity.
You do this because, if your house burns down/is leveled by a tornado/floods out/etc, your possessions and any related receipts will be destroyed. If you then file a renters/homeowners claim, it will be your word vs the insurance adjuster’s when it comes to determining how much you should be reimbursed for.
But if you have a video record, your case becomes significantly stronger:
What matters is that you have a list, pictures, and/or video of everything in your home. That’s not as daunting of a task as it sounds. Walk around your home or apartment and slowly take video or photos of each room, making sure to get each wall. It’s a good idea to open cabinets and drawers, as well to capture the contents – that’s all the stuff that you’d forget if you were making a list after a loss!
Adjusters love video because it’s easy for them to pause and dig in on a particular area to make sure they’re giving you full value for the items, but pictures also work. In either case, make sure you upload them to the cloud somewhere. If your phone suffers a loss and the video is on your phone, you’re in trouble!
Note the wisdom of uploading the video to the cloud in case your phone gets damaged. If pressed for time, just text it to a family member or friend, who can keep it as a backup copy.
How To Help
As I ended yesterday’s post, I want to again express my thanks for the many of you who have sent well-wishes and offers of assistance. Literally hundreds of friends, acquaintances and near-strangers have contacted me via email, text, social media and PeakProsperity.com over the past 4 days. I’ve received offers to put up my family from folks throughout California and now 5 other states. It has been a tremendous honor to be on the receiving end of such kindness.
So many of you who have asked “What can I do to help?”. Personally, I’m safe and being well-cared for where we’re currently staying.
But I’ll be honest: the gesture that would benefit me (and my business partner Chris Martenson) the most at this point would be for anyone with the means and interest to purchase a premium subscription to PeakProsperity.com.
The thrash that these fires are inserting into my bandwith is impacting PeakProsperity.com at an important time, when Chris and I are taking big strategic steps to substantially expand this website’s audience and offerings.
So if you want to help us with that mission, while enjoying valuable insight in return, please subscribe. Even just for a single month.
With great gratitude,