Planning for Disaster

Jan
22
2009

Are you prepared

We are in the height of summer here at the moment, with regular daily temperatures around 30-35C. With the heat comes the risk of bush fires. Now this may not be of a concern to those of you living deep within the ‘burbs or in the inner heart of a city.

However for people such as myself that live close to large tracts of urban bushland or on the edge of suburbia, this is a very real and constant threat. During the summer months, you are constantly aware that you may have to evacuate with only a few minutes notice.

What would you take? Do you know where everything is? Could you grab all those important documents, let alone treasured items together in 20 minutes, 10 or maybe even 5 minutes. Don’t kid yourself, go try it. Do a dry run. I bet you will fall way short.

Do you have a plan

So what do you do, when you have to evacuate in a hurry?

Well you get yourself an evacuation kit. To do this you need to get organised, at least for a short period of time. You need to sit down and gather all your personal records and the like together.

What we are aiming to do here is to provide the basics of your life records that will allow you to continue your life without any major hassle. Okay you may loose favoured assets and keepsakes, but trust me things will be worse if you loose all the documents below.

First off categorise your records into three piles as detailed below:

  • Critical Information
  • Essential Information
  • Non Essential Information

Critical Information

  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Death Certificates
  • Divorce Certificates
  • Drives Licence (copies)
  • Passports

Essential Information

  • Insurance Polices (vehicles, business, house/house contents, health, life, personal liability)
  • Physicians’ names and addresses
  • Custody arrangement documents
  • Living Will
  • Will (copy)
  • Power of Attorney
  • Property title
  • Proof of ownership of vehicle
  • Last Bank Statements and details (including phone numbers for help or reporting lines)
  • Credit Card Details (including phone numbers for help or reporting lines)
  • Family Photos and negatives (best on a DVD)

Non Essential Information

  • Family burial details
  • Professional contacts (list of names and contact details of professionals used by you)
  • Family tree documentation
  • Monthly budget
  • Tax records and returns
  • Bank Statements
  • Receipts and proof of payment
  • Guarantees and warranties
  • Lists of collections (books, dvds, cds, comics, helpful for insurnace)
  • Household inventory (list date purchase, cost, item and serial numbers, photos are even better)
  • User / Instruction manuals for equipment

Handing the Information

That’s a lot of information when you get it altogether. Just to be on the safe side I would suggest that you scan everything – yes scan it all; everything. Then you store it all on a DVD and two different brand good quality usb thumb drives, I would then store these off site say in a bank deposit box as well as putting these digital versions in the critical pile as well.

Critical to all this is to ensure that your major contact details and lists of policy and account identification numbers is in a paper based format, not just digital. As you may not be able to access any digital version.

Now once you have got these piles of information together and you have scanned them, you need to go and put a review date on the calendar.

You need to ensure that before the next summer, you have updated our personal information (above), otherwise its just waste of time. Some people find this easier to do as it happens (like renewing an insurance policy) others find it handy to only do it once a year.

Now if you are a freelancer have you considered your business. Do you have an off site backup you can get to. Do you have the capacity to keep your business going after a disaster.

What would you take.

Now you have these three piles of media and paper. It is suggested that you put these all in separate containers. You have lots of options here from a fire retardant metal boxes, plastic archive boxes all the way down to a simple concertina files. Pick the one that suit your budget and needs.

It’s also a good idea to colour code these containers. Critical is coloured red, orange for Essential and finally non-essential is coloured green.

For easy mass transport I would also put all these containers in a plastic storage crate. Ideally you should place this in an easy to get to location, one in which you can grab on the way out the door..

Do a User Test

Now you have the evacuation kit.

Next you need to rehearse an evacuation, this is very important if you have computers that you need to move. You need to work out how long it takes you to move them. Then in an emergency you can make the best split second decision to take or leave.

For example. You get the evacuation call, you shutdown your computer, network drives, servers and the like, unplug them. Move them with external drives, to a central point. How long does that take. You grab the evacuation kit, pack your car, lock and leave. How long does that take. I’m not taking into account clothes, kids, animals or the like.

Depending on the evacuation call you get, you may have time to take sleeping equipment, clothes, some food and maybe some of your keepsakes, so you have to allowed for this as well.

So you need to not just have the evacuation kit ready. You need to have a well rehearse evacuation plan, working out what you would take and leave. You need to rehearse it will family, housemates and maybe friends, and finally you need to document it, in big clear letters.

Now in a way I do have a small advantage in that I work from my studio, from my home. So if there was a fire the chances are I could evacuate most of the items. Mind you fire moves extremely quickly. Still having the evacuation kit and plan does help.

Are you ready?

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2 comments

  1. We’ve suffered a few deliberately lit fires that came very close to our homes in past couple of years & dodged a few big ones down south. I’ve learnt over the years that being prepared can make such a difference when things get a little crazy.

    We have all our mobiles ICE’ed, and we have an little ICE bag hanging up. The ICE bag has a short list of what to grab quickly & from where. It has spare keys, a portable HD (personal/business docs, photos, home movies, etc), & a list of phone calls that will need to be made if we lose everything…. and importantly where to meet up in case we lose touch.

  2. While listening to news about the Victoria bushfires on the ABC yesterday, I heard about this disaster planning resource on the Australian Red Cross website

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