• Mike Postil

Encountering A Disaster


Happy New Year Everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas / Holiday Season.

I would like to share an incident from the Woosley / Malibu fire that personally affected our family. Unfortunately, my sister, her husband and their two kids, lost almost everything in the November fire. They are ok which is the most important thing. There are several issues and lessons learned that arise from encountering a disaster. When you receive a mandatory evacuation alert, you may have only a matter of minutes. My sister and her family only had 20 minutes to evacuate. They tried to load up in their vehicles as many items as possible. They also had to collect all their animals and load them in the cars. They live on 3 acres and had several dogs, cats (one they could not find), chickens and bee hives (the chickens and bee hives had to stay). Imagine seeing the smoke, having only 20 minutes and collect as many things as possible to evacuate your location. My brother-in-law left their home with only the clothes on his body. He was too focused on caring for his family and the animals. So, look around your property and think about all your personal belongings, family members, pets, etc. I suggest you prioritize your items of value and develop a plan, just in case you need to evacuate your home. The most basic items of everyday life are the most essential (set of clothes, bank info., cash, monetary items, important documents, security items, water, food, first aid items, etc.). Especially after a disaster takes everything else. Have copies of all your important documents and photos on discs. Store the discs in an area that is your go to place, where you can grab in a moments notice. Storing in a fire proof safe (make sure the safe is truly fire proof) or alternative, secure location is recommended.

My sisters family and all her neighbors implemented plans and prepared for this type of scenario. They all had their perimeters cleared. Many items were in storage to grab and go if necessary and several neighbors had water tanks with pumps. The hills / mountain areas had not burned in over 30 years and were thick with brush and trees. This fire was a monster and covered the terrain quickly. The flames were 215 feet tall and blowing sideways due to the Santa Ana winds. Embers were flying everywhere. Basically, a giant blowtorch went through my sister’s location and destroyed the entire area / community. The firemen, air support, police, first responders, all did a solid job but they were stretched thin.

In a disaster of this magnitude, you need to initiate your plan promptly and have everyone involved tasked with specific duties. Each person needs to act efficiently and be mentally strong. You can grieve and get upset later. Leaving when told to do so and having the proper escape route, that is not congested, is essential to your safety and that of your loved ones. Also, be prepared for things to occur that are out of your control. My sister and the kids could not find one their cats. That was mentally tough for her daughter when leaving the premises. Many items are left behind and lost forever. Be prepared for that reality because it will hit some of you hard several days later. One of their neighbors water pumps failed when trying to hose down his area and the roof of his house. He had to abandon his property and watched his house start to burn as he drove away. Again, life over property and your possessions.

A saying my dad used to tell me, ‘As January goes, so goes the year.’ Plan properly for the ‘what if’ scenarios and do not procrastinate. We are not guaranteed anything. Make the best of what you have and utilize your time wisely. By the way, the chickens and bees survived. Have a great 2019!

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