Is Your Family Ready to Evacuate in the Event of an Emergency?


    In the wee hours of last Monday morning, I awoke to the smell of smoke. It wasn’t smoky in our bedroom or our apartment, but the smell of burning wood was heavy. I immediately ran into our living room and kitchen to make sure I didn’t leave a candle burning or the stove on. All was fine in our apartment. 

    I approached our dining room window, which was cracked open.  When I stuck my nose outside that dining room window, I realized that the smoke was coming from outside. I said a little prayer and went back to bed. Hours later, when I woke up again with my family and turned on the news, I, like most of us Bay area residents, were greeted to the tragic news by the North Bay fires. I texted my sister, who lives in Fairfield, to check in with her, and she and her family were fine. I checked in with a few friends on socials media. Between the hurricanes in the East and the fires in our own backyard, I questioned my own family’s readiness in the event of an emergency. At work, we perform monthly drills for emergency situations, like fire evacuations and earthquake safety. But how often do we discuss our emergency evacuation plans at home with our own families? Does everyone know what to do in an evacuation situation?

    For my family, our evacuation preparedness has been limited to the basics:

    • a stocked car with items (our SUV’s trunk gets fuller and fuller)
    • cash-in-hand
    • scanned versions of key documents
    • a defined meeting place.

    Yet, there are scores of other things we could be doing to further prepare us for evacuation situations, like noting our escape routes in our apartment building in the event of a fire and maintaining our smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

    I researched a few different sites and blogs; the most thorough plan on evacuation readiness was on The government site provides downloadable plans, lists, and videos to aid families in preparing for emergency situations. A recent article in the  Mercury News provided a quick list on evacuation readiness and fire prevention. Being in earthquake country, we are always thinking about the next “Big One.”

    I could write pages and pages about the plans we should be making to prepare us for the “what if” situations that could happen. I could spend days preparing my family’s evacuation plan and kit and take comfort in our family’s readiness. However, my husband reminded me that even the best laid plans can be thwarted by something as simple as “all three of us not being together” or us being away on holiday in a city where disaster strikes (where the plan doesn’t apply).

    So, what does that mean? Not prepare? Maintain our personal status quo?  

    For me, it means prepare and “stay aware.”

    • We will double check my daycare’s emergency plan and stock our emergency evacuation kit.
    • We will put together an evacuation plan that we can easily access on Evernote (my favorite app for shared notes and lists).
    • Most importantly, we still stay aware.

    While I can’t protect my loved ones from every calamity that happens, I can learn what to do when they happen.


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