Late summer, 2008. The news rippled through the office of a major fire growing in the hills to our west. Wait – that is where I live! Looking out the windows of our offices, I see dark smoke enveloping the scenic hills.

I run down to the parking garage and head for home. The roads have not yet been shut down in my area because the fire is outrunning the emergency crews. Flames are burning on both sides of the narrow road as I approach my house.

Quickly I run inside and start gathering “my stuff.” I hear a fire engine pull up and park in my front yard. A fireman runs in the house and tells me I have 5 minutes to evacuate. They are keeping this firetruck parked in my yard hoping they will be able to stop the flames there.

5 minutes of frantically grabbing and throwing anything I can carry in my car – then I drive down the back side of the hill where the flames are not yet as high.

The emergency crews worked their magic – stopped the flames at the edge of my property. But when it came time to return home, I found much of what I threw and stuffed in my car had been damaged or broken. When walking back in the house, it was also intriguing to note what I had left behind that I really should not have.

Since that day, I have been evacuated 3 times due to fires from 2 other homes. I have gotten better at it. My vehicle is more appropriate, my critical gear is either packaged for transport or a crate is stored nearby to pack it (photos, hard drives, etc). Most importantly, a simple evacuation check list hangs by my car keys as a quick cross check of important items.

We can’t stop disasters from encroaching on your life. We can help you deal much more effectively with the ensuing chaos and panic.

When you look at your loved ones, what are you afraid of?