Preparing for an Evacuation

Living in the woods during fire season
Our yard, last night at about 5pm.
Monday night began innocently enough. We'd spent all Labor Day weekend working on our homestead: getting our house painted, canning food, building our quail pen, things like that. When our fire alarm began periodically beeping that evening, we thought it just needed batteries...only a change of batteries didn't make the beeping go away. Then our noses detected the scent of smoke.

By Tuesday - which was the first day of online school for our kids - we could see lots of smoke in the valley. Temps were expected to be over 100, so I spent a lot of the day making sure the rabbits (who are not generally good with high temps, especially when you only get high temps a few days out of the year) were as comfortable as possible. (Thankfully, it never got so hot.) We got the quail moved from the brooder to the new, beautiful pen my husband built. I helped my son with the many technical difficulties he was having with online school. And I caught up on some housework, which I always tend to get behind on during peak canning season. But by afternoon, the smoke was thick, there was a fire in the valley immediately below us, and we were getting ash fall. We began watering our yard in hopes it would prevent any sparks in the ash from creating a new fire.

keeping rabbits cool
Keeping the rabbits cool with ice blocks.

quail pen
The new quail pen.

Before bedtime, we were glad to hear the fire in the valley had been put out, but we continued to have concerns about ash sparks. I even discovered that my couch and kitchen counters, which are under screened windows, were covered in ash. 

The next morning, everything was smokier. Thankfully, we are not in an evacuation zone, but living in the woods we know that at any time a fire could overtake our homestead.

The old hymn based on Psalm 56:3-4 has been on my mind a lot: "When I am afraid I will trust in You, in God whose word I praise." We've been praying continually for our family, our city, our state, and our nation. We are at peace with the idea that we might have to leave everything behind and come home to nothing. But we're also pondering what we can do to make our lives easier if we must evacuate.


First and foremost, of course, we would make sure all people on our homestead get out alive, helping neighbors and family as needed.


We'd also make sure we have all difficult-to-replace paperwork with us. This includes: birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports, driver's licenses, health insurance cards, credit cards/debit cards, work or school ID cards, house deeds, vehicle titles, trust or will and burial plot paperwork, insurance cards/policies, bank account numbers, etc. Some people put all this into a "grab and go binder," which makes snagging them during an emergency super easy. I admit I have not done this, so I am putting all such paperwork in one spot so I don't have to scramble for it in an emergency.

Looking into the valley yesterday...

...and looking down into the valley this morning.

Of course we will do everything possible to take our pets. That's 4 rabbits, 1 dog, and 3 cats. The cats aren't the type that hang around the house, though, and so it is sadly possible I might not be able to grab them if we have to evacuate. Ugh. We also have to think about carriers for pets. Do we have enough? Well, no we don't. But in a pinch, we can bring the rabbits in their outdoor cages. Perhaps in the future we can buy used pet carriers to have on hand for emergencies.


Here's where it gets really icky, friends. Our livestock are all small. How on earth could we evacuate them in an emergency? I don't think we can. We could put our 2 sheep in a crate, and maybe we could take the livestock rabbits in their cages...but I don't think we'd have room for them. I don't think it's at all possible to take the quail and chickens. So...I've been pondering what we could do to make them as safe as possible on the homestead without us. But the truth is, we can only give them so many waterers and so much food at one time. Releasing them would basically spell their death. It's a very unhappy thing to think about, but it's better we sort through the options now than at the last minute.


Another thing I've been thinking about is how to prepare for a possible insurance claim. When we first moved to this homestead, our pole barn burned down with many things inside it, so we know how difficult it can be to remember every item that was in a specific building. Therefore, I finally did something everyone should do periodically: I took a video of our house and outbuildings, trying to get shots of all our belongings. (This means opening up cupboards and such, too.) I am keeping a copy of the video on my phone, my laptop, and an external hard drive (which are all things I would take with me if we evacuate). You should also consider uploading such a video to a cloud, although you'll want to weigh the convenience with the potential privacy issues that might include.

In addition, if you have blueprints to your house and paperwork related to remodeling, put it in your grab and go binder/pile. It will be useful if your house needs rebuilding and the insurance company wants to see exactly what you had.

Other stuff

We are not yet at the point where we have to pack up clothes and toiletries, but we all have backpacks we can use for this purpose. I've also pondered what irreplaceable items I would try to bring with me, if there was enough time and space. I have a lot of family heirlooms and I know I couldn't take them all, so I'd need to prioritize. Better to think about this now than in the heat of the moment. 

Another project I have in mind is to put all our family photos in one spot, so I can easily grab them for an evacuation. I have boxes and boxes of them, as well as albums, and they are scattered around the house.

In addition, it's a good idea to keep your phones charged, and have your laptop or other mobile devices charged and ready to grab during an evacuation. (Remember that texting takes less battery than making a phone call, and that you can change your outgoing message to reflect your safety for when/if concerned friends and family call for an update.)

Even if you don't live where fires are raging, I urge you to think through how you'd evacuate your home if you needed to. Gather your family photos together in one spot, make a grab and go binder, think about potential routes and how you'd deal with your animals. Although I hope you'll never have to implement these things, you'll be thankful you're prepared if you ever do experience such an emergency.

Keep praying, friends!

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