As anyone in Central Texas can tell you right now, there’s smoke in the air. In fact, Austin is all but surrounded by fires to the north, east, west and south, with a few that have been popping up in the city itself.
The biggest fire right now is in Bastrop, not far from where I used to live, and where I used to do most of my shopping. The small city has already seen 500+ homes destroyed, and latest reports indicate over 30,000 acres have been burned, with a large chunk of Bastrop State Park, an area known for the “lost pines” because of the gorgeous tall pine forest there. (Click here to learn ways to donate to the fire victims.)
Fire crews from the entire region have been overwhelmed; the National Forest Service and multiple other federal agencies are stopping in.
The timing of the fires is a bit ironic, because just a week ago I had been discussing Hurricane Irene with friends. There were a few communities in the northeast that had been completely cut off from the surrounding towns due to roads and bridges being washed out; they had lost power and water service, and had no way to get food or other supplies into the area.
We talked about how prepping, in particular water and food storage, can help in situations like that, because then you can weather out the storm, so to speak. But for those of us in Texas, suffering the worst heat and drought in history, it’s hard to wrap your head around being cut off like that. Even more difficult would be to imagine a situation where you might have to evacuate due to weather concerns. The most we ever get here are ice storms, where you just shelter in place, or tornadoes, where you just have to cross your fingers that nothing happens to your home.
So while many people in the prepper community might have a bug out or go bag ready, for the average Austinite it’s difficult to imagine when such preparations really would be important.
And then the fires came. Thousands of people throughout the area have been forced from their homes, some with as little as ten minutes’ warning. Grab your pets, your documents, your valuables… and run.
The moral of the story is, don’t wait until it’s too late.
- Have a bug out/evacuation location, both local and outside of the immediate vicinity, depending on the situation.
- Make sure all of your family members, as well as close friends, know where you’ll go, so everyone knows how to find you. Also ensure your other family members all have easy access to transportation to that site in the event you can’t reach them.
- Pack a bug out bag for each member of your family that includes clothing, essential documents, medications, tools, phone chargers, maps, food and water, and entertainment items; it’s also a good idea to have supplies in your car.
- Have a plan for pets – ensure you have carriers/kennels for everyone, as well as food and water for them as well, and know where you’ll take them if you have to leave.
- Keep all your documents and other essential information in a safe but accessible location. Include a list of phone numbers and addresses of people you may need to rely on in an emergency – don’t rely only on your cell phone for this information.
- Texas Prepares – great tools for deciding what you need for yourself and your family.
- What would you pack if you had to evacuate? – featuring a family that had to evacuate their home due to the fires
- What should you bring if you need to evacuate? – includes a list from the Texas Department of State Health Services
- Ready.gov – a site similar to Texas Prepares but from FEMA.