(We’re still fine – the winds of last night caused some serious problems up in northern Ventura County [35-50 miles away] and tonight the winds have kicked up down in San Diego County [80-90 miles away] but things near us seem a bit more calm. Still many schools closed for the rest of the week, still some scratchy eyes and sore throats from smoke, but that’s the worst of it. For us. For now. Things can change in an instant.)
Back in the day I used to love playing a computer simulation game called Outpost. The Earth’s going to be destroyed, you can put together one ship to go elsewhere and build a colony, and so on. Sort of like Sim City with a bit of Armageddon thrown in for kicks.
You started the game by figuring out what you want to take. It’s all a juggling act limited by mass and physics. Lots of people? Great, but you only get to take enough food and water for a month. A couple years’ food and water? Great, but you only get to take a dozen people. More seeds or more machinery? A full nuclear power plant, or a windmill (plus a lot of food and people) and hope you find a planet with wind? A set of weather and communication satellites? Or take your chances with ignorance and whatever comes over the horizon, just like the good old days?
Last night was a bit like that.
Scenario One: You wake up at 02:34 AM with the fire department pounding on your door and the sky orange, smoky, and making it almost impossible to breathe. You have thirty seconds to get out with your life. You take…
Without preparation, you pull on clothes, take your car keys, wallet or purse, phone, maybe a briefcase that might have an iPad or other valuables in it, and you hope to get out with your car and your life.
If you’re playing the game, you do all of that and you grab that “red” box that you put by the front door with the credit cards, passports, birth certificates, death certificates, spare cash, and a few days of your medications.
Scenario Two: Same, except you have five minutes…
Without preparation, you run around like a lunatic and get to safety, only to spend the rest of your life second guessing yourself, wondering why you left this and that to burn to the ground while you took clothes you hardly ever wear, a television that you could have replaced in five minutes for $300 at WalMart, and a generic set of pots and pans.
If you’re playing the game, you have a list and you’ve double checked where items on the list are and verified that they’re ready to grab and go. (If the fires are a bit closer and more likely to move in your direction, you probably have everything on the “five-minute list” in the hallway by the front door, right next to the “red” box. If the fires are really threatening, you probably put it all in the car now, just to be safe in case five minutes turns into thirty seconds.)
Also, if you have pets, plan for them. Do you have carriers for them, or leashes? Food? Water? Treats? Toys? Meds?
This is where the juggling starts. You can play these scenarios all night long. What’s on the “five minute” list? What slips to the “fifteen minute” list? What do you jam into the van if you have an hour? Two hours?
For me, five minutes gives time (with proper preparation) for the wedding photos, jewelry, computers, photos, suitcases of clothing (if they’re pre-packed), family movies and video.
Fifteen minutes lets me start grabbing the unique and irreplaceable items, as well as the simply expensive. Signed books. The good wedding china and silver. Paintings. Sports memorabilia.
Once that’s done, depending on time and space (sound familiar? do I need to bring a backup lander or hospital?), once I’ve secured all of the one-of-a-kind items that simply can’t be replaced at any cost, then it’s time to start prioritizing what to take that can be replaced but would be expensive or difficult to replace.
Play the game now. Do it in your head. Take notes. Play it in slow motion with no actual life-and-death emergency staring at you right outside the door. Run through it again and see what you missed. Re-weigh your priorities. Walk around and see again what you might have missed. Then make those five minute, fifteen minute, and one hour lists and put them someplace where you can grab them in thirty seconds.
It doesn’t matter where you live, there is something out there that’s gonna bite you in the ass one of these days. Fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, mudslide, volcano, tsunami, Republicans – something’s coming that you’re going to have to run for your life from.