Thursday, May 12, 2016

"WE ARE NOT FINE. WE ARE NOT PREPARED."


The following account was written May 4, by a man who escaped the fires near Fort McMurray, in Alberta, Canada. You can find his story here. 

"A few hours ago my family and I escaped the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta, which as you may have seen on the news is burning. 
"We drove through the fire, avoiding dangling electrical wires. We are alive, we have found shelter for tonight in a motel. But like so many others we were unprepared to evacuate when we were told we needed to. 
"I am going to ask you to do what my family did not do, but wish we did: have an emergency kit ready. 
"Forest fires are not uncommon in Northern Alberta. Each year many fires occur in the vast Boreal forest that covers the Northern Region of the province, but most of them stay contained, or burn a safe distance from inhabited communities. 
"Living in Fort McMurray for the past three years (past two years for my wife Amanda and son Odin) we have been witness to these yearly events. Each time, my wife and I will say to each other 'We should really think about having an Emergency Preparedness Kit'. We talk about it. We say what a good and practical idea it is. Then, like so many others, it gets put to the wayside and forgotten. We’ll get to it, we say, just like how we’ll get to all the other things in life we say we’ll get to eventually. 
"Today that forgetfulness put us in danger. 
"This week my attention was focused anywhere but the reports of wild fires in Northern Alberta. My family was moving to a new house within the city and I was focused on unpacking and getting my son settled back into school. On Monday we heard that voluntary evacuations had started for areas of Fort McMurray in the south end of town. 
"We’re safe up in Timberlea. The ominous thick clouds could be seen over the water across the Athabasca River. We were fine. No immediate danger. 
"Monday evening the winds died down and the fire seemed to be moving away from the city. We were fine. No immediate danger. 
"Tuesday morning, the smoke was not as thick. We sent Odin off to school, I was enjoying my day off and Amanda went to do the grocery shopping before she went to work. We were fine. No immediate danger. 
"Around 1pm, things drastically started to change. I was outside when I could feel the relentless winds change direction. I could see the smoke shift up from the south, moving the fire along the dry brush directly into the path of Fort McMurray and my family. My stomach sank, my son, my wife, we had to go now or we would go never. 
"We were not fine. We were in danger. 
"Looking back on it now, it feels like that metaphor of the frog in the slowly boiling pot of water. We were so focused on getting settled in our new home, preparing for a catastrophe wasn’t on our minds. Brush fires happen, there’s no need to panic, we’re fine. We were fine until we weren’t. 
"I immediately started packing, but had no idea what to pack. What would we need, how long would we be gone, where would we go? 
"Clothes? Yes, we need clothes, but how much? Two days? Three days? Five days? Passports! Where are the passports? Money. We definitely need money. Prescriptions, does anybody need any of those? What about the cats? How much food? FOOD! We need to bring food. I called my wife Amanda and told her to come home immediately and that we had to pick up our son, Odin, from school. Odin’s stuff! I need to make sure to pack his favorite books and things! I frantically went about the house trying to think of all of the necessary things we would need to get out with. My mind raced as I made sure to leave nothing important behind. 
"If we’d had a kit or a list or had a plan I would know what to do and what to bring, but it was too late for that now. 
"When my family arrived home I was waiting at the front door. By this time, more neighbourhoods were on voluntary evacuation, including one in the north end, where we are located. 
"We are not fine. We are in danger. 
"The winds had shifted so fast, there wasn’t time for authorities to properly communicate the urgency of the situation to many in the city, despite their best efforts. We are not being told to evacuate. My gut is telling me we need to go, but I don’t want to be part of a panic, a rush to get out of town that winds up costing lives. 
"Should we go? Should we wait? What should we do? 
"As we listened to the radio and watched the plumes of thick smoke that were beginning to envelope the sky, the urge to get my family as far away as possible was stronger than ever. 
"We are not fine. We are in danger. 
"This radio station says to go North. That radio station says to go South. Family says to go North. Friends say to go South. 
"As we are trying to decide, the radio announces that all of Fort McMurray is under evacuation. Go time. 
"We are not fine. We are in real danger. 
"Traffic is crawling at a snails pace as we attempt to leave. By chance, we had a full tank of gas. Not because we were prepared, only by dumb luck. As we approached Highway 63 we had to decide to go North towards the mines, or South towards Edmonton and the fire. 
"We chose South. 
"What we came upon next felt like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. Thick black smoke, fires on the side of the road, traffic and panicked people everywhere. It felt as if we were driving through hell itself. 
"All my wife and I could say was, 'We should have been more prepared'. 
"We should have had a bag for each of us, ready to go. We had clothes, and some food, and some money, but was it the right stuff? What about a first aid kit? What about water purification? What about personal documents? What about medication? We were not prepared. 
"We made it out. 
"We are now fine. We are no longer in danger. 
"The hard truth of it is that we were very lucky. We got out with some things, but had we been better prepared we wouldn’t have been so caught off guard. Emergency officials did everything possible to get us out in time. They saved our lives.  The winds shifted so fast, it was a worst case scenario. We escaped but seconds mattered and the time it took us to prepare and to make the decision to go could have cost us our lives. Please learn from my family’s ordeal, luck was on our side this time, but it may not be on ours (or yours) the next time."

Brothers & sisters, please make a plan, have an emergency kit on hand and store water now!

President Eyring said, "There seems to be no end to the Savior’s desire to lead us to safety." The Lord loves all His children and wants us to be safe, but how many warnings can He give? We must obey now. 

President Monson said, “We live in turbulent times. Often the future is unknown; therefore, it behooves us to prepare for uncertainties. When the time for decision arrives, the time for preparation is past.” 

Please listen. The Lord wants to protect His children, but we must do our part.

15 comments:

  1. Going to Lowe's on Monday for some 5-gallon buckets, prepare backpacks at home. We'll make a list of what we need and gather what we have on hand. Nice Sunday project. No more waiting/procrastinating.

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    1. You can get 5 Gallon buckets for free from local grocery store bakeries. The empty pastry buckets as they are called. Kent's Grocery, and Winegars I know for sure does it. Just go to the counter and ask for the 5 gallon buckets and they come with lids. I'm a fan of the Gamma lids for ease of opening and shutting them; but each bucket will save you $5.00. You also may want to consider signing up for a CERT class. Community Emergency Response Training. Just helps solidify how to prepare your family first and then to help your neighbors in a disaster or emergency situation.
      Ham Radio's are another great tip. You can become certified with your license after a day class and a quick $15 test on a computer. No need to memorize morris code. You can use them when other means of communication will be out including cell phones.

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  2. Ham radio tests cannot be done on the computer. There are Internet sites to study for the test, however the Ham Radio License test is pencil and test form......

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  3. So grateful you are safe. Thank you for sharing this experience and the warning.

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  4. To the original post.....thanks for the reminder on how many times does the Lord have to warn us. I use to teach Emergency Prepardness and we are not fully prepared. On the water, I had a friend that changed her supply of water at every General Conference time. We do have a binder where I have put birth certificates and insurance information and I also put in one copy of all of our bills, utilities etc so we have account numbers and phone contact numbers. Having one binder to grab is going to be a lot easier if we have to "grab it and run"

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  5. This is a fantastic site! Well done!
    It's going far and wide. I got your site from a Fb link.
    Thanks for sharing the above article. It reminded me I need to inspect my 72 hr kits and update as needed. I'm pretty sure the clothes I put in there 7 yrs ago no longer fit. ;D

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  6. Wow, thanks for sharing your story! It is spreading through the online Preparedness community.

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  7. Thank you for this story. My husband and I bought a large tent and wood burning stove last week and I filled our 50 gallon water containers the week before that and finished up my 6 month supply of food and bought some 72 hr. kits just before that. I'm feeling a peaceful urgency to prepare, but it took me 5 years of promptings to finally fill our water containers that had been sitting empty for at least that long. If we are prepared we shall not fear.

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  8. Thank you. I love everyone's comments that give clues and tips!

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  9. We used to empty and restock our kits the first family night of the year. We would try on all our clothes. It's not just the kids who needed to replace them.. We would laugh hysterically as we had our yearly fashion show!!

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  10. A family I knew in the Winston Salem First ward in North Carolina would eat their emergency food supply each General Conference and restock it so it would be fresh. Adding the fashion show to that routine sounds like fun. Both are great ways to drive home to our children how seriously we take emergency preparedness.

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  11. Go online and see what people are getting rid of that could help you in emergency situations. You can even go to thrift stores too and find alot of things for way cheaper than say places like REI.

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  12. Very good lesson and very gripping story. I am currently working on getting us more prepared for disasters as we live in earthquake territory.

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  13. We live in a small Mountain town above Boise Idaho. We live a 1/4 mile from a highway used for recreation in our area. We are the first group of houses leading into our small town of 2,500 residents. We have many forest and wild land fires in this area due to lightning and careless people. At the beginning of each summer we prepare by gathering all our photo albums and all important items to the garage for easy access. We have never been asked to evacuate Officially in 15 years of living here although each time the fires start down the canyon we get ready. (Thankfully we live at a critical point if they stop the fires at our neighborhood the town will be safe)each time we follow the list to make sure we have everything ready to go our 72 hour kits, medicine, kids blankets and favorite toy... We alert family and friends when we will be leaving and where we will be going, if the road is blocked we will go to town to the school or church, if the road is open we will go to family in the valley. The most important thing we do is to prepare at the first sign of a fire we have winds that change quickly also, We have 6 kids 13 years old down to 4 years old including an 11 year old who is still an infant. We usually send them to grandmas before the hundreds of firefighters and apparatus arrive. We did have a time where we had procrastinated, that fire came within a small ravine a football field away.Thankfully we had friends from church that showed up with pickups we had everything loaded and a place for the dog to go in minutes mainly because we had run the drills many times before. The main theme from the original story and ours is it only takes seconds for life to get crazy in a disaster if we are prepared there is little to fear. We have never waited for the official word to evacuate my wife and our kids leave and safely go and play at grandmas. I stay behind to watch. I can safely leave and know they are out of harms way safe from the last minute traffic jams road closures.... again Thankfully we have never lost our house and many people have commented that its a lot of work to evacuate when it wasn't really needed we feel its worth it for the peace of mind. I am a volunteer fireman and have seen the devastation of fire and how quickly things change, we often wait hoping as the family in the original story said we are fine until we are not. We believe in President Monson's advise "When the time for action is upon you the time for
    Preparation is long since past" The most important thing is to be prepared it is amazing how much time it takes to gather (find) important items and load them. Especially in a panic situation.

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