Learn more about what YOU can do from another scary wildfire evacuation story.
Hey guys, this is a post from my friend Joanie with her own scary wildfire evacuation story — she's following up on this one: Susan’s California Wildfire Nightmare and 5-Minute Evacuation. She has more important tips in case you ever find yourself in this or a similar evacuation situation. Click here for all of Joanie's posts. Here's Joanie…
Reading Susan's post brought it all back in a heartbeat.
I also live in a rural area, but in northern California, and had to evacuate in October 2017 for a fire that came within a half mile of my house. When I opened my door before dawn to my landlady's banging, this is what I saw behind her.
That'll wake you up fast!
Luckily the wind never changed and I only had to evacuate for one night and stayed at a friend's house. But the experience taught this east-coaster how naive I was about dealing with any emergency situation – flood, earthquake, snowstorm – but particularly a wildfire.
My two major takeaways about a wildfire?
- It's all about the wind. If it's blowing in your direction, GET OUT NOW!
- If it's not blowing in your direction, it could be any moment. The wind is unbelievably fickle. Embers can travel up to 4 miles to start another fire ahead of the main fire, so GET OUT ANYWAY. I recently saw the blackened pathway of a fire that in less than a half hour moved three different directions on a 2-acre property, it then jumped the road and burned 400 acres!
Something else I saw about an hour after the above picture was taken was a column of flame on the hillside across the valley that shot straight up, up, up, not out, and never made a sound that I could hear. It was almost like a rocketship taking off. It looked terrifying. I realized in hindsight it was a propane tank exploding.
When in doubt, get out…
Plan on having a brain freeze
Thankfully, I paid attention to official fire warnings and had taken the time to make and post my emergency list ahead of time.
Believe me, after seeing that flaming hillside, this list instantly became my lifeline. In a situation like that, the adrenals are pumping overtime and once those fight-or-flight hormones hit your bloodstream, you literally CAN'T think!
Honestly, you need to plan ahead on losing your brain, so…
- Make your personalized list up ahead of time (one copy for each adult in your household),
- Prioritize the list by need, in case you don't have enough time to grab everything, and
- Keep all copies out in a handy place, like your fridge, so it can be held in your hand while you run around your house getting what you need.
And as Susan described, previously created “bug out” bags are, of course, the very best because there's no thinking involved at all, you just grab and go. (Click here to learn more about making a bug-out bag.)
Homeopathic First Aid Kit
One thing that should be in your car at all times anyway, is a first aid kit that also includes a range of homeopathic remedies.
- Arnica 1M and Rescue Remedy are both good for easing emotional trauma and can be given to animals, children, and adults alike, especially when you're stuck in a traffic jam trying to evacuate or driving in circles in the dark without knowing where you're going.
- The other remedies in your kit will help heal sprains, cuts, bruises, all those sorts of minor injuries that tend to happen when we're under stress and in an unfamiliar location.
For more information on suggestions for your kit see Must-Haves for Your Glove Box and First Aid Kit (go to the very end section “13 Homeopathic Must-Haves for Your Glove Box”).
Portable file boxes
As a self-employed person, I keep all my business folders in a portable plastic carrying case in which I also added a folder which includes my birth certificate, passport, insurance, etc.
That way I only have to grab the one filebox to have all my necessary papers: business + personal.
Suggestions for cat and dog owners
I'm also a cat owner whose cats always have access to a catdoor. Luckily when my landlady came banging, one was asleep on my bed, but I was terrified I'd have to drive away without the other.
However, turning on the backyard lights, opening a can of her favorite food and walking very slowly but deliberately outside with it so she could smell it brought her right in.
When dogs get freaked, they snap and bite. Cats flee, so remaining as calm and quiet as possible is especially important with cats so they don't hide.
Dog owners – In addition to leashes, have extra muzzles in case you get stuck in the car for a long period, which is likely because evacuation routes get crowded. Muzzles can also reassure motel owners that your dogs are not a danger to their other guests.
My neighbor piled all four dogs in her car and her normally calm pets started fighting one another. Watch for drooling and staring and before they snap, dose them up with Rescue Remedy and Arnica 1M. (See links above.)
Know where you would go
If possible, set up an agreement with a friend or family member ahead of time that you will stay there in case of an evacuation. That way you can just show up without calling or making arrangements on your phone – which may be disabled if cell towers are down.
Motels near an evacuation area fill up quickly, especially the ones that allow pets, and it can be very stressful to drive around trying to find a place in the middle of the night.
Whether you're talking wildfire, flood, snowstorm or earthquake, likely your power will go out and you'll need to use flashlights.
Try solar powered flashlights. The ones I have are Luci lights.
I have four of these babies, two remain on the back dashboard of my car and two sit in the windowsill of my home.
When I used my Luci light for an underground goldmine tour, the bright light lasted at least 4 hours and was still going strong. No batteries and they're always charged – I LOVE them!
Irreplaceable family photos
Other than “herding cats,” the biggest pain in my butt was dealing with six extremely heavy and cumbersome photo albums which kept sliding around and losing photos.
Get yours on disk! I took a pic to show my daughter just how much she had agreed to convert for me (Thanks, Em!).
How facebook can help in an emergency
I am relatively new to my current home in Nevada City, just north of Sacramento. When the Thomas fire broke out in southern California in December 2017, I followed it very closely knowing my friends from that area were now experiencing what I had just been through two months earlier.
I learned a lot from observing how the town of Ojai handled communication about the fire that raged around them for many days. The Ojai facebook page actually had all the most up to date information on an ongoing basis, much more useful than the media news reports.
Be sure to read and post any information that could be helpful to your neighbors on your local community facebook page.
And if you don't have a town/community/neighborhood facebook page… start one.
Breathing bad air can permanently damage your health
Plan on staying away from your home until your air quality is good! Do NOT rely on a mask to protect you.
First of all, surgical or dust masks are useless. Instead you need one “with a particulate respirator… that is “NIOSH-approved” and marked N95, N100 or P100 that have two straps.”
If you want to buy a good mask to have “just in case,” buy it now because once a fire hits, your local stores will be out of stock. (You can find them on Amazon or any hardware store including Lowe’s and Home Depot.)
Second, even if you and your children all have appropriate and tight-fitting masks (find the kids' ones here), you can't put one on your pets, nor can we sleep well in a mask.
I saw a posting from a doctor warning…
He said that one week of breathing air still rated “unhealthy” or worse is comparable to 30 years of working in a coal mine and would create not only permanent lung damage, but also depress the immune system and stress the detoxifying organs.
When my Ojai friend Elizabeth went back early to begin cleaning up her house and business, even wearing an N95 mask constantly, she ended up with a bronchial infection for which her doctor put her on antibiotics.
So, of course, I immediately sent her a bottle of these probiotics to take in conjunction with her antibiotic. (See my article The ONLY Probiotics to Take with Antiobiotics for why I personally never would take antibiotics without also taking this AT THE SAME TIME – and for at least a month after finishing the antibacterial medication.)
It's a temptation to go back too soon – DON'T.
This is part of the reason why having a previous arrangement to temporarily stay with friends or relatives outside your area can be so important to your family's health.
Get to know your neighbors
The other thing I noticed is that post-emergency, anyone who's been evacuated, even if their home is untouched, has some degree of PTSD and will need to connect with their neighbors and officials about the experience on two levels – emotional and practical.
1. On a practical level, a friend of mine in my local area took it upon herself post-fire to organize a public meeting of all the local fire chiefs and related emergency personnel.
It was incredibly useful and reassuring because it not only gave us information to apply in the future, but also a greater understanding about what emergency personnel must do to protect us.
For example, if you stay to guard your property, you risk the lives of emergency personnel who will have to come back to rescue you if you can't get out in time. (Have I said this LOUD enough? When in doubt, get out!)
2. The emotional need to connect with others who have been through something similar became much clearer for me on Christmas Day when I was at my neighbor's holiday open house.
Several other neighbors also showed up and bam! As soon as we were all in the same room, we couldn't stop talking about the fire, despite the fact that our mutual evacuation had happened over two months before. It was a needed bonding experience and as a result, I now know that if fire threatens again, Celia, the vet from down the road, is one of the first people I'll call.
- Before anything bad happens, have a party and invite all your neighbors. They become your lifeline in an emergency. You want to know who you can trust.
- And, post-emergency, consider throwing an “It's all over!” celebration to debrief and destress. To have neighbors that are like family can literally mean the difference between life and death.
(This is Kelly… Having neighbors who are good friends and like family are a blessing in so. many. ways. We love our friends and have so much fun together. Reach out to make the first move and be a friend to others around you, you'll never regret it.)
Yes, you do have PTSD!
After it's all over, don't kid yourself – you're not “just fine.” You'll need to do LOTS of adrenal support…
Whether your adrenals are basically healthy and simply need temporary support for a one-time stress, or you have ongoing adrenal fatigue and consequently, find yourself anxious and not sleeping well in response to an emergency, I find taking the actual raw adrenal extract to be more immediately stabilizing than anything else.
My personal favorite is this adrenal extract. It's an extremely clean glandular supplement and is not only from animals that are 100% grassfed and raised, but is also the only line of organ extracts I've found that guarantees the animals are humanely and painlessly harvested.
Unless your physician tells you otherwise, I encourage folks to take adrenal extract for no more than 1-2 months to avoid the possibility that the body may get confused in response to the consistently high level of extract in the system from supplementation and actually begin to reduce the amount of adrenal hormones it produces on its own.
Adaptogenic herbs do not have that problem, which is why, in response to a particularly stressful situation, I like to take both and then taper off to just herbal support…
- My personal favorite is rhodiola, although the
- South American maca is very popular in particular with women.
- In chinese medicine, ginseng is considered to be more yang and therefore, more appropriate for men.
There are actually many adaptogenic herbs and my suggestion is to try a variety to discover your best biological match. It does seem to vary, person to person.
Don't stress if you find yourself unusually spacey and forgetful. That's typical of adrenals still in recovery mode. It'll get better. It took me a couple weeks, it may take you less.
In addition to your good, nutrient-dense diet, lots of additional rest and adrenal supplementation, consider also:
- Acupuncture treatments and
Both of these forms of natural medicine have a great track record with helping the body more quickly resolve temporary, acute symptoms and are particularly effective for children stuck in a fear-reaction pattern.
Nutritional supplementation for air pollution
- 5 Nutritional Supplements to Support You When
Air Pollution Is Severe by GreenMedInfo
- Air Pollution, Forest Fires and Industrial Toxins: Your Best Detox Strategies by Ali Le Vere, B.S., B.S.
This is a post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, a regular writer around here. Joanie is the founder of Follow Your Gut and a health coach who has been in sales and education in the natural foods and products industry since the early 70’s, with six years spent recently as a vitamin specialist in a natural foods store. She is also the Weston Price chapter leader for the Ventura, California area.
Disclaimer reminder: Neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here for your own research and then maybe consult with a natural-minded doctor or health professional you trust to find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here.