In Case of Fire, Break Glass and Other Emergency Plans

You know this phrase well. We see it to the point of almost ignoring it, written on glass cases in shopping malls, or schools and other public buildings. We take it for granted that there’s rarely an instance where we’ll have to “break glass in case of fire,” to retrieve emergency response materials. We are so used to our first responders being on our “scene” before the rest of us can dial 911, most of us don’t know what it’s like to respond to a fire emergency, until it happens.

Reading stories in the Los Angeles Times this past weekend, I was moved by the depths of destruction to homes and families that happened overnight, as fires were spreading. Some homes on a block were untouched. Others were flattened in moments by fire.

The quotes of some of those who had a short time before evacuating described how residents rounded up their animals first, then their laptops, and then, if time, they grabbed an album of family photos. One family had to leave behind urns with loved ones’ ashes in them, simply because to go back in one more time would have meant risking their lives. Living things are our first thoughts to preserve in an emergency.

We have many ways to preserve memories. Photo albums are still popular, even for the iPhone and Android generations who store 10,000 photos on our phone and on some virtual cloud for safekeeping. It’s what’s been passed on from generations before us that we consider priceless. They really are irreplaceable, as ancestors’ handwriting often provides details on backs of pictures, adding more value you can’t have back.

Do you have a plan for what you’d gather up, after family (including those with fur) was safe, in the event of a hurricane, fire, or other crisis? Are you ready?

This is a theme familiar in daily life. Are we prepared? Do we know where our most important papers are? Whether or not you’re anticipating a fire, or the loss of life among your loved ones, there’s a substantial benefit to having a plan for immediate action.

For example, do you know where your insurance policies are kept for safekeeping that pay death benefits in the event of unexpected passing? Do you have a military veteran in the family? Would he or she wish to have military honors and be buried in a Veterans cemetery? Do you know whether they’re eligible for this? We can answer those questions for you.

Do you know where your loved one’s honorable discharge form (DD-214) is located? If not, there’s a National Archives website that will help you obtain a copy for free. Expect delay because it does takes substantial time to obtain. Planning ahead today saves grief and frustration later.

In Southern California, they have daily red flag warnings that fly to let people know the strength of likelihood that fire could start in their immediate surroundings. But it’s just not California where fire is a hazard. Texas heat is a major opponent to peace of mind here as your car battery can easily be diminished because cars that sit in direct heat.

A simple spark can set off a bonfire in a dehydrated lawn/brush area instantly. It spreads faster than first responders can find their way to the scene. Do you have areas near your house that fit that description? Do you have precious items gathered in a “go bag” for an emergency? Are important papers safe in a fireproof box or in a bank box? What information is irreplaceable in your life?

Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home? Are all the batteries fresh in your smoke alarm? Maybe consider scanning all the historical and favorite photos in your collection to at least have an impression of the images and store the flash drive away from your home. Perhaps make two copies to keep one at an office or one in a safe-deposit box.

Does your family know whether you’d prefer burial or cremation? If you think you have “a long time” before you have to worry about that, what if you had two weeks to plan? What would you do if your family had to make decisions for you tomorrow? How can you help them today so that when “one day” comes, “a long time” from now, you will have had a discussion about what to do?

Finally, do you have your emergency contact list updated? Do all the members of your family know how to reach you away from your house? Yes, most people have cell phones they use as their primary number and some still have landlines. What if those numbers fail to find you? What if your smartphone battery runs low? Where’s your backup charger? How else do people reach you in the event of an emergency?

In case of fire, break glass (to be able to retrieve fire extinguisher). These days of hurricanes, floods, drought, and wildfires, we’ve had cause to really read the message on the box. Please continue to take good care of yourself and those you love this summer. Make sure your pets are safe from the heat, have cool, covered shelter and plenty of water. Be prepared to react promptly and keep on enjoying your vacation season and ignore the “back to school” displays as long as you can.