H-SANTA BARBARA COUNTY

Nov 14, 2012 9:10 PM by Nikki Ibarra

How to prepare for an emergency

You have minutes to evacuate your home so, what do you take with you?

The Central Coast region of the American Red Cross suggest six things you need in case of an emergency. But are there ways to prepare you and your loved ones before disaster strikes?

"When you live up here you just accept that that's part of what you get. I mean, the beauty comes with the price," said Cathy Mehl, a resident of Santa Barbara.

Mehl remembers her first evacuation like it was just yesterday. "When I closed the door, you know, I thought that, that could be it. This, you know, we could back to nothing," added Mehl.

Luckily, the Mehl's haven't lost their home. But, over the years, she and her family have mastered their evacuation plans, like where to go and, most importantly, what to take. "You know, the first time you really don't know what to take because it's overwhelming and you look around and you go, oh my gosh, how do we take everything? Well, the real answer is that you don't," said Mehl.

In fact, the Red Cross said fewer than 10% of people are actually prepared for an emergency. "You can't control what happens around you but you can control how you respond," said Dean Phaneuf of the American Red Cross in Santa Barbara.

At the top of the list, the Red Cross recommends you make copies of important documents such as, birth certificates, deeds, rental agreements and policy numbers.

"If you lose everything or if you lose a lot, they're going to be really necessary for making insurance claims, for getting public assistance and for documenting what your loss really was," said Phaneuf.

Phaneuf suggests you scan these items or take pictures of them. Then, send them to your e-mail or simply save it to your Smartphone.

Number two: always have cash. "Sometimes if power is out over an extended area, credit card processing, ATM, the gas pumps, things like that can be impacted," said Phaneuf.

Number three: medications. If you're dependent on certain medicines, Phaneuf said to have a weeks worth on hand.

Number four: comfort items, such as photos, jewelry or stuffed animals. "In emergencies, disasters are traumatic times, and anything that you can do that is going to lower the tension a little bit is going to make you more resilient and help you with a faster recovery, and just sort of smooth the bumps out," said Phaneuf.

To avoid the possibility of losing thousands of family photos, Mehl moved all of them to an off-site location. But what about the paintings and family heirlooms you just can't take with you? Well the Mehl's documented them.

The last two items the Red Cross suggests is a change of clothes and a cell phone charger.

"One of the things we provide in the recovery phase is sifters because sometimes all that's left is ashes and people literally are sifting through the ashes to try and find a piece of china or a piece of jewelry or some remnant that wasn't consumed," said Phaneuf.

The Lookout Fire in October was the Mehl's third evacuation; and with each evacuation, brings more knowledge.

"I'm still willing to live with the reality that there could be a wildfire, we could lose our home, we could have to evacuate again and again and again," said Mehl. "I can't tell you there's anything still here in the house that I absolutely have to take."

The American Red Cross said these six items can vary from person to person, depending on needs.

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