Evacuate! Preparing for the Unexpected

Ironically, yesterday at ABL, just as we were discussing the topic of this week’s Silicon Valley Healthcare Round Table – “Emergency! How You Deal with the Unexpected,” I received a text from 911/Orange County Emergency Services:  Evacuate.
Outside, while the billowing orange smoke was pretty convincing that the inferno in northeastern Orange County was impacting somebody, it hadn’t occurred to me, until I got the evacuate call around 2 o’clock, that it could be me. Fortunately, the supportive team at ABL encouraged me to go home and “pack up,” while changing my flight reservation to the Bay Area from 5 to 8:40 pm. (God bless Southwest – for the “fire victims” they didn’t charge a penalty. And, later, when I got to the airport, the curbside skycap told me I was the fourth person he’d helped who had to change their flight due to the fires.)
Right before I left the office for the six-mile, usually 15-minute, drive home, I grabbed a post-it note and wrote down what immediately came to mind that needed “saving.” As pet-less empty nesters, the otherwise most important “living” items weren’t on the list, but here’s what was: binders containing our most important personal and corporate paperwork, two more “Very Important Papers” files in my desk, our most important family pictures, the latest two years of tax returns – plus what I’ve been saving for 2017, checkbooks and credit cards that weren’t already with me, the contents of a jewelry box, and passports, plus taking pictures of each room and the exterior of our home that we’d just spent two years painstakingly remodeling, along with the receipts for the remodel (that, if need be, we could share with our insurer).
As I began the drive home – post-it on my steering wheel – I was struck by the heavy traffic in both directions: soon-to-be evacuees going home to get their stuff, and evacuees driving to safety with their stuff. Then, just one long block from our house, I met the unexpected: a road closure (at Chapman and Crawford Canyon). Thousands of us were re-routed the very long way on the Canyon’s two-lane road that inched along – until we all had to pull over for a stream of fire engines from cities as far away as Morongo (near Palm Springs) and Idyllwild. All of a sudden it hit me, this was a time for delegation! I called my husband, Bob, who was already at home, and asked if he’d packed. Along with his computers and their back-ups, he had also packed a suitcase to spend the next few days in a hotel, but that was all. So for the next 15 minutes, cell phone in hand, he went from room to room, pulling together the items I read him from my post-it note, putting them into our largest suitcase.
Driving up the hill to our home, I passed dozens of neighbors filling their cars, and others making their getaway, as the smoke thickened. Once home, I realized we now had at least a little more time to move “beyond the post-it,” so I walked through each room of the house, grabbing an item or two that I thought would be “irreplaceable” – more pictures, a plate my grandmother painted when she was a girl, the 14 DVDs that represent our “Favorites,” the scrapbook I’d just finished making, a few books that I had carefully annotated, and “highlights” from scrapbooks of our children’s youth, Bob’s family, and mine. And, last, about six favorite jackets. Thankfully, it all fit inside my Honda Civic, because my trunk was already full with the suitcases I’d packed to bring up north for this week’s Round Tables. All in, “packing up the house” took about 90 minutes – primarily because we left most of it there, with the hope and prayers that it will still be standing when I return on Thursday night.
However, as I drove back to the office, I realized I’d left the silver behind – and going back to get it was now out of the question. I vowed, should this happen again, a post-it note really isn’t sufficient for ensuring I have everything that’s really important, particularly if I only had 10 minutes to grab it, instead of 90. So, I just now downloaded Evernote, an app that our Member Adam Miller, CEO of Cornerstone, swears by to keep on top of his multitude of projects. My first list is “House Rescue Items” – in order of importance. Hopefully, I’ll never need it (again), but in the meantime, I’m hopeful I’ll be able to become as organized as Adam.
by Mimi Grant, President, Adaptive Business Leaders (ABL) Organization – Round Tables and Events for CEOs of Technology and Healthcare Companies