Personal and family preparedness is important, just ask the Sharps. For the last 15 years, Jessica Sharp has kept a box of important documents in a specific location so she could easily grab it in the event of an emergency. And that planning recently paid off when the Sharps experienced a fire followed by flooding in their home in Saratoga, Wyoming.
In February, Jessica was at work when her husband, Kevin, called to tell her there was a fire in their home. The wrong combination of wind speed and direction caused an electrical fire to ignite, and in response, the fire department pulled away part of the wall, exposing the house to the outside, to put out the flames. After the fire was extinguished, the family was able to briefly enter their home to retrieve necessary items and that’s when Jessica grabbed the box of important documents.
And it’s a good thing she did. That night the interior of the house was partially exposed to below zero weather. Although power had been reconnected to sections of the house so that heaters could prevent freezing, they couldn’t keep up with the winter conditions. Jessica said a pipe burst on the third floor, causing flooding throughout the house. They once again called the fire department, had the electricity company shut off power and were given a chance to recover personal items.
Jessica said she learned from her mother to keep important information at the ready, and it’s apparent that preparedness is something she’s also passing onto her three children. In the go box Jessica stored Social Security, insurance and home information, as well as birth certificates and irreplaceable photos — “basically anything that would be extremely difficult to get ahold of.”
“The less that you have to worry about, the better off you are because you’re so stressed,” she said. “If you’re able to put that out of your mind and know that those are OK, you can focus more on making sure that your kids are OK and taking care of everything else.”
In addition to keeping the box of vital documents, the Sharps ensured their children knew the safest way to exit their home during an emergency. They would cover the best emergency escape routes and actions to take if a fire were to break out in different parts of the house. “The kids always thought it was silly and we didn’t need to do that,” Jessica said. But their opinion changed after the fire: “They told me, ‘Mom, I always thought it was stupid when you were telling us what we needed to do, but I am glad that you did because we knew what do to.’”
The Sharps are currently moving into a new home, and it’s safe to assume that preparedness will continue to be an important part of their lives.
The American Red Cross recommends three steps for preparedness: get a kit, make a plan and be informed. In addition to important documents, it’s recommended that emergency kits contain: water, nonperishable food, flashlights and batteries. See the complete list of recommendations, and follow the Sharps’ example of preparedness.