I have been working on our preparedness now for several years. I felt a persistent nudge a few years ago and this has continued until now and still I feel it.
In my life I have learned (the hard way) that if you have a feeling about something to never ignore it. God is telling you something.
In the Prepper world everyone refers to SHTF. This is Shit Hit the Fan, it kind of covers every bad situation! It might be personal i.e. your marriage broke up and suddenly your security and income is gone or it might be global.
Well, this week in Australia SHTF. Both for us personally and for the nation.
Some states are in a State of Emergency. The Army and Navy have been called in. They are evacuating people off beaches. Whole towns are virtually wiped out. Many towns are cut off and have no communication, no power, no shops, no food... not fuel.
People are trapped and even if they could leave there is no power or fuel to fill their car.
Hundreds of trucks that haul food and supplies are stranded with fresh food rotting in the back. There are air drops to give people radios and satellite phones.
One town on the news last night had one working radio that was connecting them with the news outside. Everyone was gathered around this one radio.
The size of the areas now being evacuated are bigger than some European countries.
The news mainly covers the east coast since the bigger populations are there. We are in the very southern area in South Australia. We have had a lot of fires over the years. On Monday we were on alert due to a very hot day with high winds and dry lightening. Most of our fires seem to start from lightening. There was already a big fire a good distance north of us. So everyone was concerned about that. Monday morning it began...
The weather quickly deteriorated. When things are bad we drive to the top of our hill to have a look. We could see smoke. And fairly near by. Things happened quickly and we knew lightening had already started a fire East of us.
This is what it looked like at first...
This is what it looked like shortly after....
From there things happened too fast to take photos. The next time we went to the top of the hill we saw there were CFS people down the corner of our property where a track meets the main road. We drove down to them to see what they could tell us. I guess it took two minutes to drive that far.
They were closing off the main road as east of us the fire had jumped the road and was traveling south. This was what had made us feel ok... everything was moving south. We maybe spoke to them for one or two minutes. Suddenly the everything went dark and the smoke was thick and all around us. The man said "the wind has changed, go!!" We raced back to the house. The smoke was thick and moving fast. Andy headed off to set the big sprinklers going on the east side of the house. I grabbed the dog and put her inside and ran down to the bottom paddock and opened the gate so the cows and sheep could hopefully escape into out yard and on to the lawn.
But the time I go inside I had breathed a lot of smoke. Andy yelled out "the power is out!" and so the sprinklers would not operate. He went then to start the generator and get the over the house sprinklers going.
I rang 000 and reported where the fires was. This was pretty hopeless as the girl on the phone wanted to chat all day and I said sorry but there is a fire coming straight for us!
By now the sprinklers were running over the roof. The smoke was thicker and thicker. It started coming into the house.
Just then a firefighter started banging on the door. As the door opened I saw his face. It was my brother! He said "you have to get out, it is catastrophic." Now my brother is an understated kind of guy. He meant it and I knew this meant we had to leave.
I grabbed my bag, my iPad and a few things. I slapped a note on the door that said "Evacuated." We jumped in the car with the dog and headed fast to my brothers and sister in laws. This is only fifteen minutes away but they have irrigation all around them making it pretty safe. He promised to go get Chloe and we would meet there.
Driving out the smoke was so thick. I looked back and the sprinklers were going. This was the only thing that made me feel maybe the house would survive. But it was no certainty.
We got to my brothers and Chloe was there. Checking she was there was the first thing.
There was electricity and communications. We let everyone know where we were. From then on it was a day of listening for news.
A couple of good things were my nephew who was fighting the fire could report later in the day the house was ok. He also came in and added fuel to our generator. This would give us eight more hours of over head water.
I know I am so lucky to have somewhere to evacuate to. We were all together and cool. The smoke did begin to become thick here as well but the house was fine.
The day was a bit unbelievable! There we were in a situation I had not envisaged at all. There were some encouraging moments and some bad ones. Chloe got a phone call that the fire had reached her house. I saw the could drain out of her. She held it together and called Luke to tell him. For a while we thought her house would be gone. But it was not! It was ok!
For a time I thought what if we lose the house, animals and garden we worked so hard to build up? I was doing a lot of praying.
The fire was now moving north easterly so going up and past us. We knew the back of our property was on fire. We knew the neighbours was on fire. We were communicating with her, she had evacuated also.
As the day wore on (and boy was it a long day) the fire continued to head north. This was good for us... now it was going towards Mum and Dad! Oh great. My brother, nephew, niece and Luke were all out there fighting. There were bombers and so many crews. A big plane came here too from the USA!
Late in the night we came back home. This is how it looked ...
The air stank. The over head sprinklers never faulted and the house was drenched. The animals were ok!
With no power we began to use the generator to keep the fridges and freezers going. This continued on through the night. All efforts now were further north and to keep Mum and Dad and other houses safe. So much effort, big machinery ploughing fire breaks, so many exhausted people.
As I write this it is another bad day. My brother just rang to say if the wind changes we may have to evacuate again. So we are watching closely. To be truthful it is good to have things to work on in the cool (while we still have power!) and keep my mind occupied. However the noise of the wind is now too loud to not be frightening.
We have a map now that shows the burned area. You can see it was in a semi circle around us.
Now from this all I learned a lot. We did some things right. These were:
From the day we moved here we began cleaning up and clearing around the house. The first few months we had thirty something big bonfires, removed man many trees and extended the lawn.
In our second season we had over forty bonfires and they weren't little piles of leaves most were the size of a car, some were the size of a small house! We hauled, stacked, cut and needed a tractor to help at times.
We got a generator so that if the power is out we have water and can put on high pressure sprinklers.
Andy made an over the roof sprinkler system. It absolutely drenches the house. This can also be run with the generator.
We bought a back up generator.
We have sprinklers that are powerful and cover long distances.
We signed up for all weather and danger updates via phone and email.
I keep the fridges and freezers very full so if the power goes out they will stay cold longer. I succeeded with three out of the four. Empty space in a freezer will mean it will stay frozen solid a lot shorter time.
My fridge and freezers are full of cold and frozen drinks.
We have battery operated fans, plenty of torches and lanterns.
We can cook and boil water on a gas BBQ so are never without the ability to cook and have a cup of tea.
I have all emergency numbers in my phone, printed and stuck inside our emergency cupboard.
We have a non electric landline phone. The walk around phones need electricity. The mobiles fail even if you have them charged as the towers that repeat the signal only have short back up batteries. They all reply on electricity. Only the old phones require no power. Having this to plug in was important.
I have enough food and general supplies on hand to last a few weeks.
Also enough animals supplies to last.
We have extensive first aid and medical supplies.
I keep mops and buckets for extinguishing embers if this occurred.
We have a wide area clear and the wood etc all stored a long way from the house.
The next day when we had no power I still had a hot cup of tea, eggs on toast for breakfast so this was good.
We have a battery operated radio.
We had professionals take down two huge gums that were in a position should they fall they would go straight through our roof.
Ok now for things I did wrong or could do better!
I was not packed. In my mind we would stay. So I never packed a thing. Luckily we were able to return home. If not I would have had no clothes, nightie, pillow, nothing. Pretty dumb.
I did not have documents packed or in a fire proof safe. So now I am getting a safe and just keeping all important stuff in there.
I left with phone and iPad and no charger.
My most recent freezer addition was not full. I should have had that full even if just bottles of water.
As I write there are thousands, tens of thousands, Australians who have no communication, no food or water and no toilet paper etc. Oh, and no fuel. The government have been dropping satellite phones, food and water to many.
Now if you have lost your house or evacuated then of course you don't have much. But many are in trouble that still have their homes. But the power is out. The supermarkets are mostly shut. Those that are open have empty shelves. I am seeing photos posted of completely empty shelves. And queues that last hours to get in to any open shops. It is hot and smoky. You would just not want to be having to queue. It would be much better if you had your supplies and could wait it out.
On top of this the roads in and out of many towns are closed. There will be no trucks re stocking the supermarkets.
This could affect any town or city. If trucks are stuck between capital cities the food is not moving. If the power is out for any reason the supermarket will probably not be open and the fuel will not be pumping. How long would you household supplies and pantry keep your family going? Would you be listening to radio updates on your battery radio? Would you be able to keep the fridge and freezers going and manage to put food on the table? Would you have fuel to keep your generator going for a week or two? Do you have a generator in the first place!?
Does anyone in your family need medication? How many days do you have left?
Do you have bags packed if you have to leave at a moment notice?
Are important documents safe or coming with you?
How long would it take you to get out the door?
Do you have a check list to work through... in a crisis it is hard to think. If you have list of what to grab and why to do this can help.
If you have no mobile phone do you know anyones phone numbers?
Is your car kept full of fuel?
Do you have somewhere you could evacuate to?
There is so much to think about and there is no time to think about it when the crisis comes. And if you do head off to get a generator or fuel or fuel cans they are not going to be available. It will be too late by a mile.
We have had a time of if it doesn't "spark joy" throw it out. Well, right now that old radio, the old phone, the woollen blankets and many other items would spark a lot of joy! So would a well stocked pantry and supplies.
As I type the fires have got going again. We can see massive smoke clouds. If the wind changes we will be evacuating again. This time I am packed and the bags are at the door. Including my documents.
I am sure I will think of other things and my list is by no means comprehensive but I hope it will inspire you to be prepared. When something is really big the government cannot help everyone. Help might not be coming. You need to be self reliant as much as possible. That means you can also be helping others. I was able to take drinks and snacks to some of the fire fighters. We have more than we need. We are ok. I think of things like the families with babies on bottles and half a tin of formula in the cupboard. Trying to keep cool with no cold water available... don't let this be your family if you can avoid it.
I have a whole preparedness series on my blog. I wrote this weekly for a year. There are many ways to be prepared that are completely free and many ways to inexpensively greatly increase your preparedness. This is a good place to start Totally free ways to get better prepared.
If you are able please help your local fire and emergency departments in some way. They work like you wouldn't believe. And the farmers too, everyone is fighting the fires. Please pray as we need it. xxx