I woke up to the air feeling thicker and drier than usual making it slightly difficult to breathe outside. This is a familiar, yet unpleasant feeling that I didn’t believe I could sense this early in the year, especially in San Diego. I can’t seem to escape the reminder of the wildfires in Northern California.
I wasn’t surprised when, later that day, I saw the plume of smoke in North County from a distance while sitting down on the sunny beaches of Del Mar.
Last month, a wildfire of over 500 acres broke out in the Cleveland National Forest, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia, Australia is bracing for Cyclone Anika, and over 100 avalanches hit Austria. In January, a 700-acre wildfire burned in Big Sur and a massive volcano erupted in Tonga, which led to multiple tsunami warnings on the Pacific coast including San Diego.
The world is changing. Climate change is not stopping anytime soon, and natural disasters have become inevitable wherever you might be living. It’s how you handle yourself in these situations that determines your chances of surviving or saving your prized possessions.
So, how do you become prepared for a natural disaster?
First off, make a strategic plan for packing and evacuation with the people in your household or the people in your emergency contact list.
There are important questions you need to ask yourself when developing this plan. What is my evacuation plan? What is my shelter plan? Who is the closest family or friends that are willing to use their home as a shelter for me?
If your area is prone to a certain natural disaster, such as wildfires, have your evacuation zone memorized.
When it comes to packing, having a go-bag prepared at all times is key to escaping quickly and efficiently.
This “go-bag” can contain anything from a weeks’ worth of clothing to important documents and medication to a first-aid kit to personal memorabilia such as pictures. Carefully think through what is essential for you to live your day-to-day life, but also your possessions that you have a personal connection to.
Living through natural disasters you realize what your wants and needs are. You need food and water. You don’t need your entire closet. You are the judge of your own survival essentials.
When your community is prone to a specific natural disaster during a certain season, have this go-bag packed and ready in your car during that time so you’re ready at any moment.
In your car carry batteries, flashlights, portable chargers, and car battery cables.
After having this packing list and evacuation plan finalized, create an emergency contact list. This includes the people whose home you plan to evacuate to, but also the people in your neighborhood. This list can also include family or friends who live out of town that can become a second possible evacuation spot for you.
Notify the people on this emergency contact list about your evacuation plan and how they play into it.
With the people on this list and in your household, determine emergency meeting spots when your original evacuation spots become compromised. This can be store parking lots or community centers. Discuss with everyone what their designated job is when it comes to evacuate in order to avoid the extra chaos.
Lastly, sign up for your local community emergency alerts to always be alert of what is happening and if you are in danger. A great resource is the AlertSanDiego emergency response system, which notifies residents and businesses within San Diego County if they will be impacted by an emergency or disaster. Register here to be alert for the latest local disaster news.
I’ve been affected by a natural disaster. I’ve seen people lose everything to natural disasters. You can never be too ready for a natural disaster because you never know when a disaster can strike next.
Maritza Camacho is a junior studying journalism. Follow her on Instagram @maritza___camacho.