A Fire Threatens Your Home...What Material Possessions Do You Take?

Not to make light of the fires in Southern California right now, but it got me thinking about what I would take with me if I was forced to evacuate. Family members and pets are obvious, but what material possessions would you take?

For the sake of limiting, assume you only have about 10 or 15 minutes to decide what stays and what goes.

My list includes:
photo albums
teddy bear
cell phone
CD collection

All the rest is pretty replaceable.

My photos, but I have them (most of them anyway) backed up onto CD-R so I would grab that case, my laptop, and my cameras. Since all my photos are in one place (and easy to grab) I’d still have a few minutes. I’d grab some of my more valuable model horses.

And some cat /dog food.

My videogame paraphernalia.

my passport
my jewelry
couple of photo albums
whatever quickly grabbed items of clothing that are either of very good quality, family items or special gifts
a pair of hiking boots or running shoes
my big flashlight

if I still have time left and I’ve wrangled the cat, I’ll probably also grab my more expensive pieces of camping gear a towel and my big coat.

I grabbed the two computer hard drives–all the puppy pictures definitely have to be copied to CD-R, lesson learned–a random assortment of clothes (plus what was in the dryer at the time), dog food and meds, a workbag of my husband’s, and two jackets. And the dogs, of course. Oops, and the parakeet. We always forget about him.

A few days worth of clothes, jacket, wallet with ATM and credit cards, watch, car keys, car title and the last several years of IRS returns and financial records. Maybe my UT diploma. That could be accomplished is 3 or 4 minutes.

  • Kick open my computer and rip out the hard drive.
  • The contents of two drawers.
  • Maybe a warm coat if it’s winter (don’t plan on sitting too close to the burning house).
  • That leaves about 7-12 minutes to hoo and haa over what else to bung into my suitcase. Probably stuff it with expensive clothes, CD-R’s and other paperwork.

Now if you asked me “What would you take out of the house?”, I would have replied “The fire”. Thank you Pterry. :wink:

Given the guarantee of time, AND assuming everyone including the cats, dog and rats were already out and safe, I’d want photos and purse. Everything else is replaceable.

And… not to be the wet blanket here, but it has to be said: a family friend DID get everyone out safely, then went back for the family photos. Her five children were orphaned that day. It’s fun to speculate, but never never never run back in.

Oh drat! Forgot my checkbook.

Of course, as soon as I posted, I remebered events from a few years ago. About a block after I’d turned off the cul-de-sac my building sat on, three fire trucks roared past me and turned into the cul de sac.


Wheeling around, I raced back, and sure enough, bunches of firefighters were rushing into the lobby, out of which smoke was streaming. I ran in the back door (near my office) and found, as I suspected, that my partner didn’t even know the building was burning.

We dumped a bunch of maps out of a box and quickly tossed in all of our backup and data tapes. Just as we finished, a couple of firemen came in and told us to get out.

So, that’s what I did IRL.

Judging from the people coming into my school (the local designated Red Cross shelter), it’s pets, photo albums, a few documents, and some clothes.

They are wise. After all, we can get them new prescription meds. More clothes, blankets, coats, cots, and whatnot have been coming in by the hour. There’s already an insurance guy there to start claims.

If you get that warning, don’t wait. MOVE. Of the ten people who died as of yesterday, most of them were caught in their cars trying to escape the fires.

Believe me, I sat home on Sunday watching fire coverage and had this same internal dialogue.

Of course there are things that would be nice to have, but if it came down to it, I’d grab the following:

My purse
My filing tote (has all bank/insurance/legal info)
A bag with a few toiletries - medicine, toothbrush, soap

If I had 5 more minutes, I’d grab a tote bag with a few basic pieces of clothing.

Everything else would realistically just be a pain in the ass to lose, but wouldn’t kill me.

I really hope that I never have to put this plan into action.

I have a plastic filing case, with handle, that holds my valuable documents. So, I would grab that, rip the plugs out of my computer and grab the tower (hey, the monitor is crappy, I’ll be happy to let insurance cover a new one), grab a teddy bear made from a seal fur coat my grandmother used to own, and head for the hills.

Wallet is in pocket, cell phone is on hip. Most of my music is now on MiniDiscs, which are in the car, along with the MD player. I have some collections I would really hate to lose, some of which are irreplaceable. (Original Infocom boxes! Vintage and antique steamer trunks! Photographs that haven’t been scanned in! My limited edition Donald Duck poster! First edition, signed books!)

It’d be heartbreaking, but I’d leave them in a heatbeat.

<< Never lick a gift horse in the mouth. >>

In ten full minutes, I could get dressed, grab my wallet, keys, checkbook, and box of important papers, and still have five or six minutes left over to get the garden hose and start working on the fire!

(This is almost essential, because otherwise the house would be a smoking ruin by the time the fire department got out here.)

This actually hits a bit close to home for me. About a year and a half ago, a massive luxury apartment complex under construction across the street from my complex caught fire. For a while, the wind was blowing the embers over my complex. It a raging inferno, and I believe I could have been out of a place to live had the fire department not shown up when it did.

What I got assembled to take with me were:

  • my keys, wallet and checkbook
  • my cell phone
  • my computer (it’s a laptop)
  • my cat

Had I been told to evacuate, that’s all I would have taken.

Howzzabout absolute short notice?

I usually crash with my trousers (be they jeans or the dress slacks I wore to the office that day) “loaded” with wallet (containing driver’s license, Amex, Visa, ATM, geophysicist license, SS card and whatever cash is on hand) and car key on the chair by my bed. Glasses and watch are on the bedstand and, while I’d hate to lose the watch (just about the only material thing I inherited from my father, and a nice watch), there are spare glasses in the car. Loafers are usually by the front door (next to the fire extinguisher).

I could be out in 10-20 seconds with enough for life to go on.

Handbag containing passport, visa, emergency cash, credit card, etc. A change of clothes if there’s time.

I’m boring. But practical. :slight_smile:

We had floods where we lived in Mississippi, so we learned some tricks – we keep a bag with clothes for everyone, a checkbook and a spare ATM card and basic toiletries and some towels where we can throw it into the car at a moment’s notice. Of course, if we can’t get to our car, it becomes moot, but it certainly helps.

Anyway, to the OP, I’m working from a presumption that I’ll have five to ten minutes, in an evacuation order situation, so I could successfully grab stuff and walk out to my car and then drive away. This is what I’d get, it’s listed by priority, so if I don’t get to the bottom of the list, I’d be hurt but I’d live:

The lockbox containing our important documents (birth certificates, passports, wills, etc.)
The Matisse that hangs in our living room
The 2 baby books and 1 main family photo album
The childrens’ favorite loveys, my teddy bear and Mr. TeaElle’s rag lamb
The CPU of our file server
A laptop so that we could get online sooner rather than later to communicate with people
My jewelry box
The DVDs of our wedding, Baby TeaElle and other stuff

If we had to get out with just what we could quickly put our hands on, like in the middle of the night, it’d just be the lockbox, the Matisse if at all possible, and maybe the laptop because it’s always fairly convenient.

The fires have reminded me that it’d be a good idea to get all of our irreplacable family photos and some of our documents backed up onto a DVD that could go into the lockbox or our safety deposit box. I also want to look into the usefulness of those safes that are supposed to withstand the heat of most house fires. I don’t think that they’d save us from an inferno like California, but thankfully it’d be very hard to have something like that here.

My CD Roms and floppies, and possibly the computer tower
College scrapbook and class ring
Firesafes (because they wouldn’t last very long in a lengthy conflagration)
Whatever clothes I could grab.

The rest of it can burn.

Anyone who is grabbing computers, CDs etc to recover their files has a very poor disaster recovery plan. Say the house burns down while no-one is home, there’s no grabbing stuff then. If you have electronic data you care about:

Back up regularly - say weekly.

Make 2 copies.

Store the second copy somewhere where the PC and first backup aren’t - I keep mine at my office.

Don’t read this and think that makes sense - do it.

My computer’s CPU. Not so much because of the data, but because it’s my…prrrecious…

My note/sketchbooks, in my carrying bag.

My copy of John Christopher’s The White Mountains.

And if I had enough forewarning, I’d move my DVDs/Videos/CD’s into my car (I could probably fit some of them into my fireproof safe, which I actually have.

Actually, if I had enough warning, I’d make sure to move as many of my books as I could into my car.