Is your family prepared for a major disaster — to evacuate your home at a moment’s notice? No one ever expects to have to plan for the worst. That was also the case for one local family.
It’s suppertime in the Schaible home.
Dad, Brian, is a fourth-grade teacher. Mom, Patty, is an X-ray technician.
It’s been a busy day, so children Katie, Mackenzie and Lyle are about to enjoy a hodge-podge supper of chicken nuggets, PB&J and fruits and veggies before rushing off to soccer and softball.
Faithful family pet, Zoey, is waiting by the door, ready to alert her humans to any outside danger. But could there be a danger out there? One that Zoey can’t smell?
The Schaibles knew WSBT was coming to their house, but they didn’t know why. We wanted to see how prepared they were to evacuate their home because of a “worse-case scenario.” And we were only giving them 5 minutes. Why? We wanted to simulate recent disasters from around the world: The disasters in Japan, the flooding in Memphis and the tornados in the Southeast. In each of those cases families needed to pick up and leave and they didn’t know when they would be able to come back.
The Schaibles hear the knock at the door.
“There has been a major disaster,” I told them, “We need you to evacuate your home. You have 5 minutes. Get what you need. Expect you won’t be able to come back for weeks, if not months. You have 5 minutes. Go.”
The Schaibles spring into action immediately. “5 minutes, alright.” said Brian. “Katie and Mackenzie, you have 5 minutes to get in your room and get anything you need. We are leaving. Go.”
Of course, the Schaibles are going through a simulation — they get 5 minutes to evacuate. In the event of a real disaster, though, they could have more time but they could also have less.
For 5 minutes the Schaible house is in chaos. Patty grabs clothes for the kids. Brian grabs dog food and important documents. Besides rounding up the kids and the dog, the Schaibles were able to put together a small pile of stuff and load up the car. But after the time runs out, the question stands: What were they able to grab and is it enough?
“When I first knocked on the door and said, ‘There has been a major disaster,’ what goes through your head?” I asked Brian.
“The first thing that went through my mind is what should I get and I had no idea. I couldn’t answer that question at the time,” said Brian.
“After going through this drill, do you think your family was prepared,” I asked.
“No. I mean, honestly no,” said Brian, “I think we have all the important stuff. We have everybody. We were fortunate to have our birth certificates and some of those documents lying around just because we haven’t put them away, so I know I was able to grab my wallet and things like that but I don’t think so. What we would do right now, I don’t know. We were in the car but where would we go? I don’t know.”
“As much as we grabbed and it seemed like it was good things we grabbed. Really, how prepared are we going to be afterwards?” said Patty.
“After reflecting on everything you have loaded the van up with, could you live for the next five months?” I asked.
“No, no way,” said Patty. “We have no food. Again, depending on the disaster there, are no bandages. There is no first aid kit in our car.”
The Schaibles did manage to collect:
-Themselves: the kids and the dog.
-Clothes for their kids
-Their computer and cell phones
“Is there anything you would have grabbed that you missed, now that you have had time to take a breath,” I asked.
“I honestly don’t know. I have never even thought about this kind of thing before. So I don’t even know what I am missing at this point,” said Brian.
“Well it looks like you’re off to a good start,” said Mark Smith, who is the St. Joseph County Red Cross preparedness health and safety director. “You’ve got some things that will keep you in the immediate aftermath of it. One of the things that we talk to people about is, although emergency medical professionals will be on the move and trying to get to people to help them, it’s a good thing is to try to have provisions that will last you 48 to 72 hours.”
Smith said most families don’t have a plan, but in the event of a disaster, a plan could save lives.
The Schaibles will be making a plan, so that if there ever is a next time, they will be ready.
The Red Cross recommends getting your family up to speed with three simple steps: Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.