I woke up at 4 am to the smell of smoke.  Then came the pounding on the front door.  I stumbled downstairs and pulled back some curtains to see horrible flames bursting from the windows of our neighbour’s house.  The fireman at the door instructed us to quickly pack a bag in case we needed to evacuate our house.  This was a real fire drill.

    My head was spinning – what to put in the bag? Think!  What’s important? If only I’d thought this through before the smoke, flames and flashing lights.

    All the while I wondered what our neighbours were going to do. Fortunately they were out of town so nobody was injured but their beautiful house would be gutted, their possessions lost and their memories destroyed.  They would have to start over.

    What if disaster struck your home or business?  Would you be ready? Here’s what I’ve resolved to do:

    1. Be prepared for an emergency.  After you’ve done everything you can to reduce the risk of disaster (e.g.  check your fire alarms and sprinkler systems), develop a plan for how you will respond.  Lives and livelihoods may depend on it.  Do you have personal and business continuity plans?

    2. Know what’s important.  What needs to be saved?  If you have only 5 minutes to decide, what’s coming with you?  Keep a checklist somewhere handy.

    3. Check your insurance.  Not just your insurance policy, but also your back-ups.  Keep offsite duplicates of essential data and important documents.

    By dawn the flames were under control.  The fire department continued pumping water into the smoking shell of our neighbour’s house for a few more hours. In the end we never had to leave but we watched as the high pressure hoses washed away 20 years of another family’s life. It could just as easily have been our home, or your home, or your workplace.

    As I unpacked our hastily stuffed overnight bag I realized how unprepared we really were and how quickly our fortunes could change.  How foolish not to spend some small effort during good times, preparing for the worst.