As I watch the tornados ravish central US, I realize that in some ways those of us who live in Florida have been blessed.  When it’s not hurricane season, we are often faced with another natural disaster.  However, we are almost always given days or weeks of warning–time to prepare.

When the winter and late-spring  “wet” season turns dry, Florida becomes a tender-field primed for wild fires.  In 1998, the headlines across the nation were “Florida on Fire.”  The conditions of dry, hot weather became the perfect recipe for tragedy.  Because of great fire prevention efforts by our fire department, we have avoided a similar experience until this spring.

In 1998, I went to our Special Gathering Daytona program without any concerns about the fires that were burning in other parts of the state.  They were hundreds of miles away.  However, during the hours of our program, numerous wild fires broke out in Central Florida.  One was only a few miles from our Daytona program.  When we exited the building, it was evident that there were problems.

Over the treetops, we could see the flames lapping into the western skyline.   After insuring that everyone was home safely, I was caught in Daytona with basically no way to drive south to my home in Brevard County 100 miles away.  I went west by way of Interstate 4 into Orlando, then took Highway 50 back to the east coast.  The highways were being closed behind me as I traveled.  Tongues of fire sprang up along the roadway as I drove in the darkness.  While I normally would be home by 7pm, it was 11 before I pulled into our driveway.

In March of this year,  a similar thing happened, traveling the miles to Daytona for a Volusia board meeting, I saw the smoke from a large fire burning to the west of I-95 in the county south of Daytona; but the winds were blowing the smoke toward the west.  I could not even smell the smoke.  By the time our meeting started, however, I-95 had closed.

Our meeting ended at 5pm.  I turned on my car radio for the most current fire alerts.  I-95 and US 1 had been closed and A1A was the highway recommended if you were heading south.  Because of numerous wrecks in Orlando, it was recommended that people not detour by way of Orlando.  I began my winding way home.  At one point I was within a few feet of the raging forest.  Without incident, I reached my house only two and half hours later than originally planned.

When facing emergencies or local disasters, it is good to have a plan in place before you must confront the lions of fire, tornado, riot or tumult.  Understand, I’m not suggesting that you put your family in the middle of such danger but danger may happen suddenly and unaware.  It is godly wisdom to prepare for the eventuality of such events.  Here are 12 must-do precautions you should do before and in the middle of a disaster.

  • First, put your plans in writing so that all family members are on the same page in the event of natural or man-made disaster.
  • Second, have a meeting place other than your home where family members will come to meet each other.  This is especially true with children.  A school, church, police or fire station is a perfect place to designate.
  • Third, teach your children the route to the nearest police station.  This a safe haven where they will be protected and secure.  When things are calmer, you can pick up the children from the police station.
  • Fourth, in advance, tell your family or friends who do not live in your immediate area, your survival plans and where your children will be meeting you.  In this way, they can notify the authorities regarding where you may be located.
  • Fifth,  call those out-of-town individuals, if possible, after or during the event to let them know your exact location and if your entire family has met you.
  • Sixth, if you are using a cell phone, begin your calls as quickly as possible, before the lines become jammed with calls.  If you don’t have a cell phone, get one.  Texting will work, if the phone lines will not.  Because of downed phone lines, cell phones may be the only phones that will be working in the case of a devastating emergency.
  • Seventh, have a calling backup plan. Try to maintain the location of a land line so that you can make calls should the cell connections be interrupted.
  • Eighth, if possible, keep your family together until all of them are safe.  If you must be separated, take your children to a police station which is a secure location.
  • Ninth, if for some reason, at the time of the tragedy, you have a minor child with you who is not part of your family and they cannot return home, take them to a local police station or another to a designated secure location.  If you do not want to leave the child at the police station, give the local officials the child’s information.  Be sure to give exact information regarding your location or how you can be located.  Get and give exact names and phone numbers.
  • Tenth, if you are not able to leave the location where you are when the disaster strikes, help the people around you to remain calm and quiet.  Pray out loud often, soothe and quiet people with your calmness.  Let as many people as possible know where you are located.  Using a cell phone, call 911.  Call your family.
  • Eleventh, when you are traveling, do not ever pay with cash.  Use your credit card.  This will give local officials the ability to track your activities and your estimated location.
  • Twelfth, determine early if you want your family’s hurt and tragedy to be exposed to the press.  Determine if you will speak to the press.  Appoint one person talk to the press.  This may sound silly but it is vital in this information-age to decide in advance how much you want to expose of yourselves.

It is our prayer that we never have to face down calamity; but there is a good possibility that it will happen.  While Florida was fighting wild fires, a fast-moving blizzard was moving through the northwest part of our nation.  Now, floods and tornados are leveling entire towns.  Each part of the world has a unique natural disaster visage.  Preparation is wisdom; and wisdom is a virtue that God commends and blesses.

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