Approaching fire confirms need to have emergency plan

ITD’s Cheryl Rost, manager of risk management and employee safety, has long been an advocate of being prepared for unexpected emergencies. So has Bryan Smith, manager of ITD’s emergency services. And the Ada City County Emergency Management office. And the Bureau of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMAA).

Add Tracey Jo Richards to the list. The Division of Motor Vehicles’ employee knows first hand the importance of being prepared and now is a disciple of preparedness plans.

Following is Tracey's testimony:

I want to tell you my story and what I learned regarding disaster preparedness.  Saturday night (July 24) was hot, and we had plans to go to the music festival. We had company from out of town and they brought their nine-month daughter; everyone was having a great time.  As the evening progressed we all decided we were not going to the festival, and we were all having a good time sitting on the deck …

My son saw a light by the pond and immediately went to investigate – no one should be in the ponds after dark.  It was a small fire about 50 yards from my home.  They ran back to the house and got buckets and hooked the hose in back.  They contained the fire.

We all went back to our party and 15 minutes later we saw another light in the same area, but it was bigger.  We got the hoses and tried to get to the fire. The fire took off so fast it was only 10 minutes and the 100-foot trees in the park behind my house were completely engulfed in flames. It was moving fast.  The security guard at ITD called the fire department. I lost my cell phone in the panic.  Thank God ITD has security guards that actually guard.

I continued to spray the roof of my home but we lost all water pressure.  The fire was now 50 feet from my home, and the police were evacuating the mobile home park. I ran back to get my house keys and car keys, but they wouldn’t let me take my car. They would only let us take one car, so I jumped in with my company, their nine-month old baby and their little brother drove.  At this time I could not find my son or my cell and I hoped he went for his pick-up, so we headed for our pre-planned meeting place, which is the parking lot of ITD.

At least we had a preplanned meeting place. He showed up within 10 minutes. So there we were sitting in the parking lot of ITD at 1 a.m. with four adults and a baby.

Only two of us had shoes on, no money, no water, no baby supplies.  We went into Taco Bell and they gave us two cups of water for free. We were able to go home at 2:30 in the morning.  I was so happy to see I didn’t lose my home and car. I immediately told the kids we are going to get serious about the preparedness plan. That’s when we all realized how fast and how serious it could have been… what would have happened if nobody saw the fire. We could have lost everything including our lives.  When we were evacuating I was thinking “OMG” why haven’t I got my supplies ready? I have been taught this and I have received training, but still I put if off.  

The thing to remember is it could happen to anyone, and we only had a matter of minutes to get out.

For information about creating an emergency/preparedness plan, contact your county Emergency Services office or visit FEMA’sReady America website.

Published 7-30-2010