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Sue Gelade

Living in the hills, we had a ‘firebox’ by the front door - personal papers, photos and backups. I used to be a firie, so hubby could grab box and go one way, and me to the fire station. BUT I’ve seen too many folk wait too long to evacuate and then it’s too late. Heed your emergency warnings, keep your eyes and noses out for smoke and GO EARLY. Unless you are fully prepared to stay and house can be defended - with good sprinkler systems and a knowledge about putting out ember attacks, you haven’t a chance against the impact of fire - and that includes absolute panic in the face of what the heat, noise and smoke is like. Even then, it’s not always possible to save a house. GO EARLY before trees block roads and you can still see your way.

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Yes people 'think' they can stay and defend however something else to consider - what if there is asthma in the family, you could unknowingly trigger an attack, although never having suffered from asthma - smoke is all pervasive and then you are no use to anyone and a danger to others trying to evacuate you! Second the trees over the road - drive to your home and check out the roadside trees, even a small one over the road could stop a car!

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When a devastating earthquake struck in February 2011, I was at work in the city, hubby was out of town for work and our child was at school. The only thing I grabbed as I evacuated my place of work was my handbag as it had my cellphone in it. Short text messages before cell towers went down confirmed our child was OK and hubby was alerted to the disaster.

When I got home several hours later the house was awash with smashed "stuff". I grabbed the cat and put her in her cage (she was hiding on a chair under the dining table), threw together some sturdy clothes for each of us and got the civil defence kit out of the garage which contained food and water for 5 days, torches, a small tent, a small gas cooker etc. Stuff isn't important, people (and pets) are.

One lady I know, as she ran from her collapsed home, grabbed an old scarf and a sunhat from the coat rack by the door. Her house was demolished the next day with everything in it as the house was too dangerous to re-enter. At least she can laugh about the things she saved.

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