So I am what you might call "cautiously optimistic" – I really don't expect the worst, I try not to spend too much time in the 'worry zone' and I usually have a general plan that is highly flexible. However, last night, I spent more time than I wish feeling very unprepared for a real emergency.
In the early morning, we had heard several sirens pierce the quiet. When Ethan and I left the house, the billowing smoke was easy to see about a half-mile from us. Flames, ladders and shooting water. My son and I prayed for the home owners and their animals and we went on about our business. When we returned six or seven hours later, there was no real sign of anything, except some residual smoke.
At 3:00 am, I was awakened by the strong smell of burning. I got up and peered through several windows … I went out the front door. The Harvest Moon was so bright, it almost didn't seem dark. My eyes and lungs began to hurt, although the air still looked clear.
I think under normal circumstances, I probably would have just closed the windows and gone back to bed, however, we have several large animals now; feeling how much my lungs were smarting, I was thinking of them being out in this all night … surely it was hurting their eyes and throats. I did try to go back to sleep, but became increasingly anxious, thinking about how I really have no way of saving everyone if there was a close fire. It was distressing enough that I got dressed, brushed my teeth (because I can't think without clean teeth!), put in my contacts, so I'm street legal, and I drove all around the neighborhood trying to pinpoint the source.
It is SO quiet at now 4:00 am. I found in my reconnaissance that not that far from us, the air was clear; we were in a low spot that was collecting the smoke – from the same fire that was burning earlier. I returned home and tried to end my night better than the middle portion – i.e. sleeping.
This morning, while better, is still bad enough – it is quite painful to breathe. But of more concern to me is this realization that I truly can do little to help my animals. This, I need to figure out – not because I think there will be a need, but because if there is a need, I could never live with leaving them behind.
Having an actionable plan reduces panic, false guilt, and chaos. This is true for many things beyond emergencies. Its pretty much all of life, actually.