Have a Mental List for Emergencies

This past Saturday afternoon my husband Jay and I were getting ready to run some errands when we heard lots of fire trucks zooming by our apartment building. Living in New York City – this isn’t a big deal – it happens all the time and you learn to ignore it. But the sirens were constant and extremely loud this time. I looked out the window and there were firefighters rushing into our building! I started to smell smoke and yelled out to Jay that I thought something was on fire. I opened our apartment door and the hallway was filling with smoke.

I totally freaked out — Jay told me not to panic and to get my shoes and coat and we needed to get out. But my head was whirling in a million directions and my feet weren’t moving. I couldn’t remember where my shoes were – although they are always by the front door, always.

What do I do, what should I grab? I remembered my mental list for emergencies and grabbed my wedding rings, our laptop and my purse. Then we were out the door and hustled down 9 flights of stairs.

Making a mental list

You never know when or where you’re going to be when an emergency strikes. It’s my mantra to always be as prepared as possible in every situation. So take a few minutes right now to think about what is on your own emergency list. Think of the things you need to grab if they are nearby and you have time. Is it something that’s important or irreplaceable? Whether it be a pet or a pair of diamond earrings – only you know if it really matters enough.

Of course, if you are in an extremely dangerous situation you should just get out – who cares what’s on your mental list. Your life is much more valuable than anything on that list. Just get to safety.

Important documents to consider

Here’s a list of some important documents you might want to put in an easy to get to place so you can grab them if you need to flee quickly:

  • Adoption papers
  • Automobile titles
  • Bank account information
  • Birth certificates
  • Cemetery deeds
  • Check book
  • Divorce papers
  • Doctors’ contact information
  • Education records and diplomas
  • Government bonds
  • Health information for each family member (blood type, allergies, medications like Modalert)
  • Health insurance cards
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment & retirement account information
  • Last will and testament
  • Lease
  • Living will
  • Marriage license
  • Military records
  • Mortgage paperwork
  • Passports
  • Patents and copyrights
  • Real estate deeds
  • Social security cards
  • Tax records

We were out of the building in a few minutes with some of our neighbors and about 75 firefighters. An elderly woman who lives on the 5th floor was taken out of the building on a stretcher with minor injuries. We think it was her apartment where the fire broke out but we still don’t know the cause. Not long afterwards we were able to go back to our apartment where everything was back to normal but we were well aware that anything can happen.

This incident started a dialogue between Jay and I about which of our possessions really mattered and what we should do in an emergency if ever we are faced with one again. It was a good thing to talk about because now we’re prepared…but it took an emergency for us to have the talk. Use my experience to make your own mental list so you’re ready if an emergency pops up.

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2 replies
  1. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    I keep all important documents in a small safe that is supposedly fireproof. Although I may not remember to grab it in an emergency, at least those papers will be in a “safe” place during an emergency. I would say if you have to remember one thing in an emergency, it’s to help other living beings get out – your pets and your neighbors specifically. Copies of all those other documents do exist somewhere else.


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