Y2K Lessons Learned In A Small Town Evacuation -- Part 1 Of 3

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Y2K Lessons Learned In A Small Town Evacuation -- Part 1 Of 3 offered by Diane J. Squire ) October, 1998 sacredspaces@yahoo.com

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A few years ago my former small 2,000 plus person town of Idyllwild, California was completely evacuated. The town and its suburbs are located between 5,200 to 6,000 feet up in National Forest in Southern California. Two roads lead directly into town -- one was closed, the other blocked to all incoming traffic. If residents were off the hill, they were not allowed back up to collect pets and belongings.

A huge fire storm on two fronts was heading for town. What made this a particularly dicey situation is that every house, cabin, lodge, restaurant, motel and retail business is fueled by outside propane tanks. (We get snow during the winter). The assumption was that if the fire reached the tanks, it would create a domino effect of explosion after unstoppable explosion.

Over two thousand front-line fire fighters came in from all parts of the Western United States. Over 160 firetrucks and related personnel also honed in on our small mountain-top community. Were we ever grateful!! Numerous helicopters continuously scooped water from small mountain lakes like precision drill teams. Fire-retardant carrying bombers where circling from dawn till dusk. The air traffic sounds alone were deadening and yet comforting. There was a war on.

Fortunately we did have power, water and telecommunications operational. The local emergency radio station became our only local source for minute-to-minute news broadcasts. People collected at viewing points to watch the fires progress up the mountain. They gathered at the local Forest Service offices and fire stations to get news straight from the horses mouth. At one particularly critical point -- obvious to everyone watching the blackening sky -- the U. S. Forestry Department authorities decided to evacuate half the town. Those closest to the inbound fires. They announced mandatory evacuation -- NOW -- for specific areas bounded by specific streets over the local radio station. Prior to that they were only advising that residents take necessary precautions to leave the hill at a moments notice, not to mention actually leave.

Crews of Mountain Rescue teams, forest service personnel and residential volunteers went to every single house in the targeted area to encourage a timely departure. If no one was home, they tagged the house out on the street, in a visible location, with one color of ribbon. If the resident proved stubborn and unwilling to leave, they did not force them to do so. Legally they couldnt. Those who elected to stay, had their houses tagged with a different color ribbon. These calm rescue workers did their best to convince people to leave in an orderly fashion. At no point was there any force used. Most residents decided to leave, per request, and they were not allowed back up the hill until it was all over. It was a very cordial, organized, panic-less partial evacuation.

But dont get me wrong. Most of us were looking pretty ragged, had had no sleep the night before, the acid smell of smoke was everywhere, our eyes watered and our anxiety level was extreme. The smart ones had their cars packed in advance. I did notice that every neighbor kept tabs on one another on their own street. They offered to help -- whether it was requested or not -- and generally took responsibility for each other. They would check the vacant houses to be sure they were locked. Neighbors Id never met before would stop by and ask if everything was okay.

I lived on the back side of town but was visiting a friend in the mandatory evacuation zone at the time of announcement. We had decided the most positive thing we could do to help the uncertain situation was to meditate. Depending upon ones religious, spiritual or conscious persuasion, people either prayed, meditated or took care of immediate departure needs. My friend and I had one of those only-in-California experiences. The rescue workers knocked on the door, asking us if we realized it was mandatory evacuation. I said Yes, but we need to finish meditating first. The worker looked stunned, said Oh, okay, and left. I was incredibly impressed.

So, half the town left. The rest of us went through another sleepless night. Why sleepless? When a crisis is immediate, all other concerns are unimportant. The rent doesnt even remotely matter. The bills are welcome to all go up in flames. Who even cares about the IRS tax records. What was important, and immediate, were our personal decisions about what would be packed in the car. Each of us had full houses. But only one car-load of possessions could leave the hill, per driver. Period. All of us had to strip down through our lifes possessions and ask Whats really important to me right now, in this moment?

It was both gut-wenching and pretty obvious at one-and-the-same time. Family and pets first. Clothing. Some food. For those of us who had it, camping gear (tents, sleeping bags, survival gear, blankets, water). Only the really good pictures, that which was small and portable or that which we just couldnt live without made the cut. The deciding factor was what would fit into or roped on top of the car (assuming you had rope). Remember, the ways things looked, once we left, wed only return to cinders.

Lets stop here a moment.

I ask you to take a hard look at what is really important to you. Imagine that you have absolutely no idea where youll end up or what supplies will be there when you arrive. You have one car and what it can hold. Thats it. What is really important to you??? Better to ask yourself this hard question now. At least at that time, I knew I could leave the hill and go somewhere where everything was still normal.

Now lets extrapolate. Its the first Y2K week in January, 2000. For several days there has been little-to-none or perhaps sporadic power. The phone doesnt work. Its cold outside. Your emergency solar-powered radio or battery-operated one is your only link to the outside world. No ones broadcasting, except maybe a few ham operators with generators. You are clueless, but well-prepared.

Youve stocked up on cords of firewood, have the basement, or attic if concerned about sewer back-up, filled with a years worth of supplies. The garden is tilled and waiting for the spring planting season. Youve collected oodles of non-hybridized seeds. The survival gear is organized. You have access to a steady source of clean water. Youve got your personal protection system in place. You, and your family, are ready to make your stand -- alone -- against the world. Youve thought of every possible contingency. It doesnt even matter if youre urban, sub-urban or rural. You and those you love will make it!

You just forgot one thing. WE ARE ALL IN THIS ONE TOGETHER. All of us, on this planet, this floating blue globe in a star-studded sea, are inextricably connected and inter-connected. Go ahead and call it the world-wide-humanity-web. Remember that phrase, United We Stand, Divided We Fall? THINK about what that means. Think about the nuclear warheads around the planet, sitting, waiting. Think about the distant people you love sitting in other parts of the country, or the planet, sitting, waiting. It doesnt even remotely matter how prepared you are to take your stand. You are not alone. You are all one. Now. How will you choose to contribute to this planet? Whats really important? Think about it.

Now. Lets imagine a more immediate Y2K scenario. Do recall that the outcome of your lifes path is tied to those around you. Lets keep it simple. Just suppose one of the kids down the block or an inexperienced, frightened Y2K city evacuee was careless with matches. You have a fire storm headed your way. All the tons of 50-pound bags of rice youve stashed wont stop this one. Neither can that gun youve kept by your side. Neither can anyone else. Communications are down and only you and your neighbors know about this very real threat. You have to move ... NOW. You have one car per driver and can only go as far as one tank of gas will take you. Whats important? Where will you go? How do you even know you can get there?

Do you run over your neighbor, their kid, their dog, in a mad dash to save yourself, your family? Or do you choose, as Idyllwild did, to help one another?? When faced with a common crisis do you stop for a crying child? Do you help your crippled neighbor? Do you recognize, no matter how obnoxious, that everyone in your local community is your extended family? That they all have something of value to contribute to the greater community survival, even that cute two-year-old making everyone laugh? Do you recognize that it doesnt matter whether theyve lived here ten years or two days? We are all tied, woven, together. We choose to either be a lovely tapestry or a mottled, moth-eaten rug. I suggest you make your choices now ... before Y2K really hits!!

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The story continues in ... Y2K Lessons Learned In A Small Town Evacuation -- Part 2 Of 3 offered by Diane J. Squire ) October, 1998 sacredspaces@yahoo.com ...

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 28, 1998


- The rescue workers knocked on the door, asking us if we realized it was mandatory evacuation. I said Yes, but we need to finish meditating first. The worker looked stunned, said Oh, okay, and left. I was incredibly impressed....

You are not alone. You are all one. Now. How will you choose to contribute to this planet? -

Did you hug the trees before you left?

-- new ager 4 sure (grandmother@willow.com), October 28, 1998.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

-- Dusty Gowns (shakyisles@toobusy.com), October 28, 1998.

You're from ... California??? I would never have guessed.

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), October 28, 1998.

Diane, I have read your post here at your suggestion on my own thread. You just proved how out of touch you are with reality. Meditating? If the power of personal meditation was as powerful as you suggest, every man, woman and child on the planet would be rich and well fed. While I believe that if God wills it, interventions happen through prayer to HIM. Doesn't always happen the way we want, but that is how character is developed. Meditating may clear the mind and focus attention ( I studied martial arts for many, many years), but does nothing to affect situations outside the self. You cannot feed and clothe the world through meditation. Neither will meditation change wind patterns to steer fire from a course to your house. Only God can do that.

As far as "We're all in this together", first of all WE ARE ALREADY DIVIDED! How blind are you? We're divided by class, wealth, race, sex, ideology and so on. Secondly, we are NOT all one. As I said before, we would need to be of a single mind to achieve what you propose, and that isn't gonna happen until God comes back and sets us straight! If we were all of one mind, the Cold War, the Holocaust, Bosnia and other atrocities would have never happened!

I am preparing to survive by storing-up and readying my family and friends as best I can. The majority of others I try to make aware of Y2K still will not accept the FACTS of Y2K, they're carpet sweepers, somehow thinking it will be fixed and life as we know it for the last 35 years will go on unimpeded. These will be the ones that will be caught unprepared, and will do ANYTHING, including rob and kill for survival, because that's what we're talking about here Diane. Survival. Desperate times will breed deperate people.

Contributing what you have to a community will only last for so long before jealousies, greed, resentment or the military take what you have compiled together away from you. All the meditating in the world won't save you. Look at Bosnia and kosovo for example. Refugees caught with only what they could carry fled to the hills. They not only were victims of the military, they became victims of other refugees stealing from them to survive. Atrocities too numerous to mention were commited by not just the military, but by fellow refugees alike.

You're existing in La La Land by thinking that if we somehow have a global "Hands Across The Planet" and sing a few songs that human nature will somehow hold itself in check.

Small communities pull together in disasters, Yes. People work together to ease suffering, Yes. Outside aid required to sustain ravaged communities, Yes. Problems stemming from jealousy, greed, malice, hunger, destitution, oppression and lawlesness solved, NO. Will the world or even just this nation pull together in time to work through a timeshift back to the '40s, NO. If we could Diane, do as you suggest in your example, this nation wouldn't have the problems it does have now.

I will tell you that after Hurricane Andrew hit South Florida, the damage was so widespread that many were left to fend for themselves FOR DAYS and WEEKS! Looting and violence spread through there. It was rampant! I know because I saw it with my OWN EYES! It wasn't until aid from the outside came that things eased back to normal after time. As I said before, post Y2K America...where will aid come? We will be left to fend for ourselves. That's where human nature will take over. All your bead worship and crystal meditations won't stop that from happening.

A dose of reality is sobering, but it's real. Not a pipe dream.

-- Mike Deering (mdeering@wk.net), October 28, 1998.

Interesting responses so far...

Diane, I agree with you, but I wonder if we're the minority in this.

I often work with my television on. Since I work at home it gives me the illusion of company. Any way, a few years ago I sat working when the program I was listening to was interrupted by a breaking news story. What I saw was absolutely terrible. A plume of smoke rising from what looked like an office building. What I hadn't seen yet was the distruction on the front of the building. Needless to say, it floored me.

What I did see though were very brave souls who were putting themselves in danger to help the injured, etc. That was amazing.

I've been there, but on a smaller scale.

One 4th of July as I played with my nephew outside his home, I noticed a roof a few houses down begin to smolder. A bottle rocket had gone a stray and landed directly on a wood tile roof. It didn't look good.

I ran into my nephews home and yelled "fire!, call 911". Everyone rushed out of the house and I asked the men around me to come with me to warn the people inside. I ended up going alone. My wife tugged on my arm but I looked at her and said, "I can't NOT help them". I ran to the door and banged on it. It took some time for the resident to answer. I said, "your roof is on fire, 911 has been called, what can I help you get out of here?" The owner looked at me dumbfounded and came outside. He looked and returned, casually, into his home. I followed, now joined by others. The owner explained the situation to his family who sat around a table. Feeling a sense of urgency, I said, "please, there is NO time, you need to find what you would like to take, tell us what you want out of here and then get out!" Absolute silence.

After about a minute or so I decided that my life wasn't worth losing and neither were the lives of those who had come in after me. I said, "look, you MUST get out of here. Please, figure out what you want out of here and let us know. You need to do this fast, the fire department is on it's way and your property will suffer fire, water, and smoke damage." Still, no response.

In this home where luxuries like a home theatre system, two computers and so much more. Nothing was taken out.

After we went outside I noticed a young man on the roof in a fire jacket and helmet. He wasn't more than 17 or 18. I recognized him as the son of a fire chief who lived a few houses down. He had a garden hose and an axe and he was trying his best. None of us knew the family within the home. This wasn't even my neighborhood. The ellapsed time I would guess as perhaps 3-5 minutes from when I first noticed the smoke.

When the fire department made it to the home, and they were fast on the scene, the house was already raging. The father/Fire Captain of the boy on the roof called to him. He came down a ladder and they embraced. He had put his life in absolute risk for a stranger. The father was overwhelmed and they embraced. The crowd cheered. It was an inspiring moment.

The fire made it's way through the attic and was on the second story of the home by that time. The fire department did an amazing job and saved the structure but the damage was high and much of the property was lost.

They family never got anything out except themselves. The home repairs took several months.

The point is that things like this happen quickly. There isn't any moment for thought or to ponder the situation when lives are on the line and some people act in amazing ways when faced with such challenges. The boy on the roof is a sight I will never forget. He had a life ahead of him filled with promise and he put himself and his future in jeopardy to do something for an absolute stranger who live a block away from his own home.

Lives are interconnected. If you don't appreciate this then you don't understand the balance of life itself. If you discount the life of one person or living thing, then you have discounted all life. There isn't a middle ground here. No gray area.

Think about it the way you think about y2k. All these systems, interconnected and interdependent. What might happen if the dominos begin to fall. You've thought about this.

If you take that understanding and apply it to all life around you then maybe you'll "get it".

Mike -----------------

-- Michael Taylor (mtdesign3@aol.com), October 28, 1998.

Diane and Michael Taylor: We may be in the minority here on this forum but I believe we won't be in the minority when the general public finally understands what is at stake.

-- Buddy Y. (DC) (buddy@bellatlantic.net), October 28, 1998.


I appreciate your attitude toward mankind. I hope that my neighborhood is filled with people like yourself who stop to help the little child on the way out of town. I am ashamed of what others say who use God in their explanations and then say things that misrepresent Him. I do sympathize with those like Mike who have seen some of the worst in humanity. But God has seen more than we will ever see and still thinks we're worth dying for. I'm glad Jesus didn't run for the hills when things got chaotic, expecially the garden of Gethsemane.

This is for Mike Deering and others who love to mention God and then refuse to consider what he says about our relationships with each other.

1 John 3:16-24 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. [17] If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? [18] Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. [19] This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence [20] whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. [21] Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God [22] and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. [23] And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. [24] Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

1 John 4:19-21 We love because he first loved us. [20] If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. [21] And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.

-- James Chancellor (publicworks1@bluebonnet.net), October 28, 1998.

Yes Diane, we are all in it together. If it comes down as hard as Milne and North are claiming then their preparations won't mean much. And the disaster would be much much worse than they realize.

-- Paul Davis (davisp1953@yahoo.com), October 28, 1998.

Diane, your experience and observations in this post is important and still useful to those in small comunities. That's the reason I'll be in one such small town on the roll-over.

Meditating and praying is scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and focus the mind so one can think and act better in crisis. Anyone "meditates" to some extent. A one minute period in which one tells oneself "breath deep, calm down, now what is the situation and what action will I do next" is meditating. Not just the zen-like long brain emptying of thoughts sessions.

Now if someone else could post a well written such as yours on "Lesson Learned in a Large City Infrastructure Crisis" to help city dwellers...know anyone Mike?

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), October 28, 1998.

"We believe in the goodness of God and in the inventiveness of men and women. History shows that when we act together, we can think and work ourselves out of multiple and seemingly intractable problems. We stand not with the pessimists who are frightened of the future, but with the optimists who understand that the greatest days of mankind lie ahead." == This appeared in a full page ad in today's Washington Times, as part of "An open letter on World Population Awareness Week". The good news, then, is that Y2K is going to be the "silver bullet" that will solve the world population crisis! Wow, this New Age stuff really does work!!

-- Jack (jsprat@eld.net), October 28, 1998.

I'll feed those who ask nicely. I'll shoot those who threaten my family. :-)

-- Zerad (zerad@mydejanews.com), October 28, 1998.

Dear James Chancellor,

Don't misquote scripture to me. Anyone at anytime can dig up verses to back-up his or her beliefs, even condoning abominable sin. Throwing scriptures around solves nothing. Take the verse, the chapter and the book or letter in context and let scripture interpret scripture.

God does expect us as we are able to provide for others. This is how we demonstrate the love of Christ in us. However, Christ Himself gave instructions to His disciples about dealing with an impending calamity that would befall Jerusalem. He told them "When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies... take flight and flee to the mountains..."(Mt 24:16-18) He told them to flee with what they had on them, not to return for even a coat. He did not tell them to be "Christlike" and minister to those who did not prepare and were stuck there, or provide food for the destitute that were under seige there in 70 A.D.

I would imagine that you would be scolding the Christians in 70A.D. who heeded the warning and were fleeing as "not having the love of Christ in them" for not providing for those who would suffer under the Roman seige. God hasn't somehow miraculously changed since then. His instructions are as applicable today as in 33 A.D. when they were spoken If we see the disaster coming and do nothing to prepare, will God not hold us to account?

Paul also tells us to be a "living sacrifice", not a dead one. I'll prepare as I see fit, and not to please anyone else but God.

-- Mike Deering (mdeering@wk.net), October 28, 1998.

I'm sorry. I don't understand the lessons learned from this post. I sincerely tried to find a deeper meaning in the questions, but nothing registered.

Diane, I really don't mean to be cynical, but either you are way over my head or you've found a place where having a knack for the obvious doesn't get rewarded.


-- PNG (png@gol.com), October 28, 1998.

Here's another misquoting of scripture Mike,

Philip. 1:27-2:4 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel [28] without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved--and that by God. [29] For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, [30] since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have. [2:1] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, [2] then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. [3] Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. [4] Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

-- James Chancellor (publicworks1@bluebonnet.net), October 28, 1998.

Diane, No question our fates are linked (past lives, hidden karma, who knows?) But a few will lead and most want to follow. I spent a year travelling by bicycle around the world many years ago. It was a great way to learn that if I couldn't put IT on a bike and pedal up a mountain then I really didn't need IT. Still, don't be to judgemental of those who are hyper preparing. They are the nucleus for a new beginning.

-- R. D..Herring (drherr@erols.com), October 28, 1998.

PNG -- Just call me an optimist.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), October 28, 1998.

Hard choices. Is it ethical to endanger yourself, and thereby those dependent on you, in order to try to help another? Are there any guidelines here? Who shall draw them?

This passage in Matthew (King James version) seems to apply, at least for those who hold the Bible as inspired:

(Matt. 25:1-12 ) Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. {2} And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. {3} They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: {4} But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. {5} While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. {6} And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. {7} Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. {8} And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. {9} But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. {10} And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. {11} Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. {12} But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

The text comes from a culture very different from ours. Sounds like, "I've got mine, get lost." Followed by divine approval.

If some of these life-and-death situations come my way, I hope I'll be able to deal with them on the merits -- rather than on somebody else's set of rules.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), November 03, 1998.

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