September is National Preparedness Month, did you know? What if you had to make an emergency exit from your home? Are you prepared? Guest blogger, Jeanne Leffingwell, shares her emergency preparedness plan for various scenarios. Enjoy. 

I’ve had some dark thoughts lately. It’s related to feeling overwhelmed again, with too much stuff and too many obligations. That’s what prompted me to think up this little exercise – a slight variation of my occasional rumination, “Okay, if I was gonna die tomorrow, is this really what I’d be doing?”

I decided to make a list called “What I would grab if I had to get out of this house right now?”

The first scenario: “FIRE!” Only a few seconds? That’s easy: my husband, any other humans, the dog, and a leash so she won’t freak and run away completely. Five extra seconds? Then shoes and jacket.

In my second scenario, a nuclear cloud is approaching and I have 15 minutes to load a backpack and evacuate. So I’d grab all of the above plus: an extra pair of socks, my eyeglasses, toothbrush, a big bag of nuts and our dried plums, a pencil, notebook, Swiss Army knife, matches, lip gloss, sunscreen, bandana (I could write a book on 1001 uses for a bandana), as large a water bottle as I could stuff in, and please let there be room for my thermal cup and a baggie of tea. Oh, yes, plus extra Ziplock® bags and Duct® tape! My bike would be better than the car, which would just run out of gas. I’d make up the speed difference while weaving in and out of jammed traffic. (Glad the dog’s on a leash.)

Let’s call my third scenario “One hour to pack the car and run for our lives to an isolated and as-yet-unknown destination.”

In addition to the previous items, I’d take the car keys plus the little tin of seed packets (spinach, chard, even zucchini), needles and thread (pretty hard to fix shelter or clothes without these), my knitting (calms the nerves… plus extra socks), our Pendleton blanket, some wire, rope, and a couple spoons and forks from the silver my mother gave me. (Why not? I hate plastic.) I think I’d throw in my Zulu necklace with all its glass beads. In case there’ll be other refugees, I could barter them (remember Sacajawea?) and teach lost skills.

After listing these practical things, I walked around the house noting other things I’d grab if I had any time left. I was surprised. They were purely sentimental: a wedding snapshot, an early family photo and one with our 20-something kids laughing with each other. A small drawing of pencils by our daughter and a sculpture our son made. A Palouse watercolor by a friend and a Mexican embroidery I’ve framed (maybe ditch the frame.) I’d grab one of my husband’s guitars if it were not already in the car – he can pack for any occasion in under 9 minutes.

If there was any room left around the dog’s nest in the back seat: a couple more blankets and towels and changes of clothes, deck of cards, some candles, a plate, cup, cooking pan, spare tube of lip gloss and my favorite useful book of all time, A Pattern Language. I’d yell at my husband to grab some aspirin and tweezers. We could stash water jugs and more food into any remaining nooks and finally, hopefully, load both bikes on the carrier. Knowing this exercise might seem tactless to anyone who’s currently living out of a car, I apologize in advance for any offensiveness, but perhaps you have additional advice?

I’ve thought about this list several times, and think I’ll tack a copy up inside the front closet for emergency preparedness. Plus a convenient and friendly reminder: When the proverbial crap hits the fan, it’s really only the first scenario that matters, minus the shoes and coat even.

jeanneleffingwellJeanne Leffingwell is an artist with enough art supplies to last three lifetimes, but she’s working on paring down. She writes a regular column for her local newspaper, the Moscow Pullman Daily News, called “Lightening Up: Downsizing without moving or dying,” a humorous blow-by-blow from the trenches. Learn more about Jeanne and her work at