Don’t Get Caught Unprepared

Many community groups came together to present a Teen Fire Safety Awareness Survey and Essay Contest. For more information on the survey results, please see page 14. Congratulations to first place winner Trenton Bilyeu, a SRHS junior. His essay is below. To read the second and third place essays, please go to


When most people think of being safe they often think about staying away from drugs and crime, however, having a family emergency plan and being prepared for a disaster is just as, if not more, important. What if your gas, electricity, water, and phones were cut off? What if your parents were away from home? What if the freeway was shut down? Where would you meet? Or where would you go?

The frightening thing is that a disaster could strike at any moment without notice. However, if you plan ahead and create a documented emergency plan, you could avoid the confusion and save time, property, and, most of all, lives.

It had never occurred to me before taking this survey how ill-prepared my family and I are if a disaster were to occur. My family always had the basic idea that we will stay together during an emergency and had planned out multiple ways to leave our house.

But after the survey, I realized that if there was a real emergency and I was not with my brother or mom, I would not know what to do and where to go. So I brought up this topic to my family, and we had a conversation about what our plan really is. We went researching and discovered that there are three main priorities to emergency preparedness: an emergency kit, a plan, and staying informed.

The first step every family should take is having an emergency kit. We decided that we would create two kits, one for the car and one for the house. Each kit has essential items necessary to sustain us for three days. The kit starts off with water. Water is not only important for drinking but also to prepare foods and for hygiene.

Next, we added a three-day supply of dry nonperishable food such as canned food, bread, crackers, cereal, and breakfast bars. We also packed a battery-powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries. And we included a first aid kit—including medications that are regularly used, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotic cream, antacids, and a medicine dropper.

One complete change of clothing, footwear, and a sleeping bag for each person is also in the kit. In addition to the necessities, we added helpful items such as paper, pencil, matches, cash, needles, thread, and a whistle.

Once we created a kit, my family and I went on to develop our emergency plan. We first went over communication to make sure that we will be able to contact each other in case we become separated. We placed walkie-talkies in each kit and decided that we will meet at our house first and, if not, at a local park.

We then went to identify the hazards or emergencies that are common and what the early warning systems are for each one. For example, in Scripps Ranch there is the possibility of wildfires, flooding, earthquakes, and pipe leaks. In 2003 San Diego was hit by the Cedar Fire that destroyed 300 homes and killed 15 people. [Editor’s note: None of the fatalities were in Scripps Ranch.] For this reason, developing a plan to react to these emergencies is key to staying safe. Make sure to share your emergency plan with neighbors, friends, and relatives so they know how to contact you if the power goes out.

Lastly, survival during a disaster should not depend solely on individual action but rather a collective commitment and planning by and for everyone. Our communities should come together and share our expertise to plan for future disasters. During a disaster you should help out your neighbors in need and assist others in getting out of danger to safety.

Another way we prepare is to volunteer. Last year my brother and I spent a day helping victims of the Cascade Fire. While we were there, we saw firsthand the strategic planning of CAL FIRE with maintaining containment, and Red Cross working to help the people affected by the fire. I saw how they resolved conflicts by following their emergency plan.

So in the end, a disaster is something you never want to occur but must be prepared for. While disasters may be unpredictable, important steps can be taken before a disaster occurs to minimize the threat of damage. Because disaster preparedness is everyone’s responsibility.

Trenton Bilyeu, SRHS Junior