In an emergency, thirty seconds is a long time. A reeeaaaalllllyyy long time – it’s like the clock stops while you wait for the ambulance. I have had three minutes stretch to eternity in a situation like that.
We live about forty five minutes from the nearest hospital. We’re a solid half-hour from the edge of town, and that’s if you speed a bit and know exactly where you’re going. There is only so much speeding you can do, though, on a narrow, winding, and potholed secondary road through a forest full of deer and moose, and then there’s that last seven miles of gravel road. And that’s assuming you know where we live, and the fastest and most direct route to get here. Even though emergency service vehicles are allowed to drive a lot faster than I am, I still don’t think they’d get here much quicker. Fire and police are a similar distance, so regardless of the type of emergency, we are functionally on our own.
Knowing that we can’t rely on anyone else to help us out in an emergency, we’ve made a few plans and acquired a few things.
For fires, we have discussed an evacuation plan, from the house, and from the area. A grass fire could sweep through here pretty quick in a dry year, and I tend to get a little uptight about looking for the source when I smell smoke. Particularly since we could easily be cut off from town, as our only road into town goes through the forest. There’s not much we can do about major fires like that, except keep informed, and be aware of general conditions in our area, plus being prepared to evacuate ourselves and our livestock if it ever became necessary. We don’t have a stock trailer yet, though, so any livestock evacuation plans are awfully tentative for the moment, and would involve begging a neighbour to let us borrow his trailer.
For house fires, we keep a box of baking soda near the stove (for small grease fires), and the biggest fire extinguisher I could find, for anything larger. We have fire detectors on both levels of the house, and in particular, one near the bedrooms. I plan to buy another big extinguisher to keep in the bedroom when money allows, in case we’re ever trapped in there and need to get to another part of the house, like, say, the nursery. We have a carbon monoxide detector. I have a bit of training in firefighting, as well. We’re careful to the point of paranoia with candles and other open flame, and have a designated can for smokers to put their cigarette butts in, so they don’t just get thrown on the grass. Prevention is the key, here.
For medical emergencies, we have an extensive first-aid kit. I am most worried about burns, major cuts and wounds (like an axe swing gone astray, or an animal attack), and severe allergies. Remember, we’re forty five minutes from an ambulance, if the drivers can read a county map and find our house quickly. Then it’s another forty five back to the hospital. We keep an epi-pen, in case anyone ever has a severe allergic reaction, and a whole lot of wound dressings. I have a first aid certificate, and Hubby is considering getting himself certified, as well. We also keep some basic medications on hand, like aspirin and benadryl, even though we never use them, ourselves. We’ve gotten pretty used to doing our own doctoring on the animals, and luckily neither of us tends to panic at the sight of blood.
One big issue that we’re looking into and formulating plans for is a sudden home birth. I have every intention of having baby in the hospital, but if I miscalculate when to leave, I want to have the necessary knowledge and supplies kicking around the house, and in the car. It sounded a little farfetched at first, but I have now been informed of three different ladies from work (two of whom lived on acreages) who didn’t make it to the hospital in time, and it suddenly seems like a good thing to be ready for. We’re still working on this one.
Likewise, we plan to stock up on basic baby medications, as it will be a real hassle to take kiddo in to the doctor at 3am.
For security, well, we live in a ridiculously low-crime area, which is a good start. One neighbour was quite concerned with our habit of leaving our car doors unlocked. He said to us: “There’ve been break-ins here, you know”. I asked him who had been broken into, and he gestured to the southwest, and told us a name (that didn’t really register) and said that they were only a few miles from our place. I was quite surprised, and asked how long ago the break-in had happened; the neighbour replied it couldn’t have been more than six or seven years ago. Hmm. I don’t think we’ll panic about putting a padlock on the shed!
We also have our trusty pack of dogs. Miss Foxy would be completely useless, as she loves everybody, unconditionally. However, our mastiff is pretty much the exact opposite, and even friends who have met her before are pretty cautious about getting out of the car when she’s loose in the yard. The puppy takes her cues from the mastiff, and tends to bark at strangers, which suits us just fine – anyone who is willing to brave a couple hundred pounds of barking, snapping dog is clearly very determined, or possibly crazy, and locking the door probably wouldn’t have helped anyhow. So far, we’ve never felt particularly threatened when we’ve had the dogs around, even when we lived in a less-than-desirable area, in a completely insecure trailer with no deadbolt locks. At the very least, we sure know when someone is coming up the lane.
There is also basic situational awareness. We’ve had lots and lots of strangers come to the house – a shocking number, really, considering how remote our acreage is. Mostly, it has been neighbors coming by to introduce themselves, and a couple of times, it was census guys and enumerators. These people tend to come by in the mid-afternoon, drive right up to the house, holler as they get out of the truck (in case you’re in the barn), and knock on the door. They certainly don’t make a secret of their approach. One fella (clearly not a local) knocked on the door well after sunset, wanting to sell us an aerial photo of the yard – he got met at the door by Hubby and a couple of unfriendly dogs. Nobody from around here would come by unannounced after dark. The only truly fishy folks were a couple of thirty-something year old guys, each driving a separate truck, who ‘stopped in’ for some reason that I can’t remember but thought was totally flimsy. I know that at one point, a lot of thieves would phone a house and, if someone picked up, would claim to have dialed a wrong number; I suspect those two were knocking on doors to see who was home and who had dogs. Anyhow, Mom was here with her two dogs, plus our two (at the time), and everyone was kicking up a racket; those guys beat a quick retreat and never came back.
Overall, we don’t think about this stuff every day, and certainly don’t panic about it, but we did assess what we felt were valid concerns, and made plans or got supplies to deal with them. We’ve thankfully never had to use any of it…yet…but if there every was a major emergency, I am happy to know that we at least have some shot at dealing with things until emergency services arrives. Knowing that we’re on our own for that first forty-five minutes has really motivated us to get some things we probably should have had on hand anyhow (a fire extinguisher, for instance), and prompted us to make some plans, as well as being aware of basic safety precautions, like Hubby not going up the ladder to the roof when I’m not home. I think it’s only reasonable to be prepared, though we hope we’ll never actually need it.