A friend lost her home due to a lightning strike in 2021. The fast-moving fire followed the electrical wiring through her home, and she was lucky to escape. My friend’s scary experience made it clear that those of us who are authors need a fire safety plan, not just for ourselves, but for our work as well. It’s highly unlikely you’ll have time in a disaster to download that manuscript or grab it from the closet.

October 9-12 is the 100th anniversary of Fire Safety Week. Its objective is to ensure you have a plan to escape from your home during a fire, whether you live alone or with family. Think about how you would exit your home in an emergency. Through a window? If it’s on the second or third floor, can you safely climb down? A doorway? In basements where there are bedrooms, there must be an egress window. If your home has a walk-out basement, access to the door is crucial. The American Red Cross offers four main fire safety tips:

  • Install smoke alarms
  • Test smoke alarms monthly
  • Plan and practice an escape route
  • If a fire occurs in your home, get out, stay out, and never go back

You’ll also need a plan to protect your writing and valuables, and a plan to help you can get you back on your feet as soon as possible in a worse-case scenario. Whether for personal use or business, keep important systems and documents updated, and store them in a safe place. You may want to consider a fireproof box or safe. Divide documents into five main categories:

  • Government documents (birth certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, driver license copy, passports, visas, etc.)
  • Monetary documents (copies of all bank accounts, investment accounts, credit and debit cards, etc.)
  • Health documents (healthcare directives, wills, trusts, copies of health insurance cards, etc.)
  • Computer documents (lists of account passwords, wi-fi and network access codes, etc.)
  • Writing documents (manuscripts, short stories, outlines, etc.)

Many authors use Cloud-based storage solutions such as Google Drive or Dropbox for writing documents. Both services have free and paid options and integration depends on what other services you’re invested in. It’s also good practice to backup all documents on an external hard drive, which could also be stored in a fireproof box or safe.

I suggest using a separate fireproof box or safe for other items of value such as special photographs or small heirlooms. And don’t forget to put safe combinations or keys in an easy to remember and accessible place.

Disasters tend to catch us by surprise, whether they involve taking immediate shelter or getting out of the house. Keep your purse or wallet nearby to grab if you can, with credit cards, insurance cards and identification in your wallet. You may want to keep a certain amount of cash on hand as well, in the event you don’t have access to your bank accounts.

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