The Victoria bushfires are terrifying. Please go here and donate if you can — in any fire situation, the Red Cross is first on the scene and really does a great job of taking care of the victims who have lost their homes or been forced out of them by the fires. And an awful disaster in terms of lives lost and homes lost. Living in SoCal, we’ve seen several huge disastrous fires in the last few years. We’ve managed well so far, only having to evacuate once, which we turned into a relatively pleasant experience. But when you see fire surround your community on all sides, or smoke billowing up and starting to blow over your home, it is a horrible, frightening thing. And when people don’t have time to escape, these fires are deadly. The loss in Australia is just heartbreaking. When it happens close to home, it is sad, but at least most people here had time to get out safely. Unfortunately that didn’t happen for the people in these fires.

We’re fortunate here to have a reverse 9-1-1 system in place. When we were evacuated, we received a call to leave our home in plenty of time to get out. I would encourage everyone to ask their communities to put these systems in place. It is well worth the cost to be able to save lives in an emergency situation. And everyplace has something — if not fires, then tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, ice storms, whatever. People need time to prepare and to get out if they have to, and our community leaders need to make sure they get the warning in time.

Just a reminder that you can work to be a change leader in your community, too. Get to know your neighbors, plan for how to handle emergencies, and help each other out. Last time around, I took a neighbor’s cat with me to evacuate and moved her car to a safe place for her since she was out of town. We made sure all our neighbors were out safely or leaving before we left, and we stopped by our community evacuation center once we were back home and took pet supplies over to take care of the animals, as well as taking additional supplies to the animal shelter that was simply overwhelmed with animals that had been evacuated. We now have a “bug out” kit that can be easily thrown in the car full of emergency supplies.

Mostly it takes awareness, though, knowing what local weather conditions are, being prepared to get out if you have to.

And helping out those who have been devastated by tragic circumstances.