By Samuetta Hill Drew
Home Evacuation! A safety topic the Historic Smithfield Neighborhood bordering Interstate 59/20 West by the Arkadelphia Road exit had to contend with on Wednesday of last week. This historic neighborhood which was the most affluent for Blacks in the 1940’s through the late 1970’s in the State of Alabama has encountered many safety threats in its past mainly during the turbulent 1960’s Civil Right Era in our city. Due to the active roles many of the residents played during this time, some of their homes where bombed and danger became imminent resulting in the men creating their own neighborhood militia which stood guard throughout the night to protect their families and properties. Yes, safety threats were not uncommon to this neighborhood, but never a home evacuation! The residents were notified by the Birmingham Police Department to evacuate their homes immediately due to a dangerous chemical spill on I-59/20 West. It did not occur at a time most residents were considering leaving their homes. This notification occurred at a time most had eaten dinner and were settled in for the night either relaxing by watching their favorite television shows, decorating for Christmas or preparing for the next school/work day. Most residents’ initial reaction was disbelief! They were told the Boutwell Auditorium had been opened to house them until it was safe for them to return home. This is another example of how quickly a safety threat can arise without a moment’s notice which supports the need to alter the way we think about safety preparation and response for ourselves and love ones.
Preparation Tips for Immediate Safety Threat Notification:
- Keep a small piece of luggage packed for emergencies with basic necessities (sleepwear, notions like toothpaste and toothbrush, telephone charger, change of clothing, etc.) for at least two days. Make sure you always take your medication along with other personal items such as your cellular telephone, wallet or purse.
- Keep a flashlight with some extra batteries and a first aid kit by your emergency packed luggage.
- Keep a copy of your home insurance policy inside of your emergency luggage.
- Try to maintain at least one half tank of gas in your motor vehicle at all times.
- Have a safety evacuation plan for you and your family. You should conduct a periodic drill possibly twice a year. Try to conduct the drills at different seasons of the year.
- Identify an alternate safe home location. Ask a family member or friend if the occasion should occur which requires you to evacuate your home for a few days, if you and your family, if applicable, can stay with them temporarily. This should be included in your plan.
- Make sure the packed luggage, flashlight, etc. are kept in a location that’s easily assessable for a quick departure.
Unfortunately, current times and events require we think more and more about safety preparation and response for ourselves and our love ones by Keeping an Eye on Safety!