Back when I was a Firefighter, a general alarm was toned out, calling me into work. The bleachery at the paper mill had exploded.
I told the wife to take the kids and head north. (upwind that day.) The bleachery had enough toxic chemicals to poison the whole valley.
Things were pretty dicey. It was touch and go, but eventually, everything was shut down and under control. Only then did I call my wife to come back to town.
My wife and I preplanned for exactly that situation. I knew the mill had some serious hazards, so we planned what to do. When the emergency happened, there was no debating and explaining. The plan was to head upwind. That day, upwind was in the direction of my parents' cottage 14 miles up the road, so that was the prearranged destination.
Perhaps the whole town should have been evacuated, but that decision was made way above my pay grade. However, as a responsible dad and husband, I knew what to do about my family.
We always were the type of family to talk and discuss what we were going to do. That's fine for planning something like a vacation or a house remodel. In an emergency, someone has to give the orders and everyone must know what to do.
I was really proud how my family handled it. No panic, just focused action. We had a plan, and it worked.
Many years later, one of the daughters and her husband were living in the same mill town. There was an explosion and the night sky was filled with smoke and the red glow of a major fire. From their house, it looked like the mill was on fire again. They didn't hesitate. In short order, they were in the car and heading out of town.
As it turns out, it wasn't actually the mill on fire, but a mostly empty apartment block on the other side of the mill. Should they have stuck around to make sure? No. Had it been the mill, by the time they found out exactly what the problem was, they'd be dead. As it was, they had a short unplanned trip out of town. No harm done.
My daughter and her husband did the right thing. They knew when to get out of Dodge. The childhood lesson stuck.
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