I’m preempting our regularly scheduled personal finance piece to talk about something that preoccupied me most of last night and will probably be in my mind for a while. Today is when we see the aftermath of what happened in a Northern California neighborhood that is not too far from where I live. In fact, I’m talking about an area that’s pretty much in the same general area where I reside and work (I would pass this place everyday during my commute when I used to hold a 9 to 5 job) and where many relatives and friends actually live.
PG & E Gas Leak Leads To San Bruno Fire
I’m talking about a disaster that came out of nowhere to consume a residential neighborhood in San Bruno, California last night. The reports have been pouring in, pointing to the cause of the explosion that transpired at a little over 6 PM last night as due to a natural gas line break. No it wasn’t because of a plane crash (suspicion arose as this area is 2 miles from our main airport, SFO). The gas company responsible for this situation actually services the entire Bay Area. Not good to get this kind of proof of our aging infrastructure when we’re sitting in an earthquake prone area.
It was a shocking sight to see the conflagration unfold on my local online news channel and TV. It’s the kind of thing that hits you as surreal, meaning that it strikes you as such an incomprehensible event that your mind makes excuses for it — wanting you to believe it’s happening somewhere else.
Here’s what it looks like from my back yard.
Here’s what it looks like on Ground Zero.
The scary thing about it is that I know people who live around there. At least 3 families I know live within a mile of the area. And my sister’s family and in laws live in the next town, which is not much different than what the affected place used to look like. Most of these houses (I checked) are worth between $550,000 to $850,000. These are average family homes in the Bay Area: old and a tad bit expensive, tucked away in a safe suburban enclave and well loved by their owners, many of whom have lived there forever.
Thank goodness everyone I know personally is fine. But I am just so sad for everyone who’s lives have been upturned by this catastrophe. The loss of life and property is overwhelming (with scores of families affected and displaced). Even now, some people tell me it smells like a war zone / fire pit right outside their doors. I’ve dished out some fire safety tips before, but just how helpful some of them are at a time like this, I’m not so sure. Best tip of all: get away from the zone as fast as you can. Seems obvious until you hear about just how many people decide to hang around to guard their belongings from looters who dare to brave the elements.
This hits close to home, as this is pretty much my home. Sure, disasters can happen anywhere, and in many cases, you can even predict when it happens, so much so that you’ve got time to act. But the shock factor is great when it’s something you don’t quite expect (blast that levels a whole neighborhood in a few hours). So we need to remind ourselves that freak accidents can happen anywhere. And we should ask ourselves — do we have a disaster plan in place? Do we have enough insurance? Are we ready for an emergency? Do we have the mindset to accept the possibility that we can one day be left with just the clothes on our backs, and if so, will we be okay? How large a loss are you prepared to handle?
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