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Crystal Graham: Your mission – be prepared for worst-case scenario

Story by Crystal Graham

Kathryn McMillan has a good reason for urging others to prepare for every possible emergency situation. Fire, flooding, even a tornado, are all possible on any given day, at any time.

When a fire struck her apartment in Staunton years ago, she thankfully wasn’t home. Nor was her husband, Tony. A neighbor had too many appliances plugged in to power strips, and with a heater in the floor beneath, the explosion could be seen for miles. In an instant, everything except the clothes on her back was gone. With no rental insurance, the young couple was forced to move in with her mother, and rebuild their lives from scratch.

McMillan now owns Clutter Conversions, a Staunton-based company that works with families and businesses on time management, clutter and organization. Once a month, on the second Tuesday of each month, she holds a workshop on various topics at Shoney’s in Staunton from 6-7 p.m.

This month’s topic brought tears to McMillan’s eyes, and her personal account reminds us all that we too need to think ahead.

“I think it’s complacency,” McMillan told the group. “I don’t think most of us think it will happen to us.”

But it does happen, and McMillan is living proof.

The key, she says, is to have an emergency kit at the ready. While most of us think of the essentials – water, food, a crank radio, batteries, a first-aid kit and a can opener – many other things get forgotten. Prescription medicines, contact lenses, food and water for your pet, warm blankets, a change of clothes and personal items are examples. McMillan suggests keeping as much as you can in Ziploc bags – to protect your items from water damage and have everything in a suitcase or tub ready to grab at a moment’s notice. She also suggests that families have an emergency plan and set up someone out of town to call if you are separated from your family.

While an emergency kit may not have helped in her situation, she urged being prepared for everything life throws your way. Having rental insurance would have made life easier for her, and it was something admittedly that her husband and her discussed and put off – time and time again – until it was too late. It would have also helped if copies of important documents and pictures had been in a safe-deposit box or somewhere for safe keeping.

Luckily, she said, she didn’t own her own business at the time, so she didn’t have that headache on top of everything else.

However, she does stress that businesses also prepare for the worst-case scenario.

“It’s more than putting up signs saying how to evacuate or putting a piece of paper in an employment handbook,” said McMillan. “How often do employees look at that stuff anyway?”

Plans should be reviewed about every six months, said McMillan. And just like when you were in school, drills should be done at home and in the workplace.

“There’s probaby a reason I am doing what I am doing today,” said McMillan, of her business. McMillan learned the hard way that it isn’t easy to replace the irreplacable but she’s made it her life’s mission to helping others be more prepared – to survive and recover.

More information on the subject can be found on McMillan’s website at

augusta free press news
augusta free press news