WAUKESHA, Wis. – Geraldine and Alvin Pulcifer were attending their regular Thursday meeting over Zoom with their local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses on Dec. 2, 2021, when they were jolted by banging on their door.
Their condominium building had just been deemed structurally unsafe, and police officers were ordering everyone to evacuate immediately.
The Pulcifers, both in their 80s, had only 15 minutes to leave the condo.
“It is scary and frightening,” Alvin Pulcifer said.
“Your mind goes numb,” his wife added. “Where are we going to go? What are we going to do?”
While police officers were knocking on every door of the eight-story building, tension and anxiety were building. “Our neighbors were out in the hallway questioning what’s going on?” Alvin Pulcifer said.
However, the Pulcifers were ready. “We grabbed our go bags and left within the 15 minutes,” Geraldine Pulcifer said.
Still, “in Wisconsin it’s hard to think that we would ever need a go bag,” Alvin Pulcifer said, “we haven't had earthquakes or flooding.” Yet the couple acted upon specific advice.
They credited the disaster-preparedness help they received as Jehovah’s Witnesses, both through periodic reminders at their congregation meetings and from tips for putting together go bags on the organization’s website, www.jw.org.
Their efforts paid off. “It kept me calmer. I knew what was in the bag,” Geraldine Pulcifer said. “I just felt relief that I didn’t have to make a decision.”
When the Pulcifers bought their condo seven years ago, they never imagined that this would happen. Yet when it occurred, they knew they were not left to handle it alone.
A few days after the forced evacuation, families were allowed to go back into their units to get their belongings.
The couple scheduled their move on a Sunday, knowing that most of their fellow worshippers would be available to help. Then they put the word out. “There must have been 20 friends outside and other ones inside [the condo]. They had two moving trucks and quickly and carefully put everything in,” Alvin Pulcifer said.
“We never anticipated being in this position,” he said. “But what a difference it is when you’ve got real friends.”
Disaster-preparedness suggestions and tips for putting together a go bag are available from FEMA at ready.gov and from Jehovah’s Witnesses at https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/awake-no5-2017-october/disaster-steps-that-can-save-lives/.