If you had Katrina people, you probably don't need this, but for those who will be hosting SoCal fire people, here it is just in case you do need it! Before your guests arrive If you know approximately the number and composition of the guests, adults, children, elders, etc, you can make tentative sleeping arrangement plans, but don't carve anything in stone. The teens might prefer to make pallets on the floor in the living room/family room, especially if that's where the TV is, some parents will want to be close to small children, others will silently bless you if you put their 3 year old in with some other toddlers and give them a little "one on one" time. So be prepared to sort of feel that out. If you have neighbors who are not hosting, feel free to ask them to help out with extra blankets, pillows, cots, etc - whatever you need. If the neighbors are VERY close by, if their front door is twenty feet from your own, you might even ask them to serve as an extra bathroom location, depending on your own resources and guest needs. Amass as much clothing, diapers and other baby/child supplies as you can. Your guests may or may not have time or stuff to pack. And while you might not think it is cold where you are, your SoCal guests may consider it quintessential sweater weather. The best child supplies are things like crayons, water-based markers and paint, as opposed to Singing Shrieking Elmo. Think quiet. The kids will make enough noise all by themselves. If you have a cement driveway or sidewalk, buy a big box of sidewalk chalk and send them out to create murals. Remember video games, popular music CDs and horror movies for the tweens and teens. (Horror movies should be about monsters and blood and gore, not fire) If possible, find out which bank your guests use and if it's one that does not have a branch in your area, give their main office a call to ask about their procedure for cashing checks, accessing accounts, etc. Guests may arrive with uncashed paychecks or need to pay bills, or just want to get some money, and any advance work you can do will be a great boon. Also try to find out about prescription medicines, and give your local pharmacy a heads up and ask what will be needed in order to make sure your guests have their pills. Many large companies will have resources in place especially for displaced fire survivors, and if you can save your guests at least that initial phone tree session to find out about it, put yourself in their place to get an idea of how much they will appreciate that! Arrange to serve your guests familiar foods for at least the first day or two, if there is a big difference in your cuisine and theirs, and gradually introduce yours. Many people in the SoCal enclaves for example, eat lots of light foods like sushi and sashimi and grilled vegetables. A big plate of chicken korma, pulled pork, or yebeg wot may be easier to take after they have had a day or two to acclimate. If your guests will be coming from Greater SoCal, you can probably relax, they will be familiar with a wide variety of foods. If you have any doubt, plan to order pizza for the adults as well as for the children, for whom you should plan to order pizza anyway. And chicken nuggets or strips. Try to obtain the use of a large-capacity vehicle for trips to the zoo, museums, etc. One of your neighbors probably has one you can borrow. When your guests arrive Find out if anyone is in need of an immediate prescription refill, or needs to see a doctor. Encourage them to make themselves at home. Be prepared with options, but let them decide where and in what groupings they would like to sleep. If your home has more than one floor, if possible, try to offer elderly/special needs people the option of first floor accomodations. Even if you are usually structured and persnickety, this is the time for you to be as laid back and casual as possible, in order to make your guests feel at home. They may not want to ask for things they need, so try to anticipate and provide anything they might need, clothing, eyeliner, baby wipes. If they drove, how is the car? Talking about it will help them get through it. Listen. Ask questions. Gently and stealthily help them get it out and vanquish it. Give them as much space and privacy as possible. Assume as many child/elderly/infirm care tasks as you can. Let the parents relax. Children may be frightened and clingy. Fun activities with other children, either guest or borrowed from neighbors, will work wonders. Remember that they did not really want to come visit you. You can help them make the best of it by sharing their sorrow for the circumstances, while at the same time being as delighted to have them as you would be if the visit had been planned. Take them to see the local sights, to the neighborhood barbecue, the community art festival. Enjoy them and offer as many pleasant experiences as you can, just as you would do with any guests! What are your favorite and most useful hosting tips?