Tuesday, September 9, 2014

NATIONAL PREPAREDNESS MONTH


September is National Preparedness Month in the United States.  While we should be prepared all year long, it never hurts to be reminded.

I thought I'd share a personal story.  A few years ago, we had a major hurricane come through the Houston area.  Hurricane Ike.  We thought we were prepared and we had the mindset that 'hey, in a day or so, everything would be back to normal'.  It wasn't a category 4 or 5 so we weren't worried about damage to the house but we vastly underestimated how quickly things would bounce back.

The night it hit (why do they always seem to hit at night?) was definitely intense.  We could hear the house creaking and more than a couple large objects struck the house.  You could hear the explosions of transformers as they went out and if you braved glancing out the window, you could see purple and green flashes in the sky as they exploded from downed power lines.  The power finally went out about 1am.  Quick, grab the radio.  Here it is.  Oh wait, the batteries are old, go get some more.  Where are they?  In a box in the cabinet above the washer.  Where is the flashlight?  It's in the drawer in the bathroom. If I need the flashlight to find the batteries, how do I find the drawer in the dark without a flashlight?  Fumbling around, we found it and thankfully, it had fresh batteries.  We got the batteries in the cabinet and we had 9 volts galore.  And C's.  And D's.  We were good to go!  Oh wait, the radio takes AA's.  Oops.  The radio lasted about two hours, just long enough to be so exhausted we dozed off listening to it.  Radio was really dead the next morning.  It was sunny and calm (the 'after' in hurricanes is weird like that, clear skies and widespread damage).  We had no power of course.  Tree branches were everywhere.  A huge six foot long piece of sheet metal from who knows where was in the backyard (decapitation if you were outside anyone?).  There was also a gouge in the wooden siding about 2 inches from the window behind the bed headboard.  It was from a section of metal gutter that came from a building about 2 blocks away.  Glad we didn't have glass raining down on us (don't sleep near a window in a major storm, better yet, maybe don't sleep till it's over).

The house was getting warm.  No windows open of course (old house, windows painted shut, haven't worked in years) and no fans to create a breeze.  Power will be back on by night, we were sure of it.  Oops, can't go to work because power is out there as well.  A city of several million people and at one point, 90% of the city had no electricity.  Most stores had no power, food was going bad and being thrown away.  Gas stations had no power, no one could get gas.  No ice.  Oh how we missed ice.  ATM's down, hard to get cash.  Word of mouth says there is an ATM somewhere with power.  Or a gas station with power but lines around the block.  Night was dark.  Very dark.  And quiet.  Eerily quite.  I got my Dad's pistol and kept it loaded and handy...you know, just in case.  Oh wait, there is only half a box of bullets left.  None for the rifles.  I better be a good shot if necessary.

Day two we saw helicopters flying over.  The Governor.  His helicopter surrounded by black helicopters.  Rumor had it the President was with him as well.  FEMA came into town and set up stations around the city.  There was one in our neighborhood on the third day.  They handed out water, bags of ice (that quickly ran out) and food.  We drove over to the FEMA station and waited in line to get a case of bottled water and a box of MRE's.  The National Guard, with guns in hand of course, were standing around telling people to move quickly through the line.  Yes sir!  All in all, it went smoothly and I'll have to admit, it was much more well organized than we expected.  Thankfully, people behaved themselves.  It was definitely interesting, if not a bit "twilight zone-ish".   

By day five, I told 2nd Man I felt like we were in one of those bad end of the world movies.  Soldiers, helicopters, lines of people, damage everywhere and hot.  Very hot.  This was early September on the Gulf Coast.  It was hot and humid.  I'm here to tell you that no matter how much clothing you take off, if you're still hot, you're still hot, even when naked (TMI?).  Even the cats were wondering what was going on.  Gradually, power came back to parts of the city.  Some stores reopened including a Target down the road from us.  It was nice to go in and be cool.  But they were out of most food.  Trucks were coming but they weren't due for a few more days.

About a week in, we had done a lot of cleaning...cleaning out the upright freezer in the garage that was fully stocked with meat, veggies and other items before the hurricane.  Cleaning out the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen of everything that we had.  Trash cans outside were full of rotting food but the appliances were clean and like new.  Only without food.  You know, like showroom new.  We did learn that MRE's don't taste all that bad.

FIFTEEN DAYS LATER...the power came back on at the house...
and things slowly returned to normal.

That's a reason, a small reason, but a reason nonetheless, that we bought the farmhouse and land..it gives us what some might call a "bug out location" but what we call "our farm".  It's far enough inland that when a major hurricane is headed to Houston we can go there before for safety or after for the same reason.  Thankfully, we don't have horrible winters (very cold on occasion, but never blizzards).  We can and do have tornadoes on occasion.  We also live in a high profile major US city that, unfortunately, is surely high on a terrorist target list.  We are also a very international city, and if anything like a virus came to town via an international flight, it would spread rapidly.

So being self reliant/self sufficient is vitally important.



We are more prepared now.  We are stocking food at the farm (as well as extra in town) but we do need more.  We're saving seeds.  We have a well so water shouldn't be a problem but we do have about an additional 30 gallons of drinking water stored if necessary.  We can always have more.  We keep our cars filled with gasoline as often as we can, especially if something is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico.  The windows open at the farm, yay that's a plus!  We are looking into generators so we can have one in town and one at the farm.  We have batteries, lots of them, at both places.  Some medical supplies but we need more.  We keep cash on hand in case we need it.  We have a few large oil lamps that work and a few more than we still need to fix up.  We have plenty of candles.  And matches.  And at the farm we are stocking up on non electric kitchen tools and gadgets.  Oh yeah, and bullets.  We have bullets now.

If we ever have to leave Houston quickly and go out to the farm, we can load up the cars with supplies we have in town, grab the cats and live out there for any length of time necessary.  We learned, and are still learning, how bad it can be (and how it could be even worse than that).  We know what we need to do to keep some semblance of a normal life at the farm and we'd like to think that the goodness in humanity will ultimately prevail in any outcome.

So please be prepared, wherever you are.  Think about what you'd have to do if you didn't have power for an extended period of time.  Or you had to evacuate. Or if there was a storm coming and you couldn't leave the house.


How about you...how well are you prepared?
Any tips or suggestions?

21 comments:

Laurie M said...

wow thats amazing, its such good advice you have given, I hope you never are faced with this again, but at least you prepared,

Daphne Gould said...

We don't get as big hurricanes here. Category 2 is about the worst, though maybe every 50 years a big one comes through (which isn't a big one like southern states get as the water gets cooler when it gets north). I think our worst disaster in recent years has been an ice storm. We didn't get affected in our town as it was just warm enough to escape the ice, but it took the power down in a lot of New England for weeks. And that is when it was cold, so you can't heat your house. Sort of the opposite problem that you had.

And you say you have well water. But my folks had well water and if they didn't have electricity they couldn't really use it. The cistern was above one faucet though so you could get really low pressure water from there if you needed it. Well until the cistern ran out. I was at their house during the Colorado flood a year ago. Except for not being able to go anywhere as the roads were all out we were just fine. But he had a generator. Their electricity was out for a week, but it wasn't really a problem with a generator. Their big freezer of meat was full and stayed frozen. We even had a neighbor come over and put in one of his big frozen cuts of meats so he wouldn't lose it. The only thing we didn't have was 220 power which meant no electric stove. But my mom had a plug in microwave/convection oven and an electric fry pan. Sadly they didn't get their road up for a couple of months. Though they could get out the back way which took hours to get to town, but they could do it to restock when they had to.

The month does remind me that I no longer have a radio that doesn't plug in. And I don't have a generator, so I really ought to get a battery/hand cranked powered radio. Information in an emergency is very important.

Texas Rose said...

Great reminders! Y’all have done an excellent job in being prepared.
Yes, I remember Ike also. I’m an hour to the SW of you, so not much damage here, and we were fortunate that our electricity stayed on - but all you city folks found out and y’all came here and bought up all our groceries, ice, and gas!! So our grocery shelves were bare and we were out of gas too!! Sooo - it’s best to be prepared even if one’s own area is not directly hit by the storm.

Now I have a hurricane check-list, compiled from the 3 Houston TV stations. I have a portable grill, charcoal, camping supplies. Pictures of the inside and outside of my house, which I have emailed to myself - for insurance purposes. Important records and documents in a portable, waterproof container kept inside a fireproof safe. I have scanned my important family pictures. And I keep a bag of clothes and toiletries packed at all times.

When I was in Australia, many houses used rainwater with large water storage tanks. One place had a windmill which powered their water well with a huge elevated cistern for water storage. I wonder if y’all could have something like that at the farm as a back-up since water wells are electric powered.

Great blog about the importance of being prepared!

Kev Alviti said...

Great post. I'm slowly getting more prepared. I think that anyone that wants to live"our" type of life is a bit of a prepper at heart! Space to store things is our problem but we're getting round it slowly!

donna baker said...

I too live on a farm, but surrounded by hillbillies. My family thinks I am crazy for preparing for some sort of catastrophe. I put back cans of food that lasts 25 years and buy medical things and household things like bleach, soaps, shampoos etc. I'm not ready as much as I like and try to get my husband to buy more ammo which he won't. I told my family about NASA just releasing a report that a solar flare 2 years ago missed earth by a week and that would have put us back in the stone age. I just don't think you can be too prepared yet I find that no one else I know is preparing. I also try and read up on what to do in an emergency, like add 8 drops of bleach to a gallon of water to make it drinkable. How to filter it through 100% chemical free charcoal etc.

Tewshooz said...

I just bought a solar/crank radio that gets NOAA and short wave. We have solar flashlights and a generator that, with a flick of a switch, will pump well water for us and the animals. Extra gasoline is the priority for us now.

Joani said...

Sounds like you have done an awesome job. I also thought about the well having an electric pump and thus not being able to get water. So, one must think about having a tank that is easily accessible. The batteries should be kept in their own packaging because if the ends should come in contact with each other they can cause a fire. Charcoal would also be a good thing to have because one can use it like firewood and use it to filter water if necessary. One also has to think about human waste because water may not run at the farm without the pump and in the city may or may not run. And your cash should be in small denominations. Have a great week. Thanks for sharing.

Tewshooz said...

A homemade Birkey water purifier with Berkey filters is an essential, IMHO. It will purify ditch water, if necessary. Using free plastic buckets from restaurants and bakeries is a stroke of genius. Thanks Kymber for that tip. I am trying to convince my DH to dig an outhouse. (we have the room and acreage).

FionaG said...

I had no idea! Thank you for sharing that story. Perhaps it's time to install a small solar system at the farm and maybe a jerrycan for petrol. We keep one filled for lawnmowers etc but it often comes in handy when the cars need petrol and pay day hasn't rolled around. So glad we don't get tornadoes.

1st Man said...

It was definitely an interesting and 'intense' experience. We get one of those 'big ones' about every 20 years, or so they say. But we do get smaller ones more often. And we still have never had THE BIG ONE (even as big as Ike was, it was only a Cat 3, then comes Cat 4 and then Cat 5). Cat 5 is total destruction. We'd probably go to Dallas if THAT was coming ha. Thanks again!!

1st Man said...

Wow, thank you for that info. Great ideas. And you are right, the Winter and no power is a complete and total oppo;site but just as bad only the other way. I don't like being hot but I don't like being really cold too. I sure wish solar generators were not so crazy expensive. But gas will work in a pinch and we need to get a couple. Yo know even if the a/c wouldn't work, I'd be fine with fans and cold water and ice, ha.

A crank radio is a great idea, thanks!!

1st Man said...

Well thank you! As always! I've thought about a large cistern in the back yard. Might look into that sometime. Yes, we have a fireproof safe too, those are good to keep the important papers and records in (birth certs, SS cards, etc). Thinking of it as camping is a good idea.

1st Man said...

Space is the hardest part isn't it? We're kind of lucky since the house was empty and we are getting to sort of 'create' storage along the way. Yes, living remotely or at least having a remote location, is sort of a prepper at heart.

1st Man said...

LOL! I think we are surrounded by the same (except for 2nd Family at the end of course, ha). We are putting stuff at the farm thinking of disasters. My coworkers think it's weird (or crazy?) to have plans like that. 2nd Family is preparing too. We will make a good compound. We like to think of it as prepping in plain sight. Having the farm, we can have a generator and it's normal. We can plant a garden and it seems normal. We can stock the pantry and it is normal. We have oil lamps and that's normal. Things like that. We've got a bit of ammo now and while I don't feel like we need the crazy huge amounts some have, I'd like a bit more just to be safe. We joke about zombie apocalypse (we love "The Walking Dead", ha) but a solar flare definitely is possible and I read that same report. Crazy huh? Thanks for the bleach tip. Note to self, keep some bleach at the farm!

1st Man said...

I didn't know they had solar radios, I will have to check that out. NOAA and shortwave is smart. Thanks!! 2nd Family has a generator for the well (we share a well) so we're good there. I need to read on how to store (and for how long). Thanks for the reminder!!

1st Man said...

I just talked to 2nd Family (we have a shared well) and not only do they have a generator, they also have a hand pump that works on the well so that's good to know. I still like the idea of a cistern as well. Charcoal! Didn't think about that, thanks!! Good multi use item. Also the human waste thing, something we don't want to think about but we need to right? Yes, small denominations, another great idea, I think we have twenties but ones, fives and tens probably better. I sense a trip to the bank in my future, ha.

1st Man said...

I will check that out too. Thanks!! Free buckets? I'm all for that! Thanks (and thanks Kymber, she's always got great ideas doesn't she?). I wouldn't mind an outhouse, if just for conversation piece first, but as a backup if needed, right? We too have the acreage...

1st Man said...

Yeah, it was kinda crazy. I love the idea of solar (and I know you all definitely have that working for you, right?). Solar here in the states is just SO expensive. I am not sure how it is in that part of the world but I think here it's so dominated by the big power companies and oil companies, that solar seems like a luxury rare item that the companies that do install it just have to be so expensive. But once we get the new roof, we're going to look into solar. I'd love to be 'off grid' for sure. There are some tax incentives that could make it worthwhile.

No tornadoes, that's right, that's almost a uniquely american thing isn't it? Lucky you!

Mary Ann said...

My gosh... I am so glad you told us your story! My husband is an emergency preparedness manager for the State of Kansas, he has done this for ten years. I know lots about preparation, and when we moved, we bought a house with a storm shelter! You learned the hard way, but we are learning from you!

TexWisGirl said...

a very good reminder. i keep some extra water in jugs around here, batteries, flashlights, etc. but i'd be a hurting pup after a couple of days.

MaryJo said...

Just catching up with yesterday's post.
We had the experience of being in cyclone Tracy in Darwin, Christmas 1974. We were reasonably prepared, but as I was 8 months pregnant I was evacuated pretty quickly to Sydney!
Memories!