Many a prepper may take the time to perform a test of their personal prep systems. Sometimes, Mother Nature will force you to do just that if you haven’t put your preps in practice yet. Ours came in the form of Hurricane Isaac.
With media’s laying attention straight towards New Orleans and no one else, the Gulf Coast area residents laid their own attentions to their respective communities. And this attention consisted of hunkering down for a rain and wind event that would be nowhere near a Katrina event. How wrong were these expectations? At a seemingly last minute, Isaac became a hurricane as the winds and rain pounded Plaquemines Parish, a peninsula south of New Orleans that is split between the Mississippi River. Hurricanes are divided into 4 quadrants; Northeast side, Southeast side, Northwest side, and Southwest side. Each quadrant has its own circumstances but most notably, the Northeast and Southeast side’s as these two bring in the most damage. Plaquemines as well as those to the east felt the brunt of the later half in full force.
Don’t let a Tropical Storm or Category 1 Hurricane fool you into complacency. Hurricane Isaac broke that theory. Torrential rains, damaging winds contributed to a much month-long rain soaked Louisiana gulf coast. Isaac’s storms simply added water with no place for it to go. And with winds pushing tidal surges north, drainage canals, bayous and tributaries were compromised so, that water topped some levees that years ago protected communities during Katrina.
So, as a resident along the Gulf Coast, our preps for future uncertainties also included hurricanes. When Isaac was heading our way, the only necessary preps needing completion were the basics such as boarding windows, anchoring down potential fly-away items, ensuring generator is in good running condition, securing plants, filling our vehicles with fuel along with extra fuel cans and propane for cooking fuels, etc.
Our community was never in the projected path, but experienced residents realize hurricane path predictions are never an exact science. That’s why the projection always includes a swath surrounding it. Any area within this projection can easily be a target based on nature’s unpredictability. And this was evidenced around midnight August 29 while pounding Plaquemine’s Parish, Isaac had stalled just enough causing the eye to dance against the shorelines of southern Louisiana. Over the course of approximately 5 hours, Isaac crawled west for about 35 nautical miles of coastline before slowly edging northwest. Believe me when I say a turtle could run circles around this hurricane as this stall is what changed the expectations of a not-so-typical Cat 1 hurricane.
As of this writing, we are in our fourth day and since Houma became one of the first paths for the eye to cross over, we were actually spared the brunt of the hurricane’s impact effects. To the east as far as Biloxi and due north of it, coastal areas to Picayune, Mississippi were pounded by rain, hurricane force winds and the occasional tornadoes. In addition to this came the flooding to add to many a misery.
With this hurricane, we were able to assess our preps while noting any weak points along the way. It also allowed time to reflect on what many along the coastline deal with when it comes to hurricane preparedness as well as the periods between the beginning and the end. This is where I’d like to take you as virtually all of these experiences and scenarios could apply in any crisis situation.
First of all, we were fortunate. This had nothing to do with being prepared necessarily. Bands of heavy rains that freight trained through communities are a hit and miss proposition. What one area may experience as tolerable winds and rain, another area a couple miles away could be getting pounded with no relief in sight. So for us, the most damage we experienced was minor flooding in the yard along with broken branches and leaves. Our garden consisted of a combination of laid down vegetables and some still standing not too worse for wear. It’ll easily be salvaged while we handle getting our property back to normal. No damages to our home or other property and aside from picking up broken branches, raking leaves and debris and stacking it for community service pick up later on in the week. Overall; we’re in great shape. If you apply the following observations and experiences to any crisis or catastrophe, you can get a better handle on things to expect in any situation you’re preparing for.
Food and water were a non-issue for us. No battling last-minute moron’s fist fighting over the last case of water on Wal-Mart’s shelf. If you think Black Friday before Christmas holidays is a nightmare, come down to witness stupidity, inconsideration and greed to the infinite degree a couple days before a hurricane’s landfall. The majority of folks are not like this, but there is always a few who show their ass. How some coastal residents don’t live with the basic FEMA recommended preps in their home is incomprehensible.
Ice is a needed commodity to have on hand. It helps first of all for cooling refreshments as well as maintaining foods or keeping a freezer in low temperatures. In a worse-case scenario, this ice could easily be consumed as water should it melt. So, it’s important to keep the bag clean as well as the ice chest you’ll keep it in. Don’t let any of it go to waste if you can help it.
Food should never be an issue for anyone. Grocery stores are closed and were likely cleaned out prior to landfall so if you’re not prepared here, you’re in a serious bind. Potted meat and Vienna sausage can only go so far so having regular consumable foods is a must. Cooking becomes an issue as well. This means electric stoves and ovens are useless. Even ovens that run on natural or propane gas may be an issue if it requires electricity to function. Unless, you have access to the plug that can be used via an extension cord coming from a generator. So, be prepared to cook meals on an outside grill or portable stove. Besides, cooking outdoors when weather permits is cooler and prevents unnecessary heat inside the home if electricity is off and no air conditioning is available.
Water is necessary to survive, period. I don’t need to go into details here but for us, we were already ahead of the curve with water in 4 gallon, 1 gallon, two liter recycled bottles and 16oz bottles in cases. We also have our Berkey to filter water and with any Hurricane affecting low-lying communities, a boil water order will most likely take place so having water preps is a must. You’ll need it for consumption, cleaning, bathing, brushing your teeth, washing and even flushing the toilet. Of note on the later, this hurricane happened to emphasize the need for residents in both city and rural areas to limit toilet flushing due to flooding and overwhelming pressures on the sewerage system. Now you can easily realize the boil water order as sewerage, land run-offs, floating caskets popped out of grave sites, swamp, bayou and canal waters become part of the city water systems. So, I cannot over-emphasize the need for a lot of water. Even if one believes their particular crisis is expected to last for a short period of time. It pays to note Hurricane Gustav shut our entire town down for a total of six weeks. Time will tell right now how long we’ll be out of the basic functioning infrastructure.
Refrigeration is a luxury that we all take for granted. During a crisis such as this, electricity is expected to be an issue so refrigerators and freezers need to be addressed early on. This means no more opening the refrigerator to stare with the hopes some food product is going to jump out yelling “pick me, pick me!” Know what you want, get it out quickly as much needed cool temperatures will be necessary to maintain your food products. Same applies to your freezer. Many in years past and likely this one will find themselves cooking all of their foods at once and sharing with others just so it doesn’t go bad. Imagine an entire neighborhood doing this at one time and then imagining that at some point, barbeque ribs and chicken can only be eaten so much for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So, one can expect frozen foods will likely be lost. Do what you can to coordinate refrigeration protocols to manage your foods before they become totally loss if power isn’t restored within a reasonable amount of time. This also includes coordinating foodstuffs with protection using ice chests filled with ice. Another bit of advice, prior to hurricane landfall, collect your frozen foods together in garbage bags while storing them in the freezer. That way if the foods spoil due to the freezer’s loss of power, you’re not handling the individual foods. Just grab the garbage bags and put out for disposal which also makes cleaning your freezer much easier too.
Medications are a necessity from the basic needs for cuts and scrapes to serious needs for prescriptions. Be sure to consult with your doctor for extensions of prescriptions as restoration of structure is an unknown during this time.
POWER and COMMUNICATION
Municipalities experience their own breakdown in structures and what that means to you is no electricity, no cell phone service (or spotty), no sewerage, no water, no mail, no garbage pickup, etc. This also includes law enforcement, fire responders and emergency responders. You can also expect the possibility of the National Guard being called out to assist local infrastructure. So, you may find yourself as your brother’s keeper or a keeper’s brother.
Electricity is likely the first to go. Especially if power is distributed through above ground resources. Trees break lines, wind knocks over poles, transformers blow. So expect during some of the worse weather conditions for your power to go out. From that point, you’re on your own for an uncertain amount of time. Having a generator is necessary to get you through this inconvenient time. This means having lots of gas (purchased at ridiculous prices) on hand to power minimal conveniences. Our generator has a conversion kit installed allowing us to run it on natural gas. Propane is also an option but we didn’t have to rely on that, saving it for cooking outside when needed. If your generator doesn’t have a tie-in to power your house, expect to have extension cords strewn throughout your house so tripping hazards will likely exist. Distributing the electricity is an individual preference but maintaining refrigeration is a must as well as powering fans for comfort. Our bedroom was ground zero for crashing occupants piled in at night so a simple 8,000 btu window air conditioner kept us cool for sleeping or naps during the day (as hurricane’s interrupt your sleeping patterns). There will be other issues such as battery charging for spare batteries, cell phones, powering maybe a computer, a Wi-Fi, television, radio or other useable conveniences. Keep in mind though that these should be discussed as to what is priority and what is secondary to the necessities.
Television and radio may or may not be an issue, depending on your area. We gave up on cable television years ago and opted for satellite. Cable regularly goes down so I am not a promoter of cable television. They take too long when their systems go down; sorry but that’s the truth. I won’t promote our provider but for sure I can honestly say that we had very minimal issues throughout the hurricane as satellite experienced blocks during the most severe storm downpours. The rest of the time, we had all of our channels which became irrelevant as local news stayed on 24 hours a day. This was a requirement as news reports, weather reports and road closures were necessary if conditions dictated we needed to get out. Our bug-out plans were pre-performed so this would’ve been something we could’ve easily done if needed.
A ham radio is on my list of necessities so that would’ve been a good source of information for us too, which leads me into the next topic.
Cell phones are great and an important function of our daily lives. Calls, emails, texting, internet and even Facebook (Twitter for some also) are integral for communication, information and entertainment. Depending on one’s personal provider, will depend on available services. For us, everything was going well up to around 10am Thursday morning when our provider began to have issues. We lost Wi-Fi, local phone and DSL internet and Facebook was hit and miss. One minute you could call out, the next minute the network was overwhelmed. Internet through our provider hit and missed and when it hit, download times took twice as long. Texting went well for a while and eventually became a hit or miss proposition. If you have others in your home during this time, check who their providers are to see who keeps service and who loses it. You may note this for future considerations that fit best for your area.
Security becomes a part of your preps. If you are armed, you may find yourself establishing various protocols beyond your daily routines. While security of your home should be an everyday thing, a crisis such as this only requires you increase situational awareness. An hour before the hurricane became an issue, four individuals were arrested in the Slidell area for theft of property on boats docked at a marina. In our community, an adult and a 13 year old were arrested for property theft too. A few other communities had similar thefts and there was a law enforcement officer forced to fire his weapon on two individuals for a situation in St. John the Baptist Parish. You may remember four deputies were recently ambushed leaving two officers dead and two with critical injuries. Theft in an area declared in a state of emergency comes with a mandatory three year felony conviction, fine and no considerations whatsoever. You will be arrested without question and considered a serious threat to the community. Homes of evacuated residents are targets for criminal minds and generators have been stolen while running a home in the wee hours of the morning. So, having theft prevention and home security on your priorities list is especially necessary during these times. Criminals have no moral compass stealing your stuff and in some cases are willing to risk it all for some ridiculous lust for someone else’s property. Another consideration is interrupted sleep patterns cause one to lose sleep during peak hurricane activity. If you have a group of people at your home, this might be a good time to access capable assistance, as having activity in and around a home during normal sleeping hours may deter criminal activity. It also allows people to access restful sleep time in shifts so everyone maintains their optimum performance when needs arise and eventually getting back to your normal routines.
EVACUATION TO ANOTHER’S HOME or CHARITABLE CENTER
In Louisiana, we are well-known for giving someone the shirt off our backs. We are also well-known to destroy anyone’s dietary structure with rich seafood and other dishes that will add inches to any waistline and shock any family doctor over your recent cholesterol count. So, it goes without saying that many families in low-lying areas will evacuate out of their areas into the homes of other family or friends on higher ground or completely out of the state, depending on one’s locale. The last thing anyone wants to be a part of is a community center of sorts where you are assimilated amongst hundreds of other strangers with their children and/or even pets for that matter.
Sharing a home is the most common circumstance where either friends or family converge on another’s home to hunker down. So, there should be some common sense and courtesies to consider if you are one to take advantage of this generosity. And here, we’ll talk about the “taking advantage of” part of this equation.
As a guest being fortunate enough to be invited to stay in someone’s home, you should try your best to do your part and recognize despite the sincerest of invites, you do disrupt the daily routines and functions of another’s home. So it is imperative to the overall conditions and attitudes there that you take into consideration what you must do to contribute to the smooth transition of the move as well as showing through actions your gratitude for this open house invitation. The last thing you want to do is wear out your welcome and even worse, being told to leave because of it. Most folks are generous, but human nature dictates the rules. And your arrival just increased the amount of humans within one dwelling.
This means do not arrive empty handed, unless you were told specifically not to worry about providing foods, water, hygiene or other personal essentials. Even then, do it anyway. You’ll feel better about it and your host will not be in the position of absorbing the full financial burden of feeding, cleaning or bedding you for an unknown amount of time. Besides, if your home already has foodstuffs and self-supporting provisions, should your home be destroyed by winds or flooding, you won’t lose a good portion (if not all) of your stores. Bring them with you if you can and consume or contribute to the host home. Your efforts will be appreciated.
Picking up behind your self is a precious consideration. You are not in a hotel with maid service. Your host already deals with their own issues and it is selfish to burden them with your bad habits. So, don’t contribute to clutter or messes. During these periods, there is a lot of in and out within a home. Outside, the grounds are wet; leaves and debris are everywhere, including your feet. Over time, a neglected area can look worse than a yard after a hurricane. Help out; sweep, wipe, clean or anything that keeps a bit of cleanliness within your host’s home. Help in clean up after the hurricane has passed and it’s safe to go outside. Bring a rake if you can think about it to help with the debris clean-up. Who knows, that effort alone may get you manpower at your place when you return. Attitudes can deteriorate if others are trying while you’re slacking. Again, your efforts will be appreciated.
Kids and we all love them, get bored quick, require attention and protect what is theirs. And with that in mind, your host has not offered to baby sit too. Your kids are your responsibility so you need to discuss this with your children to ensure they realize the imposition, however generous it may be, need not become a problem for their own family through their actions. If they get out of hand, you are responsible for getting them in check, not your host. If you insist on burdening your host with the responsibility to monitor your own children, expect at some point to be invited to seek refuge elsewhere. As with the other considerations, your efforts will be appreciated.
There are a variety of examples to provide here but the most important consideration is keeping your stay from being a burden on your host. Use common sense and always offer assistance, even if you expect to be told to relax on the easy chair. Offering your services, assistance and maintaining your part of the stay goes a long way. Remember, all of the existing inconveniences already contribute to a family’s stress points. And if there is no semblance of order, someone is likely to snap and another SHTF moment can erupt. The last thing you need is to ruin a great relationship because of laziness, lack of parental disciplines and taking advantage of someone else’s generosity.
As a host you’ll have likely considered the fact that another friend’s or family’s family within your home through your invite will interrupt your daily routines and fill any voids that are normal to your lifestyle. So, you are likely prepared for the inconveniences that go along with this choice. If not, now would be a good time to access the likelihood that you could find yourself with an entire family consisting of adults, children, babies and/or pets. You need to decide how to lay out expectations ahead of time.
Most folks through human nature will invite someone to stay with them without considering the potential inconveniences. And if these are not discussed, you may find yourself getting aggravated over petty issues. Most folks will not discuss expectations in advance either. Which means 9 times out of 10, a host family will find themselves dealing with all sorts of issues they weren’t prepared for, or were, but didn’t want to address (or hoped it wouldn’t come to that). So, one need to determine how they will handle the negatives without incident.
You may be so easy going and generous that you don’t care. And that is a commendable trait anyone could admire. But not everyone is that easy-going and generous as you might be. But you are hosting someone who’s been forced to leave their homes and who’s lifestyle will be interrupted and personal burdens will be eventually shared with you and yours. So, establishing a mindset with your own family is imperative before you consider offering a place of refuge to another. This is a vital step to maintaining sanity in any household during a high-stress period.
All of these considerations can apply should you find yourself and your family at a shelter. However, it is not recommended if you have options with other family or friends. Most communities have a handle to disciplines through rules and regulations. You either comply or move on. The choice is yours and planning ahead on a bug out option is highly recommended.
POST EVENT EVALUATION
This is an opportune time to assess your preparedness and survival tools and supplies. Simply keep a journal handy and jot down those little things that can be added to your conveniences. And this shouldn’t be limited to the basic items that make your comfort, consumption or anything else easier to deal with. Consider the worse-case scenarios based on what you’ve learned through media’s and social networks. While you may be at home dealing with simple inconveniences, others are being awakened to water in their homes as low as ankle deep to as high as inches from an attic or roof crawlspace. Think about the unthinkable based on what others have experienced and apply these to your own circumstances. It’s easy to think of it as happening to someone else and not you, but it’s just as easy to happen to you nonetheless. This Cat 1 surprised everyone, experts as well. And as it always goes, folks who never were flooded before were rescued through their roofs by emergency responders or brave volunteers. Ask them if they were prepared.
Finally, one prevalent theme that exists right now is the impatience shown over power companies’ taking what seems “forever” in restoring power. News reports that half of Louisiana residents were out of power. Think about that for a moment. Restoration doesn’t happen overnight and sometimes takes weeks. While it is indeed an inconvenience, being prepared to live off the grid can make a difference in both your comfort and your sanity. Pray for the best, but always prepare for the worse.