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I have watched, with interest, the news stories and the posts flying around Facebook the last two weeks about Hurricane Sandy. Leading up to the meterologists figuring where where Sandy was most likely to hit, watching people choose to prepare or not, the storm coming on shore and then the resulting posts from the power finally being restored and the aftermath of the clean-up. It’s been quite interesting.
I believe more and more, people are starting to realize that the governmental help that is offered after a natural disaster is beyond slow, partial and ineffective. As we saw with the marathon controversy, government’s priorities aren’t often the people’s priorities. When the chips are down, you have to draw from yourself or turn to your neighbors for help- the government isn’t going to help you most of the time. You’ve got to help yourself. Since neighbors aren’t necessarily any more prepared than you are, it can be a scary proposition to depend on neighbors for things unless you already have a pre-existing arrangement.
Even now, many people still can’t get gasoline because distribution to the region hasn’t been restored. Food still appears to be in short supply due to distribution problems in some places. Lines for food or gas are hours long by many accounts of people I know living in the region. Some news stories stated that the wait for gas is as long as six hours.
Looting has hit some areas. After Hurricane Katrina, looting was a major problem, too.
The story of Moore family, who was trying to evacuate and had their car overtaken by water, is a tragedy. The mother got out of the car and got her kids out to try to get to safety, only to loose them both to a wave that pulled them away. My heart goes out to her. The response of the people around her, ignoring her and refusing to help, is beyond reprehensible. She had to spend the night on someone’s doorstep, screaming and pleading for help until she could flag down a police officer the next morning. Both boys were found dead not far from the vehicle.
There are multiple news accounts of people rummaging through dumpsters in search of food. They had the warnings, they saw the news, and for the vast majority of people, they chose not to prepare when they had the money. This type of mentality in a disaster scares me the most, because these are the people who blame everyone but themselves when they don’t have what they need. I don’t take issue with the folks who don’t have the funds or means to prepare, as they do genuinely need the help. It’s the people who have the money and choose not to take care of themselves that cause me concern.
Basic Preparedness Lessens Stress
I could post many, many more news stories. There have been hundreds in the last week. The sad thing is that some basic preparedness could have prevented many of these problems. In the aftermath of a storm, people are thirsty, hungry, cold or hot and restless. Tempers flare easily when people aren’t getting their basic needs met. People who would never snap in a normal situation find themselves acting in ways that shock them. If you’re near-by, you can get hurt. Staying out of the public is the best way to stay safe in many instances; you can stay out of public by being prepared. Let’s look at some of the basics you can easily do to preapre for natural disasters.
First, you can only live three days without water, and dirty water can kill you via illness. Plus you need water for cooking, cleaning and bathing as a minimum. Scrub your tub and fill it with water for bathing, flushing toilets and cleaning. Bottled water isn’t the only option, you can store it at home using tap water to fill empty 2-liter bottles, mason jars and a wide variety of vessels. Fourteen gallons per person on hand is a good idea to make sure you’re covered until the power is back on and the water is flowing out of the tap again. That’s two week’s worth of water.
Second, never let your vehicle go below half-full. Yes, it means that you have to fill up more often, but it also means that in an emergency, you have enough gas to get to the ER, to evacuate without waiting in crazy long gas lines or to get where you need to go after a disaster. A filled five-gallon gas can at home, tucked away in the garage can be further insurance.
Third, keep a week’s worth of food in the house. Squirrel away enough shef-stable foods that if you had to feed your family three meals a day for a week, you could do it without power. Don’t count on the government to feed you all those meals, especially if you have food allergies.
Fourth, have a bug out bag for each member of the family and an evacuation plan to go with the gasoline listed above. If you face evacuation due to flooding, at least you will have some food and copies of your most important personal papers with you. We have a podcast on bug out bags that will help you get your own set up.
Fifth, know the types of natural disasters that can hit your area and stock the basics needed year-round. Batteries, flashlights, tarps, candles, some basic hand tools, a saw and the like aren’t a big investment but they can be a huge help when disasters do occur. We have a podcast about living without power that can be helpful, as well.
Fifth, be aware that if you need it and you don’t have it when a disaster happens, you might have to deal with price gougers. Illegal or not, it still happens. Have some cash, especially small bills, available to get what you need post-storm. In those situations, price gougers rarely offer change. If they are selling ice for $5 a bag and all you have is a $20, you’re paying $20 for that bag if you really need it.
Sixth, have some basic first aid supplies available in case someone gets hurt. Illness from infection can take a heavy toll on productivity and even life.
Seventh, when the power goes out, sanitation becomes more difficult. You’re more likely to get exposed to germs and get sick. Prepare accordingly with the proper cleaning supplies, bathing necessities and the like.
Finally, as I’m fond of saying, ‘Panic early, beat the rush.’ Get what you need long before the majority of people are starting to think about it so you don’t have to be stressed, rushed and pay top dollar. Make sure you’re ready at the beginning of hurricane season or do it in the Fall if you have to prepare for snow storms. It will save you time, money and a lot of stress to be able to avoid the crowds and the idiot behavior that some people display over storms.
If you want to learn more about basic preparedness, our podcast is a good place to start. Every Wednesday at 8am, we spend an hour (or three) talking about preparedness in different areas &/or real food. Come join us. If you’re interested in basic food storage on a real food diet, our eBook Real Food Storage is a great place to start.