These ten preparedness thoughts lead me to a conclusion- it’s not going to be someone else affected for much longer. The possibility that you or I will be affected by something big is increasing.
My hometown is Houston, TX. So Hurricane Harvey hit close to home, even if I don’t live there anymore. Very little of my family still resides there but many friends and their families are still there.
I’ll be honest it took me a few days to break my summer Facebook fast and brace seeing the posts of friends facing the storm and flooding.
Nothing shakes you like seeing posts of your family in the interior bathroom under their third tornado watch, or the church where you had your wedding reception 6-8 ft under water.
Along came Irma, and Jose. Then an earthquake in Mexico. Then we’ve watched the area where we camped this June turn into a 34,000-acre wildfire. I’ve pondered all this amid the smoke coming over the mountain, and can’t help wondering how much the Columbia River Gorge, one of Oregon’s most well-known sites has been devastated.
This week I’ve experienced many moments that taught me, humbled me, and surprised me. Most brought a greater depth of understanding and detail to things I thought I knew or suspected but didn’t fully value. Today I’d like to share my “ah-ha” moments with you in hopes we all learn from them.
Social Media is Successful
1- Social media can be more successful in getting help than calling 911. While it’s not the best thing to rely on in an emergency, I think America was surprised to see how effectively it’s addiction worked during the general chaos. I for one found gratitude and pride in watching how friends and strangers were able to connect help needed with help givers.
Prepare for More than One Disaster
2- Prepare for more than one disaster, not just the most obvious one. Maybe I just missed it in earlier Hurricane coverages, but I didn’t know tornadoes could occur during a hurricane. Although after seeing friends post about tornado warnings and pictures of subsequent paths it made perfect sense they’d be there.
Hurricanes really can create the ideal microsystem for tornadoes. This is something to consider in your family emergency planning. Landslides in an earthquake, flooding in an earthquake, tornadoes in hurricanes, etc. Do you know what the worst case scenario is so you can prepare for it?
Is Sheltering in your Plan?
3- Does your plan account for sheltering in place? Sometimes we have don’t have enough warning to safely evacuate. I do believe Houston’s Mayor made the correct decision in not evacuating. Having lived there I know their roads flood incredibly fast and with traffic from evacuating that would have been a catastrophic loss.
Have you considered what you would do if sheltering in place was the best option? Are you prepared to do so? There is a shelter in place possibility that differs with every disaster. Take some time to imagine what yours would look like and what you would need.
Entertainment is Important
4- Stir crazy! Missing a week, two weeks or more of school with minimal available space to run around and not much time to safely be outside is a recipe for a breakdown. Especially if you have kids. Even adults will see isolation as torture if on your own.
Do have plans and means to stay sane and in good spirits while sheltering in place? There’s a reason they test astronauts before space. Most disasters, man-made, biological, and natural all have a strong ability to force you to shelter in place.
Prepare for Water Contamination
5- A formal warning about water contamination may not come. Have a way and make a plan to quickly supplement your water supply (the area we most often fall short in). Keeping a tub-sized water bladder or just a plastic sheet to line your tub before filling with clean water at the beginning on a disaster situation can really come in handy.
It’s also been a motivating source to increase my water supply and my understanding of water purification. Boiling contaminated water or adding bleach may kill microbes, but it’s still not going to make all that water clean from backed up sewers, chemical spills, and who knows what that’s been swimming in it. Do you know how to distill water? Trust me when I say we’ll have more on that soon.
Know how to Turn off Utilities
6- Knowing when and how to turn off your electricity and gas. We naively think that water and fire can’t coexist but they can. Quite well actually. Houses often burn to the ground during floods. Mainly because people forget to turn off their electricity and gas right after the disaster.
Water is a great conductor too, so that’s a bit scary if you’re standing in a home with two feet of it. Even with 8 feet of water, some homes still had lights on! I didn’t think that was possible but some of those wires can handle a lot. Be sure to put a note and instructions on your kits to remind you if you have to evacuate to shut off the utilities to your house.
Prepare for Financial Impact
7- Disasters have a huge impact on employment and financial stability during recovery. Many of my friends got out of Harvey with little to no personal damage except they are indefinitely unemployed. Due to loss of business, customers, and/or because their place of employment sustained damage they are now finding themselves in serious financial difficulty or will be soon.
Having savings and a financial plan for recovery is vital to surviving the recovery phase. Don’t just think FEMA or insurance, although they certainly can help, will not be enough even if you experience damage. If the only damage is to your job status there may not be any help for you.
Start saving towards 3-6 months of emergency income so you have a reliable backup. Also, consider donating to organizations that help businesses rebuild so their local economy can recover and jobs increase.
Schools are at risk too
8- Families aren’t the only ones effected. Most school districts in the nation are standing on relatively unstable financial footing. The impact of having a school flood or damaged is substantial. However it’s teachers that pay the real price, many personally invest hundreds to create special learning environments for their students. An investment that’s just gone down the drain.
Sure government helps to restore the schools but who restores classroom. Look for outside organizations that support individuals then consider donating to help. Many organizations help teachers get set to bring students back into the classroom.
The economy is at risk
9- The impact a significant disaster can or could have on the entire economy of the nation. There’s a reason cyber security is considered the number one threat. One well-placed hit can shake the wallets and livelihood of the country. Harvey’s increase to gas prices hits most Americans pretty hard.
Houston is one of the capitals on the oil and gas industry (it’s what took me to Texas to begin with). As recovery continues we will probably feel the pain with them, especially towards the holidays. There are loads of other ways our national economy can be effected outside of gas prices. Use your imagination and I’m sure you’ll be able to start connecting dots soon. Another reason being financially prepared is so important.
The Power of Community
10- The biggest realization was the true power of community and it’s vital importance before, during, and after a disaster. It was the community on so many levels that came together to help and serve where needed. Neighbors helping neighbors, whether down the street, another part of town, another city and even another state.
We often focus on the individual in preparedness but the truth is we can’t accomplish this without each other. Even with incredibly dedicated first responders, it still comes down to neighbors. The strength of your community determines your strength. So get involved in your community, meet your neighbors, and serve one another.
It sure seems like disasters are coming bigger, faster, and stronger than ever before. All this pondering has lead me to one final conclusion- it’s no going to be someone else effected for much longer. The likelihood that you will be effected by something is quickly increasing. I have my theories for why but we don’t focus on why’s, we focus on doing.
Do something to get prepared, to get better prepared, and to be prepared to help others. Bring your friends, neighbors, and family along with you. Don’t wait until it’s closer to home, or knocking on your door. Go, Do, Prepare!
Our hearts and prayers are with all those everywhere who’s lives and livelihoods have been affected. God bless you and those rescuing and rebuilding with you.