When most people think of prepping they generally think of extreme disasters like The Zombie Apocalypse, the Yellowstone super volcano, meteor strikes, EMP attacks and the like. The reality (fortunately?) is a lot more mundane and far less exciting but infinitely more probable. Although I do admit the probability of a blizzard here on the Gulf Coast is only slightly greater than that of the Zombie Apocalypse, the chance of hurricanes, tornadoes and flooding is pretty high. Over the course of a single decade there is an almost 100% probability of several such disasters affecting the immediate area where I live. In fact, we faced both flooding and a tornado within the last 24 hours of writing this post.
The tornado only did minor damage to the roof. Enough to allow rain to get into the attic and the first floor ceiling but no serious structural damage. We, along with about 160,000 of our neighbors, lost power for several hours. Although flooding was widespread, other than the roof leak, no water made it into our home. It was close for a while and I did have to wade into the water on a few occasions to clear drains that were clogged with debris. Had I not done so, we would have had much bigger issues. All in all, it was not a disaster for us but I did need to make use of some of the same planning, equipment and supplies set aside for emergencies; sort of a non-life threatening, not so dry run for a serious disaster. Here’s what I learned:
Don’t allow things to accumulate on the gear and supplies you will need.
Gear and supplies that will be needed in an emergency are, by definition, infrequently used and stuff tends to accumulate on or around it. My generator has been buried in the back of the garage under (literally) piles of junk my oldest daughter and her husband couldn’t fit in their storage unit since they moved in last year. With hurricane season approaching I have been harassing them to clean it out. Fortunately, they finished (mostly) just as the storm began to roll in. So, I was able to actually get to the generator but there was still a pile of my own stuff on top of it that I had to deal with before I could even get it into place to start it up.
The plastic tub where we store all our emergency supplies and gear is stored in my wife’s closet. In the last year or so it has collected its own pile of stuff on top of it and around it. It is still accessible but not quickly or easily. It was easier to make due with more available but less optimal stuff than to dig it out. Although we didn’t need them in this case, our medical supplies are in a similar state.
Safe Rooms Are Useless If they Aren’t Ready To Go
The safest room in the house is a walk-in closet that is centrally located and is protected by several structural components of the house. It happens to also be my closet. For a short term threat like a home invasion it is fine. With adequate warning it can be made fairly comfortable, which is exactly how we rode out the two hurricanes we’ve had since we have been here. Despite the warnings of tornadoes spotted close by, we did not relocate there until we actually heard one. A better plan may be to move my clothes and such somewhere else and equip it with a reasonably comfortable amenities for sleeping and relocate there when a warning is issued instead of when we were awakened by a potentially deadly tornado. I also need to set up a power outlet in there. I have been meaning to forever and just haven’t made time to get it done.
Practice, Practice, Practice…
I bought the generator a little over a year ago. I un-boxed, assembled and tested it at that time. I was planning to test it out again before hurricane season this year. I was able to do that this morning. Although the conditions were not as stressful as a more significant event, they were still far from ideal to be trying to remember how the choke, gas shutoff, etc operate. Tracking down extension cords and power strips in the dark so we could plug in needed appliances and equipment was not a good use of time. We never were able to get the refrigerator moved over to the generator. It was too heavy to move. Instead we chose to keep it closed and conserve the cold air and, fortunately, the power was restored before this became an issue. Don’t just buy gear, make sure you know how to use it.
Generators are a hot commodity after serious storms and are a target for thieves. I had no way to secure the generator to anything solid to keep it from being stolen. There were enough folks around this morning that we could keep a close eye on it but in different circumstances that may not be the case. I’ll be heading to the hardware store (or Amazon) for a lock and a cable.
Although the alarm system has a battery backup, with the doors and windows open to help stay cool it won’t really help much. I don’t have an easy solution for this one (suggestions please). Burglar bars are not an option as they are (currently) against existing deed restrictions.
I also need to come up with a way of securing the windows for storms. I would like something like hurricane shutters that roll down over the windows and doors but they are expensive and also against deed restrictions. I have been planning to replace our current windows newer and more secure (and energy efficient) windows but they are very expensive. I’ll have to break down and spend the money in the next few years one way or another.
As I was stomping around in the water I did my best to keep an eye out for critters displaced by the water. Fire ants build rafts on the bodies of the workers and the entire colony will float through the flood waters. If you bump into one they are likely to swarm you. Fire ants stings are painful and hundreds or thousands can be deadly. Snakes and other reptiles are often displaced by the rising waters and they show up in all sorts of unexpected places and generally in a fairly foul mood.
Water moccasins (around here anyway) are generally foul tempered and aggressive in the best of times. They can be even worse during floods and are one of the most likely species to be displaced. Alligators…enough said. From now of I will do a better job of having a handgun on me in flood conditions with at least the first round in the chamber being snake shot. This is one time a .410 revolver actually makes really good sense.
Two legged varmints can be an issue as well. During one flood back in the 90’s our neighborhood was the only one for miles that was above water. We were literally an island in the middle of a river that overflowed its banks and went from a few yards wide to several miles wide. Looters went into the neighborhoods around us on boats and the Sheriff’s deputies went after them. I could hear their boats racing through the neighborhoods and shots being fired in both directions all through the night. The snake shot will be followed by self-defense rounds designed for larger predators.
So, that’s what I learned from our (not so) dry run today. Please feel free to post your suggestions or thoughts on anything I might have missed in the comments section.