Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Post: Be Prepared!

Hi everyone! I'm Cat from : the C.W. : I'm a Navy wife, a road tripper, and an escapee of cubicle life. I'm also working on my ‘bucket list’ while trying to figure all of this ‘domestic’ stuff. But I'm not gonna talk about any of that today. Instead, let's take a step back to my days in Scouting. Yes, this post is about being prepared.
Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fire, earthquakes, blizzards, ice storms, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It seems like every time I turn on the news, another area has been hit by a natural disaster.
Have you ever given any thought to where you would go if your city got evacuated? Or what you would do if your power was out for days on end? I feel like with all the moving around we do nowadays (especially if you're a military family), this often gets overlooked. The Navy now has my husband and I stationed in Pensacola, FL, which as you may know is on the Gulf Coast and very prone to hurricanes. Back when we lived in Virginia, I didn't give much thought to disaster preparedness because nothing major had really hit there in a while. In fact, we had a minor tropical storm coming through my first summer there, so I called my aunt down in central Florida who had made it through Hurricane Andrew among other nasty storms. She knew it was minor, so when I asked her what I should have on hand to be prepared, her only response was "a bag of M&M's." Luckily for me, she was right, and the bag of M&M's was all I needed.
I've been on much higher alert now that we're down here on the Gulf Coast, especially after listening to the locals here tell tales about their losses from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. I've already attended two different hurricane preparedness trainings offered on base here, and I think the tips I learned are worth sharing to prepare you for almost any disaster.
Essentially, you need to have two plans in place: one for staying put and one for evacuating. Here are just a few very basic tips.
Be ready to stay put:
* Be prepared for 3 days’ worth of no power or water. The Gulf Coast motto is "The first 72 are on you" (meaning the first 72 hours after a storm)
* Have enough potable water for those 3 days--the guideline is 1 gallon per person per day. We have 6 gallons for the two of us. To make it frugal, I just cleaned out our milk and juice cartons and filled them with tap water.
* Have a crank-powered or battery-powered radio (with extra batteries), so you can stay in the know. * has a pretty thorough list of everything to put in your emergency kit. Don’t forget a flashlight.
Be ready to evacuate:
* Have a bag ready per person with stuff you need if there's a mandatory evacuation. At the very least, make a checklist so you don't forget something important. Remember, it may not be there when you get back. Have your important documents in a large Ziploc bag. Also include a utility bill or some proof of residence so you can get back into your house without question.
* Have at least $100 cash on hand somewhere in your house. If the power goes down all over town, credit card readers and ATMs will be out of service.
* Keep your gas tank at least half-full all the time. If an evacuation is announced, gas prices will rise due to the increased demand and then they might even run out. (Anyone remember Katrina? What a nightmare!)
* Have a plan for your pets. You'll probably be taking them with you, so make sure you have food and essentials. You may want to look up pet-friendly hotels now so you won't be panicking later. Pets generally are not welcome at disaster shelters.
Good news for military families:
* If your area has a mandatory evacuation, the government will reimburse you for the hotel and per diem. That means you can head somewhere safer and have a mini-vacation of sorts. Your evacuation destination shouldn't be farther than 350 miles (a 6-7 hour drive) from your home because you'll need to be back within 24 hours of the evacuation lift and get back to work. * The Relief Society for your branch probably can help you. Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society will offer interest-free pre-evacuation loans in the event of an evacuation. Also, afterward, they can help you with loans to assist with other issues. Here are the links for the other branches: Army Emergency Relief; Air Force Aid Society; Coast Guard Mutual Assistance. Feel free to call your local branch and ask them questions. (I'm currently a NMCRS volunteer, by the way.)
Know your area and what affects it most so that you can prepare based on that. Earthquakes and tornadoes come with little warning, whereas hurricanes give a pretty good advanced warning. You also may want to check your renter's/homeowner's insurance policy to see what it covers. If a hurricane hits here, our place will most likely flood, which is not covered on our renter's policy!
I know I probably sound like a total Debbie-downer, but having a plan in place can give you such a peace of mind. Hopefully you'll never have to use your emergency kit, but it's always good to BE PREPARED!


NHGirl said...

My hubby took this to the extreme and prepared us for complete destruction of our area. He created "the apocalypse bag" last year, which holds MREs, a water filtration system, sleeping bags, a tent, an axe, a first aid kit, and other things that I can't remember off the top of my head. We keep it just inside our front door next to our hiking boots. A little crazy and paranoid? Maybe. But it makes us feel secure knowing that we are prepared for just about anything.

Loved your post, CW! I think it's really important for everyone to be thinking of these things. I didn't think to put some money in ours, so thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

I wanted to add two things to consider for water storage.

1. Reusing containers is great, but make sure they are REALLY clean before adding water (sterilize if possible).

2. Dump and refill at least once a year, but better every 6 months.

Water can and does go rancid over time. Many people forget these steps and can end up really sick in an already yucky situation.

Tegan said...

Great post Cat! :)

The American Red Cross also has some really amazing resources on their website and in paper if you happen to catch them at a fair of some kind. They have checklists for everything from a baby in diapers to a pet to an adult. (I used to volunteer for them in disaster education.)

Also, if you live in a tornado prone area, it is best to keep all your prepared items in the storm shelter/the under the stairs closet, etc. Sometimes you only have seconds or minutes and your water, etc is already there, all you have to worry about is your family and pets.

So glad you wrote about this! :)

Tori and Chad said...

Super smart. Good points.