When tragedy strikes, we always stop to consider the impact it has on our clients spread out across the US, ask how we can help, and reflect on the lessons learned from the situation. As the victims of Hurricane Harvey start the process of rebuilding, some of our Southeastern United States clients are realizing that the most powerful Atlantic Ocean storm in recorded history is about to slam into them. Disasters strike even when you’re not prepared. And while you can’t always plan for a disaster, you can plan to be prepared. This is the perfect time to use the energy of these disasters to prepare for the next eventuality.
Preparing for a disaster is an overwhelming task. There are so many things to consider. But preparing today for tomorrow’s unknowns will put you in a position to respond faster and make better decisions when the time comes. The list of things you can and should do is endless, but below are some of our suggestions:
Use What You Already Have
Last minute disaster preparation often brings mass hysteria, long lines, and angry and scared consumers. Before you rush out and get caught in the madness to get your staples, think about what you can do with the items you have at home and decide whether or not you actually need to venture out.
Staying Hydrated - Water is the number one item in any disaster supply kit. Between sports bottles, milk jugs, pitchers, and collapsible water jugs you probably have more than enough supplies to home to store this precious resource. Feel like those items aren’t enough or have a septic tank that relies of a power supply for water? Fill your bathtub full of water.
Keeping Cool (and Dry) – If you’re in a pinch, zip lock bags are a great resource. They can be used for anything from keeping your freezer cold in the event of a power outage to storing important documents and photographs to. Fill plastic zip lock bags ¾ full with water and put them in your freezer. The brilliant part of this idea is that it helps with refrigeration if you lose power AND you can still drink the water as a last resort. After you’ve packaged your irreplaceable documents and photographs, store them somewhere safe.
Keeping Dry – Windows are designed to keep water out, but when winds get high enough, nothing is impenetrable. Line your windowsills with dishrags and towels to keep the water from seeping in your house.
Providing Proof – They say a picture is worth a thousand words and insurance companies require proof before issuing a payout. Use your cell phone to take photos or a video of your belongs – room by room. Then store those photographs in the cloud so you can easily access them later if needed.
Reducing Risk of Flying Objects – While wind and water certainly cause catastrophic damage, so do flying objects. Check your surroundings for any loose items and move them indoors. If you have a pool, toss your furniture into the pool. If you notice any loose branches or weakened trees, do your best to eliminate them in advance of the storm.
Be Prepared To Evacuate
Although some people are evacuated in advance of a storm, it’s possible that after a storm passes, your residence may be inhabitable. If you’re not sheltering in place, the early bird gets the worm. Book a hotel away from the area of concern. Do it early and plan to leave before the mass exodus. Even if you are planning on sheltering in place, know the locations on local shelters, just in case. Have an evacuation plan and share it with family members so they know where you're headed.
Before you head out, some other things to consider are:
Seeking Higher Ground – This doesn’t just apply to where you take shelter, but also where you store your vehicle. Experts point out that ideally you get your vehicle OUT of low lying places, to high ground, preferably not surrounded by things like trees or other things that might smash or hit your vehicle.
Staying Clean – While you’re racing around trying to care of all the tasks you won’t be able to take care of once the storm passes, don’t forget to take him to squeeze in some regular household tasks. If you lose power, water, or have evacuate at the last minute, you’ll want to have clean laundry.
Ensuring Food Safety – If you have to evacuate your house, in advance freeze a cup full of water and place a coin on top of the ice. When you get return, check to see where the coin is in the cup. If it’s still at the top, you’ll know your power didn’t go off or only went off for a short period of time and your food is safe to eat. If the coin is in the middle of the cup, your food may be OK, but when in doubt, toss it out. If your coin is at the bottom of the cup, consider your food inedible.
Making a List and Checking It Twice – In the perfect world, your disaster preparedness list is written well in advance, posted, and reviewed often. This organizational trick helps keep people calm and organized in the face of impending crisis. If you haven’t taken the time to do make your list, here are some suggestions:
Contact List –Assume your phone will die or be lost. Write down important phone number and keep your list safe and dry.
Money – Assume that with electricity out, credit cards won’t work. Have a little emergency money on hand and keep it safe.
Medication – This might seem obvious, many prescriptions can be refilled in 90 day intervals through Rx mail order. Using this service ensures you have a greater supply available. Make sure you have it and you remember to grab it.
Contacts/Glasses – If you wear contacts, a single pair can last anywhere from a day to a month. Spare contacts, cleaning supplies, and glasses essential in your grab-go bag.
Flashlight/Communication – When the power goes out and cell phones die, the only way to maintain communication is the old fashion way. If there’s a possibility of long-term power outages, a hand crank radio (for weather updates and emergency alerts) along with a flashlight are good staples to have. In the fancy world we live in, you can even buy a hand crank/solar-powered/USB chargeable/ flashlight/ radio.
Charge cords – Pack USB cords in a waterproof pouch for your most critical electronics.
Protection – A small emergency blankets can be used for rain protection or shelter. Make sure what you pack isn’t cumbersome.
Change of Clothing – Again this might seem obvious, in a pinch, this could be easily overlooked. Layers, things that dry easily, and shoes that are extremely comfortable are all great items to pack.
Duct Tape – If you don’t have duct tape lying around your house, you should. It was originally created during World War II for the US military to make waterproof and durable field repairs. It temporarily solves a lot of things and is one of the most useful pieces of survival gear you can carry.
Pet Supplies –Prepare your pet’s supplies like you would prepare your own. Include enough food and water for three days. Additionally, pack a leash, a picture of your pet (in case you get separated) and make sure your pet has identification on their collar. If you do get separated, you’ll have an easier time finding your animal if they are microchipped. Lastly, make a copy of your pet’s medical records. A pet friendly shelter may require these.
Everything Else – This is where your list gets more personal. Your list might include items like a manual can opener, food supplies for a week, canned goods, protein bars, or freeze dried food – depending on your evacuation plan. You don’t need to pack everything, including the kitchen sink. But pack what you need to survive.
Even if it feels too late now, use the energy of this disaster to prepare for the future. Take time to look at the aftermath of disasters and think “what if that were me?” Not only does this foster compassion for one another, but you may come up against situations that your present disaster plan didn’t comprehend. And remember, a plan is better than nothing at all, but no plan has you totally covered.