This weekend in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA we lost power for about 14 hours after Tropical Storm Matthew passed by. There was major flooding in our area and people died. This is not the first tropical storm I experienced. My first time experiencing a major storm was Hurricane Hugo in Charleston, SC. It happened in September 1989, 27 people died in the Charleston area and my family and I went without power for 45 days. Think about that. The blessing was that my home had a stove with a pilot light and a water heater with a pilot light. That meant that though we did not have power, we could cook and take hot showers. In today’s world more homes will not have those luxuries.
First things first, you need to ensure your safety. If you are in a low lying area, block your furniture up, gather your valuables and get out of dodge. TS Matthew was responsible for 15 deaths in VA/NC/SC/GA/FL (as of when I wrote this article). Some of those folks would be alive today had they been out of town. Blocking means exactly what it sounds like, get your furniture up on blocks as high as you safely can. An extra foot or two may be the difference between everything being destroyed and your carpet and floor being destroyed.
After The Disaster
Now that we have dispensed with that, if you are like me and you live on high ground, and you are a little bit inland, you will probably not be in a mandatory evacuation area. In which case, you will ride it out. The storm while nerve wracking and dangerous will be the easy part. What comes after could be very tough. The three things I remember most about the aftermath of Hugo was that it was hot, we had no power, and our water was not drinkable.
Water Of Life
While you can go a long time without food, clean water is essential. So I strongly suggest that everyone keep regular, unscented bleach in your home. Bleach does lose effectiveness over time so I replace my bottle at the beginning of each hurricane season. I also strongly encourage everyone to look into a Berkey filtration system for their home. I use mine year round and that allows me to not drink “bleachy water.” I hate the taste of chlorine and the Berkey gets rid of it. It is a big silver coffee pot looking rig that uses gravity. So even when the power is out it works. A Berkey is well worth the money. You could also store water, and if you have gutters use rain barrels. My experience is that while the water may not be drinkable, it will probably still run. But have a back up plan so you and yours always have access to clean water. Water really is life.
Be Clean, It Is A Matter of Life
Have a plan to keep you and your home clean. In every catastrophe that has happened historically, every war, every conflict the number one killer is disease. So keep yourself, your home, and your food service tools clean. I have a solar shower to ensure my family can still take a daily shower. It may be 30 seconds, soap up, 30 seconds of rinse, but we will be clean. I also have a kerosene/paraffin stove to heat water on so we can sanitize our dishes. I get real obsessive after storms because that is when “bugs” start to thrive. Storm and waste sewers back up and flood, that leads to bad stuff. You stay clean and you are more likely to stay healthy.
A Person’s Got To Eat
You need to keep food on hand for an emergency. Make sure it is the things you already eat and rotate your stock. So if you have tuna for lunch everyday, buy an extra can each week until you have a few months worth of tuna. Same thing with everything else non-perishable that you eat, stock up while it is easy and painless. I have been hungry in life and it is not something you want to experience, trust me. So I keep months of food on hand. I suggest three months minimum and a year is ideal. Why? You never know when disaster might strike. Most likely the disaster won’t be some manmade craziness but a natural disaster, or more likely a personal disaster like losing your job. Wouldn’t it be nice not to stress over food?
Cold Beans Suck
Now you need a way to cook and there are many options. What works for me on my lot may not work if you live in an apartment. A grill with a side burner is inconspicuous and as long as you have plenty of propane you are set. I am a fan of kerosene/paraffin. A lot of the world still cooks with it and the Butterfly stove is inexpensive and kerosene stores well. I used it Sunday to cook breakfast and I will tell you, when the neighbors are eating cold cereal, eggs and bacon and hot coffee are a godsend. I camp a lot so it was just another weekend out in the wilderness for me.
Save Your Cold Goods
Now let’s talk about generators. A lot of people have them and I heard them running in my neighborhood the entire time power was out. People love their routines and do not want them changed. I can tell you that unless you have natural gas and it is still flowing, running your generator hours a day will become a problem. When your power is out, the local gas station’s probably is too. You then either have to drive miles to get gas or you have an expensive lawn ornament. The food in your refrigerator lasts about 24 hours if you stay out of it, and the freezer lasts 48 hours. My theory on generators is this, run it twice a day for one hour (8 in the morning and 8 in the evening). When it is running that is when you stock the cooler with all of the things for the next 12 hours. Using your generator this way means that after the neighborhood has their big cook out because the meat is thawed, you will still be eating bacon and having steak (you did stock up the freezer, right?). Your generator run time is also time for you to check the news (if the stations are broadcasting), load books onto your kindle, and to charge your cell phones.
Who Is Going To Provide Medical Services When There Is No EMS
I have one other tip and I will leave the rest for you to research. Please invest in Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) for each member of your family and a family first aid kit. Take classes and learn how to administer first aid. During major storms, emergency response systems are often shut down. That means that you are your family’s only line of defense. I take suture classes regularly, I keep up my CPR quals, and I am thinking about buying a used defibrillator. When the world turns upside down, I do not want to feel powerless. I assure you; you do not want to either.
Here are your to-do items in order of priority
- Clean Water: Short Term Unscented Plain Bleach (not the concentrated stuff, the cheap stuff), Long Term Gravity Filter
- First Aid: Short Term an IFAK For Each Family Member, Long Term A Family First Aid Kit
- Food: Short Term Three Months, Long Term One Year
- Ways to stay clean: Extra Dish Soap, a solar shower, a way to boil water
- Cooking: Short Term an existing grill, long term a kerosene or white gas stove
- Finally think about a generator to keep your food cold
Failing to plan, is planning to fail.
Peace, love, and rock and roll,
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Hello! I am Mike K. I am an educator, lifelong student, military vet and wannabe musician. I have a love of history, economics, philosophy and motorcycles. I am quickly moving from minarchy to Christian anarchy philosophically and want people to stop meddling. My debut CD should be out soon!
Riding in Tennessee with my son on the Green Eyed Snake