Having a plan

Roamy here. I ran across this emergency preparedness plan today (it’s an Acrobat pdf file). Thursday was the six-month anniversary of the tornadoes that decimated Tuscaloosa, Hackleburg, and other cities across the South. The main transmission lines from the local power plant were destroyed by the tornadoes, leaving most of north Alabama without power. The longest power interruption I’d had before April was 36 hours. This time it was a week.

First, I will admit that we bailed and left town to spend a few days with my dad and stepmom, more from boredom and school being closed than any real need to get out of Dodge. Another spring break, if you will, but one where we had to plan our route out of town for the least number of dead traffic light intersections. There were morons who didn’t understand that becomes a four-way stop.

Second, this really showed me where I went right and wrong being prepared. We have a small generator, and the house is hard-wired to run fridge, freezer, and lights, but not HVAC off of it. We had enough gasoline to run it frugally, where we might run it for one hour out of 6 – 8 hours, enough to keep the food cold. We have a gas stove, so cooking was no problem; in fact, we loaned our gas grill to a neighbor who couldn’t get charcoal for his regular grill. We were glad we didn’t have to deal with the long lines at the grocery stores and driving an hour or more to find gas. We had plenty of food, clothes, blankets, cash (ATMs were dead, too, and few were taking credit cards), flashlights, batteries for the flashlights and a radio. We had a regular non-cordless phone on a land line, so family and friends knew we were okay.

Where I went wrong – water. The utilities were knocked out, too, and were running on generators. I scurried around, filling all my large pots with water, but what if there had been no warning? As it was, they were able to keep the water processing plants on line, but no one was sure of that in the early days.

Also where I went wrong – not being ready to bug out faster. This is probably more important in CA because of earthquakes or the coast because of hurricanes, but this has made me take a harder look at being ready.

While we had enough batteries for a while, once things settled down, I bought a couple of crank-type flashlights and am looking for a crank radio.

And this is silly, but I had only two chem-lights. Without any lights at all and a new moon, it was DARK. I woke up one night, opened my eyes, closed them, and couldn’t tell the difference. Rather than worrying about a burning candle, we used a chem-light as a nightlight for the kids (okay, and me, too).

Your thoughts on being prepared? What item were you grateful you had or were sorely missing?

9 thoughts on “Having a plan”

  1. Make sure all your flashlights are LEDs…they’re more expensive up front but the batteries last up to five times longer and are MUCH brighter. I carry a small one in my pants pocket when I’m on board ship in case the power goes out and also to use doing structural inspections. A normal light isn’t powerful enough to give you fine details; an LED is more than adequate.

    You didn’t mention medicines; always have a two week supply. Bleach: you can make river or creek water potable by judicious additon of bleach. Water: never use the small water bottles you use during a walk; get plastic gallon jugs (or simply re-use milk jugs).

  2. My wife’s life long best friend and husband/children live in Madison, Al. We have visited them a few times. Love the rocket museum. They bugged out on the second day after the tornadoes. Like you, they went to her parents. I don’t think they had any sort of plan at all. They HAD to leave. The one thing they could have done before leaving was empty the fridge and freezer. It didn’t happen. I’m sure they won’t make that mistake again.

    I agree with Byron about the LED flashlights. They are awesome. I replaced the old bulb in my 3 C cell mag light with an LED replacement and I love it. It is so much brighter and I only have to replace the batteries every six to nine months versus EVERY three months. And LED bulbs themselves last longer and are much more rugged.

    In case you don’t have bleach you can use sunlight to sterilize water. Google “SODIS water purification”. Basically, all you need is PET plastic bottles, water, a shiny reflective surface to place the bottles of water on and sunlight. And Time. At least six hours. The SODIS method kills germs that cause disease, but that is the main threat from drinking contaminated water. You would still want to filter out any dirt, etc before treating water using either bleach or SODIS.

    I wouldn’t use milk jugs for storing water. According to this source, (http://faculty.deanza.edu/donahuemary/Storewaterforafteranearthquake) and many others “…… water should NOT be stored in plastic milk jugs. That’s because milk has fats in it which get into the plastic, and those fats can not be sufficiently removed or cleaned out, even with bleach or other ordinary cleaning products such as dish soap or dishwashing detergent. Refilling these jugs poses a risk for the residual fats to foster bacterial and algae growth inside the jug. So using these containers to store water is NOT recommended.” And milk jugs are made of pretty weak plastic. I use two liter soft drink bottles. They are strong, easy to clean and are widely available. I also keep about a dozen or so in the bottom of our deep freeze. This helps the freezer run more efficiently when it isn’t very full and it will stay cold longer during a power outage.

    A pretty good source of info is: http://www.survivalistboards.com/index.php Be warned, there are some big time nuts on there. But there are also some well informed and helpful people there. Some have spent A HUGE AMOUNT of time, money and mental effort thinking about and preparing for “surviving the big one”. Whatever that may be. I take the good stuff and ignore the rest. It sounds like you are off to a good start with being prepared.

    We live in the New Madrid Fault Zone and I would love to have a stand by generator. Right now, we are prepared (food, water, a way to cook, first aid, etc) for three days without any outside help or support, like after a quake on the New Madrid Fault. As long as the house stays intact, we should be OK. My next goal is to be prepared for a week.

  3. Having lived in PR, we were always prepared for hurricanes. There were advantages that I miss here, such as concrete block housing, tile flooring, and aluminum louvred windows. we always kept a supply of firewood in the house, too. we never knew if there would be briquets available. A first aid kit, along with splints, crutches, or the like are a must there, because of spills you will certainly take with water everywhere. My dad also took Polaroids of everything in the house, and kept a detailed account of the items and furnishings in an album sealed in plastic. It made it much easier for the insurance company.

    LED flashlights are mucho mejor. I also keep a shovel, rope, and fire extinguishers handy.

  4. Drinking water plans are normally built with backup diesel generators these days. Many are also adding them because of “homeland security.” One of the few useful things to come from that waste of manpower.

    I’ve got several 5 gallon jugs for water that I used to take to a water machine when I used to live in Ohio. I’ve kept them for emergency use. There is a spring not far from where I work that many people get their normal drinking water from. There are many springs around the country, but care should be taken. Some “springs” feed small runs that get redirected to pipes and called springs. When water runs on the surface for any distance it must be treated to insure safety. A good example is the “spring” at Winding Stair gap on US 64 in SW NC. I go to the one at Cold Spring Church near Bryson City in SW NC. You can look for springs in your neck of the woods here,


    KMart sells a 20 LED lantern for about $10. It takes 3 D cells and really puts out the light on either the 10 or 20 LED setting. I have several as well as several fluorescent lanterns. Halloween is a good time to stock up on light sticks.

    I also keep camping equipment handy. I have two propane cook stoves as well as a Coleman Stove so I can use almost whatever fuel I can get my hands on (although I would have to replace the generator as auto gas has a bunch of additives that tend to plug them). I’ve got a 20lb bottle too, but I need to buy an adapter tree for the stoves.

  5. All my duty flashlights for this Badger are LED. There are some fantastic ones out there. I keep a Waypoint in my apartment, that will run for 120 hours on low setting, which is 20 lumens. My Pelican 7060 is bright enough that when you turn it on, you wonder why there isn’t any recoil.

  6. My mom live up near Redbay,Ala. After the storms hit we were worried about her but she was fine. People tend to forget the things they have every day. Water is more important than food but most never think about it. We have in some ways become spoiled by walking over and turning on a light or a tap and 99% of the time it works. I live near Mobile,Ala. and we have to ready for storms also. Down here it has always surprised me to see people wait till the storm is about to hit land and leave and be stuck in there car somewhere waiting it out. After ever major storm they play the 911 calls of those that decided to ride it out near the beach. To teach people to leave when told.

  7. Like Roamy, I bugged out of Huntsville the day after the April tornadoes. We were in pretty good shape to leave, but not to stay home without power for more than a day or so (but we mainly left because our preschool son would have gone stir crazy, and taken us with him).
    Rather than give a list of things to have/do, I’ll rely on someone else’s research:
    Instapundit has covered the subject many times, and has filtered the go-to-ground survivalist literature down to what seems like a reasonable survey. A good single post with a checklist of “must-haves” is:
    A couple of points to reiterate:
    1. A gallon of bleach can sterilize a lot of water.
    2. Keep cash on hand always. There aren’t many problems that a few hundred dollars in folding green won’t help you solve.
    3. Don’t forget toilet paper.
    4. An 12 volt inverter allows your car to recharge cell phones, run radios, small lights, keep the wifi alive (if your ISP is still up). Think of it as a computer UPS with a gas tank behind it that lasts longer.
    5. A lifetime of photos and vital documents (reader copies (uncertified) of birth & marriage certs, scrapbooks, financial docs) can be stored on DVDs and put in a bug out bag.
    6. Seriously. Don’t forget toilet paper.
    7. My late father-in-law was a long distance trucker, and he kept a 12 volt cooler in his cab. We’ve used it many times since. It can’t cool down a fridge’s worth of food, but it can keep medicine cool, and it can cool down a few drinks (which can make a house which is temporarily without air conditioning a little more pleasant).
    8. I’m not a big fan of glow sticks (although my son likes them) – they aren’t very bright, and they get dim. A mini-mag LED flashlight with a couple of extra sets of batteries is much brighter, lasts longer, and is all-around more useful. Some LED flashlights are so cheap as to almost be in the “disposable” category, so we have half a dozen scattered around the house and cars.
    9. I cannot over-emphasize. Don’t forget toilet paper. Trust me on this.

    1. There are some really great tips here, thank you.

      I was impressed with Publix’s emergency preparedness. I stayed away from the madhouse, but I heard they had emergency generators running pretty quickly. Afterwards, they pulled extra employees from Nashville and other surrounding towns to restock and to keep every register open and moving the first few days after power was restored, when people were restocking their refrigerators and buying cleaning supplies. (BIG display of Clorox wipes, sponges, mops, and paper towels right up front.) Must be because they are headquartered in Florida and have been through a hurricane or two.

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