Not Fashion Related: Preparing for a Natural Disaster

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how to prepare for a natural disaster

Maybe it’s years of prepping for Bonnaroo, living with a mother who was always prepared for anything, my husband's eight years in the Navy, or dealing with a few previous blizzards and hurricanes, but Karl and I have a pretty clear plan for events like Sandy. To some it may seem extreme, and we’re lucky that all of this preparation was extreme for how the storm ended up hitting our area. However I’d rather be the crazy lady in town over-preparing and having plenty to share than be the one begging my neighbors for assistance.  Here’s a list of what we did to prepare for Sandy:

  • Used bungee cords to secure deck furniture and such, the rest went in the toolshed or inside the house
  • Bungeed the lid on our trashcan and bungeed it to the house
  • Filled both bathtubs with water (not to drink, but to flush toilets)
  • Filled two 5-gallon containers with filtered water, replaced the filter on our fridge pitcher and refilled and refilled all our individual Camelbaks and sippy cups
  • Filled gallon Ziploc bags with water and used them to fill any negative space in the freezer
  • Washed the five-day cooler and had it at the ready. This summer we filled it with ice, but this time figured we’d just transfer the frozen bags from the freezer and go from there
  • Cleaned out the gutters
  • Filled the gas tanks of the cars
  • Washed all our laundry
  • Purchased and premade plenty of non-perishables and non-refrigerated food that we would still consume on a normal day (cans of beans and tuna, granola bars, fruit snacks, brown rice, that sort of thing). Also made sure we had plenty of dog food
  • Fresh propane tank for the grill and a bag of charcoal for the tailgating mini grill in the car where it would be sure to stay dry
  • Ate the leftovers in the fridge so we wouldn’t have to toss them if the power went out. A frittata is a fab way to get rid of your eggs, those leftover carmelized onions, single piece of fish, few kidney beans, dregs of a jar of salsa and the little nugget of cheese in a Ziploc baggie. Also the frittata tastes great cold the second day!
  • Packed a bugout bag just in case the house was damaged (personal items we would take in an emergency, a few favorite clothes and toys and books for Emerson, phone chargers, crank-powered flashlight, extra car keys, fresh socks, contacts stuff, etc.). We focused more on Emerson, knowing that her favorite pajamas or Fluffy Bunny would make being in a shelter or friend’s house far more comfortable.
  • Made sure the alarm clock, headlamps, lantern, and portable radio had fresh batteries, and knew where extra batteries were located; charged everything that was chargeable.
  • Packed up Karl’s cameras in the pantry (most secure place in the house) in a waterproof bag
  • Brought down the sleeping bags from the attic and stowed with our various disaster-preparedness equipment (see below).
  • As the night progressed, packed a second bag in case we were asked to evacuate which had more clothes, personal care, etc. in it. Just an LL Bean backpack, nothing gigantic.
  • Dressed ready to be wearing clothes for 24 hours. Comfortable yet not disgusting, boots that could handle rain and mud. All my favorite jewelry that I would want if I had to leave my house suddenly. Had at the ready a raincoat with hood and fleece with hood and a pair of gloves
  • Packed my pockets. ID, insurance and AAA cards, money (cash and plastic and HSA card), one of my husband’s business cards, set of keys, and a pocket knife. My husband is a knife guy and I have found so many times when one is so useful; do remember it's only useful if you know how to easily open, close and use. I also put in there two hair elastics and four of those clamp barrettes because nothing is more annoying than hair in your face at 3am in the rain during a power failure. Been there, done that, wished I had a barrette.
  • Took a nap. They said the worst would likely be at night, and it’s a lot easier to deal with unexpected crap when you’re fresh.
  • Didn’t drink a lot. Sounds fun to have a hurricane party, but it sucks to deal with a hole in your roof with a buzz or a hangover or when all dehydrated and sluggish. One drink, two glasses of water before your next one so you can have fun but still be at the ready.
  • Ate power foods. Not fun dealing with an emergency when you're loaded up on chips and dip and pizza. Monday night I ate a bean and sweet potato burger with bed of field greens, avocado, tomato, a bit of mayo and siracha on top
  • Reminded Emerson about our emergency location. We have a place in our house where we meet if things are bad. When the storm was crazy this summer I went and grabbed Emerson from bed and held her there while she slept through it all, but now that she’s getting older she needs to know where it is. A good place for such a spot is the center of your house where it is the sturdiest and easiest to get to no matter where you are in the house. It’s good to also have an outside meeting place as well in case of fire or other situation where you need to get out ASAP. It doesn’t have to be a scary thing to your kids, just a fact of life like holding hands and looking both ways when crossing the street.

While at it…

  • It’s important for your children to know their full name, address, and a contact phone number. We regularly ask Emerson her last name, what our first names are, phone number, her house address so if she gets separated from us she can be reunited with us more quickly.
  • For insurance purposes, take pictures of your yard, your home before the storm so you can more quickly process paperwork in case of damage.
  • Check with your neighbors to see if they need any help, especially those who are elderly or have health issues. My community really rallies together during storms, we each have our own strength we bring to the table. If you don’t have such a relationship with your neighbors this is a perfect time to get it started!

Some things we have bought over the years that have proved invaluable for such situations, Bonnaroo, camping and more:

  • Battery-operated lantern. Big enough to light an entire room, can hang from the ceiling, can deal being in the elements, uses “normal” batteries we already have in storage
  • Solar-powered charger. This one also works on batteries and has an emergency light
  • Solar- and crank-powered radio. This one also will charge small appliances and has an emergency light
  • Portable power station. My husband found this one at Home Depot after the derecho.
  • Headlamps. We keep one on each side of our beds so if the power goes out while sleeping (or we are woken in the middle of the night to a disaster) we can act quickly
  • Crank-powered flashlight.  Works even if you forgot to charge or replace the batteries
  • Good boots. My husband has Bogs, I have my DUO boots which have been prepped with waterproofing spray; I also have my own pair of Bogs. Wear those boots until you go to bed and keep them next to your bed when you go to sleep. When the tree came in our house last year it was excellent to have my boots ready so I didn’t walk in broken glass.
  • Reusable poncho. My sister got me mine and I have used it so many times. Can throw over even a bathrobe if needed, can throw over your backpack or bag if you need to head out, can fit on any size body, can be used as a tarp in a pinch, and doesn’t stick to itself like those cheapy disposable ones. Mine stuffs in a bag which has strings so you can sling over a shoulder 
  • Proper coat for the elements. I have a Lands’ End Squall Parka which will work with snow, rain, and anything cold without restricting movement or making me sweat. I also have a long raincoat with hood for warmer-weather hurricanes. While a poncho is great, if you have to work to move a tree, shovel out a car, or any other manual labor it’s nice to have a jacket that stays in place and still keeps you dry and relatively comfortable.

I know many of you are in areas of the world that deal with natural disasters on a more regular basis. What do you do and have to prepare for them?

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