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Disaster Prep Assessment After Irma: I’d give myself a B-

So we're still picking up after Irma, but I wanted to put my thoughts down about Irma before it faded from my memory. I wanted to make sure I remembered:

  • what worked
  • what didn't
  • what could be improved on

In the What Worked category:

  • Keeping an eye on the storm track from first mention via  and  … that kept me ahead of the pack when it came to getting groceries and prepping.
  • my general prep list – mopping, cleaning, organizing ahead of the storm
  • my 5 gallon beverage cooler/dispensers – 3, which would be 15 gallons of water or 5 gallons per person.
  • the little paper cone cups that came with one of my beverage dispensers. 
  • my emergency lighting baskets — one for flashlights, one for candles – easy to find in the dark
  • my hand crank flashlight/radio — no need for batteries
  • my bulk ice trick – line a small cooler with a clean trash bag and fill it with bulk ice, then put it in the freezer before the storm
  • my go-kit: meds, IDs, wallet, contacts, spare toothbrushes, along with laptops, tablet and phone by the bed or by the door in case of evacuation
  • water in the tub to flush toilets
  • my old landline phone in my bedroom. We had no internet and no power, but that phone worked like a champ even to well into the worst of the storm.
  • my gas stove — we could cook even when the storm roared outside.

In the What Didn't Work category:

  • my portable power station — we charged it ahead of the storm, but it didn't take a charge. 
  • my matches — maybe it was a bad box, but they wouldn't light for love nor money.
  • my lighter — don't buy the cheap ones!
  • the fact that I decided I could let the dishwasher catch dirty dishes — no place to drain dishes that I hand washed
  • the fact that I had neglected to repair leaky faucets before the storm, and it drained my deep well tank. I caught the water and used it, but it meant that my kitchen sink wasn't usable on one side.

What could have been improved:

  • a better evacuation plan — if it had been a Cat 3 hurricane off Savannah or at the Florida line, we would have been in trouble. 
  • better food planning — not just a list of safe shelf-stable foods, but a menu and recipes, so I can make them tasty and with a minimum of fuss and dirty dishes.
  • better lighting — our house was dark in the middle of the day because the sky was so overcast and it was raining so hard, and our battery lights and candles were pitiful.
  • better dish washing system — I need a good way to wash dishes with a minimum of fuss and water
  • running water system in the bathroom and the kitchen. Even with my big beverage dispenser, it took two people to wash hands. Picture my horror when DH came in from work and said, "Uh, I've been cutting corn — I need to wash my hands. Will hand sanitizer do?"
  • a better, quicker way to board the place up. Usually we don't worry about boarding up windows, but this hurricane showed us that we could be cruising for a bruising. We chose not to board the windows because by the time we realized we may have needed to, all the plywood was gone. But with the waters warming and threats of hurricanes becoming more powerful, I'm going to invest in  and pre-cut plywood so that in the event of a major hurricane bearing down on us, we don't have to worry about where to get plywood at the last minute.
  • This is not mine, but I'm going to follow up on it — our county needs a way to flag folks with special needs on our 911 service. We were told they had this, but when I called to report DD's food allergies and bleeding disorder, it was more for people who needed to evacuate but couldn't, and our sheriff's department/911 service wasn't familiar at all with the process

I just wanted to add that our utilities guys and our first responders were awesome — I know they're exhausted, and in fact some of our county is still without power. 

So what has Harvey and Irma made you guys think about? 

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Comments 10

  • Jen

    Good point to make sure the portable charging station is working well.  We have a bunch of extra battery packs, but they do go bad from time to time.

  • K8sMom2002

    This was my lovely Black and Decker power station/air compressor/jump station, too. I've used it before, but this time the battery just didn't take a charge. Ugh! 

  • tlb2002

    I wish I had a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio. One of our local TV stations was broadcasting from a radio station and we could have gotten weather updates after we lost power. Instead, we were sitting in our laundry room not really knowing what was going on and when it would pass. I did have a couple of people text me updates, but they came in so sporadically because cell service kept dropping. 

    We also have a second-story balcony that we access from a set of French doors. We had put sandbags in front of it and thought that was enough. Nope! Two times we ran upstairs to barricade it with pieces of furniture to keep it from blowing open. Next time, we will figure out a way to board it from the inside, I guess. I aged 10 years that night. 

    Other than that, I feel like we did the best we could to prepare physically. Emotionally… I don't think there is a way to prepare for that. 

    But I did see something just now that made me think:

    One of our local pharmacies (a popular chain) has had odd hours because of power issues. They posted on Facebook today about how they “have been working with no AC in 90-degree heat to get people their medicines.” I immediately thought, “What about the epis and the inhalers?!”

    I never thought about that before. I wonder if pharmacies protect their heat-sensitive medicines during an event like this. The heat has been nearly unbearable since the storm passed. This will make me think twice about refilling heat-sensitive meds after a major storm/power outage!

  • Jen

    Tanya – That's a really good question.  I think it's worth asking your pharmacist to maybe put your mind at ease.

  • Kathy P

    That's a really good question Tanya! There was a study done about the effect of heat on epinephrine – it's posted on the KFA blog, I'll see if I can go grab the link. 

    There are other meds that need to be temp controlled as well – even refrigerated. I'm sure they having to assess all the stock and evaluate it. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Scary on the French doors, Tanya! And really good question on the temp-sensitive meds — I'm interested in what your pharmacist has to say about that!

    My hand crank radio/flashlight was a cheapo — I used it mainly for the light, but I liked knowing I had a radio available. Another possibility is that you can get a weather band radio that gives you alerts — some of the emergency radios with hand cranks have this as well — the , and others. There's even a really . 

    I have a double French door on the back of my house, and I really worried about the wind. Something that I'm going to invest in is a way to board up vulnerable windows quickly in case of a storm. There are all sorts of gadgets out there, but I saw two things, one cheap and one not so cheap:

    •   (about $30 for a pack of 20 clips)
    •  - 4×6' sheets of polycarbonate that you fasten to the wall. (about $90 a sheet)

    The plus on the Plylox is that it is relatively cheap and you can re-use the plywood. The plus on the clear hurricane shutters is that it lets light in, something that I needed very much after the power went out. But the con is the expense and AND the fact that you have to leave something to fasten it to your house up year round.

  • tlb2002

    Considering that this was a major pharmacy chain, I'm sure they have protocols in place for situations like this. But I am going to ask next time I pick up meds.

    I have not seen the clear shutters before. I like those, especially for power outages. Our windows would not accommodate the Plylox clips. We will also be looking into a more elegant solution for future storms. 

    One thing post-hurricane thing I didn't count on was that so many people around here would be burning their debris. The burning has gone on for at least five days. DS and I are struggling this week. We usually manage DS's symptoms pretty well. Most of his symptoms are triggered by allergens. Yesterday was the first time he's really had symptoms triggered by smoke. He said, "Mom, I feel so drained, like jello." This is the first time he's experienced that feeling and he's miserable. It gave me the chance to talk to him about different asthma symptoms and how to manage them. But it's so hard to watch him be miserable. I want to drive around the neighborhood with a fire hose and tell them to wait until the county picks it up. 

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, hugs, hugs, hugs, Tanya! That stinks — literally and figuratively. Is there no burn ordinance in place that could be enforced?

    I know — police officers and county workers are overwhelmed right now, and they may not want to deal with something they consider a small infraction. But could you put it like this:

    • it's a danger to people like my son and myself
    • if a fire gets out of control, it would be one more thing to respond to when emergency response teams are already tapped out.

    I hope the county comes by and picks up all the trash extra quick!

  • Jen

    Tanya – Ugh.  Hope all of that stops soon.

    So…all of these bad hurricanes this year really have me thinking about disaster prep.  What things do people think they need to improve their plans? What do you feel like you have down to a science?