How To Prepare for a Disaster Before, During and After It Occurs

Good week to my loyal Boomer and senior followers.

As I sit here preparing to hit send on posting this blog, I am struggling with whether this is too much content and whether it’s relevant for this period in time.  Then I spoke to my BoomerGuy and we both concluded that it’s the perfect time to share my thoughts on this matter, especially in light of the all the natural disasters occurring across the country.  It’s always better to be prepared and hopefully never have to need or use this information.  We’ve been in many situations where we were prepared for what exactly we weren’t sure, and then other times when we simply were not well-prepared for even the slightest problem.

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark”           

Howard Huff

We had just moved into our new home in the Bay Area when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit in 1989.  I worked in San Francisco and traveled the Bay Bridge at 5:00 pm each day.  The day it collapsed I was fortunate to have been in the East Bay on business.  My husband worked in the Silicon Valley and he has his co-workers were under their desks until the shaking stopped.  Both of our autos needed gas, and we ended up finding it at long last, however, we paid an exorbitant amount to fill up.  We were happy to do so, but the point being, we never allow our cars to go below ½ tank…EVER.

I had to evacuate my parents from their home on two different occasions.  I was snapping photos as fast as I could of all the household inventory and packing up at the last minute all the important papers I could find, so they would at least have something to give to the insurance company and get reimbursed for any damages.  In this case we weren’t prepared in advance.  Are you prepared?

While living in Palm Desert, an earthquake hit during the evening hours that rattled the timbers and caused water to gush out of the pool.  My neighbor who was from the east coast had never experienced an earthquake, and when she saw the lights on she immediately came over with her emergency band radio.  We listened for updates until the wee hours of the morning and enjoyed several glasses of wine to get us through. 

When we lived in the Pacific Northwest, 4-wheel drive often was not enough–we carried chains just in case.

We experienced several major snowstorms while living in both St. Louis and Portland, Oregon.  In both instances we lost power and I was never so glad to have a word burning fireplace with plenty of stacked wood to help keep us warm.  Friends got stuck in our driveway and had to leave their car for two weeks.  Fortunately we had our 4-wheel drive Suburban WITH CHAINS to drive them home safely and without incident.  That time we were prepared and it paid off.

With that as a little back drop on our history of several encounters, please continue to read my blog below which will hopefully give you a sense for what might be needed in a time of real disaster.  

“Remember, when disaster strikes, the time to prepare has passed”

Steven Cyrds

In follow up to my last week’s blog on preparing a “To Go” kit for general emergencies, here is Volume II which talks a bit more to the key elements of what you should be doing to protect your family and possessions in the event the unforeseen happens.  At a minimum make certain you have the To Go kit in place and it’s up-to-date.  

Here we are one week later, and we can now say the fires plaguing our immediate southern California neighborhood are now about 95% contained.  This is after four weeks, countless air drops and the phenomenal work of the frontline firefighters.  

Now we have raging wildfires in northern California threatening a number of communities around San Francisco and Sacramento.  Napa and Sonoma are under siege along with the communities of Vacaville and Petaluma, where we have family members residing.  These fires apparently have been started by lightning strikes of which there have been over 11,000 recorded and as of this writing there are 367 fires underway with virtually little containment.  The bad news, there have been hundreds of structures lost with urgent evacuations underway during this time of coronavirus lockdowns.  

And then, about one week ago, an inland-based hurricane called a “derecho” laid waste to the state of Iowa with winds clocked at over 140 mph in addition to torrential rain and thunderstorms.  In order to be classified as a derecho the devastation must be a swath over 240 miles wide with sustained wind speeds of at least 58 mph.  The residents from Des Moines to Cedar Rapids said this was clearly their Katrina, with enormous property and crop loss upwards of 10 million acres.  Flood waters in Hamburg reached throughout the entire community, turned streets into canals, and corrupted the drinking water supply.  It is a very rare weather event, therefore who would have guessed its occurrence and the severe devastation.  WHO?

Here’s the point all you Boomers, you’ve got to be prepared for virtually any event that may come your way.  No one thought the Apple fire here in my neighborhood would have been a threat, but it was with over 33,000 acres torched and numerous homes lost.  The fires in northern California are much more severe due to the sheer numbers in addition to the  “evacuate now” orders coming from the Sheriff’s department and CalFire.  One thing about fires, you can see them coming along the wind currents, but those poor people in Iowa had absolutely no warning about the derecho.  

Whatever you do, don’t be so confident that it can’t happen to you.  If it’s not a wildfire or derecho, it could be a hurricane, tornado, microburst with flash flooding, an unexpected loss of power due to a brown or black out, a tsunami, an earthquake, upstream rivers overflowing their banks downstream, a chemical spill, a train derailment, a wicked industrial explosion,  a major snowstorm, et al.  

So now let’s talk about what to do in the event of a catastrophe.  You’ve got your To Go kit, now what?

First and the most important, make certain your communications are in the ready.

  • Make sure your cell phone is charged at all times, and bring an extra battery and your charging cables.
  • Notify an out-of-area contact of your location and status, with a promise to update regularly.
  • In the event of an evacuation, tape your phone number and out-of-area contact information to your refrigerator or inside your front window.
  • As a general rule for any emergency, check with your neighbors to alert them of the impending danger.
  • Carry an operable radio for Emergency Alerts.

On your person.

  • Have sufficient clothing for you and your family members, including pants and long sleeve shirts regardless of the temperature.
  • Bring disposable gloves and leather work gloves.
  • Because we’re in COVID-19, bring along extra masks and face covering.
  • Make sure that flashlight has new batteries and bring it.
  • Carry your wallet, purse, ID’s, and car keys.
  • Bring along plenty of water to stay hydrated for at least three days.

Prepare your car and pets, if time permits.

  • Never let your car get below ½ tank of gas; if there is a power outage gas stations will not be able to pump gasoline or diesel.  
  • Back your car in the driveway and load it with essentials.
  • Place your pet in a carrier and load it into the automobile, along with extra food and water.
  • If you have larger animals like horses, prepare them for transport before the evacuation order is administered.

Prepare your home.

  • Shut off all electricity and water, unless of course you are in a fire zone, in which case it’s advisable to leave the water on for use by first responders.
  • Shut off gas at the meter or propane tank.
  • Connect all garden hoses for use by fire fighters.
  • Make sure you have opened your gates and fences for easy access.
  • In the event no evacuation order is issued, patrol your property and monitor for all conditions.
  • Shelter in place if it’s safe to do so.

In the event of an evacuation order.

  • Leave at once.  Failure to do so endangers you and your family leaving you stranded in an area with no basic services or food or water.
  • Lock your house and do not leave your keys in the usual place like under a mat or in the mailbox.
  • Assist your neighbors to the extent possible.
  • Carpool if the opportunity exists.
  • As stated previously, take only those vehicles with adequate fuel.
  • Stay on known paved roads.
  • If the roads are impassable, take shelter in a building where you will be better protected.
  • Pull your automobile off the road, do not leave it blocking the roadway.
  • Evacuate on foot only as a last resort.

Personal information.

  • This is a written record of key contacts should your wireless devices be disabled for any reason.
  • It should include your family members and friends; school, childcare, caregiver and your place of work; local contacts; and your general physician, veterinarian and specialty caregivers such as a cardiologist, immunologist, internal medicine, etc.
  • Here’s the tough one—making sure you have a back-up external hard drive or disk to all your computer files.  Unplug them and bring them with you.  

I’ve tried to give you a compendium of issues to address above and beyond the To Go kit.  All of these should be required, but as we all know, emergency situations often do not allow us the flexibility to accomplish each one.  The advice is to do the best you can.  Study this information and BE PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED.

“There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst”

Stephen King

As I always do, as your Number One BoomerGal, I’m wishing you and yours all the best possible outcomes during these times of crises.  Please stay healthy and safe, whatever your situation might be.

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