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How To Be Prepared For a Natural Disaster

[Originally published September 2018]

I think my favorite weather word with regards to hurricanes is “spaghetti model.” You know what those are— the tv meteorologists draw out the various potential trajectories of the storm in skinny little curving lines up the coast, usually ending up right at your front door– know what I mean?  No good reason why this word is my favorite; I just think it’s a catchy image for this kind of weather prediction.

This week there are a few hurricanes lurking out in the Atlantic ocean, threatening the East Coast of the USA, and as I watched the news with the most recent weather report and SPAGHETTI MODEL, I decided to look through my catalog of blogs and pull out the emergency preparedness one to publish right away. Except I actually don’t have one already written on this topic. So here it is. I’ve lived through a few hurricanes & blizzards, both at home and in the emergency department, and learned a few things along the way that I’ll share in the hopes that it might divert a problem or two.

First of all, the day before the predicted emergency is NOT THE TIME to be getting ready. That’s when all your neighbors are getting ready, and you want to be ahead of the game. So the absolute BEST time to get ready for a natural disaster is when there’s no impending doom, when the grocery store shelves are full and there’s no line at the gas station. But that’s not this week in the southeast United States. The word is out, and you need to get on your mission of preparing. It’s hard to get everything together in one day, so if you have a few days that really helps.

Next, assemble what you need. Here’s a list of items I’ve found that are good to have. There are certainly more comprehensive lists out there, but I’ll leave it to you to search those out that include things such as “can of tuna.” Just know that you need some food that your people will eat and that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.

So here’s my core list:

Once these items are all collected it’s important to get them into one waterproof bin that won’t get destroyed and you know where everything is (especially if you have to locate it in the dark).

In addition to keeping important documents in a waterproof bin, take pictures of them on your cell phone so you have a back-up plan.

Even if your devices are already charged, it won’t hurt to get an external battery charger for your phones & other devices in case the power goes out for longer than expected. I’ve heard of some that allow for up to nearly 7 full charges and they aren’t very expensive.

palm trees blowing in tropical storm

Lessons learned:

A man paddles his kayak in the flood on the suburban streets of Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, from the rainfall from Hurricane Harvey.

A man paddles his kayak in the flood on the suburban streets of Clear Lake, Houston, Texas, from the rainfall from Hurricane Harvey.

Communication, Safety, and Sanity:

It’s crucial to be aware of government emergency communications to the public- whether via your cell phone or radio.

If you are storing an extra tank of gasoline, keep it in an approved container that meets requirements for gasoline storage. Keep it in an area where it is unlikely to spill, far out of children’s reach, at least 50 feet away from any heat source, and in a well-ventilated area.

One thing important to know is that if you have a technology dependent person in your household and your battery pack operating their pump or device runs out of energy, most of the time you can “plug in” somewhere like a school that has been designated by the local government as an emergency center. Not sure if one has been named? Call 311 to ask for assistance. I know of situations where people have just tried to show up at a local fire station but if the crew is out on a call then that trip will be a bust, so try to determine the correct place to go prior to heading out.

In these situations a good attitude helps of course, and big doses of patience, flexibility, and collaboration too. Help your neighbor. Use common sense.

I asked my daughter to do a quick search to see if I’ve missed anything major and the one item she read off that I liked quite a lot was: “Letter of hope and love.” That’s one I need to add to my core list.

Stay safe, everyone, and may the spaghetti model change dramatically for the better in the next few days.

Other Emergency Prep Resources:



FEMA (continued)