Hurricanes can happen at any time. In previous posts we discussed different disasters that could take place, and how to start to prepare for them. In this article, I’m going to discuss what tends to happen after the feces has hit the fan. We have all seen the footage of the victims of Hurricane Katrina running through the local stores and looting supplies, supplies like plasma televisions, laptops and all the beer they could carry. Obviously, I cannot recommend this course of action. Having supplies like food, water and medicine beforehand is without a doubt the best way to prepare for this scenario. A looter puts his or herself in a very dangerous situation. Local law enforcement may not be available to protect you in a widespread disaster and walking out of the local mega mart with armfuls of valuables could lead to other looters taking supplies from you forcefully.
If you do find yourself in need of supplies after the disaster has hit, and if you are lucky, you might still have some options. During a deployment to south Texas during hurricanes Dolly, Ike and Gustav, my National Guard unit was tasked with setting up several points of distribution sites or, PODs. In conjunction with the Red Cross, we were able to get much needed food, water, ice, and medicine to thousands of people from the local community who were in dire need. The Red Cross is, in my opinion, is staffed with some of the finest people who have ever lived. They managed to turn our humble point of distribution site into a full-blown disaster shelter in no time. I have to say that the community was very grateful for the assistance as well. When they combine their efforts, it is amazing what the military and the Red Cross can accomplish. As a military individual, it was nice to do something that didn’t involve war for a change. Due to the overwhelming presence of troops, the PODs were fairly orderly and most people who showed up for help got exactly that. Operations such as these do however, put a huge strain on the individuals who run them. By the end of each day the troops were physically and emotionally drained. Seeing so many Americans who were just like us, going through a very tough time, is hard to deal with. If you do find yourself in need however, these PODs tend to be an effective temporary lifeline to get much needed supplies. I have to stress however, that individuals should not count on these sites being available every time. Sometimes supplies are needed long before authorities have the ability to get in place and running. I would much prefer to not have to wait in line for hours for simple things like food and water. It is better to be prepared. At a minimum, remember to have the following:
- Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
- Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Dust Mask, to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Can opener for food (if kit contains canned food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
Remember if you have access to transportation, and local authorities are recommending an evacuation, I would strongly suggest that you do it. It is far better to have fewer people in an area that is affected by a natural disaster. Consider taking back roads however. The area surrounding Houston, Texas was gridlocked on all major freeways during Hurricane Rita. Don’t count on the government to supply transportation; you might be waiting for that bus for a long time.
During a disaster, certain things that are a bit out of the ordinary tend to happen. We are likely to see the best side of mankind when we are faced with a common threat. A hotel manager that had evacuated their entire staff stayed behind to brave the storm so we could have a comfortable place to sleep for the night. A local restaurant kept a skeleton crew in town to feed us as well. Strangers helping strangers is something that, in this day and age, seems almost alien. I have seen people being rescued by neighbors, families sharing supplies, and individuals opening up their homes to people whom they have never met. It is behavior like this that even though rare, is a pleasure to witness.