Are you really prepared for a disaster?

This guest post is by Dawn and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

It all began on the evening of June 29, 2012. My husband Tony and I were at a local barbecue festival just a few blocks from our home when we heard someone say a storm was coming. We gathered up our belongings, bought barbecue dinners to take home and headed to the house. I was looking forward to a quick shower before enjoying my dinner in the comfort of my air-conditioned home. I had been out in the heat all afternoon.

Tony said he was going to walk down the alley to visit some friends for a few minutes. No sooner than I had gotten in the shower, the lights started to flicker and I hurried out. The lights continued to flicker for a couple of minutes and then they went out.

I didn’t panic because we keep emergency candles, lighters, and flashlights throughout the house. I lit a couple of candles and then kept an eye on what was happening outside, eventually opening a few windows to get some air flow through the house. The wind was fierce! I used my cell phone to call Tony. He and his friends were safely watching the storm as well. Once the winds stopped, he walked home and we went on to bed, thinking all would be well tomorrow.

Day two of this ordeal began to really test our preparedness. We have only being focusing on prepping since February. Tony and his son Kyle got out the generator and filled it with gas. They plugged in the refrigerator and deep freezer. I went back to the barbecue festival to help out.

The vendors had lost some of their merchandise and tents but the contestants wanted to continue with the competition. On the way there, I turned on the car radio but our local station was not on the air. It just so happened that our mayor was at the festival to help out as well. I was able to get some first hand information about what had happened. The storm had knocked out power to most of the areas around us for at least 100 miles.

It was expected that we would be without power for a week. Our city water supply could run on emergency power for three days and no stores or gas stations were open in our town. The neighboring town had some gas but the wait in line was around 2 hours. Although we had gas, Kyle took all of the empty gas cans we could find and went to fill them up. Telephone and cell phone service was scattered. Upon my return home that afternoon, I was able to share that information with my family and some friends.

Kyle and his girlfriend brought over their frozen and refrigerated foods and my inlaws brought their frozen foods to our house. We began to map out our plans. We had plenty of drinking water should the water supply end but I wanted more. I filled up containers totaling about 60 more gallons. We hooked up an old phone that we keep in our preps. Just a few weeks ago Tony suggested that I get rid of that phone but I convinced him otherwise since our usual phones all require electricity.

He was glad he had listened to me. Our phone service was fine as was our cell service. We sat up camp chairs under the only tree in our yard and filled a cooler with drinks. Later that evening our generator stopped running. Kyle was on generator duty and it had plenty of gas in it. After several minutes of trouble shooting, he finally listened to his girlfriend who kept saying it probably needed oil.

She was right and fortunately we had about half a quart of the appropriate oil. I layered several blankets over the freezer in the basement and that evening we unplugged the freezer and plugged up the window unit air conditioner in our bedroom. This was also when I thought about checking our sump hole for water. It was a good thing I did. It was almost full. I was able to plug up the pump and drain it. This would now become a part of my daily routine After a dinner of grilled chicken and corn on the cob we all settled down for the night.

Day three found us still with no power but the local grocery store was open with limited supplies. I went in at 8 am and bought some ice for the coolers and oil for the generator. I also used my debit card to get some cash back because most of the cash I had been gone between the barbecue festival and sending kyle for gas.

When I got home, I checked the everyday supplies and decided on a crockpot of spaghetti sauce for dinner. We were feeding 8 people and that seemed to be an easy thing to get together. The temperatures were still around 100 and grilling or using the camp stove was a hot job. The crockpot seemed like a good alternative and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Days four and five were pretty much the same as. We had settled in to our routine. I used my cell phone daily to check the Internet for any news of what was going on. Our radio station finally got a generator and was giving updates a couple of times a day. Power companies from all over the US were here working to restore power, and there were cooling centers, ice, and water available at various locations. The water system was going to continue to provide water for us.

We had a gas hot water heater so warm showers were available although cool ones were preferred. Power was starting to come back on in some locations but we were still without. July 4th, my dad invited us over to his house for a cookout. His power had come back on the day before. We enjoyed a nice evening there and upon returning home, found our electricity on. Although this experience had not been a great hardship for us, it was a relief to once again have our power!

We learned from this experience. We learned that we have plenty of food in our everyday pantry and freezer to feed 6-8 people for around 5 days. We did not have to open any of our prep foods during this time. We learned that a generator takes oil about as often as it takes gas and we will now keep extra oil along with the gas we already keep. We will continue to keep our vehicles at least half full of gas. We were so glad that we had begun that practice a couple of months ago.

We will keep more cash on hand. Although we did not need it this time, we need some type of water collection/filtration system. We also learned that our community was not prepared to communicate with the public about what was happening.

Although we had radios, we had no radio station that could give us any news or information. We were not aware that there were cooling stations, meals, and ice and water stations available until a couple of days in to things. We found that out during one of my daily cell phone internet checks. We did not need these things but there were people who did and did not know they were available. We also learned that if we each take on a role or two, our group will thrive.

Some of us cooked while others cleaned up or kept the generator going. Some kept security watch while others checked on elderly family and neighbors, giving them ice and/or food. We learned to listen to each other’s ideas and suggestions about how to do things.

Each person was responsible for something.Overall, we did really well during this situation. We feel comfortable with our overall progress and are thankful for the opportunity to test ourselves. We are now looking at how we would handle a similar situation during winter months. Prepping has become a way of life for us.

This contest will end on October 10 2012 – prizes include:

  • First Place : $100 Cash.
  • Second Place : $50 Cash.
  • Third Place : $25 Cash.

Contest ends on October 10 2012.

my family survival

Comments

  1. No better teacher than experience. Good on ya, Dawn!! Glad everything turned out well for you and yours

  2. Tactical G-Ma says:

    Dawn,
    I love the article because you were prepared without notice for whatever in many ways. And you are fortunate you were able to get what you didn’t have without much difficulty. Your learning about the oil for the generator is a biggie and you could have lost your food and had a flooded basement.

    Just recently one of the pack wrote an article “Test Your Preps”. Forgive me for forgetting the authors name. Now we know why.

  3. Dawn,

    Sounds like you were much better off than many of our neighbors. I assume you are referring to the Dericho storm. If anything for me, this was a wakeup call for just how volatile our power system can be. It really did take a massive effort (like you said, help from all over) to restore power. It was also a reminder of how dependant we are on power and the panic that follows when it is out. In our area, I did hear eye witness accounts of fights at gas stations and generator theft. I was traveling through the state about a week after the storm and could not find a bag of ice for 150 miles.

  4. Homeinsteader says:

    Forgive me if I’m being a “party poop”, but, this was just a foretaste of what is possible. This was more an “inconvenience” than a true “emergency”, IMHO, one that leaves lots of room for evaluation and tweaking (learning), from the “WHAT IFs”. You might not have thought so at the time, but it could easily be viewed as a blessing!

    WHAT IF the power did not come back on in a few days? WHAT IF the grocery store DID NOT open back up with ice and a few other goodies? WHAT IF there was no source for more cash? WHAT IF the fam couldn’t get to your place? WHAT IF the cell phones went out and didn’t come back on? WHAT IF city water was out much longer than a few days? One gallon of water per person and per pet, per day, just for consuming – does not include bathing, washing dishes, clothes, etc. WHAT IF there was NO COMMUNICATION short of face-to-face or, maybe, if lucky, ham radio? There are answers for every one of these “WHAT IFs”, but you won’t likely find them after SHTF, or, if you do, it will be with a great deal more difficulty – and stress.

    WHAT IF the power crews were not out there trying to restore your power? How would life go on then?

    Specific suggestion: keep all of your gas tanks as full as possible, all the time. When it gets to half a tank, try to fill it. When Katrina hit, even though we are in Central MS, you could not fill a gas can. We had so many evacuees from the MS Gulf Coast and SE Louisiana, including “N’awlins” that gas was rationed to 10 gallons per vehicle – the idea being to get those on the road to the next fuel stop. NO ONE was allowed to fill a gas can – that ration was not 10 gallons per household – it was 10 gallons per vehicle. Gas cans were confiscated by local LE. It could happen in your neck of the woods.

    Or, store as much gas as possible, and use fuel from storage to fill vehicles, with treatment; gas does not stay good “forever” in a gas can. When you empty a can AND THERE IS NO EMERGENCY AT HAND, go fill the gas can – while you are able.

    You did some things very well in responding appropriately to the situation at hand, Dawn, and I hope you don’t hear that I’m trying to minimize those truths. What I DO hope everyone hears is, “this is a minor event; are you ready for the majors?”. If not, now is the time. Assess the weaknesses, and do whatever you can, as fast as you can, to fill in the gaps. Much of it is just planning and “running drills”, so don’t make your long-term major event planning all about $$$.

    As Dawn pointed out, everyone “pitched in” and helped be part of the solution and not part of the problem. But does everyone know what needs to be done? Training is everything, and it’s best to know what to do and how to do it before SHTF. I’m guessing someone in Dawn’s group (perhaps Dawn?) already knew, even if the rest did not. But we all know that when we humans are under stress is not our best time for learning.

    Prepare for the worst – hope for the best!

    You’ve experienced an inconvenience. Now are you ready for a true emergency? A long-term one? This “inconvenience” was a great teacher, was it not? I’m guessing it helped point you in the right direction for the big “WHAT IF’s”?! A blessing, indeed!

  5. MountainSurvivor says:

    What a great story. Firsthand accounts of storm befores and afters-so much to be learned from those directly involved. I hope that if anyone was affected immediately in a bad way that they were able to put their life back together alright without too many troubles as they were doing so. Thanks for sharing it, Dawn. If there is another storm, I hope that you will, as you did with this article, jot down and submit the details.

  6. Sounds like things went pretty well in you situtation. I remember something similar when I was a kid. We lived in an all electric house outside Portland, OR. In October, we had a hurricane and lost power for about 10 days. We were the last in our neighborhood to get power back. I still am thankful that we had a fireplace and wood stove in the family room, wood, and a camping trailer that we cooked in. For me it was like camping at home.

    • SurvivorDan says:

      For those of you with close family members who will not prep:
      My elderly folks also have an all electric house. They have plenty of food and water in their house (for a relatively short term emergency) but until recently, no way to cook anything with the power out. I gave them a butane stove with a months worth of fuel (ostensibly, as a Christmas present as they are skeptical of my “doom and gloom’ attitude) along with a Weber kettle with a supply of charcoal (they don’t ever B-B-Q). Recently. I told them I had run out of room and persuaded them to let me ‘store’ some of my preps there (as a “back-up”) and have built up a significant stash for them in terms of food, medicines, hygienic supplies, emergency lights, etc.
      My folks survived the Great Depression and WWII and yet laugh at my preparations for TSHTF scenarios. I intend to give them this article to see if it makes an impression on them.
      Nice job Dawn.

      • Homeinsteader says:

        You are a genius, SD! ; ) Now, if you can help me figure out how to get my adult daughter who lives in N’awlins to accept a BOB! Spent a small fortune putting together a very nice one, and she refuses to accept it! In a city 7 feet below sea level, where the largest part of the population carries bigger guns than the LE and has no problem taking what they want by force….I’m listenin’….

        • Homeinsteader says:

          Oh, this is the same DD who told us we’re “crazy” because we prep….and I’m still listenin’…..

        • Tactical G-Ma says:

          HI,
          Your DD is not unlike many. Denial is rampant. There are places that get flooded out every year. And every year the homes are rebuilt because they just can’t believe it will happen again and they have always lived there.
          Some of us are so compelled to prepare for tragedy while others are so wrapped up in daily survival they can’t comprehend there are other dangers.
          I am not into conspiracy theories. I don’t believe we are going to lose gravity Dec 21. And if the End-of-Days is at hand, my religion teaches I will be raptured. Why then prep or carry a bob?
          When I lived in the north I always had one because of the weather. While living in Tampa, an ammonia truck overturned and the spill caused the evacuation of numerous city blocks that lasted for days. I worked at one of the shelters rocking babies, caring for elderly, whatever was needed. These people didn’t have so much as a toothbrush much less a change of underwear. There are numerous rational reasons for a BOB. What if a nuclear power plant has a leak or an exposed core. There is one on the west bank, in Gretna or Luling. Maybe that will be a reason for her to receive it. I am sure the people of Chernobal never thought their power plant might leak. Good luck and God bless.

  7. Dawn, As others have said, it’s great to hear firsthand accounts of our emergencies. Sounds like you are well on your way in the preparing. I have not had a power outage anywhere near as long as yours but I have had an interesting one. The duration of outage was only 2 hours but about an hour into it one of my next door neighbors knocked at the door. Half jokingly and half seriously he says “you’re not playing fair”. I said what do you mean? He repeated himself “you’re not playing fair” while pointing to the generator which was roaring away and powering almost everything in my house. At that point I realized that he may be one of my biggest threats when the truly hard times arrive. Very interesting what a man can learn in just a small electrical outage.
    God bless you all.

  8. This is really interesting! I am from Oklahoma and used to haiving a week or more in the spring where there is no electricity due to tornados. I know how to prep for a storm or no electric. And I’ve done winter prepping for power outages due to ice storms. Now I am getting into the survivalist thing for outdoors in case of government colapse. I’m actually getting ready to start blogging about what I’m learning and doing on my blog in the next week.

    I really like how you planned everything out with several different people. Usually it was just our family. Of course, it depends on the situation too.

    Helen
    Blue Eyed Beauty Blog

  9. No ……..but I’m working on it ;)

  10. Dawn,

    Good article. I make it a practice to review all my preps every quarter. I do my hurricane preps review every July and that includes firing up the generator.

    Last summer I was riding the sick book (malingering) and hurricane season was over before the Docs cleared me. This year the generator was hard to start. Complacency or just putrting things off to a more convienient time can cause you grief when you need your preps.

  11. Pineslayer says:

    Dawn thanks for sharing your experience. These posts are the best. I just finished reading One Second After and every time I hear a story like yours I re-think my preps and what if it goes for months or more. Sounds like you learned a lot and I am willing to bet that the next event will be handled even better. BTW, the last two chapters of OSA were tear jerkers. Made me really think about how to weather a year plus. We all need to dig bigger and badder holes. Enrich those garden beds and dig irrigation ponds to catch run-off. Oh yea and buy more fuel stabilizer. One more thing…

  12. Interesting that they had a radio but the local radio stations gave no information. You can thank the FCC for allowing giant corporations like Clear Channel to eliminate local broadcasting in favor of syndicated shows that don’t give a damn what happens locally and never provide local information. You’re lucky to get a few minutes of local news once an hour.

    During the massive flooding here in PA, even with some local broadcasting, only one local guy actually gave us info about roads and flooding and only for a few hours in the afternoon. I was trapped in my house for days but lucky enough to have electricity for most of the time. When I didn’t, I had camping equipment to get me through.