Two Letters Re: Lessons Learned from Hurricanes Ike, Rita, and Katrina

Mr. Rawles,

I just finished reading Patriots, all I can say is thank you. A few things I’d like to add to what TiredTubes said about hurricane preparedness:

First, when my wife and I first moved to Florida we had little knowledge of hurricanes and their impact. However, due to great parents we had been brought up to always be prepared. So we read and made preparations for ourselves. We lived in an apartment at the time (now we live in a 1960 block home with hurricane panels and a new tile roof) and I asked the apartment manager about logistics of preparing the complex for storms. I could easily tell that this manager of about 200 units had never been asked this question. I asked if maintenance installed the hurricane shutters or do the residents? If the residents do where are they located? At which point in time is the decision made to batten down the hatches? Just blank stares, no answers. I should point out our plan was to protect our valuables as best we could but we would be bugging out. If you live in an apartment or condo complex get the info on the managements plan, and if they don’t have one, offer to help form one it will likely come out better if you do.

Second, help other areas after a hurricane, more specifically go to areas affected, even if it requires some travel. The reason is two-fold: A) It’s what a Christian, or any moral person should do if able to. B) If you have not experienced a hurricane first hand you will glean countless lessons just cleaning up in the aftermath. Soon after moving to southeast Florida for school the west coast of Florida was hit by hurricanes Charley and Frances. My wife and I both drove over to help out with our church group. Take your own gas, food, water, ice, tools especially the tire plugger and 12 VDC compressor, supplies you want to be a help, not a burden. If there is room take extra supplies and come home in an empty vehicle. With a little common sense I learned things that I’d never have thought of had I not seen the aftermath. You can develop an eye for weaknesses, something a book or web site can’t provide alone. A small example is the fact that I was the only one on my street who took five minutes to dig his mailbox up out of the shallow sand and put it in the garage (what’s that crazy guy doing?) but then it didn’t end up as a missile like some others, when we were hit.

Third, creature comforts. When we were hit by hurricane Wilma (not necessarily high on the Affairs Hurricane scale but 3rd costliest hurricane in US history) we were prepared but lost power for 17 days. Thankfully the freezer stayed cold, the lights stayed on and the gas supply lasted. However, at the time my wife was pregnant with #1 daughter and not feeling well, what added to her discomfort was the fact that most generators cannot run a central air conditioning system and it was hot and muggy. A fan can only do so much for an expectant mother. For us relief came in the form of a friend who had a window air conditioner unit which our generator could handle. This provided a room where my wife could comfortably rest and I could have decent sleep to recover from the post-hurricane cleanup. The units are not excessively expensive and can provide a welcome relief.

Thanks again, – Steve B.

Dear Editor,
Be sure to test any UPS/generator combination before you have to rely on it. Many off-the-shelf UPS units will not accept or pass on incoming power that is not pristine in terms of frequency and voltage. Many lower end generators do not put out pristine power.

I have tested several combinations of generators up to $500 and UPS units up to $200, none would work together reliably.

Higher-end UPS units such as those for commercial data centers can usually be configured for a wider range of incoming power quality, from puritanical to promiscuous.

Bidding on eBay might land you a deal on a 2KW or greater commercial UPS that needs a new set of batteries. Batteries are not expensive, though they are almost always sealed lead-acid types that will need to be replaced every five years or so given gentle treatment.

It is no substitute for a proper battery bank and inverter. -Vlad