I found myself in a rather uncomfortable and vulnerable position. Hurricane Frederic hit Mobile, Alabama in September 1979. I thought it was going to be exciting. In fact several friends of mine had a party the night before Frederic made landfall. There was no preparation made on my part for this hurricane. I had no anxiety and could have cared less. At the time I didn’t even have a gun. I had barely a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was very little non-perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I had no idea about hurricane preparation and I did not heed the warnings issued. My family lived in north Alabama about six hours away so I was on my own.
Well, Hurricane Frederic made landfall and it was very destructive. The winds were fierce and the rain was relentless. A large pine tree fell on my house. Many trees were downed throughout the city proper and county making it extremely difficult to navigate. Electricity was out for most of Mobile County so there was no way to obtain gas to fill my car up. Price gouging was rampant – a bag of ice was selling for $10 or more, that is if you could find some. Most of the stores were emptied out prior to the storm. I had never experienced power outages on this scale. My home did not have power restored for 22 days. What little food I had in the fridge if not eaten in 24 hrs was ruined. There was also a curfew imposed by the National Guard. There were very long lines for ice and emergency food being distributed by the National Guard. Fights broke out and looting was rampant.
I was stuck in a very hot house every night. We were afraid to leave the windows open because of all the looting. Luckily I did have a gas water heater and fortunately the gas was never turned off. My home was a popular stop off for friends who wanted a hot shower. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were nightly cookouts until the food ran out. I ate well in the beginning. Several weeks later I was finally able to get some food supplies and batteries thanks to my family. My brother drove to Mobile with a well-received load of supplies for me. Federal assistance was slow to arrive and I was feeling desperate still I was luckier than most folks. I made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never let that happen again. I was not going to be a helpless victim especially when this could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. And I certainly was not going to depend on any government assistance.
Since Hurricane Frederic I have experienced a number of hurricanes over the years including Ivan and Katrina. I also went through a house fire in 2009. The house fire started due to a lightning strike. It totaled my home. I had to start all over on my emergency kit. The good news is that I was able to rebuild my home and fortify it against category four hurricane winds. This also helped me keep my homeowners insurance at a more affordable rate. But I have learned some valuable lessons.
In this article I will share with you how I now prepare for emergencies since my dreadful days during Hurricane Frederic in 1979.
I first came up with a list of what emergency items I might need. I kept adding to the list after reading a number of survival books and blogs.
Initially it was frustrating because I wanted everything right now. But I had to sit back and realize it was going to be a slow process. Each month I purchased a few items from my list.
It has taken awhile to obtain what I currently have and my emergency kit is not complete yet. But as I add items I feel more confident. As with most people I had to budget purchasing my emergency items. But you have to start somewhere. Now I do not feel so vulnerable. I feel that I can protect and provide for my family. Even though they think I’m a little weird prepping for the unknown. But whenever the power goes off they come to me for flashlights and lanterns. They expect me to take care of them and have even commented they would have been disappointed in me had I not been prepared.
First thing – I always fill my gas tank up when the gauge nears the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam.
I also have (5) five gallon empty gas cans in my garage attic and I fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm. If the storm doesn’t materialize I just put the gas in my cars so nothing is wasted. You simply
cannot wait until the storm becomes a hurricane. By then there are long lines at the gas stations and shelves are emptied at the grocery stores.
I purchased a Honda 3000 watt generator that I can plug it into my electrical system. The generator is attached to a heavy chain and locked in place for security. I run the generator for several hours every month to ensure it is in good working order. I also have a small window A/C unit stored in the garage so I can have a cool room to sleep in at night. The generator is mainly to keep my refrigerator and freezer running.
My pantry is kept stocked with at least a month of food – canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, granola bars and dehydrated foods. As a backup I have a closet stocked with long shelf life freeze dried foods.
I have a several six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. I keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand. I have several Aquamira frontier water systems, life-straw, and polar pure water treatment. I fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. I recently located a nearby water stream within walking distance from my home. Remember folks a water supply is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.
I keep a three month supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and Nine Volt batteries. I have several battery/solar powered short wave radios along with a ham radio. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency pack.
I started out simply with a hurricane kit to get me through at a minimum of 3 to 4 days of survival. Now it has evolved to a more elaborate emergency kit. My goal is to be able to survive at a minimum of three to six months. In this emergency kit there is duct tape, Paracord – various lengths, snakebite kit, hatchet, 15″ knife, 18″ machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, bacterial soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10″ fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-(you can easily start a fire with these two items), and camping cookware. I plan on getting some seeds so in the case of a long lived disaster I can grow my own vegetables. I already have several fruit trees in my backyard.
I inventory all of my emergency items monthly and refresh the list when needed. I also include a note where each item is stored. All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe.
I have ammo stored in watertight ammo cans. I clean my weapons on a regular basis. There are plenty of flashlights and lanterns. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. There are several battery powered fans to use during the day.
I have a grill and an Emberlit stove for backup in case the gas company shuts down our gas supply. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. I practice using a flint/steel fire starter and my Emberlit stove. It’s good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than wait until there is one. That also includes going to a range and firing your pistols and rifles.
I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit. Cordless phones will not function without electricity and I have experienced problems with spotty cell phone usage during hurricanes. For some reason land line phones have always worked for me.
I have precut plywood and each piece is numbered so I don’t have to wonder which piece goes to each outside window. I use plylox brackets to quickly and easily insert the precut plywood to protect my outside windows.
I have my rear and garage doors hinged so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. There have been a number of home invasions in our county occurring at night. It usually involves kicking in the front door and before you can react they are in your bedroom. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down. I decided to use spray foam instead of the traditional insulation in my attic. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.
I have several neighbors close by that I keep in touch with. We have agreed to help each other out if need be. There is strength in numbers. I recently installed a wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home. I plan on getting two way radios so I can easily keep in touch with my family and neighbors. My biggest fear is of people becoming desperate and dangerous. From my research it appears to only take several days for some folks to begin looting and killing. Once that begins it multiplies. I want to be able to protect my family at all costs. So ammunition and additional firepower are priorities for me. Most of my emergency items are stored in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag should I need to bug out quickly.
My pipe dream is to buy some land in a wooded area near water. I would build a small but comfortable shelter and an underground bunker. But that is only a dream and not in my budget so I plan to survive with my current method.