The Prep Prepping
Our prepping to deal with Hurricane Irma was done in a series of steps based on the probability of a strike affecting my area. I wrote about this in a previous article posted on SuvivalBlog. My preps for a Hurricane started two weeks prior when I notice a storm taking a track towards Cuba and local meteorologists saying, “We need to watch this one.” I had recently completed a quick inventory and tested the generator, lanterns, and camping stove. So my two week prior check was done, or so I thought.
Pre-Labor Day Preliminary Prepping
On the Thursday before the Labor weekend, August 31, Irma was tracking towards Cuba and ten days out. It was then that I did the following:
- Checked my supplies.
- Purchased 30 gallons of fuel in 5-gallon cans for use with the generator and cars. (I added 4oz of Stabil  to each 5-gallon can of gas. This will keep the gas good for up to 1 ½ years.)
- Purchased 40 Gallons of purified water for home and 10 gallons for use at work.
- Purchased one package of D batteries .
Sunday, September 2
The Storm was tracking more towards Florida and the masses were not yet preparing. At that point, I:
- Filled up all the cars.
- Cleaned the rain barrels. Rain barrels can provide my family with about 150 Gallons of water each time it rains. The water is clear and silt free. To purify the water, I run it though a Berkey water filter .
- Pulled the box fans , coolers , and storm shutter fasteners from the attic.
- Picked up AAA batteries  at Lowes and salt for the water softener. (It could be a long time before salt would be available.)
- Shopped Walmart for last minute items to pick up: two gallons of unscented, regular bleach , large pack of toilet paper , bandages , and some additional first aid supplies, dish soap, and body soap.
Storm Tracks Toward Florida
Monday, September 4
The storm was tracking towards the east coast of Florida. After garbage and recycling was picked up, I cleaned and bleached both cans. From this point on I took garbage to work and tossed it in the dumpster, thinking it could be a couple weeks or longer before garbage would get picked up. Should the storm get close to us, I would fill each can about 1/3 up with water to keep it weighted down and tuck them between shrubs on the side of the house. My son cleaned the rain gutters.
Tuesday, September 5
The hurricane path was now tracking towards the center of Florida and panic prepping was all around. Gas lines were long, 10-15 deep at Costco. The county was preparing to order Level A and then Level B Mandatory Evacuations. People were trying to get out. Ironically, people were still being civil and polite. My prepping of supplies was done except for keeping the cars filled up.
Wednesday, September 6
The track looked like it was holding on the center of the Florida, and reports were saying my area was expecting Tropical Storm force winds (below 74 mph). People were a little more relaxed. I needed some non-prep related items from Costco, so I stopped by on the way home from work. Gas lines were five deep, but at least they had gas. Most stations by this point were out of gas, though some still had diesel. I was able to get some eggs and items I would like to have but did not need. The lines at Costco were normal, but water was completely gone. I overheard a Costco employee say they only had 2500 gallons of fuel left.
Thursday, September 7th
The track had changed, and we were on the X for a CAT3-CAT 4 storm. The seriousness of the situation was sinking in. People were not panicked; they were frightened and almost sad in their demeanor. Roads were clogged with people evacuating. Most gas stations did not have gas. I had overlooked one thing and that was shuttering my front door. This required installing mounts using Tapcon screws, which I had purchased some time ago. I did this after getting home from work. It was tiring and kept me from doing other prep work I should be doing. (Note to self: Next project like this, don’t procrastinate!)
Serious Matters With High Patrol Escorts
It was on Friday and Saturday, September 8 and 9, that the Florida Highway Patrol began escorting tankers to gas stations. Regular gas was becoming available although only at a few gas stations. By Friday night there were very few cars on the road, and most business were closed. Both my wife and I found regular gas, so we topped the tanks off. By Saturday at noon all stores, including gas stations and grocery stores were closed. Walmart, Lowes, and Home Depot may have stayed open a few hours later.
The roads were empty; it was eerily quiet. Local and state government personnel held regular news conferences, One thing that stuck in mind was when the Sheriff stated, “After the storm, the County would be locked down; no one would be allowed in until a full damage assessment was done.” The reasoning was to make sure electrical lines and trees were not blocking roads and EMS personnel could operate without interference from a hoard of people trying to get back in. I began a 12-hour on/12-hour off work schedule preparing the business I work for to operate during the storm.
My wife and two teenagers completed the bulk remaining preps, which included the following:
- Installed the hurricane shutters.
- Brought all loose objects in from outside.
- Made ready two battery-operated lanterns  and two additional flashlights .
- Put new batteries in the radio.
- Communicated with family members and asked them to use text messaging only when communicating and to not worry if they don’t hear from us for a period of time.
- Finished all the laundry.
- Turned the fridge and freezer temps down.
Final Preps as Storm Pounds Key West
Then on Sunday and Monday, September 10 and 11 Irma was pounding Key West and destroying infrastructure. At home before going into work, we finalized plans for dealing with the storm. Prior to wind gusts starting, we did the following:
- Moved immediate needed items from the fridge and freezer to a cooler. Fridge and freezer were not opened from this point on.
- Cleaned the kitchen sink and ran the disposal unit.
- Charged cell phones and laptops.
I had my “go bag” with me and necessary supplies at work. Now, we rode the storm out and hoped our preps were done right.
Irma, The Aftermath.
The storm had past and we got lucky, experiencing only “tropical storm” force winds in our area. We did have a major power outage affecting most of the county. There was no power at the house; however water, sewer, and cell service were all working.
County Opened Only After Prompt Damage Assessment
It did not take long for the county to complete a damage assessment, and the county was opened around noon on Monday 9/11. On my way home at 3:30pm, I noticed none of the traffic lights were working. The city already had generators running to provide power to the lift stations (sewage pumps). City and County LEOs were positioned at major intersections and around gas stations. They kept traffic flowing by preventing left hand turns at major intersections. All intersections were treated as 4-way stops. Driving was slow, but with little traffic on the road driving was not much of a problem.
I arrived home to hear the generator running and was told my son had fired the generator up at 10am. Everything in fridges survived. The generator was then run 7am-11am, 1pm-3pm, 6pm to 11pm. The schedule easily allowed us to charge laptops and cell phones, provided lights as needed, and kept fridges cold. This schedule required five gallons of fuel per day. Prior to the storm, I gave my son instructions on how to get the generator going, which he executed to perfection.
Generator Setup and Operation
My generator setup and operation is as follows:
- The generator  is a standard 5500 Watt gas generator.
- The generator connects to an NEMA L14-30P 30 AMP outlet  on the side of my house. This outlet accommodates up to a 7500 watt generator.
- The outlet feeds a 30 AMP breaker on my main panel.
Cutting House Power Over To Generator
To cut over to generator, the process is manual and is as follows:
- Turn off all breakers.
- Cut the main breaker off.
- There is a metal device that slides up, blocking the main breaker and allowing the generator breaker to be turned on. This prevents back feeding the grid or damaging the generator when power is restored.
- The generator is locked to a large tree and grounded to a grounding rod using battery jumper cables.
- Turn on the generator and let it warm up for 5-10 min. Flip the generator power output switch on and the generator is now feeding the panel.
- Breakers marked in green can be turned on; those marked in red should not be turned on.
- Breakers are turned on one at a time. When a breaker is turned on, anything not necessary on that breaker is turned off.
Actions During Power Outage
During the power outage, we did the following:
- Food from the fridge was used first, and cooking was done using the grill  as an oven or using the side burner.
- It was hot in the house but not intolerable. Nights were relatively cool. Taking a cold shower right before bed helped.
- Coffee kept me going. We made a pot each morning while the generator was running. If it got bad, I have an ample stash of instant coffee.
- During the power outage, we always had someone stay at the house.
- Time was passed reading, listening to the radio, cleaning up, and prepping food.
I have not discussed security for OPSEC reasons. If anyone tried to rob us or do us harm, they would have a had very bad day.
- The stress of dealing with these situations cannot be underestimated. Prepping for and dealing with the aftermath takes a lot of energy. Sleep and eating schedules are thrown into disarray. For three days prior to the event, I got about three or four hours of sleep per night. The day of landfall, I was up for 36 hours. I ate when I could and not my normal diet. Lack of sleep, a not so great diet, and stress leads to slower reaction time, clouds judgment, increases frustration and irritability. This can be mitigated by paying attention to diet, prepping as much as possible way ahead of ahead of time, and resting whenever possible.
- The generator was too loud. There were many generators running in my area, so the noise was not an OPSEC problem. I am working on a solution to quiet the generator down. Solar would be nice, but it is not in my budget.
- By the second night of no power, some neighbors were starting to get irritable. This will be a problem for longer events.
- Hooking the generator into the panel as stated above worked great. There were no extension cords strewed about the house. It was a good investment and made things easier.
- I like outdoor cooking and thought I would cook up some good meals using the camp stove or open fire. That did not happen. I was just too tired. We cooked quick and easy using the grill.
- Gas lines started earlier than anticipated. I need to store some extra fuel for the cars.
- Government from the state down to the local level did a fantastic job preparing for Irma and managing the aftermath. Their communication was excellent. Local TV and radio were a big help with communication. Critical infrastructure was protected and brought back online quickly and efficiently. There was very little looting in my area and surrounding communities.
- We did not lose water or lift stations. It would have been much worse if we had.
This was a wake-up call. Sixty miles in the storm track made a huge difference. My preps worked fine for me and my family, but we have some tweaks to make. We only had the inconvenience of not having air-conditioning for few days. We could have gone way longer and in much worse conditions if we had to. However, the neighbors were already on edge and that would have or could have been bad.
Thanks to JWR, HJL, and all who have contributed to SurvivalBlog. I salute those of you who have relocated to the American Redoubt.
SurvivalBlog Writing Contest
This has been another entry for Round 73 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest . The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:
- A $3000 gift certificate towards a Sol-Ark Solar Generator  from Veteran owned Portable Solar LLC. The only EMP Hardened Solar Generator System available to the public.
- A Gunsite Academy Three Day Course Certificate. This can be used for any one, two, or three day course (a $1,090 value),
- A course certificate from onPoint Tactical for the prize winner’s choice of three-day civilian courses , excluding those restricted for military or government teams. Three day onPoint courses normally cost $795,
- DRD Tactical is providing a 5.56 NATO QD Billet upper . These have hammer forged, chrome-lined barrels and a hard case, to go with your own AR lower. It will allow any standard AR-type rifle to have a quick change barrel. This can be assembled in less than one minute without the use of any tools. It also provides a compact carry capability in a hard case or in 3-day pack (an $1,100 value),
- Two cases of Mountain House freeze-dried assorted entrees  in #10 cans, courtesy of Ready Made Resources (a $350 value),
- A $250 gift certificate good for any product  from Sunflower Ammo,
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses , and
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value).
- A Model 175 Series Solar Generator provided by Quantum Harvest LLC (a $439 value),
- A Glock form factor SIRT laser training pistol and a SIRT AR-15/M4  Laser Training Bolt, courtesy of Next Level Training, which have a combined retail value of $589,
- A gift certificate for any two or three-day class from Max Velocity Tactical (a $600 value),
- A transferable certificate for a two-day Ultimate Bug Out Course from Florida Firearms Training (a $400 value),
- A Trekker IV™ Four-Person Emergency Kit from Emergency Essentials (a $250 value),
- A $200 gift certificate good towards any books published by PrepperPress.com,
- A pre-selected assortment of military surplus gear from CJL Enterprize (a $300 value),
- RepackBox is providing a $300 gift certificate to their site.
- A Royal Berkey water filter, courtesy of  Directive 21 (a $275 value),
- A large handmade clothes drying rack , a washboard, and a Homesteading for Beginners DVD, all courtesy of The Homestead Store, with a combined value of $206,
- Expanded sets of both washable feminine pads and liners , donated by Naturally Cozy (a $185 retail value),
- Two Super Survival Pack seed collections , a $150 value, courtesy of Seed for Security, LLC,
- Mayflower Trading is donating a $200 gift certificate for homesteading appliances ,
- Two 1,000-foot spools of full mil-spec U.S.-made 750 paracord  (in-stock colors only) from www.TOUGHGRID.com (a $240 value), and
Round 73 ends on November 30th, so get busy writing and e-mail  us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.