I’ve lived through several disasters and learned some thing. The worst events, in my experience, were the World Trade Center attack, Hurricane Sandy in New York City, and then most recently Hurricane Harvey in Beaumont, Texas. South East Texas was hit with life threatening, devastating rain fall, which put entire cities under water, turned towns into islands, and crippled the municipal water system of Beaumont. The following is a list of lessons I learned during this experience.
1. I’m not overly paranoid.
I’ve been freedom oriented and interested in prepping for a while, and many of my family and friends think I’m just being overly paranoid. I was hoping this was the case, but unfortunately it’s not.
2. Every disaster, natural or otherwise, presents its own challenges and obstacles.
One common issue is self defense as well as defense of one’s family and belongings. This was a continual struggle while I lived in NYC, since although I managed to obtain a pistol license (which was an incredible challenge), my NYC Pistol License did not allow for carry outside of my residence. Once I moved to Texas, I immediately obtained my concealed carry license. Although I’m guilty of not carrying 24/7, it was certainly comforting knowing I have the ability to carry a gun for defense in instances such as a disaster or crisis. Everyone in Beaumont couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps because no one got to the point of desperation. However, I still carried, and I’m glad I did, just in case it got worse.
My petite, disabled wife is a strong believer in carrying concealed. If you ask her why, she’d tell you because there’s no other way she could fend off a 200lb man. I understand there are many people who don’t like guns. My response is to ask them if they dislike guns so much they’d refuse the ability to protect their family.
3. Keeping between one and three month’s worth of shelf stable food in your house is not ridiculous.
Beaumont was only cutoff from deliveries for a few days. Some of the outlying smaller towns were cut off for longer and didn’t benefit from all the MREs being distributed around Beaumont. Having enough food to stay home and not having to venture out into the chaos was priceless.
4. Minimizing injuries became an obvious priority, once the hospitals evacuated and shut down.
Being self-sufficient at home to not only protect my family and dwelling but to reduce the possibility of a car wreck or other accident became a priority.
5. Keep a water storage device on hand and fill it before a storm.
On day three of the hurricane, I finally decided to open my bathtub water bladder. I almost felt stupid filling it up but figured if now wasn’t the time, then when? And, of course, in the back of my mind I figured I was again being overly paranoid. My wife even made a joke while I was filing it. I texted my friends that lived in the area, reminding them to fill their tubs with water in case the water shut off. Only one of my friends actually did it, and ironically she was one of the few that didn’t lose running water. We lost city water the day after the hurricane.
Many people figured the worst was passed and started to relax. I usually keep enough bottled water to last a month, but having that extra amount in the tub that I could use to drink or wash my hands or face with, was priceless. Again, it kept me from having to go to water distribution sites or under-stocked stores.
6. A somewhat eye opener was that I didn’t have enough buckets of water for flushing toilets.
Five-gallon buckets are inexpensive and take up very little room in a shed or garage. In hind sight, if I had had a few, I could have filled them and left them outside. Instead, I had to make alternate arrangements, which was harder than I had anticipated, being that I live in a suburban neighborhood. (I, of course, wasn’t going to waste any of my precious drinking water.) One of the first things I bought after the storm were more buckets and a camp potty. I won’t be caught in that situation again. Many people took buckets or whatever vessels they had and filled them in the river or drainage canals to flush with. This just seemed like an unnecessarily dangerous task for multiple reasons.
7. If you have unscented regular bleach, it can be used for water purification in a pinch.
Luckily, it didn’t get to the point in my situation I needed bleach, but I was ready in case the water in the tub got stale, or I had to improvise water from another source. As a rule, I don’t buy scented or any other type of bleach other than ***regular***amazon.com/Clorox-Bleach-Regular-64-oz/dp/B0014D2BKY/ref= for that reason.
8. Fill the freezer with ice, just in case.
I miraculously didn’t lose power through the whole ordeal but plenty of others did and were without functioning freezers, for days if not weeks. It was nice and important, as with the water and food, to have enough to be able to share with those less prepared or less fortunate.
9. Fill up your gas cans.
I usually keep five gallons of ethanol-free gas. This is enough for my tools and to keep in the truck during a road trip, but it definitely wouldn’t have been enough to evacuate. In Beaumont, the roads opened up quick enough to get deliveries of gas, but some of the smaller, more isolated towns were running out and couldn’t get deliveries. I recently bought a 14-gallon container just to have. I don’t plan on keeping gas in it all the time, but if the time comes to evacuate, with that additional container, I’ve almost doubled the fuel capacity in my truck.
Not having to stop as frequently to gas up during an evacuation is safer and provides more of a possibility that I actually will make it out. During Hurricane Irma, Florida had a gas shortage with bumper to bumper traffic throughout the state. Having enough gas to get out of the danger zone could mean the difference of getting out or getting stranded.
10. Having a generator can make riding out the storm much more pleasant.
I was holding off on getting a generator installed, because of cost. I just called an electrician, and he is coming next month (since there is such a backlog). Suck it up and spend the money, especially if you have babies or children in your household. Just the comfort of being able to turn the lights on or run an A/C does wonders for morale, even when everything else outside is a mess.
11. Try not to accumulate dirty laundry.
I learned about dirty laundry the hard way. We had way too many dirty clothes and no way of washing them, because there was no running water. Luckily we didn’t run out of clean clothes, but it was getting close.
12. Have a garbage bag full of clothes and supplies ready to give out or donate when a storm hits.
We had donated clothes a week before the storm and hadn’t gone through our wardrobes since. During the storm we just went into our drawers and gave away clothes we would have otherwise still worn just to be able to offer something to those who lost everything and were displaced in the shelters. It would have been nice to have been more organized in that respect.
13. You can never have enough garbage bags and zip lock bags.
Garbage bags and zip lock bags were needed at evacuation and shelter sites. That’s something I usually have lots of, and I keep a whole roll of garbage bags in my bug-out bag.
14. Be ready to bug out when the time comes.
Have your vehicle packed with bags, food, water, gas, et cetera and ready to leave at a moment’s notice. Also, when things get bad, be dressed with everything you need to evacuate on you. In other words, 100% essentials must be on your person, such as important documents and medication. You can’t rely on your bag making it. Some shelters were requiring ID to get in. Some shelters also weren’t allowing firearms. Have all that information written down or memorized so you have a plan of where you will go if you have to.
Have a list of people’s phone numbers/addresses, in case you don’t have your phone or it’s not working. Those in shelters that couldn’t get picked up by friends or family had to be flown by military cargo plane to San Antonio and Dallas. The bizarre thing is there have been no reports on the news or otherwise as to where these people are or if and when they’re coming back. It wouldn’t take much to be one of those people.
15. Email all important documents to yourself so that you can access it from any computer.
16. Keep $1,000 cash.
We were late doing a lot of these things, and in a bigger city, such as NYC, such resources would have been unavailable. Monday (during the storm) we were able to get more supplies, gas, and money.
17. Live in a medium-sized, industrial town where there aren’t not too many people but it gets supplies quickly.
Beaumont has about 120,000 people. This seems like it is a good size. There were plenty of supplies. Smaller towns ran out of supplies quicker and took longer to get supplies, as well as military help, therefore staying isolated longer. Larger cities have too many people and not enough supplies. There is also no way of getting enough supplies in for all the people in need. The balance of people to supplies in Beaumont seems right. The fact that so much industry is in the area was a huge benefit as well. The only reason our water was turned on so quickly was because the oil refineries and big construction companies rigged temporary pumps to pump river water into the water treatment plant.
This ideal ratio of people to space and supplies I believe also helped with everyone being pleasant and generous, as opposed to angry and greedy. People were offering food and supplies everywhere. There were no instances of looting in Beaumont. Just for full disclosure, there was one murder during the storm, but it was determined not to be storm related. Compare this to NYC during Hurricane Sandy where people were stealing everything. During Sandy in NYC, we had the generator chained up in the back yard and I was still nervous it was going to get stolen.
18. Don’t buy or have anything you can’t walk away from.
A big reason people stay during a disaster is to protect their possessions. I fully understand this as I am also attached to my possessions. Possessions represent, at the very least, the time spent accumulating that wealth. You have to be able to abandon your possessions and house in order to protect your life and those of your family. Don’t go down with the ship (or house).
19. Don’t forget to help those around you in need and be as generous with your time and money as you are able to.
I’m extremely lucky and grateful that I was not displaced and my home only received minor damage.
20. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone in Beaumont, Texas and the surrounding states and areas.
As I mentioned previously, people couldn’t have been more generous. Words fall short in describing the civilians, risking their lives, performing water rescues in their own boats, or people BBQing in parking lots, spending their time and personal resources, giving out food to everyone. It was truly the embodiment of “Love thy neighbor”.
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 $1,095 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,
- Two cases of Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs), courtesy of CampingSurvival.com (a $180 value), and
- American Gunsmithing Institute (AGI) is providing a $300 certificate good towards any of their DVD training courses.
- 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), and
- 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, and
- 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).
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.