Lessons I Learned From Hurricanes/Tornados
Written by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown March 27, 2022
The Weather Folks do not name Tornados like they do Hurricanes, they simply refer to them as “a tornado” and then maybe classify it by its speed. Several tornados touched down in the New Orleans Louisiana area, an area where you do not normally see them. In fact, the last one that touched down within the city was over 5 years ago. We have, however, had numerous hurricanes, a couple of which required, or it was suggested, that we vacate our homes and the area. On several occasions, we did that – we left!
The lessons I learned during both types of events are identical. The only difference is that with hurricanes you have a pretty good idea that it is approaching whereas with tornados you have an idea you may get severe storms but rarely does that translate into a pending tornado. This past tornado we had less than an hour’s notice that one was on the ground and if it stayed on the ground and kept its projected course, would have made a bee-line (whatever that is) to our home. Not much time to consider evacuation but definitely enough time to take precautions, limited as they may be.
It gives one a sense of helplessness when you see that a tornado is bearing down on you and your home and it is only minutes away. Few older homes are built with “safe rooms” and I doubt people building new homes even consider building a “safe room” within their home. Homeowners are therefore left with what the Weather People say, go immediately to a safe space in your home, preferably on the lower level or basement if you have one where you are surrounded by walls with no windows and no exterior doors. That is what we did. But looking back and considering what I typically do when I KNOW a hurricane is approaching, I am ashamed to admit that I was not prepared for what could have happened but thankfully did not.
With all that said, here are my tips and how they apply to both tornados and hurricane pre-preparations.
GO-BAG. Purchase a “go-bag”, one that can be easily grabbed in an emergency whether that be a tornado, hurricane, house fire or even a chemical or gas leak in the area that requires people to vacate their homes or take cover. The bag should be large enough to include the following:
Car keys. Survivors of the recent tornado took shelter but did not think about taking their car keys with them, why would they? They were not leaving. But after the storm had passed and their homes were destroyed, they could not drive their car without their keys. If you are evacuating your home, this of course, would not be an issue.
Wallets/Purses. Same applies to these items as the car keys. If your home is destroyed and you survive you will need what is included in your wallets and purses.
Cash. In the era of credit and debit cards, people don’t typically have cash-on-hand nor do they keep cash in their homes. That is a huge mistake for many reasons. Immediately following any storm, there is a probability that the power will be out. It took over 4 weeks to have the power restored after Hurricane Katrina. There have since been periods of 2 and 3 days where we were without power. God help us if the power grid is ever attacked by our enemies. Without power, you will be unable to get money from an ATM machine if none of the banks in the area have emergency power. You will also be unable to purchase gasoline as the gas pumps all run on electricity. DO NOT get cash in large denominations. I would suggest nothing larger than $20.00 bills. You want the stores that will be open to be able to make change and you never want to be in a position of needing something so badly that you give the store owner a $100 bill and tell them to keep the change because they can’t make change for you.
Gas. It is not a good idea to store large quantities of gasoline in and around your home. It is however a very prudent decision to gas up your vehicles when you KNOW there is a possibility of severe storms in your area or an approaching hurricane. Don’t wait until the last minute, gas up as soon as you get the word that a storm is approaching. In fact, it is a good idea to never let any of your vehicles ever get below a half full tank as you never know when the power will to out and how long it will be out. Again, no power means no gas!
Credit Cards. I don’t carry a lot of credit cards with me even though I have several. Such a practice reduces the liability if your cards are lost or stolen. With that said, when you go to your safe space or evacuate, you want to take all of your credit and debit cards with you. You may not be able to later find them dispersed throughout the rubble of what is left of your home. Credit and debit cards may be your only means of survival for long periods of time following devastating storms or fires like the ones we have recently seen in California.
Check Book. To some, check books may be a thing of the past but I’ll bet even these people still have them. When you have no money and the power is out, a check book could be your best life-line following a devastating storm in your area.
Emergency Lighting/Power. FLASHLIGHTS! Several of them along with batteries to power them. If you don’t already have a device to charge your smart phones, I would recommend purchasing one and keeping it charged so that whenever you require the services of such a device, you have it. They now make solar charging devices, I would get one or two of them. They are inexpensive and small. The secret is to keep them charged when times are good so that you have them when you need them. I can assure you that following a major storm, you never have enough flashlights and batteries to keep them powered. Buy your batteries in bulk and always make sure you have enough on hand.
Emergency SOLAR Weather Radio: You can purchase them and you can oftentimes find them free of charge. These could be essential to keeping up with information of all types when the power goes out. Having a solar generated source of power is essential because batteries last only so long.
Important Papers. I can’t define what would be considered as important papers to everyone who reads this Nugget. That is up to each individual to determine. To me, even though I have copied all of the most important papers onto my desktop computer, oftentimes, ORIGINAL documents are far more important than printed copies. Birth Certificates come to mind. I recently renewed my drivers license and they would only consider ORIGINAL Birth Certificates when applying for the special government ID type driver’s licenses. Passports also come to mind. It is time consuming to obtain a passport and to avoid the hassle of doing so, keep your passports readily available so you can grab-and-go on a moment’s notice. Computers should be backed up and preferably with a backup provider that is not within your home. I use Carbonite that automatically backs up my primary computer OFF LINE. That way if my computer crashes or if my home is destroyed, I can always access all of my files by restoring a new computer based upon what was on my existing computer. Yes it costs money, but I can assure you, that it is priceless when you have to use it as I have 3 times.
Medications. No one is going to keep their medications in a grab bag but they usually keep them all in one or two locations (like a refrigerator and a medicine cabinet). The people’s whose homes destroyed by the tornado, now have no medicines to rely on unless of course they can find them in the rubble of their homes. My advice would be to have a small bag available and strategically located near where you keep your medications and that will accommodate all of them. When you receive word that you are in danger, it would or should take only a few minutes to collect them all up and place them into your medicine “go-bag” and then place the medicine bag into your primary “go-bag.” I cannot even begin to describe the difficulties of obtaining mediations on-the-spot when you have none to take. I’ve been there, done that, and it is NOT fun! This is especially true if you are on life-saving medications for heart, cancer, diabetes or similar medical issues where medications definitely make a difference and could prove fatal if you don’t have them. If any of your medications are “controlled substance” type medications, it is even more difficult to replace them on the fly. And this includes any medications you may have for your pets as well.
Pets. Speaking of pets. I have a small dog that is best described as a runner. If she gets loose, we may never see her again. Pets do not like storms. If your house and/or the fence around your house is damaged, you will want to make certain that you have your pets controlling devices whether that is a leash and collar or a carry type carton/cage. I cannot over emphasize the important of having your pet’s name, your phone number and any other important information on a collar for your pet AND that your pet is wearing it. Pets typically do better than people during a storm. Many simply run off and then eventually return to where their known home has been but you don’t want to rely on that happening. Treat your pets as you would your children and protect them as much as you can.
First Aid Kit: If you are protecting yourself from a severe storm/tornado that damages your home, you may need to treat yourself before anyone could possibly find you. Having a first aid kit that you typically do NOT use for everyday cuts and bruises readily available is always a good thing. But it IS important that it NOT be used everyday as you will want to know that the items that are supposed to be in the kit are actually in the kit when needed.
Extra Clothing. While this is not a necessity, how many times have you heard people after a storm or fire say they got out with only the clothes on their backs? More often than not. Having extra clothing immediately available is a good thing to consider but definitely not an absolute necessity.
In a perfect world, all of these items could be stored in a “safe-room.” If so, you would not have to worry about packing them all up from different parts of your home to take in a moment’s notice to your safe room. If you are evacuating from a hurricane, you should have ample time to gather these things. But doesn’t it make more sense to centralize where you keep all these items in one or no more than two locations so they can be easily collected and moved to a safe area? I think so. What do you think?
THE MOST IMPORTANT NOTE OF ALL!
THE TIME TO DO THESE THINGS IS NOW, NOT WHEN YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE HIT BY A STORM OR HURRICANE, FIRE OR EARTHQUAKE!