Emergency Preparedness Blog Series
Welcome to our Emergency Preparedness Blog Series! After Hurricane Maria welcomed us to St. Croix in September, we feel like we have certainly learned about surviving a disaster. We wanted to share some of that knowledge with you! For the next several weeks we will be posting each week about different topics that we have learned about. We hope that they will help you assess your own preparation in light of an emergency. We will ask some questions that will get you thinking about what plans you have in place.
We also want to share with you some of the amazing things that helped us. In order for us to be completely transparent, we will get a small portion of affiliate sales if you choose to add any of these fine products to your own emergency preparedness arsenal. Thank you!
Home is a shelter from storms – all sorts of storms. William Bennett
When you are faced with imminent danger from a natural disaster – like an oncoming hurricane –you are faced with a difficult decision – to stay and weather the storm or evacuate. Both are difficult. Both require sacrifice and courage. Perhaps you don’t feel that your home would withstand a significant disaster – be it hurricane, flood, or earthquake. We have two young boys and knew that it would be hard to stay. What physical and emotional impacts could staying or going potentially present? We had family members who offered to get us off the island and allow us to stay with them. We made the decision to stay and remain with our home so we could manage the house during and after the storm.
We decided to stay and that meant that we needed to prepare our home for any eventual outcome. I am a thinker and a worrier. I am really good at coming up with “worst-case” scenarios. I chose to use this to my advantage as we planned. I created a plan for the scenario that we would lose our roof or if we had to leave our home.
I asked myself “What is my plan to store my valuable papers like birth certificates, house deeds, photos, etc.?” I figured if the worst were to happen and we lost our roof, I would want something that would keep everything dry and secure. I got out our Ziploc bags again and put everything in one of those and then I put all of that in another smaller plastic bin and then I put that bin into another larger bin. I felt like they were secure. I had read that you could have copies of them put somewhere else – and that would have been an additional step that could be taken.
Batteries, Matches, and Electronics
In the same bin as above, I also put our collection of batteries, matches, and all electronic devices (fully charged) and their corresponding charging wires and plugs. Then if we were to have to worry about any type of flooding or even if we needed to leave, they were all in one place and could easily be transported. I also took the time to back up all of our information from our laptop onto an external hard drive so we would be covered should anything happen to our laptop.
We took the time to move all of our furniture from Utah to St. Croix and we were determined to ensure they made it through the storm. We took down all of our art off of the walls and put them in a closet surrounded by black plastic bags. Then I took plastic sheeting and covered our beds, couch, and piano.
I knew that if water wanted to get in then it would but I was going to take precautions to prevent as much damage as I could. I also took plastic garbage bags black plastic bags and wrapped the clothes in our closet – just going from the bottom to secure the ties at the top of the hanger. We took all of the books and dvds off of the bookshelves in our dining room and put them in black plastic bags and put them near an interior wall. We then took any valuable small trinkets and placed them inside of the bookshelves which I then wrapped with press n’ seal.
We had moving blankets left over from moving that I placed on top of everything to add an additional layer of protection and weight against wind. It felt like we were moving again. It was exhausting but I hoped it would be enough.
We left everything plugged in until we lost power completely. Then we went around and unplugged all of our appliances. We moved things that could be moved away from windows. As we don’t have power right now as I’m typing this, we are hoping that our fridge and other large appliances (stove, dryer) still work. Some have plugged in their fridges to find that they no longer work. If that is the case for ours, we will cross that bridge when we get to it. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!
As a somewhat obvious precaution, we got hurricane shutters for all of our windows.
We researched up and down about whether we should leave our windows open a crack or closed completely during the storm. There are so many different opinions out there and none that we could find were specific to St. Croix or even the Caribbean – most were from Florida. In the end, we felt inspired and chose to close them completely.
Prior to the storm we tried to make sure that our roof was sound. Most roofs here are galvanized metal and then coated with a special water-proofing solution to help protect against rain. It was not in our budget to completely replace the roof. It also costs quite a bit to re-coat a roof and it was also not in our budget. Stewart had done some touch ups and we hoped for the best. It is not something you necessarily think about when purchasing a home or thinking about when preparing for a disaster – but whether or not your home will withstand (being made of concrete or other substantial substance) a natural disaster is an important thing to think about.
If you choose to stay in your home and weather a storm or you are in your home when a disaster hits, you will need to decide where you will be when the worst of it happens. Are you in a flood zone? Where is the highest point in your house? In a place where you will get tornadoes? Do you have a safe place to seek shelter? Do you live in the way of hurricanes? Which room has the least amount of windows and has strong walls? We chose a room in our house that only had one window. The window faces out to our carport that is facing a mountainside. We felt like this would be the best place in our home to stay during the most intense parts of the storm. I also went through the scenario that should we lose our roof, I would throw the mattress on top of us and we could huddle in the closet. You can read more about the “longest night in our lives” here.
No one wants to think about the probability in the event of an emergency when you might have to leave your shelter. I had the thought that if we were unable to stay in our home during the storm, what would we do? What if my mattress idea didn’t work? I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to go to the next scenario. I skipped straight to “when the storm is over and our house is devastated…where and what do we do?” I had backpacks ready for each one of us with emergency supplies: a change of clothes, entertainment for my boys, emergency food and water in our packs, First Aid supplies, batteries, battery operated radio, and battery operated headlamps. We had asked Stewart’s mom for 72-Hour kits last Christmas and had those to pack. I knew that no matter what, we had those and could go if we needed to. I also knew that we could carry our plastic tote bin with our other important things as well. We have formed a great relationship with our neighbors. We knew that we could turn to them if necessary.
We live in a time of plenty, abundance, and relative safety. It is hard to think that you may ever experience such difficulties as going without a roof over your head for more than 3 months or not having power for over 100 days. I certainly never thought I would. But it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark and you may never experience something like a massive natural disaster. Being prepared forestalls ALL fear. You can go to bed before the day of a Category 5 hurricane and get a small amount of sleep because you know you have done the best you can to prepare.
Is your shelter ready? What is your plan?
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