Businesses, and I’m assuming the military too, assesses actions and decisions post-consequences to correct any errors. Last night, while I couldn’t sleep (damn caffeine–I had rehooked myself through the long road trips and travel–if it seems like I’m grumpy for the next couple of days, that’s why) my thoughts turned to our experience and what I plan to do differently next time we endure some sort of crisis (could be weather, pay attention to Kyle, could be terrorism, you just never know). I also assessed what worked.
First the gaps:
A back-up generator is not a luxury. When figuring a cost-benefit analysis, the food lost alone (we had a side of beef in a deep freezer), a generator pays for itself after one power outage. So, we need to get a generator. In addition, relief organizations won’t get into the area with ice for at least three days, maybe four. By that time, food is wasted.
We didn’t have enough batteries. I waited until too late to check on how many I had. By the time I figured out we needed more, they were sold out at the store.
Guns and gun training are a must. The police simply cannot be everywhere, but criminals are remarkably effective at being where the cops are not. So, we need to get both.
Don’t let someone borrow tools without supervision. Our chainsaw got damaged. A chainsaw is a precious commodity post-storm.
I ran out of bleach. Again, it was something I thought of too late. Bleach cleans. It kills germs. It’s necessary in large quantities for many reasons.
We needed a good light besides a flashlight for at night. Since we’re not campers, we don’t have a camp light, but we need one.
What we did right:
Plenty of food. We could have gone for a week, probably two with our dry-goods.
Plenty of water. We were okay with that too.
Gas stove. This was unintentional smartness. We do have a gas grill out back fueled by propane and we had extra tanks for back-up, but we used the stove. Here’s the thing though: there’s no ventilation so be careful cooking burgers. Your house will smell for quite some time. Ditto, bacon.
Hand-crank radio. I bought one from Amazon. In fact, after Hurricane Rita, I used Amazon for everything–saw, water purification tablets, bowie knife, etc.
Full tanks of gas. This is a no-brainer but I was surprised how many people were desperate for gas right after everything hit. Lack of preparation has consequences. We needed the gas because we decided to leave The Woodlands. We were at least 100 miles or so out of the area before there were working gas stations. An empty tank would have left us stuck. Also, I was using the car to charge my cell phone every night. The car is an excellent generator. I’m thinking about electric cars too. Wouldn’t get too far with one of them, would you? Trucks are mighty nice in this situation. Our Suburban could be filled to the gills with kids, dogs and stuff and had a nice big (albeit guzzling) gas tank.
Landline, AT&T and Sprint telephone carriers. At one time or another at least one was working–mostly. That was a relief. Its one thing to be without internet (and at my level of addiction that’s painful), it’s another to be without a way to communicate period.
As I think of more, I’ll update.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank the thousands of electrical, tree-cutting, and every other sort of service worker who came to Houston as soon as possible (the tree guy is from Maryland) to help. You cannot imagine the relief and excitement to see caravans of energy trucks pouring into the city.
Reader Rorschach adds this in the comment section and I’m adding it in its entirety because it’s valuable. Also, I want to add this before I quote him. My iPhone was invaluable. I had email, text, internet access, WordPress mobile so I could blog, etc. In short, I could stay connected through this one small device. It earned it’s steep price, I assure you.
To the advice:
An addendum if you don’t mind. Not only are chain saws a necessity, but a chain saw that WORKS is a necessity. There are a number of cheap Poulan made ones (craftsman ones are Poulan ones.) that are absolute junk and will run for about an hour or two and then you’ll have to fight with them to get them started and keep them running. Repairing them costs more than a new saw. do yourself a favor and get a good commercial grade Stihl or Echo one. Make sure you store it properly and drain the fuel out of it, or you’ll be sorry.
Generators are a necessity as well. but gasoline powered ones have one major drawback: gasoline. You can’t buy it for the first 3-4 days after a storm. and you are constantly having to go out and refill the tank. You have Natural Gas. go and get yourself a NG fired permenantly installed backup genset. Northern Tool sells several in the 11KW and up range for under 3 grand delivered. The additional advantage is that NG fired engines don’t put out much CO so you should not have an issue of carbon monoxide poisoning.
LED lanterns are great and last a really long time on a charge, but the problem is that the color put out by them is in a range that the human eye is not terribly sensitive to. It is too blue. Fluorescent lanterns are less efficient, but you’ll at least be able to read by them. Don’t get a propane or camp fuel one, they give of CO. You can’t use them inside, and you can’t use them to light the generator while you are filling it with gas either.
Guns: Get yourself a 12 Gauge shotgun with an 18 inch barrel and load it with 00 buckshot. Best home defense weapon ever conceived, bar none. It will not over-penetrate walls and endanger your neighbors. Is somewhat immune to aiming error. (you still need to aim, but with a shot pattern 3″ across, you’re more likely to hit something than a pattern that is 1/3 of an inch across.) They are impossible to conceal, but for home defense, concealment is not really an issue. Here is a blog with a lot of good info on that score:
Handguns are ideal for protection when you are mobile, but they should be thought of as a bridge to get you to a long gun of some sort, not as a end-all be-all defense weapon.
The concept of being self sufficient for 72 hours is bogus. I don’t know where that number came from but they didn’t even bother wiping the fecal matter off of it when they pulled it out of their butt. 72 hours is at BEST a minimum number, it should really be a week to 10 days.
Many people give up land lines in favor of cell phones. I have friends who have done just that. They’re in their twenties, though. And even though they’ve settled down with a house and a kid, they still have no land line. Well. I haven’t spoken with them about their decision since the hurricane, but Ike confirmed one thing for me: it’s good to have a land line.
Cell towers, I found out, lose power too. When that happens communications come to a screeching halt. For a couple days, the only communication came via a land line. To me, it’s just a good security back-up and important in emergencies.
Our next door neighbors got stuck because they only have digital cord-less phones. Guess what happened when the power was gone? My husband laughs at me, but I keep two boring old phones around that require no batteries for just this purpose–one for upstairs and one for downstairs. And every time we’ve lost power, we’ve used them. In this case, we could let our neighbors borrow a phone.
Conclusion: Yes to land lines. Yes to old phones. It’s just good back up.
Just wanted to let readers know that power is returning to parts of The Woodlands and should be up most places there by Friday. Landlines for phone and DSL are still out and cellular service is still spotty. No reports of injuries or deaths, though. Please share your information here.
Other posts about Ike here:
Hurricane Ike, Woodlands, Texas Frustration Edition
Also note, I’m blogging about other stuff too.
People around the Houston area suffer worse. More here:
Residents again waited in line for hours Tuesday at the nearly two dozen supply distribution centers set up in Houston to hand out food, water and ice. Mayor Bill White complained the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn’t bringing in the supplies fast enough, and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett had personally taken over coordination of efforts to hand out relief supplies.
A note about FEMA and relief supplies to the area. The government is not known for responsiveness, are they? Think DMV. So, relying on them for help seems misguided. That doesn’t excuse FEMA, though. The problem is the “assessment” stage. That takes a couple days. Well by Day 3 post storm, ice is a necessity to save the food a person does have.
I’m not going to say “I told you so”, but man. The problem isn’t often the storm. It’s the lack of power, water and communication after the storm. I could not understand why more people weren’t evacuated–especially those fragile and needing physical help. With families spread out, people are often alone and without support. Also, I know the elderly don’t like to leave home, but if family is offering help, it is wise to take up the offer and go.
I’ve been out of sorts being out of town and out of my schedule. Just noticed that Glenn Reynolds linked again. Thanks! He asks:
Why do hurricanes that hit Texas get so much less attention than hurricanes that hit New Orleans?
UPDATE: Another reader emails: ‘If you want to discuss lack of coverage, wasn’t the hurricane that hit New Orleans the same hurricane that nearly wiped the Mississippi gulf coast off the map?” Yes. Why did New Orleans get so much more attention? Is it because the media wanted to paint the Bush Administration as racially insensitive, or is New Orleans just the only place they could find on a map?
Well, there’s definitely that. New Orleans is an old liberal city. The left loves it because it’s the “most European” city in America. It has history and culture. It has jazz and gumbo. It also has crime and poverty and corruption. It has haves and have-nots. In short, it’s the perfect Leftist city.
In contrast, while Houston has millions more people. It has the oil business and nasty refineries. (It also has more shows than Broadway, but don’t tell liberals.) Basically, Houston just isn’t sexy. But it has jobs and a thriving economy. I guess that’s boring–a basically functional, working city.