Stories From Ike- Lessons Learned

In memory of Hurricane Ike, I’m taking a trip down memory lane this week and sharing some personal stories and lessons learned of what it was like to be a part of that storm. Hopefully what I learned and went through can give some of you a better idea for how to prepare for your own emergency situations. I hope you enjoy this week! ๐Ÿ˜€

In wrapping up this week, I thought I’d share a post from my personal blog after all was said and done…

September 22, 2008 {Lessons Learned}


Today we are resuming “life as normal”… more or less. Jim has gone back to work and everything is pretty much the way it was before Hurricane Ike ever hit (for our own little family, anyway). But I wanted to take a second to write down some of the lessons we learned from this disaster in hopes it can help someone else be prepared should something similar come your way. The nice thing about a hurricane is that you have plenty of advance warning. But not all of life’s disasters are so well announced. So, here are some of the ย tips are tricks that helped us make it through:

#1. Have a way to keep things cool! For us it was a generator to keep our fridge/freezer and deep freeze running (which meant we also needed to have extra gas stored to keep the generator running… and you should also keep some extra gas for your car), but you can also use ice in coolers, etc. A trick our neighbor taught us was to freeze water in 2-liter soda bottles and when you stick those in a bag of ice it makes the ice last a lot longer. (And if you use drinking water in the soda bottle, you can drink it when it melts.) So if you know a disaster is coming, start making lots of ice (or get a generator and then you can make ice for other people instead). ๐Ÿ™‚ (side note on this: there were a lot of distribution points offering ice, etc. but people had to wait in lines for generally a minimum of 2 hours in order to get it, so it’s nice to save yourself the hassle!)
#2. Have extra water available (and not just drinking water). We were fortunate that we never lost water and that our city’s water stayed unpolluted. But in case it didn’t, we had our drinking water supply* ready and for non-drinking water we had cleaned out one of the bathtubs the night before and filled it with water. We also have a 5-gallon water cooler and an ice chest that we filled, and over the past year or so, we’ve been filling some of the more sturdy plastic bottles we’ve used (like the kind apple juice comes in) with just regular tap water (and we marked them as being tap water so we know it’s not drinking water). You would be surprised at how often you use water for non-drinking purposes (like to wash your dishes, your face, your hands, brush your teeth, etc.). A lot of cities ended up with polluted water or no water at all, so it’s important to have that supply ready.
#3. Have a way to cook without electricity. We were again fortunate that all we lost was electricity (not water or gas). And again fortunate that we have a gas stove. So we didn’t lose our ability to cook (although we did not have the oven or microwave). But if you’ve got an electric stove with no electricity, you’re out of luck. So you need another alternative. Camping stoves are great, grills (if it’s a gas grill, make sure your propane tank is full and/or you’ve got extra tanks), etc.
#4. Have a stash of cash available at all times. When gas stations started coming back online, they could pump gas, but credit card machines wouldn’t work. So you could only get gas if you had cash (and of course ATM machines didn’t work either). We only found this out after waiting for 2 hours in line, but fortunately we keep an emergency stash of cash in several locations. We have a 72-hour kit in each of our cars that each has $100 in it, and then another $100 in our 72-hour kit at the house. So fortunately we were not stuck without any cash when we got up to the pumps. Also, make sure your “stash” is in smaller bills (nothing bigger than a $20) because a lot of people either won’t take larger than that or won’t have change to give you back.
#5. Battery or hand operated items are great! (It just means you have to make sure you have a LOT of extra batteries). There are a lot of camping items, etc that run on batteries or can be hand cranked. These can be lifesavers. Although camping equipment that runs on propane gas is great for camping, a lot of those things cannot be used in your house because they put out carbon monoxide or other harmful gases. We discovered this when we had hoped to use our propane camping lantern for a light source at night. That’s a no-go in the house! Luckily, I happened to also have a Coleman lantern that runs on batteries and Jim had a bright light in his tool set that runs on the same battery as his tools. I also have a battery operated camping fan that definitely came in handy when we were letting the generator have a break (and therefore couldn’t use our fans that were plugged into it). There are a lot of cool things that run on batteries… so check ’em out and then stock up on batteries.
#6. Have a way to get the news. This will usually be a battery (or hand) operated radio (although we were able to hook our tv up to the generator and just watch the news… did I mention that I LOVE our generator??!) But the news will keep you posted on if there are things you need to be doing, if your water is safe to drink, where you can find essential items being distributed, etc.
#7. Have a source of light for night. I already mentioned that we had some good lights, we also had flashlights, but you don’t want to keep those running all the time because then you’ll REALLY go through batteries quickly. So obviously candles are a good choice. Oil lamps are also great (I don’t have any, but know they work well) and just make sure you’ve got oil for the lamps (a scripture story is coming to mind here…) ๐Ÿ™‚ But a tip about candles, we found that the candles that are in glass votives put out a lot more light than a candle that is just set on a plate. You could probably even just put the candles in mason jars to make them shine brighter. If you have baby food jars, you could also keep a stash of those (empty and clean, of course) and then get a big bag of those tea-light candles (they’re really inexpensive, but you can go through them pretty fast, so it’s good to have a lot), and then just put the little lights in the baby food jars all over the place and you’ve got some decent light.
#8. Finally, make sure all this stuff is in a location you know about. Try to keep emergency supplies together so you don’t have to go hunting for them when you’re in the middle of a disaster. And make sure everyone is aware of your emergency plan, etc.
So anyway, that’s about it. I hope this helps somebody someday. We’re not experts on preparedness, but having just been through some crazy times, it was nice to be on the more prepared end of things to save ourselves some of the stress and insanity so many others have had to go through. (Plus it helps to put you in a position to be able to help others if needed.)
*P.S. A tip I was going to share about our water storage… we just recently switched our water supply/storage plan to be a little more functional. Initially for water storage, we had purchased several of those big 5-gallon jugs of water (like the kind you get delivered to your house… but we just bought them at the grocery store) and we just had them sitting in storage. But then we realized we needed a way to actually use that water. So we’ve stopped buying the expensive filters for our fridge (which has a water dispenser) and bought a standing water dispenser. Now we can keep a year’s supply of water in those big jugs but circulate through it instead of just letting it sit and go bad.
Oh, and another tip I just remembered about generators… if you’re thinking about investing in one, my dad pointed out that there are some they’ve come out with that run on diesel fuel and are quieter. Well, the quiet part would sure be nice (those suckers can be loud), BUT for as difficult as it was to get gas after the hurricane, it was nearly impossible to find diesel fuel. I don’t know if that’s something that would always be the case, but it’s something to keep in mind.
{Back to the Future – 2010}
I hope this week has been helpful for someone… anyone… in providing a little insight into what it may be like in a small emergency situation. Best wishes and happy prepping!!
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