Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four Disaster Survival Stories From People Like You

The following disaster stories were sent to me by my readers. Hopefully these stories will encourage each of us to become better prepared.

Story 1: "I am a mother of 5 children. Two years ago we had a very heavy wet snow storm. It knocked down trees, power poles, and lines in the area. We were without power for 1 week. We live in the outer area of town. So we rely on our well for our water. We thought we would be ok, but no power, no water! We have a wood burning stove, so I did get very creative and did some cooking on the stove for our main meals. We did not have enough water or a generator. While the food in the freezer kept ok as it was in the garage, we had to put some of our milk outside. We did find out that the dogs really like milk! While this only lasted a week, it was a real wake up call for us. We really learned what we needed to survive a disaster. And we really enjoyed the quiet family time with our children!" K.D., Mount Shasta, CA

Story 2: "My family went through Hurricane Hugo that hit North Carolina years ago, and we were in North Carolina still when Hurricane Andrew hit again. We know exactly what the North Eastern states are going through right now, and for the most part, I hope many of their friends and family were preparing for the worse, because being without water and power for two or three weeks is NO picnic. I was a little girl during the gas crisis of the 1970s when there was no gas, and I still remember it. What have we learned? To always be prepared, no matter what. When things are going well, put aside a little, and prepare for a "rainy day." D.B.

Story 3: "Most people don't think of our area as being prone to disasters. I'm 35 years old and I've been through too many hurricanes to count, several tornado devastations, and many mean winter storms. After Hurricane Fran we had no power for 12 days, the roads were hazardous, and we were under a curfew. Luckily I was just a college student and could rely on friends' local families. A winter storm a few years later (that was supposed to be a light "dusting") turned out to be 23" (a record) and had roads closed for 5 days. Another winter storm a few years later had people here in Raleigh stuck on the roads for up to 10 hours. There are several more that I could mention but you know how the stories go. After that snow storm I realized this could happen to us in any weather, at any time, with little to no warning. I've been teaching my children about being prepared, and trying to teach my stubborn husband as well. He's finally agreed to my "crazy stockpiles" as he calls them. He grew up in Cleveland where the city is prepared for winter weather, doesn't get hurricanes, tornadoes, or earthquakes so he doesn't quite get it. I think the first major storm we get that puts us in a bind, he'll be thanking me. :)" L.C., Raleigh, N. Carolina

Story 4: (She's been through it all!)
"Our ice storm was not typical to our climate, but the first thing my husband did was rush to the store and buy us a kerosene heater. They were sold out in a matter of hours. We were lucky that we had a gas stove and could cook on the top burners. We had no electricity for a week and were cautioned not to travel. I was glad that I did not have an empty pantry! Some people had to cook out in the cold on bbq pits. We enjoyed the company we had over for meals, playing board games and keeping warm! 

"During two evacuations, I learned to keep my important papers handy. It took me an hour to pull all of them out of the filing cabinets. Now I have everything in a metal type of briefcase. I have insurance policies, copies of passports, birth certificates, etc. Things I may use during the evac. I also keep my yearly papers in a plastic file tote, and not in my file cabinet that way I can grab it and go knowing I have all of my paperwork for the year right there. I keep a file folder for each month, and as I pay my bills, etc. I just put them in the folder. At the end of the month, I just put it in the file tote. I also keep one with all of the previous years IRS info all together in it. Because I had everything together, I was able to immediately start filing insurance as soon as I knew that I had damage to my house- even before I actually was able to get back home- and the sooner you contact your insurance, the sooner you get an adjuster. 

"After the first hurricane, my husband bought a generator that runs our whole house by propane, but that does not mean that you can run it all of the time! We were without electricity for 3 weeks with Rita. It wasn't that hard to pull meals from our pantry, but better planning would have made better meals! It was odd seeing our local grocery stores with empty food shelves! I remember that the Little Debbies were going faster than they could put them on the shelf. Luckily all we really had to buy was milk and ice, and Little Debbies! LOL 

"During one evacuation, my brother was smart and filled up all of the empty gas cans that he had, and it sure came in handy! It was scary seeing all of the people that ran out of gas during the evac and had no where to get gas. That is one of the first things that we do when a storm gets into the Gulf - keep gas full in the car, and fill up all of our empty gas cans. Of course, you have to be careful traveling with gas cans full of gas, but if you have no where to buy it, it becomes an necessity. You have to be careful because of the gas is flamable, but you also just might get robbed. It is good to travel in a caravan with friends or family for safety. Gas stations on the evac route ran out of gas. Another thing, if you wait until the last minute to leave, you don't get to choose any road you want, you are directed where to go. It is important to know which roads will be closed and where your traffic will be directed to. It is just horrible getting caught in that mess. Try to leave before it is mandatory!" M.K., Orange, Texas


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  2. Thanks for sharing! I was also affected by Hugo. We were putting an addition on our house when Hugo came inland from Charleston to Charlotte. The eye passed over Waxhaw where we live. It was unheard of in our area, for a hurricane to come 300 miles inland with winds of 110 m.p.h. The hurricane destroyed most of the new construction and tore off the roof on the older part of the house. The rains soaked everything. We lost most of the older structure to water damage. The power was out for 18 days, but since the damage to our home was so severe we didn't have power at our house for 6 months. We had an extension cord stretched over a fence from the neighbors so that my husband and I could run the construction tools. We had nowhere to go so my husband, 7 yr. old son and new born son had to live in the one room that was structurally sound. The doorway from that room to the rest of the house was open to the outside since that part of the house was gone, and the eaves were open to the sky, but at least it had a roof. It was a cold winter and with no heat or water it wasn't very comfortable, but we survived. We hung a old woolen blanket over the doorway and put plastic over the openings at the eaves. The repairs took a long time since there wasn't a sheet of plywood, a tarp or many other construction materials for 100's of miles. I baked in a dutch oven outside and cooked on a coleman campstove.We had to carry water from the neighbors, and used the bathroom at a gas station in town. Our life was very difficult, since we were caught off guard with no preparations at all, but we were able to make do and keep going because we had lived in primitive conditions in foreign countries and knew how to survive. Today, we have an emergency pantry with food for 4 for 6 months and staples for 3 years. We have 55 gallons of water per person, treated for long term storage and a hand held water purifier to make sure we can have safe drinking water if that runs out. We have three different ways to heat our house, heat pump, propane space heater, and wood stove. We all have our areas of expertise so that if it is necessary to go into emergency mode, everyone knows what to do. We have been hit by really bad storms twice since Hugo, where the power was out for weeks and the store shelves were empty, but for us life went on as usual, since we are prepared. We were able to help others who were caught unprepared, and I make it one of my life focuses to teach others how to prepare for the unexpected. I teach classes on non electric cooking, long term storage techniques for food storage and wilderness survival. Unfortunately, many people are not interested in putting the necessary finances into food storage, or even in putting together a bug-out bag 7 day survival kit. I have heard too many times, "I can't afford it or if there is an emergency FEMA will take care of us..." From my experience, I would have to say you can't afford not to be prepared, no one will be thinking about you in a time of crisis, it is up to you to make sure your family is provided for. FEMA may help, but only for the short term, and sometimes it takes a long time to recover from a disaster. Thanks for taking the time to encourage others to prepare, the efforts you make may save someone's life one day :)


Thanks for your comments and suggestions!