Tuesday, February 28, 2012

# 214 - To Flee or Not to Flee...Prepper Topic

Living in coastal area all of my life has given me ample experience toward "prepping" for the worse. Part of prepping is also a huge part of being a city gal who has lived in areas that have required diligent attention to our environment and to our industrial surroundings. Today's writing adventure has found me compelled to discuss the intricacies involved with deciding whether or not to flee your home.

This is a lengthy blog topic, so I warn you. If you need a good "potty-letter" to read, then, by all means, print and enjoy at your leisure. I'm sure my fellow blog buddies understand the need to purge these thoughts from my mental recesses and to get the awesome feedback that usually has me doing the head-nod in appreciation of the additional information and interesting commentary.

As for my topic, it should be noted that I've NOT been taught to prep for the end of the world because we already spend valuable time, energy and resources prepping for tornadoes and hurricanes, which can devastate a large area with minimal warning. If only we had the LUXURY to prepare for the end of the world...HA. We just want to survive this season's hurricane season!

First of all...for those of you who haven't endured widespread devastation...DON'T expect your government resources to come to your rescue because, FRANKLY, that is a lazy attitude and it is one that isn't practical. The local government cannot help you during an emergency when it can't even help itself. I cannot stress this enough to people who don't understand the value of being prepared for an emergency, especially for a natural disaster.

I speak of this with first-hand experience. Along with other people in our area, we're accustomed to being prepped for a disaster. Like I said, we prep mostly for a natural disaster or a chemical release. We've not really thought too much about end-of-the-world-doomsday plans because our area has definite concerns with day-by-day potential coastal disasters and industrialized dangers that require constant, heightened attention. Heck, we've even got alarms in place through our city to warn us about chemical releases so we can "Shelter in Place."

More of that on a later blog.

As for landscape-changing weather, the first hurricane I actually lived through was Hurricane Alicia. I was about 14 years old and my family did not want to flee. Even though our house was within a short distance from the Houston Ship Channel and a tidal surge was a danger, my dad decided that our family of five would ride out the hurricane at home.

We made it through multiple small tornadoes hitting our area and these tornadoes twisted the trees along our frontyard to look as if a giant hand took hold of huge branches and twirled them until they appeared other-worldly. Huge oak trees were uprooted and flung great distances; one landed on a neighbor's car, the whole tree, roots and all. Some massive branches were broken and settled in the road. In general, it looked as if the area suffered some sort of botanical-bomb blast.

This is when a good chain-saw is great to have on hand.

During the storm, especially during tornadoes, the doors and windows would literally start to buckle, as if a huge monster were trying to alternate between giving huge burst of blowing and then huge suction power action to reverse the terror. It is indescribable. With a hurricane, these kinds of things go on for hours and hours. A hurricane is not a blip on the radar screen, it is intensely scary for hours.

We stayed in an interior room, away from windows and doors. But, during that moment I had peeked at the front door and saw it bulging inward with beams of light suddenly showing through the creases surrounding the door; at that moment, I found myself truly scared. I don't know how that solid wood door held its ground, but it did. Dead-bolts locks don't really help all that much in that kind of situation.

So, when it comes to all of this excitement over "prepping," I believe the first area of concern should be with developing personal criteria that will be applied to whether or not the family decides to flee, if the option is available.

To flee or not to flee? THAT is the question.

Every other part of being prepared depends on whether or not you will need to flee. You can prep, prep, prep all day long, but if your basement is full of 20 years worth of food that floods or is blown away, then you aren't really prepared much at all.

In natural disaster, such as a hurricane, you really do NOT have much time to decide upon whether or not to flee the storm approaches, there is such a wide zone for the storm to hit land that you can't have the entire coastal area fleeing for their life.

Premature fleeing can be a recipe for additional troubles, especially for a hurricane.

Prepping can mean that you must take steps to secure your home before fleeing. This means you must be ready beforehand. Prepping is all about being prepared BEFORE the emergency arises.

For this particular topic with my illustration of hurricanes, I can say wholeheartedly, as a resident in a coastal area, you must get to that hardware store on a relaxing day when the weather reports are delightful. Go get rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting, plywood, a staple gun with boxes of staples is always very handy to have for QUICK preparations, buckets, solar lights, tarps, and duct tape. My list is longer, but this is a good start.

In our area, we have many neighbors, such as ourselves, who take the time to pre-cut plywood to perfectly fit each window. Marking each board clearly so they can be put up quickly on the proper windows and/or doors is key. Pre-drilled screw holes are necessary and help you get the job done nicely. You can also write things in spray-paint on the plywood, as do our neighbors, such as, "BEWARE: This house is protected by armed residents."

Sadly, in coastal areas, this is necessary because there are opportunistic vultures out there who are ready to cash in on your disaster. Their burglaries aren't for self-preservation. The plywood covering all access points to a house greatly reduces the chance that it will be intruded upon during a short time of fleeing the residence, especially if everyone around you is fleeing in great numbers. You can bet that the criminals who pounce on foul-weather disasters will choose the temporarily vacated house next door with the windows not protected than they will your house that is boarded up tight. The thing about criminals is...they are usually lazy...or they wouldn't be criminals. They want an easy, fast buck without having to "work" for it like the rest of us. They don't want to work too hard to gain access into your house, so board it up.

If you must flee, then clear the yard and the house of any loose items. I can tell you that a street full of neighbors will not be happy with the fellow down the block who was so stupid as to leave their aluminum chairs on the back patio, unsecured and free to fly through your living room window along with the toys in their backyard that had transformed into flying bullets in the middle of the hurricane. In a coastal area, you EXPECT your neighbors to be prepared for the hurricane and to not let their belongings become hurtling damage to your property. Those are what we refer to as, "Stupid Mistakes."

To think that you could head for the hills at the first sign of every hurricane is simply impractical and not the way of people who live on or near the coast. People who live on coastlines have jobs and a life, just like everyone else. I once heard someone say, "People shouldn't live near the ocean." Well, someone has to run that snorkeling gear shop on the beach for the tourists and someone has to cook that delicious seafood in a place with a great ocean view. The harsh truth is...disasters can happen anywhere, they will simply have a different title behind the devastation.

One of the evacuation-zone maps. During Hurricane Ike, we
were located in a mandatory evacuation zones. We hunkered down and stayed. 
We Southerners understand that people who live in zones prone to snow can't simply flee at every prediction of a blizzard. Those potentially snow-bound people must prep their homes and their lives for this event. There are always dilemmas in any area you consider, even a place prone to earthquakes can have a house that is made to withstand the brutality of their worst nightmare, and the residents can at least be ready with their own emergency supplies that are similar to those needed for any kind of catastrophe.

As for fleeing a coastal region, most of us must wait to flee until it is fairly certain that the storm is approaching YOUR part of the coast. Until that point, yes, you can get ready. And yes, there are a few people who get the heck out of dodge the moment they see a blip on the radar; their jobs may not depend on their attendance, but not everyone has such freedom. Employers in coastal areas usually do NOT let you have "time-off" for a hurricane, unless it is down to the wire and it is mandated to evacuate. Otherwise, every Tom, Dick and Harry would be using a potential hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico as an excuse to "flee." You get the picture.

As the storm approaches and weather reporters are figuring out that it's POSSIBLE that the storm will hit our area...You begin to get the family packed for a trip that will last a few days. Depending on the strength of the storm, you watch the weather reports near constantly and try to figure out if this will be a Category ??? when it hits land. If you live in an area prone to easy flooding and have found your house to be a swamp a few times previously, it's probably safe to wager that fleeing is best. But, you'll still need to prep the house for your decision to flee. Board it up.

With the little warning available after a hurricane's "accurate" land-fall prediction, you become physically exhausted during last minute prepping. Some things MUST be last can't live life with your house boarded up as if you are living in a perpetual state of hurricane weather. Let's not be radical, please. Once you get back home, promptly remove the boards...don't leave them up to pay homage to graffiti inspired parts of town...take them down and try to live normal while in between hurricanes. Try.

Most people turn off the main water supply to the house and at each inside line to prevent a tidal surge or incidental flood waters from backing up into the pipes to spill over into your house. Some also cut off the gas lines.

We don't usually flee a hurricane, but for any black-out possibility that you have a bit of fair-warning about can give you time to put sealed bags of ice in the freezer to prolong internal cold temperatures during an outage and put ice in large leak-proof ziplock bags throughout the refrigerator. If the power is only off for a short-time, especially in warmer weather, you'll be better prepared to protect your food. If we know a booger of a storm is coming, we usually get to the store PRONTO and load up some ice-chests with ice so we can start bagging and and prepare to insert them into the freezer and fridge for the outage that is likely. Another tip is to empty the automatice ice bin, putting the ice into the ziplocks or bowls for the freezer to hold and turn off the auto-ice-maker --- this way the dropping temperature won't cause leaking and it will prevent the ice bin from turning into one huge block of ice once the outage is over.

Another area of concern is personal items. You won't have time for much, but preppers in coastal areas or other places prone to flooding, often find that keeping pictures and important documents are best stored OFF the ground and in a hardy plastic container that are easy to grab and remove. The containers will provide additional protection from water and moisture.

Another item besides having stocked up food and water is to have gasoline stored. We have plenty of gasoline during emergencies, especially to run the generator. And don't forget medications. I recommend that everyone do their best to stock up on life-giving medications and to keep a good supply of any other meds needed. Keeping these in containers that are water-proof might be necessary as well. Good old zip-lock bags handled with great care to prevent punctures can indeed be a precious commodity.

As for water, we coastal people are taught to fill every container in the house with water...all pots and pans, the bathtubs, buckets, etc., everything. If you have little children, be careful, they can fall head-first into a bucket or toilet and drown, so don't forget safety during your storm prepping. As for storing water, if there's an approaching hurricane, we even use "dirty" containers not suitable for holding drinking water; we still fill them with water and put them near the toilet to enable us to flush the toilets after water services are cut or made unavailable because of the storm. Pouring water into a soiled toilet bowl sure is a luxury when everyone around you doesn't have enough water to make toilet flushing a possibility. Having drinking water in commercialized jugs is nice, but you can never play it too safe with having an abundance of water during a disaster.

If you decide to stay hunkered down during Mother Nature's random decision to show off her powers, you better be ready to defend yourself because there is a time-frame, especially during the eye of the storm when the weather suddenly gets crazy, then calm and then crazy again. During this time, NO police or emergency call-outs will be available. Who wants to be on patrol as power lines are falling all over the place and winds are so strong as to pick up the patrol car and re-direct it elsewhere.

I'll tell you what's truly brilliant about city living...the reporters on television who constantly make it known to all in earshot, "Be warned, those of you who do not evacuate, there will be no city services --- that includes no police services --- during the height of the storm."

We shake our head in disbelief while knowing disclosure is important, you also know the criminals are rubbing their hands together in delight at their free-for-all announced time-frame that they mistakenly believe will enable them to more easily accomplish dirty deeds. In these situations, you are truly on your own for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, this is when the scum of the earth decides the risk is worth it for burglaries. If you are like our family and are prone to "hunker down," then be prepared to EFFECTIVELY battle with an intruder. Not only will you not be able to get an emergency response during this window of time, it is most likely that all phones will be down and that includes cell phone usage. In my family, all of us are assigned weapons and we know how to use them.

Not only can a country boy survive, us city people know how to do a thing or two as well. I don't frown upon my city smarts. I understand the workings of the criminal element that is alive and well down the street, much more than someone who doesn't have to worry about such things. City living can truly make you an individual who lives with a different level of awareness that's not necessarily required in the country, at least not as much. Live in a metropolitan area long enough and you will see just about everything. And that's not necessarily a good thing. There's plenty I could have lived without seeing, but being a city girl has taught me a lot about humanity, the good and the bad. Let's just a disaster of any kind, I would NOT want to be anywhere near city limits. The city is too full of "Survivor" type of personalities who play WAY too many video games. Not a good combination.

I guess the bottom line is that I learned at a young age that fleeing is not always the best option. For some people, it is the only option. The ugly part about fleeing is that it can also put you in life-threatening situations. I've been in one of these situations after a hurricane had been predicted to hit the Houston area with ferocity. This was Hurricane Rita. Everyone panicked because Hurricane Katrina had just hit Louisiana only about three months prior. The terrifying destruction was fresh on everyone's mind. So, my daughters and I loaded up the truck and the RV, then we drove out of town on our own because Deputy Dave is a First-Responder and leaving town means end of job. So, us girls got on the road the day before the storm was to hit. And...we were on the road in dead stand-still traffic for thirteen hours.

Houston during hurricane evacuation and the "brilliant:
plan of putting "CONTRALANES" into effect...making each side
of the freeway go in one direction...OUT of town. Disasterous.
People...this is not good. I will never do it again. However, I was prepared. Unlike thousands of people, I didn't run out of gas while on the road. We never turned on the engine, unless we were moving. Other people foolishly ran their engines while being SO CONFIDENT that the traffic would somehow magically start moving again. Wrong! We had plenty of gas, even while towing a 30-foot RV because we sacrificed comfort to prepare for the worse. The worse happened to untold people who were stranded on the side of the road, with no shelter other than their car during the hurricane.

There is no doubt that residents of an area suspected to be possibly hit by Mother Nature will begin to nervously flee the area of danger, but the traffic in a greater metropolitan area quickly becomes overwhelming, congested, and full of mechanical difficulties that will impede the rest of the fleeing population

If you think a traffic jam due to a broken-down car is horrendous on a REGULAR working day; just imagine a traffic jam as nearly the entire population of the area is trying to escape Mother Nature. Then, you still have ridiculous traffic accidents that somehow occur at 10 miles per hour on the bumper to bumper freeway and these are even more disastrous because it's nearly impossible for emergency vehicles to get through to assist. Additionally, there are people who are not well and become very ill while trying to flee, some have heart-attacks...there is no way to get to a hospital or to get EMS help as you are jam-packed together like sardines on the road.

Don't let anyone lie to you. We have lived to see this up-close and are taking a huge personal risk if you decide to flee with the rest of the population. Our motto is: Get out early or stay behind ready to face the music.

Prepping for fleeing requires that you be prepared for problems on the road with plenty of water, food, and don't forget about "personal accommodations" since you won't be able to pull off the road or stop at the fast food restaurant for the potty break, and you'll need to be able to defend yourself appropriately from an approaching angry driver who has vacated his vehicle in a delirious mental state --- this means defending yourself without killing the innocent occupants of the vehicle next to you by accident. Understand bullet trajectory.

In our current neighborhood, a few blocks over, during Hurricane Ike, my husband's friend decided to "hunker down" and ride out the storm as well. After the storm, we were all left with devastation. We had no running water and no electricity. My husband's friend set up an area for him to sit in his driveway. Our houses were soaked, we had temperatures in the 90's and it was miserable. Who wants to sit in a stinking sauna? One late night, as he sat in his driveway, with his shotgun across his lap, he saw something across the street in the corner of his eye. He took his high-powered flashlight and shone it to reveal two men using their foot to bash in a window in an attempt to break into the house. He quickly propped the light to shine on the area of the intruders, then he stepped away from the light source, just in case THEY had weapons and he pumped his shotgun while yelling in his Southern deep voice, "YOU READY TO DIE!"

No, that wasn't really a question, but a statement.

Now, this fellow and buddy of my husband is from backwoods Arkansas. There is no doubt that he was ready to follow up with some action behind his "statement." The guys fled, but Deputy Dave's friend would have preferred to drop the intruding rats on the spot. But, as they ran away and out of the light source into the pitch blackness of night, they escaped. Without ANY electricity anywhere to aid his search, our friend stood his ground to protect his own house AND his neighbor's homes. That's Southern Hospitality at its finest folks.

At least he scared away the intruders before they were able to get inside the house and create more damage than what the storm had already inflicted upon the residents.

And since the "prepper" mindset and way of living is not really anything new, yet it is finally being openly discussed, I am enjoying all the sudden main-stream interest in preparing for emergencies. It's weird to watch the people on television display their stock of food that will last twenty years. Some of these people have never been in a real-live situation that has required them to consider leaving their home or to actually be in the midst of a disaster of huge proportions. But, I'm learning more by watching. However, I think I'll stick with my life-long preparations that don't go too far into the "I'll survive the death of the world" kind of thinking, after all, do you really want to live in such a world? Hmmmmm.

Deputy Dave "prepping" for hurricane winds.
I have so many lessons learned from childhood and adulthood about preparing for emergencies. Since this is a topic that is apparently fascinating to more people than most of us realized...rather than just us chemical-industrial area residents with the bay close by...then I will be putting our hard learned lessons out there to share.

There are definitely more areas of prepping that we've been taught in our household for various reasons; I'll go into those on my next "prepper" blog entry. For now, there's too much information to cover in one sitting, even though I do type well over 90 words per minute, it's still tedious to share everything in this area.

And just so you know, if the end of the world comes tomorrow, I'd prefer to have a straight ticket to Heaven instead of having to spend the rest of my life in a bunker as Billy Bob hogs the off-tasting canned pork-n-beans.


LindaG said...

Sadly, in coastal areas, this is necessary because there are opportunistic vultures out there who are ready to cash in on your disaster.

This is what bothers me the most, I think. It makes me angry, stuff like what happened after Katrina; or anywhere after a disaster of some sort. This country would be a better place if people felt they should work for what they have rather than they are owed it.

We've been enjoying the doomsday shows too. Mostly in a chuckling way. Like you, we'll do the Disaster prepping, but save the end of the world stuff for another time.

Good post, Lana.

Kathryn Ross said...

What a hoot! This was so funny - and I loved all the new "prepper" vocabulary!

I've had my experience with hurricanes - and was not well prepped at all - but thankfully even through the wind and the rain, the Lord is faithful. You can read my account of just such an occasion in this post from last August when Hurricane Irene was storming up the mid-Atlantic seaboard towards us in South Jersey:

Thank you for your sweet comments about my mom. So sorry for you loss, too - yes - way too early . . .


Vickie said...

Hey Lana - interesting ready here. Altho I'm not on the coast, we feel some of the effects of those killer storms. We also house lots of those who do flee. I'd be apt to hunker down myself and so would my husband. "A country boy & girl can survive". I guess that's why I'm so into the farming and gardening and preserving and being more self-sufficient. I've been that way for a long time, even before it became fashionable. Now, we have a better chance cuz we're on the farm at last! I'm about to start on my henhouse, and my garden is getting put in this week (barring rain). You and your husband ought to do well on your place, too. Love that Arkansas boy - I've got my "arms" here with me and I know how to use 'em.

Leigh said...

Lana, absolutely excellent post. lived both in coastal Louisiana as well as Houston for over a decade, so I know of what you speak. Even now, though we live 200 miles inland, we still can get extensive flooding and wind damage, as well as wiped out store shelves from downgraded hurricanes. Experience is absolutely the best teacher, and it's reading your experiences that really hit home.

Leigh said...

P.S. I linked to this post on my blog, under "Preparedness Links", right hand sidebar.

Kids and Canning Jars said...

OK New to your blog. I am not even sure who I linked over from sorry. This is a very long and educational post. We lived here through hurrican Ike also. We are South of Houston and deffinatly in an evacation zone. I would say we are preppers too. I live to can something anything, just doing it is fun. I find that folks do think the government will help. YA RIGHT! I learned that gas is a biggy. If there is no power gas stations cannot pump gas. Do to, floods and covered roads gas trucks cannot get in to refuel the empty tanks anyway. We had no power for 9 days. We faired really well do to our prepping. We drank milk,,, cold milk the entire time even. I am babbeling,thanks for the post. Melissa said...

Linda --- Thank you for the compliment. It was a topic I couldn't skimp on; it's been an integral part of our lives to be prepared for hurricanes, etc., but we've also suffered with the devastation it can bring. Sometimes, we watch these preppers as they get ready for the end of the world and they've yet to live through a disaster that would yank some of their ideas back into reality. There was one prepper we watched who said he'd be "prepared" for a horrendous disaster simply because he knows which weeds to eat and how to survive with items in his backpack. For me, that is a true prepper. We're not guaranteed to be in the area of the food stored up for twenty years, so a real prepper better know how to survive with what is on the land. If nothing is there...survival is probably not likely anyway. Surviving a natural disaster or a terrorist attack, especially for us who are living in a HUGE industrial zone and by the bay, these are things that are more likely to occur than doomsday issues. Since we've seen the terrifying left-overs of a hurricane and the harsh survivor mode you must embrace afterwards, those are the things we keep preparing to survive. They are more likely to occur again in our lifetime, probably a few times.

Kathy --- I love your blog. And you are such a good daughter to be so sweet and loving, even after your mom is long departed, in a physical sense. I admire your depth of love. I have the same kind of love for my departed mother. Missing her every day is now part of my existence instead of being able to pick up the phone and call her. As for your blog, it's been a true delight to look at your pictures with the vintage spin. I've enjoyed every post! I'll go back and read your hurricane post, thanks for letting me know.

Vickie --- We have friends who offer their homes for some hunkering-down, it's usually a time of great socializing during these stressful events. Having somewhere to go where you can be comfortable while knowing your own house might be in the middle of becoming toothpicks is so important and comforting. It is also amazing how these hurricane winds can do major damage inland for quite a long distance, especially with the dangers of tornadoes produced and high winds that make trees your worst nightmare (such as you already know). We had neighbors flee their home in our neighborhood only to go to a hotel 200 miles inland and have a tornado rip off their roof of the hotel as they were sleeping. The woke startled to see the sky directly overhead. As far as prepping goes, we're the same as you, been doing it long before it became the new fad. I've been growing plants with my own seedlings since I was a teenager. I don't know how to can yet, but my mother did it all through me growing up. I do hope that being on our land will help us be better able to be self-sustaining. As for your henhouse, I'm sure it will be very rewarding for you. Those eggs will be a treasure for you too. Maybe you'll be able to have more green eggs! As for our "arms," -- for those of us, like you and me, who have lived through disasters, we know that our house can be fine one moment and destroyed the next. With the widespread disaster of Ike, we learned quickly that being able to protect yourself and your property is not an area to be taken lightly. I just hope we sell before the next hurricane season gets into full motion. said...

Leigh --- You have learned hard lessons as well. It's hard for people to imagine the shelves going empty within a two hour time period, the gas being drained and all the stations shutting down, the electricity lines being snapped and there being no access to any of your funds, nothing is open, roads are blocked, barricades are everywhere and roaming around is dangerous. These lessons are indeed unforgettable. Being inland is still no guarantee of being insulated because desperate people are fleeing inland and often without proper resources for their own immediate survival. Scary circumstances, for sure. Thank you for honoring me with including me on your links. I just write from the heart and from experience.

Melissa --- Since you're in our area, you understand the dangers we face during these storms. As for canning, I will be visiting your blog, as I did today, to keep reading about your tips. I haven't started canning yet and won't do so until we get moved to our acreage, just so we won't have to transport more heavy items. But, I'm eager to get started! As for the impact of the storm, there is so much to write about --- so much that is to be considered --- I have an account of one of our storm situations that I've been putting together and will be posting in a series...going over exactly what you mentioned. It's incomprehensible for some people to imagine that they CANNOT find gas within a 300 mile radius because of widespread devastation, then to realize that you can't keep driving to find gas because you have no gas to keep driving! It's a terrible situation. Anyway, I look forward to more visits with you neighbor!


Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.