Category Archives for Articles-Week 5

Speaker: Tammy Trayer


Tammy Trayer is an author, freelance writer, blogger at and a radio show host at Mountain Woman Radio. Tammy and her family live traditionally off-grid and have a passion to help educate others by sharing their experiences of living off the land, dealing with autism, gluten free and dairy free cooking, self reliance, wilderness survival, traditional and primitive skills, and much more.

Books by Tammy Trayer

Click on the title to learn more or to order:

Tammy’s websites

Where to find Tammy Trayer on Social Media

Tammy’s Recommendations


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Prepping for a Blizzard: A Practical Survival Guide

Few can deny the common sense behind preparing for something that is definitely going to happen, yet every year, an impending winter storm sends people rushing out to the store at the last minute, prepping for a blizzard that is due to hit in mere hours. Every winter, if you live in certain climates, blizzards are going to occur. Usually, at least one storm will hit that will cause you to be snowed in. Often, those storms mean you will also lose power. There is the inevitable rush to the store for milk and bread, during which people battle it out for the last supplies left on the shelves.

But you can avoid all that. You don’t have to be a bunker-dwelling, MRE-chomping, camo-clad prepper to see the logic behind keeping some extra food and other supplies on hand for something that happens every single year.

This year, avoid the last minute panic and the discomfort of being unprepared. This article is full of links to previous articles that will help you in prepping for a blizzard. Put together a at least the bare minimum kit for riding out the storm.  (Camo is optional.)


Everyone knows that clean drinking water is something you can’t live without. In the event of a blizzard and power outage, the water may not run from the taps.  The pipes could freeze, or, in the event of grid failure, an electrically driven pump will not work.

“I’ll just eat snow.” No, this is a horrible idea. First of all, snow is mostly air, and you’d have to eat 20 quarts of it to equal 2 quarts of water. Secondly, if you eat that much snow you will lower your core temperature and put yourself at risk for hypothermia. If you already don’t have water, you have enough problems. You don’t need hypothermia. For a small amount of money, you can have a 5-gallon jug of water sitting in your closet, instead of melting snow, crouched beside a fire in the backyard, watching the pot.  You aren’t in the wilderness fending off bears. This really is not a good plan. First of all, the snow picks up all sorts of pollution as it falls through the atmosphere. The impurities can potentially make you sick. If you really get yourself in a poorly thought-out situation in which snow is your only hope for survival, boil it for 10 minutes before drinking it. Then, when the crisis is over, please store some water so you never have to do this again.

Each family should store a two week supply of water. The rule of thumb for drinking water is 1 gallon per day, per person.  Don’t forget to stock water for your pets, also.


Bare Minimum


Food and a way to prepare it

Enough with the milk and bread already. Do you even consume milk and bread on a regular basis? This is really not the food you want to propel you through shoveling a driveway 17 times until the plow goes past, at which point you shovel it again.

There are two schools of thought regarding food during a power outage.  One: you need a cooking method that does not require the grid to be functioning.  Two: you can store food that doesn’t require cooking. This is a good idea if you don’t have an emergency stove or wood heat.

If you opt for a secondary cooking method, be sure that you have enough fuel for two weeks.  Store foods that do not require long cooking times – for example, dried beans would use a great deal of fuel, but canned beans could be warmed up, or even eaten cold.

Shopping Lists:

Bare Minimum



Freezing to death in your own home would be a terrible way to go, wouldn’t it? It’s pretty anticlimactic. There’s no grand story of adventure. You just basically didn’t have enough blankets and common sense to stay warm in a house. Don’t be that person.

During the first 24 hours after a power outage, you can stay fairly warm if you block off one room of the house for everyone to group together in.  Keep the door closed and keep a towel or blanket folded along the bottom of the door to conserve warmth.  You can safely burn a couple of candles also, and in the enclosed space, your body heat will keep it relatively warm.  As well, dress in layers and keep everything covered – wear a hat, gloves (fingerless ones allow you to still function), and a scarf.

However, after about 48 hours, that’s not going to be enough in very cold weather. You will require back-up heat at this point. If you are lucky enough to have a source of heat like a fireplace or woodstove, you’ll be just fine as long as you have a supply of dry, seasoned firewood.

Consider a portable propane heater (and propane) or an oil heater.  You have to be very careful what type of backup heat you plan on using, as many of them can cause carbon monoxide poisoning if used in a poorly ventilated area. If you plan to use off-grid heat methods, pick up a carbon monoxide alarm with a battery back-up. The gas has no smell, and often people who die from inhaling it simply drift off to sleep, never to awaken.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Extra blankets, candles, socks, hats, and gloves


Sanitation needs

A common cause of illness, and even death, during a down-grid scenario is the lack of sanitation.  We’ve discussed the importance of clean drinking water, but you won’t want to use your drinking water to keep things clean or to flush the toilet.  If the pipes are frozen or you have no running water for other reasons during a winter storm, you’ll need to consider sanitation needs.

For cleaning, reduce your need to wash things. Stock up on paper plates, paper towels, and disposable cups and flatware.  Keep some disinfecting cleaning wipes and sprays (I don’t recommend using antibacterial products on a regular basis, however in the event of an emergency they can help to keep you healthy.)  Use hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before handling food or beverages – there may be a lot more germs afoot in a disaster.

Look at your options for bathroom sanitation.  Does your toilet still flush when the electricity is out?  Many people discovered the hard way that the toilets didn’t work  when the sewage backed up in the highrises in New York City in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  At our old cabin, the toilet wouldn’t flush without power because the pump was electric.

If you are on a septic system, with no risk of the toilet backing up into the house, simply store some water for flushing in the bathroom. At the first sign of a storm, fill the bathtub for this purpose.  Add the water to the tank so that you can flush.

If this is not an option, another solution is to stock up on extremely heavy duty garbage bags (like the kind that contractors use at construction sites) and kitty litter.  Place a bag either in your drained toilet or in a bucket.  Sprinkle some kitty litter in the bottom of the bag.  Each time someone uses the bathroom, add another handful of litter. Be very careful that the bag doesn’t get too heavy for you to handle it.  Tie it up very securely and store it outside until services are restored. (Here are the complete instructions.)

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Supplies for a kitty litter toilet
  • Disposable disinfecting wipes
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paper plates and paper towels



Lighting is absolutely vital, especially if there are children in the house.  Nothing is more frightening than being completely in the dark during a stressful situation. Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest things to plan for, as well as one of the least expensive.

Candles are the first things that most people think of in the event of an emergency. While they can be a great solution, they do increase the risk of house fires. Be sure to use them safely and keep them away from children and pets.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Candles
  • Flashlights (don’t forget batteries)
  • Matches or Lighters
  • Glow sticks (Great for kiddos)


Other tools and supplies

Some basic items will make your life much easier during an emergency. The good thing is, most folks already have the supplies on the “bare minimum” list. All you need to do is collect them and put them in one easily accessible container.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Lighter/waterproof matches
  • Batteries in various sizes
  • Manual can opener
  • Basic tools: Pliers, screwdriver, wrench, hammer
  • Duct tape
  • Crazy glue


  • Survival Knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Bungee cords
  • Magnesium firestarter
  • Sewing supplies
  • If you’d like to expand on the basic supplies, a more detailed list of tools and hardware can be found HERE.

First Aid kit

You probably won’t need a field trauma kit that allows you to amputate limbs or remove a bullet, but you definitely want to have a few things on hand. It’s important to have a basic first aid kit on hand at all times, but particularly in the event of an emergency.  Your kit should include basic wound care items and over-the-counter medications.

Shopping Lists

Bare Minimum

  • Bandages
  • Antibiotic ointments
  • Disinfecting sprays
  • Pain relief capsules
  • Cold medicine
  • Cough syrup
  • Anti-nausea pills
  • Allergy medication
  • Anti-diarrheal medications
  • First aid book


Special needs

This is something that will be unique to every family. Consider the things that are needed on a daily basis in your household. It might be prescription medications, diapers, or special foods.  If you have pets, you’ll need supplies for them too.  The best way to figure out what you need is to jot things down as you use them over the course of a week or so.

Prepping for a blizzard is just common sense

Don’t feel like you are crossing over to the tinfoil hat side by preparing for all eventualities during a winter storm.  This doesn’t mean you’re loading up on gas masks and decontamination suits. It doesn’t mean your house is stacked to the rafters with ammo and body armor. It’s just plain old-fashioned common sense to keep a naturally occurring event from becoming a crisis.

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Disaster Help From The Federal Government (FEMA): Truth Vs. Fiction

When you hear or read “FEMA” (the Federal Emergency Management Agency), what is your reaction? Other than the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), FEMA is the one Federal agency that tends to evoke reactions ranging from hope to despair, anger to annoyance, and fear to paranoia.

Some of the criticism is very fair. As a former FEMA employee, I sympathize with the frustration felt by the public for some of its actions. On the other hand, I don’t buy in to a lot of the fringe theories of “FEMA Camps” or fears that FEMA somehow is preparing to imprison large numbers of Americans. Frankly, I don’t think they could accomplish that!

Federal Disaster Assistance (FEMA)

So let’s talk about federal disaster assistance. The good news is thatthe Feds are SO much better at disaster response and recoverythan they were prior to Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Superstorm Sandy (2012).

Keep in mind that FEMA is mainly the coordinator of the myriad of Federal agencies that are players in disaster assistance. Under the National Response Framework, the federal government’s emergency plan, FEMA actually provides only a few direct services to disaster victims.

Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:

  • Insurance is the best way to assure your disaster recovery, and is the payer of first resort;
  • FEMA primarily provides disaster assistance to state and local governments, not families;
  • FEMA only financially assists families in Major Disasters;
  • Much of the available disaster assistance is loans, not grants; you must pay them back!

The Legal Stuff

FEMA Disaster Assistance is regulated by the Stafford Act, a federal law. After President Jimmy Carter created FEMA by Executive Order in 1979, he transferred the responsibility for several different Federal disaster activities to FEMA.

The Stafford Act (1988) better defined FEMA’s responsibilities and authorities:

The Congress hereby finds and declares that –

(1) because disasters often cause loss of life, human suffering, loss of income, and property loss and damage; and

(2) because disasters often disrupt the normal functioning of governments and communities, and adversely affect individuals and families with great severity; special measures, designed to assist the efforts of the affected States in expediting the rendering of aid, assistance, and emergency services, and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of devastated areas, are necessary.

(b) It is the intent of the Congress, by this Act, to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal Government to State and local governments in carrying out their responsibilities to alleviate the suffering and damage which result from such disasters.

The Influence of Homeland Security

After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, FEMA was placed under the new Department of Homeland Security via The Homeland Security Act of 2002. In some respects, FEMA was weakened due to personnel and responsibilities being transferred to other agencies, and the government-wide emphasis on preventing terrorism. Responding to natural disasters was given a lower priority than responding to terror.

We paid the price for that change in Hurricane Katrina.

The nation observed the inadequate response to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 by FEMA and much of the rest of the federal government. The failures and deficiencies exhibited by FEMA in the response to Hurricane Katrina resulted in the Post-Katrina Emergency Management Reform Act of 2006. The PKEMRA Act restored to FEMA much of the autonomy taken in the Homeland Security Act of 2002, and strengthened FEMA’s status within DHS. A lot of good changes came out of the pain of Katrina.

Then came Superstorm Sandy in 2012…and criticism of the FEMA response again. In July 2012, FEMA published the “Hurricane Sandy FEMA After-Action Report.” While acknowledging the strengths of the FEMA response, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate recognized the shortcomings:

“We also recognize where work remains to further improve. We still do not go big enough, fast enough, or smart enough. Building on our experiences from Sandy, we will continue our efforts to prepare for catastrophic events and not rest on past performance. We still plan for what we are capable of doing. We still train and exercise for what we can manage. We must plan, train, and exercise even bigger to fracture the traditional mind set. We know that it is reassuring to survivors to see government representatives who are actively engaged in the area of impact. We are an organization in which every employee, full-time or temporary, has an integral role in reducing the suffering of survivors and supporting communities toward recovery.”

FEMA Assistance to State and Local Governments

The Stafford Act established categories of assistance that can be provided to state and local governments in disasters. In many significant events, FEMA can provide financial assistance for major wildfires through Fire Management Assistance Grants, and funding for Debris Removal from public right-of-ways and for Emergency Protective Measures to prevent loss of life or property. But for the average citizen, FEMA has little to offer in minor-to-moderate disasters. Other federal agencies like the Small Business Administration may be able to offer low-interest loans to businesses and homeowners, but that’s about it.

In more significant disasters, if the President declares a Major Disaster, AND designates that Individual Assistance is to be provided to victims, a host of programs and assistance programsbecome available; descriptions are available at:

Advice for the Disaster Victim

  1. Document your losses: pictures are so important pre- and post-loss.
  2. Contact your insurance agent ASAP.
  3. Reach out to your elected representatives.
  4. Contact your city or county emergency management offices.
  5. In major disasters, register with FEMA: (800) 621-3362 or
  6. Read any correspondence you receive from FEMA very carefully; many claims are denied for lack of a document or two.
  7. Appeal any denials…you have nothing to lose and lots to gain.

Realistic Expectations

Few people are made whole through government disaster relief programs. Homeowners’ and Renters’ insurance is a far more reliable and predictable source of aid after a disaster strikes;especially in the specialty areas of flood and earthquake insurance, your insurance agent can protect you much better than any government program.

You have so much more control over your future when you plan ahead and don’t rely on help from government that may not ever come.

By Jim Acosta

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7 Ways to Prepare for an Earthquake

In 1994, a friend of mine was in the Northridge earthquake. She was awakened in the middle of the night by her apartment collapsing around her. She crawled out of the wreckage, wearing nothing but her nightie. She met her neighbors in the street, and, like her, most had cuts from scrambling through broken glass on their way out of ruined buildings. Some were missing. Most were found, but several were dead. It was a long time until dawn.

Hearing her recount the story of surviving an earthquake in the middle of the night made me think about surviving an earthquake in the middle of the night. I’m a thousand miles away from California, but I live on a fault line too. My town has a track record. We’re overdue.

Could what happened to her happen to me?

There’s one important difference between California and my home state, Montana. When she was thrown out of bed, it was a warm night, even though it was in January. Everyone was standing around barefoot in their pajamas. Nobody was cold. Nobody froze to death. But Montana has a nasty tendency to get bitterly frigid on a fairly frequent basis, especially in January. If I get bounced out of bed by an earthquake, it might be below zero outside. Those of us who experience sub-zero temperatures on a regular basis know how bad it would be to stand around in the street wearing nothing but pajamas with bleeding feet and shock coming on when it’s ten or twenty below zero.

She is my friend, and I still hear the fear in her voice when she remembers that night. It was harrowing, horrifying and hard. I knew that if it happened to me on one of those nasty mid-winter nights, it could be a whole lot harder. It might be a very very long time until dawn.

And that’s what made me think, ‘What can I do now that would make it less terrible then?’

I made a list. Then I checked off everything on that list. And if you’ve ever wondered, ‘What if….’ then maybe you should look at this list too.

If you check off everything on the list, then if you’re ever bounced out of bed on a sub-zero night, things might be easier for you.

Take a look. Here’s the list.

After seeing pictures of the wreckage of her apartment, I imagined trying to find my glasses in the middle of that mess. If my glasses fly off the nightstand, fall to the floor, and disappear down some dark and dusty crevice, then I am immediately handicapped. I am hopeless and helpless without my glasses.

So I bought a glasses case on a string, of the type worn around the neck. I tied it to my bedpost. Every night for a thousand nights when I’ve gone to bed, I’ve placed my glasses in that case. They’re never on the nightstand any more. I reach for them automatically in the morning. I always know where they are. They are always within arm’s reach.

Nothing can shake them loose.

That glasses case cost me a buck and it bought me a whole lot of peace of mind. If I’m going to be coping with a quake in the middle of the night, I don’t have to go into the chaos blind. For a dollar, I can always find my glasses.

That is the first thing on the list.

Of course, the electricity went out in Northridge, and it was night, so it was dark. And if the same thing happened to me, I would want light immediately available. Normally I keep flashlights in the junk drawer in the kitchen, and in the basement on the tool bench, and in the car under the seat, but I didn’t want to be in a position where I had to find a flashlight in order to find a flashlight. I didn’t want to waste any time at all fumbling around in the darkness and confusion searching for it. So I bought a flashlight with a wrist strap attached, and I gave it fresh batteries, and I hung it from my bedpost along with my glasses. Then I wondered, what would happen if the batteries went dead? No light, no more! So I bought a package of extra batteries and put them in the draw in my nightstand. I also bought a hand-cranked wind-up flashlight/radio/siren/phone charger. I tuned the radio to the station that’s designated emergency broadcast channel in case of emergency. I hung it by its wrist strap from the bedpost as well. The flashlight cost me a buck, the batteries cost me two, the wind-up one cost me twenty. What will they be worth? Plenty.

That’s the second thing on the list. Got eyes, got light. Good to go.

Where am I going? How am I going to get there?

My friend wanted to get into her car and go somewhere safe, but her car was in the garage and the garage was askew and the garage door would not open. She couldn’t even sit in her car because the doors were locked. The keys were in her purse and her purse was probably on the dining room table, or maybe the kitchen counter, and both places were buried under so many splinters. There was a magnetic key under the bumper but it was dark and she didn’t have a light. She was barefoot and the garage windows had shattered all over the ground. She thought she had a flashlight, but it was in the locked car. (Later it turned out the batteries were dead anyway.) So she just stood around in the street and waited for someone to help her to the hospital.

I don’t want to stand around and wait for someone to show up to help me. If it’s ten below zero, waiting around isn’t an option.

So I had a set of spare car keys made up. I added copies of keys of all the places most important to me—the places I’ll want to check first after a disaster, like my office, and my husband’s business. I clipped the keyring to the wristband of the flashlight hanging on my bedpost. So now, if I’m bleeding and frightened and cold, I can sit in my car and have heat and light and a radio. I’m glad I don’t have a garage, because it will never collapse, trapping my car. I might be able to get to the hospital without waiting for help.

It cost me four dollars to have the keys copied. Keys are third on the list.

If these three things are all you ever do, you will be so much better off when that night arrives than if you never looked at this list at all.

But if you agree that there are many things you can do now that will help you later, then read the rest of the list.

When my friend jumped out of bed, she did it instinctively, without thinking, and without looking before she leapt. She discovered the hard way that every framed family photo had fallen off her dresser top. Every picture on the wall fell. Every window in her apartment shattered. Every mirror broke. The floor was covered with shards of glass. Her injuries came not from the quake, but from cutting her feet while making her way out of the wreckage. In fact, 80% of the injuries treated in area hospitals were for cuts from the knees down.

So I took an old pair of sturdy tennis shoes that I don’t wear any more and I put them underneath my bed.  In one shoe I stuffed a pair of socks, and in the other shoe I stuffed a clean pair of underwear (because if I need ‘em, I’ll be glad they’re there) and also a big bandana. If I’m going to be doing any crying or bleeding or screaming or throwing up, a hanky could come in handy.

To make sure that shards of glass didn’t fall into the shoes, I stuffed them into an old pillowcase. Then, thinking about the sub-zero scenario, I added a few more things to that pillowcase: a pair of jeans (with their pockets stuffed with useful items), a warm shirt, a sweatshirt, a hat, and sturdy leather gloves. There was still room left in the pillowcase and plenty of space under the bed, so I added a couple bottles of water – again, very useful if crying, bleeding, screaming, and throwing up is happening.

In Northridge, it was a long time before water service was restored. In the pockets of the jeans I placed another hanky, a packet of tissues, some hair ties because I hate having my long hair in my face, a chapstick just for comfort, a whistle because it’s so much easier than shouting, and a few mints to suck on just in case there’s throwing up going on. I added another copy of my car key just in case, and I tucked some folding money in the pockets too because the ATMs and credit card machines aren’t going to work as long as the electricity is down. I might need to buy something, and who knows where my purse will be or how much money I’ll have on hand. If I depended on medication, I would stick extra meds in the pocket too.

I stuffed all that into a pink pillowcase, and then I made up an identical kit for my husband and packed it in a blue pillowcase. In my mind’s eye, I rehearsed the scene a few times in which I practiced NOT jumping out of bed, but instead reaching under the bed for the emergency pillow case first. This way I can at least put on shoes to get out of the house, and have clothes to put on while standing around in the street.

Clothing is fourth on the list.

In Northridge, as in most earthquakes, the shaking broke natural gas lines, water pipes, and electrical lines. Water heaters tipped over, and gas and water poured into basements. Explosions and fires popped up all over. The overwhelmed fire department couldn’t put out the fires because the water mains were broken.

So under my bed went two fire extinguishers – one for my husband, one for me – which cost me $10 each. I learned how to shut off the water, electricity, and natural gas to my home. Shutting off the natural gas requires a wrench, so I put a wrench under my bed, and for good measure I tied another wrench to the gas valve. The fire extinguisher and wrench may well end up saving my house from complete destruction while others burn down around me. In my imagination, I rehearsed putting on my shoes, grabbing the flashlight, and running outside to turn the utilities off before the house blows up.

Then I even spoke with my neighbors and found out where they utilities are located, so if they are trapped in their house, or if they can’t find their glasses or their shoes or a flashlight or a wrench, I can turn their gas lines off before their homes blow up. This was partly altruistic and partly selfish, because if their houses burn down, the fire department isn’t going to be able to do anything about it – and if their houses burn, my house may well burn down too.

The Fire Prevention Kit is fifth on the list.

Next I assembled an emergency tool kit with a variety of miscellaneous items that might come in handy.

Communications will be difficult or non-existent, so to hedge my bets I added a telephone that does not require electricity but can be plugged directly into the phone jack. I also added a set of walkie-talkies, along with spare batteries for them. One for my husband, one for me. I put in a battery operated AM/FM radio that clips to my belt. I found out where to tune it for emergency broadcast information and wrote that in magic marker on the radio itself and marked it on the dial. I stuck in a really good Swiss Army knife, along with pliers and a hammer in case I have to help pull people out of wreckage through shattered windows. I also included some extra flashlights and more batteries because I expect working flashlights will be in short supply. This tool kit went into a draw-string bag under my bed next to the pillowcases.

The tool kit and all its contents are the sixth item.

Then I assembled a 72-hour kit using the guidelines at I collected ready-to-eat food, bottled water, a first aid kit, toilet paper, pet food and other items, packing it into a Rubbermaid tub with a locking lid that I stored in my garden shed in case the entire house collapses.

If you have made it to this seventh item on the list, you will be in better shape than about 99% of your friends and neighbors.

At this point I became very interested in learning more about emergency preparedness, so I took emergency response classes, joined the Red Cross, studied FEMA procedures, and teamed up with other people in my community interested in disaster preparedness. I expanded my emergency kit to include everything I might possibly need: dust masks, goggles, knee pads, elbow pads, and hardhats with headlamps; tents and tarps; floodlights, a generator, Coleman lanterns, and emergency stoves and heaters; bandages and soup; duct tape, plastic sheeting, and spare lumber for covering shattered windows; down coats and sleeping bags; crow bars and car jacks and plenty more fire extinguishers. I don’t expect people to go to such lengths as I did, but if they did – it would sure make things easier for everyone when that day arrives.

FEMA statistics show that the average American will suffer three disasters over the course of a typical lifespan, with ‘disaster’ defined as any event that disrupts an entire community simultaneously. When it comes to disasters, there are only two variables, one of which we can control, and the other of which we cannot: There will either be a disaster or there won’t; and we can either be prepared for a disaster, or not.  When combining these two variables, there are four potential outcomes:

  1. There will be no disaster and I will NOT be prepared. (neutral outcome)
  2. There will be no disaster and I WILL be prepared (neutral outcome)
  3. There WILL be a disaster and I will NOT be prepared (negative outcome)
  4. There WILL be a disaster and I WILL be prepared (positive outcome)

We have two choices. We can either wait around for someone to come help us, or we can be prepared to help ourselves. The failure to consciously choose option #2 means choosing option #1 by default. The post-disaster misery index of both an individual and the community as a whole correlates exactly to the proportion of people who choose option #2.

What’s your choice?

Choose wisely.

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10 Realities After a Major Flooding Event

So a hurricane has hit your town or a major flooding event. Your family survived the disaster and it’s time to go back into your community and rebuild your lives. Here’s some of the realities that we didn’t expect about our lives after Hurricane Katrina.

EVERYTHING takes longer, and I do mean everything.

Why? Because everyone else in the community needs the same things, too. You may have been to the propane place a hundred times, and never waited for more than 10 minutes, BUT when everyone else in your community also needs propane for their FEMA trailer, the line is going to be long.

As you stand in those ridiculously long lines, you will swap horror stories. “I got 1 ft of water.” “My roof was completely ripped off.” You will be reminded that everyone has it better and worse than you.

Unexpected problems will arise.

If the flooding is more than about 18”, it will get in your outlets and damage your electrical system. It will also damage the motor in your washing machine. “No problem,” you think, “I’ll just go to the laundromat.” Except the one down the street got flooded, too. You drive across town to another laundromat. On the front door, there’s a big sign. “No flood clothes”. They are concerned about the mud and mold damaging their machines.

IF they do accept flood clothes, be prepared to wait a REALLY long time because, see #1. “No problem,” you think, “I’m a prepper. I”ll just do it by hand.” Except, you have spent all your time and energy gutting your house, scrubbing mud and mold off what you could save, and driving around to find a laundromat that will take them. Believe me when I say this won’t be appealing.

Waiting in lines will be an excellent source of communication about resources.

This is how you will find out what is open and what is not, which grocery stores have been restocked. Be prepared to swap tales and chat. This is where you will glean some of your best information.

Flood water isn’t just water.

It is water, mud, car fluids (think about all the cars stewing in the flood), mystery chemicals from people’s garages, and worse, mystery chemicals from businesses like pest control and contractors. IF the water does not drain right away, but instead sits in your house for days, there are things in your home that you will not be able to save that you expect to save.

Pots, pans, and dishes can’t be just washed off. The stuff in the water will permanently etch and damage their surfaces. As an aside, my husband was working in a used video game store after Katrina. The water may damage the machines, but the games themselves MIGHT be okay with a rinse off, IF they didn’t sit in the nasty water for weeks.

Expect months of things not being readily available.

The more commonly used the item is, the easier it will be to replace. My oldest son had just crossed into the “young men’s” shoe sizes. It started to get a little chilly in late October. He was wearing sandals when we evacuated in August. I drove all around town trying to find him a pair of slip on or velcro tennis shoes. No one had them in his size. “No problem,” I think, “I’ll order them online.” By this point, it’s the beginning of November. Shipping is 5-7 days. Not a big deal. The U.S. mail, FedEx and UPS were running again. I would check the tracking.

My package would make it an hour or two away from me, then I would see a message, “Delay due to disaster zone”. My package would then turn around and head north. I would call FedEx and plead for my package to be delivered. It would get an hour or two away and the cycle would repeat. We didn’t get those shoes until the beginning of December, by which point we had already experienced our first freeze. ( I put my son in 2 pairs of socks with his sandals. Not pretty or stylish, but his toes were warm enough.)

Forget about restocking things at thrift stores.

They got flooded, too. When they restock from out of town, everyone else will be there too.

Ever dreamed about when you retire that you and your spouse will hit the open road in an RV?

Yeah, the reality of being forced to live in one is much different. First, if it’s a FEMA trailer, you don’t get to pick it. You don’t get to choose the decor or style that would make the most sense for your family. You get what they give you. Second, you will be storing precious mementos and remnants of your old life for “When we get our house back….” Third, even the items that you replace won’t necessarily be designed for the trailer, because you will be planning for “When we get our house back….”

As businesses begin to reopen, you will have to return to work.

No extra days off to deal with your home because the business needs to be cleaned. There will be less time and more work. Any and all conveniences will be appreciated. Be prepared to eat lots of MRE’s, TV dinners, etc… Remember, the fast food place down the street got flooded, too.

Everyone will be in the same boat. Everything takes longer, but everyone wants businesses to stay open longer, which in turn means, that you as the employee will have less time to do the things that you need to do at your own home.

The hardest thing for most of us will be saying “YES” to help.

People from all over will want to help. They will reach out to your church, school, homeschool group, etc…. They will want to help. The self-sufficient person that you are will look around and think, “I don’t need donations. I have insurance,” “I have savings,” “I have family,” OR “Others have it so much worse than me.”

Learn to say, “Yes, thank you so much”. You see, this person found YOU. They didn’t find that other person that you know needs more help than you. They want to help. When you say yes, you not only let them help but you are given choices. You can use the donation yourself or perhaps pass it on to someone else. Believe me, in a flood you will be “nickel and dimed” to death. There are so many hidden expenses, so every little blessing is huge.

Maybe you could replace your towels yourself, but since towels were given to you, you can afford to replace an extra pair of shoes. OR you can give it to the person that you know needs the help more than you. You can never repay the person who helps you. The $10 that is given when you really need it isn’t just $10. It’s $10 plus hope and the ability to go on. Thank people who help you profusely, but pay it forward later, when to someone else it is $10 plus hope.

Government programs and big charities are very much fill in the blank organizations.

You need food. You get standard issue food boxes. If you have food allergies or picky eaters, tough. The saying, “Beggars can’t be choosy” takes on new meaning. We began to refer to FEMA as “Fix Everything my A$$”. You are told to take the help you get and be grateful. But when you need shoes, and all they have are pants, how grateful can you be? The number one lesson is to be prepared for anything and everything that you can be. Nothing will turn out how you expect it to in a disaster situation.

In a flooding disaster, the first inch of water is the most devastating. The water ruins floors and everything that touches the water.

Be prepared, as well as you can, but expect to find that you weren’t as prepared as you thought.

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My Story: Surviving a flood and planning for long-term survival

I will first give you some brief things I went through in 1993 in West Des Moines, Iowa, then I wish to tell you what has changed my mind lately as I poo-pooed my husband with this survival stuff, what brought me back to taking a hard look at our future.
In July 1993, a raging river flooded old downtown West Des Moines. I had just moved in to my soon-to-be new house as a single mom. I had been recently divorced by my husband after 26 years. He was my high school sweetheart, and I thought we would be married for life. My little house represented a new beginning for my daughter and me. I had unpacked everything I owned and headed to the lake on July 6th.

July 10, I was swept out of my house

I went to work that day at my salon a couple blocks away. My neighbor had warned me the flood was coming, but I said that I had to get to work. She just looked at me dumbfounded. I had asked about flood insurance when I was preparing to buy the house. The insurance man advised me against it since I had to be totally devastated in order to collect. I was just renting for a month til the abstract could be brought up to date, so no flood insurance.
It was business as usual at the shop. All the gals were busy as well. About mid-morning  some of my clients came in and starting packing me up and hauling my things at the salon to nearby garages with the threats of flooding. I just kept working. I was in total denial.
Many other business owners came in and convinced me to hurry and get my things outthe door. My crew and I evacuated what we could and hurried over to my house to put up plastic on the outside and put in the attic what we could. I had the car packed up with keys in it. I went up to help sand bag the river a block away only to see it break and come roaring towards my car and my home.
I had a friend take some of my things into downtown Des Moines to store. He and one of my employees had rode the motorcycle back to check on me. I was running towards my car screaming to the man that my keys were in it. He hurried to drive it around the corner away from the raging water in time for me to escape two blocks.
I turned the one way that turned out to be the wrong way, with the river lapping against my tires and coming from the side streets on both sides of me. Thank heavens it was an uphill drive.  After six blocks the water still chased me up the top of a hill in my friend’s yard.
I was safe for the time being My friend and her daughter welcomed me and we went upstairs in her big house, watching the flood waters rise. We expected to have to evacuated any time. That did not happen. We were safe for four days.

Relying on family, friends, and strangers

I suddenly realized I was homeless with no clothes except the ones on my back and my business was full of water. The building that I owned had no flood insurance since there had not been a flood in Valley Junction in 100 years.
Once the water receded, I could go to my house to clean up. There I was inside and feeling devastated at the loss. Wood paneling had bent and bulged out like it was hanging on with a thread. I went in the kitchen, and everything was ruined. The washer, dryer, small appliances, and dishes covered in mud. I opened the basement door only to see the ugly river staring back at me. I was in shock. My brother broke open the window and was able to pump out the water. The house would never be the same.
Thanks to the Red Cross and their hot meals I got cleaning supplies and energy from their help in the neighborhood. People from several churches came to my rescue in cleaning out my home that I would ultimately say good-bye to.
One final thing was to clean out the garage. Thanks to a wonderful friend who lent me a pair of garden boots I was able to use a piece of plywood and scrape the much and mire and a hundred snakes out of my garage. It continued to rain for several days. The day I went up against the snakes in my garage and basement it was raining so hard that when I finished, I just stood under the eaves and let fresh rainwater wash away the bad memories
I was able to find a blanket to put over me. I walked for three blocks in shock looking for help at a nearby church were some people who fed me and let me to a phone bank where I called my son in  DC. The wisdom that came from this 19 year old son was like the balm of Gilead upon my bruised heart. He reminded me that I have faith and God was still there.
He convinced me to call an aunt and uncle, cousins, and nearby friends. Family, friends and strangers helped me rebuild my building. Churches donated money. Clients helped. The local lumber yard donated everything I could ever need. Bankers came and dry walled. Folks came from all over the United States when they heard that our little community needed help.
I applied to FEMA for aid two times. I was turned down because they thought I was too poor to pay them back. I was devastated to learn that all my careful monthly statements prepared by a trusted accountant firm had taken me for a ride, they made no sense.
A wonderful woman banker from my church believed in me and loaned me the money, not once but twice. I paid back the money in five years time. God was good. My business was back up and running. I sold the building after 10 years. I am still a hair dresser in Arkansas after 42 years. I
am still thanking God and all the people that came to help me survive 1993.

Preparing for something else

My husband has lately been involved with survival strategy. Given his involvement in 2 tours of the Vietnam war, he is somewhat of an expert on survival, to say the least.
I must say, I was not too keen on his purchase of guns and ammo. My brothers are very active hunters. I have enjoyed all wild game birds, squirrels, and rabbits. It was not until my husband Tom invited me to go to target practice that I decided to appreciate his skill and, surprisingly, mine at handling a gun.
I can remember so well the 50’s and beginning 60’s bomb shelters we prepared in our basement when ever we moved. Mom always had extra canned goods and a fridge and freezer full of meat, bread, most anything we would need in a disaster.
I still was not sold on the idea that we needed to get ready for an uncertain future. I finally gave in and freed up three shelves in a linen closet where we now have a start of supplies. I have agreed with most things Tom has planned for. I am excited about have a small piece of land we can grow a garden and make ready for any future events.
One day I was in the library at the building where I work. I had visited the library three times that day. I even laid out three or four books reading the backs to see the story lines. The third pass through the library on my break I had decided on a book. I stopped and said a prayer, Lord which one of these books should I read. I want a story with meaning. I was getting ready for some heart test and I needed to lay low for a few days.
Just when I thought I had found the book, suddenly my eyes fell on a book called the Last Light by Terri Blackstock. Noticing it was published by Zondervan, I knew it was a Christian based book. Once I opened the book it sucked me in to where I could not put it down. I laid three days of the Memorial Day holiday in bed reading and resting. One week to the day I started, I finished this book with a whole new perspective on survival.
I looked back to see when it was written, 2005, I was in shock. I learned so much from this book about the end of the world as we know it that it seems to have jump started me into a new awareness that has reshaped my life.
My new goal is to learn all about herbs for health and healing. I want to get on board and dig out my great grandmothers recipes for home remedies. I want to brush up on my gardening days from my youth. We canned everything coming from a large family and we had an acre garden.
I am diving in the Mary Jane Farm Girls magazine and others. I am looking forward to retiring in the near future. Before I do I plan to get the next three books in Terri Gladstock’s Restoration series. May God bless you abundantly today and tomorrow and beyond.
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Got the Earthquake Jitters? This list of 23 tips will help you prepare and survive

Do you live in earthquake country or sometimes travel there? Either way, use this list to prepare, and download this Red Cross app for all kinds of earthquake alerts and survival information.

Fore more information, take “Earthquake Basics: Science, Risk, and Mitigation,” from FEMA’s online Emergency Management Institute.

1. Keep inexpensive hard hats handy to protect your head, and your children’s heads, from falling items, including anything hanging on your walls and sitting on shelves. When the earth shakes, everything shakes!

2. Get in the habit of keeping a pair of shoes next to each bed. Cuts and splinters in the feet are one of the most common post-earthquake injuries.

3. I recommend a pair of Crocs-style shoes as  emergency shoes, especially if they have a furry or padded liner. They’re quick to slip on,  oversized—so it takes a while for kids to outgrow them—and wide enough to allow for a pair of heavy socks.

4. Keep a pair of eyeglasses in a secured spot near your bed. If a quake occurs in the middle of the night, you’ll need to see where you’re going.

5. Packed emergency kits are a necessity, since a quake can leave you homeless in a matter of minutes. Have them stored right by the exit door to your home. You might not have time to track them down.

6. Teach your kids the Red Cross earthquake survival technique: “Drop, Cover, and Hold On.”  This is safer than standing in a doorway, which may or may not have structural integrity.

7. Learn and teach “Drop, Cover, and Hold On” even if you don’t live in earthquake country. Earthquakes have been happening in some really diverse places lately, so don’t assume you’re 100% earthquake safe just because you don’t live in earthquake country.

8. Inspect your home for construction and repair issues that will only worsen with an earthquake, such as a cracked foundation or a damaged roof. Take care of repairs now, if possible.

9. Cut down tree branches that are near power lines. In an earthquake, these branches often fall on the power lines, causing them to snap.

10. Know how to shut off the water and gas supplies into your home and where the shut-off  valves are located. Make sure to have the correct tools on hand to do the job and that everyone in the house knows how to do this.

11. Keep an LED flashlight or a headlamp in a secure spot next to every bed.

12. Keep a spare set of keys by your bed, in case your other set is inaccessible or can’t be found due to fallen debris.

13. Have a lanyard that holds a simple photo I.D., including the address and phone number, for each member of the family. Keep each person’s lanyard by his or her bed, either in a drawer or hanging from a bedpost. Instruct kids  to put theirs on in case of an earthquake or another emergency.

14. For very young children, buy a set of safety tattoos that you can quickly apply to an arm or a leg to help I.D. an injured or lost kid.

15. Stay calm. A terrified parent is going to send the kids right over the edge. Practice “survival breathing.”

16. Every framed photo and mirror on the wall presents a danger. If they fall off, the glass will shatter. Consider removing glass from all of the frames or replacing it with Plexiglas.

17. Broken gas lines and power lines can cause fires. Keep at least two or three fire extinguishers  in the house. Know where they are and how to use them.

18. Know where the shut-off valve is for your neighbor’s natural gas line and how to turn off the neighbor’s electrical panel. If their house goes up in flames, chances are yours will, too.

19. A supply of dust face masks can help you breathe if the air is filled with smoke, dust, and other airborne particles. If you don’t have a dust mask, tie a T-shirt or another piece of fabric over your nose and mouth.

20. Keep a basic emergency kit at work to help you survive the quake and assist you with the basic supplies you’ll need to get home. As well, know multiple routes home and connect with others who live in your part of town. If several of you are traveling together, there’s safety in numbers.

21. Teach your kids to tap on anything within reach if they are ever trapped underneath furniture or other debris.

22. Bolt all tall pieces of furniture to the wall. It ain’t feng shui. It’s survival!

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Tornado Survival: No Shelter, No Basement, No Problem

It you live in an area that is vulnerable to tornadoes, you have undoubtedly heard the advice to head for your shelter or basement as a severe storm approaches. Hopefully, you’ve made tornado survival plans.

For an entire week prior to the April 2011 storms and tornados that devastated parts of my town and Northern Alabama in general, the local weather forecasters gave us warnings. They saw the emerging weather pattern as it traveled across the country and how dangerous it would likely be. If your weather forecaster starts talking like this, you need to start planning ahead. Many storms won’t give that much warning, but staying weather aware will give you enough lead time (usually hours at least) to enact your pre-determined tornado plan.

So what do you do if you don’t have a shelter or a basement?

1. Go to a friend’s house

Consider leaving your home and staying with a friend who has a shelter or basement. Of course, you must ask first! Don’t just assume there will be space for you or that they will even be home. If you’re invited to stay with your friend, you don’t want to be a burden, so bring enough food and water to last your family a minimum of three days. Be sure to take your emergency kit and important papers with you in case your home is damaged or you are not able to return to your neighborhood for a period of time. 

2. Go to a community storm shelter

When you create your emergency binder, include a list of community storm shelters in your area. Know where they are and the quickest route to get to each one. List the rules of the shelter – most don’t allow pets, some don’t allow large bags or bins, and many request that you bring your own bottles of water and snacks. Know that shelters often fill up quickly so don’t wait until the last minute to arrive. Community shelters are often cramped, sweaty, and full of frightened and/or bored children, but the safety and peace of mind they provide will be worth it.

3. Go to a public building

Some public spaces like churches, libraries, malls, large stores, and government buildings have storm shelters or “safe areas” built in for their employees and customers. Going to these locations and waiting out a storm is an option.

Speak to a manager ahead of time and ask them what their policy is for allowing members of the public to use their location. Some of these buildings have signs on the exterior indicating that they are an official tornado/storm shelter. Include this information in your emergency binder. If you choose this option, be sure to leave your home well ahead of the storm. Keep in mind that tornadoes can happen in the middle of the night and public buildings are unlikely to be open and available.

4. Make the best of what you’ve got

Sometimes you may not have enough of a warning to be able to leave your home. Or you may choose to ride out a storm in your own home instead of at a public place with strangers. For whatever reason you decide to stay put, you need to make a plan to stay as safe as possible.

When looking for your home’s safest place when you don’t have a shelter or basement, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Be on the ground floor.
  • Go to as close to the center of the structure as you can so you have as many walls between you and the outside as possible.
  • Do not be in a location that has an exterior wall.
  • No exterior doors and no windows.
  • Be in as small of a space as possible.
  • All of these rules apply to apartment dwellers as well. If you don’t live on the first floor, you need to find out from your apartment manager what the tornado warning protocols are for your apartment complex.
  • Common places in many homes that fit these criteria are bathrooms, closets, and under stair storage areas.

5. Prepare to enter your safe place

  • Make sure everyone is wearing shoes.
  • If you own motorcycle, bicycle or football helmets, get them and put them on to protect your head from flying debris.
  • Stage the location with emergency supplies like bottled water, protein bars, a first aid kit, flashlights, battery or crank powered weather radio, a blanket to cover your body, and a hatchet to help remove debris if needed. If possible, keep these items stored in your safe place all the time.
  • If you do not store your emergency kit and/or bug out bags in your safe place, bring them in.
  • If your pets are small, put them in a crate with a towel or blanket covering them. Ideally each pet will have a collar on as well. Dogs and cats should be chipped in case they lose their collars in the chaos of a tornado. Have leashes nearby. If you have larger pets, consider having both collars and leashes on them while you are waiting out the storm.
  • Have on each person as available – photo ID, cell phone, and a whistle.

When your area is put under a tornado watch, start preparing your safe place. If you are upgraded to a tornado warning, pay very close attention to the advice of the weather forecaster. He or she will tell you when you need to be hunkered down in your safe place. If in doubt, go into your safe place and wait. If you hear the words “Tornado Emergency” for your area, that means a tornado is actively on the ground. You should be bracing for the tornado in your safe place, NOT outside taking a tornado selfie!

The reality of tornadoes, especially the stronger EF-4 and EF-5 varieties, is that anything above ground that is not a specific tornado shelter is unlikely to survive a direct hit. That said, the statistical chance of getting a direct hit by an EF-4 or -5 is very low. You are more likely to encounter a survivable, less destructive tornado, and the difference between walking away from it and suffering an injury or death can be as simple as choosing the safest place in your home to weather the storm.

Author’s note: One specific caveat. Mobile homes do NOT have a “safe area.” NEVER “make the best of it” if you have a tornado warning in your area and you live in a mobile home. ALWAYS leave to stay with a friend or go to a community shelter. 

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11 Lessons the Joplin Tornadoes Taught Our Family

We “woke up” to the need to get prepared two years ago after an F-5 tornado obliterated our hometown, Joplin, MO. What we learned in the wake of that disaster has been unbelievable, miraculous, heart-wrenching, but ultimately, extremely useful. While we were extremely lucky to miss the storm by about half a mile, we were all deeply affected on an emotional level. I know it’s true whenever the sky turns gray, as it has this week.  Here are some valuable lessons we took away from May 22, 2011.

  • Angels are among us.  If you haven’t heard the stories, check out an overview here.  It’s the only way to explain why we lost 161 instead of thousands that day.  And it may be the most important lesson.
  • People really do take care of each other. I know it isn’t something advocated in many prepping circles, and I still haven’t decided how our family would handle an unforeseeable event, but I couldn’t shake this story: My coworker’s elderly mother couldn’t make it down the stairs, so she sat in her living room praying. Her neighbor heard the “freight train” sound, dashed across the street, and scooped her out of her wheelchair. He hit the third basement step when the roof went.  They both (miraculously!) survived. And that’s just one of a thousand stories that gets me choked up.
  • Buy the insurance. Another coworker was talked in to renter’ insurance literally ten days before the tornado. She was recently divorced and had moved into a small apartment about a week before our employer’s insurance associates came to buy us lunch. They had a contract signed within 48 hours.  Ten days later, she lost her apartment, contents, and car. Best $70 she ever spent.
  • We were too dependent upon electricity. We were without power for nearly two weeks, which meant no stove or microwave. No water from the electric pump, so no bathing, washing clothes or dishes, and no flushing toilets. We stayed with my parents on the other side of town, who still had all their creature comforts. We now have a backup plan in place.
  • Children take their cues from us. They are also remarkably resilient. Our then 6 and 4 year-old children had been through tornado drills before. We huddled in the basement closet making shadow puppets and playing games on the laptop. We made a concerted effort to use calm voices and soft faces even though we knew it was going to be ugly. A relative had called from 60 miles away to urge us into the basement, saying she just saw the shell of the hospital on TV. The storm ran west to east for 6 miles, and we were on the east end. The power was already out, but the sun was still shining and we hadn’t been paying attention to the forecast. That single phone call was our only real warning—and it was as serious as it gets. Within minutes the sky was black and tree limbs were flying past the basement window. The kids never panicked; it was like a sleepover in the daytime.
  • Separation causes anxiety. The day after the tornado, my husband and I returned to check on our property and gather some more clothes for the family. Torrential rain flooded many streets, including the one to my parents’ house, and we were unable to return. We spent the night in our dark house worrying about our children (who were, by the way, being shamelessly spoiled and didn’t miss us at all, despite the ominous-looking sky and further tornado warnings). If the carnage had happened during the day when we were all in separate places, the anxiety would’ve been multiplied exponentially. Which leads to our next big lesson:
  • We MUST have alternate means of communication. Phone lines were nonexistent in the immediate aftermath, and even cell phone calls wouldn’t go through. Some text messages did, and that’s how we checked on our friends and relatives, but in an EMP or other widespread attack, communication lines could be completely wiped out. A CB or ham radio is a good initial back-up plan, as are walkie-talkies in a Faraday cage. We were lucky to have Zimmer radio group—which operates several stations in our area—serve as a live broadcast connection. They didn’t turn a profit for two weeks because they refused to run music or commercials. Instead, they repeated pleas for those missing a loved one to call in and ask for help locating people. Sometimes, a neighbor listening would call and verify that the person mentioned had been located and would leave a phone number with the station. Talk about compassion and corporate responsibility!
  • You may not be home when it hits the fan. So many people were in their cars headed home from graduation, or out to dinner, or visiting friends in the hospital. Even if their homes survived, getting to their supplies could mean hiking through rubble in their Sunday heels. So now I carry a 72-hour kit and hiking shoes in my car, plus supplies for the kids. It can make finding trunk space for the groceries a bit more tricky, but I’m cool with that. I can’t control whether a tornado throws my car into a building, obliterating my backup plan, but I’m still gonna have one. Speaking of which…
  • Always have a backup plan. It’s as important to communities as it is to individuals. Yes, St. John’s hospital was destroyed, but Freeman still had backup generators (and an overflowing waiting room).  Home Depot was gone, but Lowe’s still operated throughout the ongoing rebuilding process. Wal-Mart and the grocery store were gone, but Sam’s let people shop without memberships for several weeks. And so it is with our own preps: two other ways to cook and stay warm; two ways to collect and purify water, etc.
  • Opportunists can be deterred by weapons. Neighbors took shifts on their blocks sitting up with rifles in their laps at night to deter looters. No altercations were reported. Coincidence? I doubt it. And my police friends admitted—after the fact—that they were grateful people had taken charge of caring for their own, because many of them were also dealing with loss and couldn’t effectively patrol an area that wide. Good thing our state government continues to guarantee that right.
  • Private industry is more efficient than government. I can’t even describe the immediate and overwhelming response of our churches and their associated ministries. Even the Red Cross wanted to know how College Heights Christian Church got their food and clothing services set up so quickly and so well-organized. I only mention that one because it’s across the street from the college, which was the largest immediate shelter and medical station, and survivors were heavily dependent upon it for a while. Even the atmosphere was more of a block party or backyard cookout than a disaster relief station. It certainly beat the FEMA camp photos I saw after Katrina and Sandy.

We aren’t perfectly prepared for every scenario, but witnessing the devastation in Joplin has forced us to remove our heads from the sand, reach out to our neighbors, and prepare for a time when help might not be as quick to arrive.  And this little community—the “buckle” on the Bible Belt—is still praising Him in the storm.

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23 Tips to Help You Prepare for Tornado Season

If you’re living in, or moving to, tornado country, these tips will help you prepare for the inevitable.

1.       Buy a home with a storm cellar.  Reinforce it with steel doors.

2.       Make sure you have up-to-date homeowner’s insurance.

3.       Have a To Go Bag ready at all times.

4.       Check the FEMA website for helpful information regarding tornado preparedness.

5.       Have at least three days (72 hours) worth of food and water stored in a cellar, interior closet, or other safe place.

6.       Know where the nearest shelters are and make sure your kids know their locations, too.

7.       Stay tuned in to local news, either TV or radio.  After the storm passes, old fashioned rabbit-ears (TV antenna) might help you get local channels if your cable is down.

8.     Know all the safest or safe-ish locations to shelter, e.g. a bathtub or a closet.  You may be visiting friends, out shopping, or at the park when a tornado hits.  Know how to be as safe as possible wherever you are.

9.     Have flashlights, oil lamps, and other sources of light.  Extra batteries are a must.

10.   Have an emergency, hand-crank radio.

11.   Have a cell phone charger.  During tornado season, always have your phone charged.  An external battery pack, like a Jackery, would be a good idea.  Keep it fully charged in a To Go Bag.

12.   Some TV stations offer free weather warnings via text messages.  Check the websites of your local TV and news/talk radio stations to see if they are offering this service.  Police and fire departments may also offer this service.

13.   Have family drills so everyone knows what to do and where to go.  Have an occasional drill in the middle of the night.  Who says tornadoes only strike during the convenient daylight hours?

14.   Make a Grab-n-Go Binder and keep at least one copy with a trusted family member out of state.

15.   Put on sturdy shoes as soon as a siren goes off.  A tornado produces enormous amounts of debris, including broken glass, nails, metal, and wood.  The last thing you need is a foot injury that would keep you sidelined.

16.   Know how to safely shut off your electric service, gas line, and water.

17.   Keep a small refrigerator/freezer in the basement.

18.   Keep cash on hand.  You’ll probably have to pay for those Red Cross doughnuts!

19.   A local map will help you keep track of weather alerts.

20.   Talk with old-timers and find out how they have weathered past tornado seasons.

21.    If your kids have friends they spend a lot of time with, find out what those families have planned in case of a tornado, or any other emergency, for that matter.

22.   Keep the tank of your car filled with gas.  You may need to evacuate to a safer location.

23.   Stay calm.  A terrified parent is going to send the kids right over the edge.

Nighttime tornadoes

In addition to these 23 tips, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the possibility of tornadoes hitting in the middle of the night. They definitely do not observe “daylight hours only” policy!

According to Weather Underground, about 79 tornadoes touched across the U.S. during a set of storms at the end of April 2014. I went to bed one of those nights with my phone volume on its highest setting in case severe weather hit us. I started walking through in my head what I would do if the sirens went off and I realized that we are not as prepared as I thought. If we needed to take shelter during the day, we were all set – nighttime was a different story.

If a storm were to have hit that night and damaged our house while we were in the basement, none of us would have shoes on, my children would have been in pajamas (shorts and nightgowns), and I had none of their nighttime comforts (pacifiers, blankies, and stuffed animals).

So, this week, I’m putting some more items in the basement to prepare us for nighttime tornado sheltering. You may want to think about some of the following as well.

  • Shoes and socks
  • Pants (especially for those who sleep in shorts and nightgowns)
  • Sweatshirts or jackets
  • Children’s sleep time comfort items (pacifiers, blankets, stuffed animals)
  • Bras for the women in the family who don’t sleep in them
  • An extra set of glasses for those who wear them
  • Essential medications

Or better yet, hold a tornado drill during the night with your family. Then look around and imagine being trapped in that spot for several hours or a day if your house is damaged. What would you want to have?

Remember, with tornadoes, sometimes you only have minutes to take shelter! I will always have a healthy fear of tornadoes, but now I finally feel my family is well prepared if one heads our way. (And, I hope one never does!)

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