Emergency Alert: How To Be Prepared For a Storm

Updated 03/01/2012: I’ve lived in Southern Illinois most of my life and cannot remember a time where we were hit with such vicious wind storms.

When I first wrote this post, our area was hit what was called an “inland hurricane”. It’s the closest thing I’ve been to a hurricane and/or tornado. I never thought our area would be hit again. That is until this past Tuesday.

Harrisburg, Illinois, about 30 minutes from me was hit by an EF4 tornado killing 6, injury 100′s more, and leaving the community stunned. It’s just a scary reminder that you never know when Mother Nature is going to come and you better be ready.

HARRISBURG, IL Tornado - FEBRUARY 29:

If you haven’t taken any measures to be prepared for an emergency, then this applies. I’ve added newer pics that shows the preparation my wife and I have gone through. You can read more on her perspective here. If you are deathly afraid of storms, check her post out.

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Overwhelmed by the storm's aftermath

Living in Southern Illinois there aren’t many emergencies that we have to be prepared for.  We will have the occasional ice storm in the winter. During the summer humidity is almost unbearable, but we’re not accustomed to much more than that.  That was until Friday, May 8th, when I experienced a storm like no other.

I was set to play in the annual Carterville Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Golf Scramble that had a tee time of 1 p.m.   It had rained all morning, but I was hopeful that it would still not prevent the days festivities.  I had no idea by the end of the day that my main concern would be whether my home was still standing and not that I had shanked my drive on Hole #9 (or every other hole for that matter).

At 1:28 p.m. an “inland hurricane” or “mesocyclone” hit our small rural area and left widespread damage.  Sustained winds averaged 86 mph with reported gusts reaching over 106 mph.  Many were injured, left without power, and their cars and homes ruined.   Having never been through such a storm, it made me ponder how prepared I was for such an emergency and what I could have done different.   For future reference, the following is how I would prepare for such an emergency.

jason-york-storm-photo

Photo by Jason York Photography

1. Have Cash On Hand

Luckily, I scored an A+ in this department.  I typically will keep around $200 of cash in my wallet just as a precaution.  Several of the local businesses in the area stayed open to provide resources to the community.  Since they were without power as well, they would only accept cash as payment.  Having some cash on hand proved vital with ATM’s and banks being closed for several days.

2. Fill ‘er Up- Better Have Some Gas

This is where I get a big FAIL.   While running late making my way to the golf scramble (had a client meeting that morning), my low fuel light came on.   I will usually keep my car at around a half a tank, but for whatever reason I let it get close to empty.  Since I was running late, I sped right passed the gas station (which is now closed because the wind blew it over) heading to the golf course.  Turns out that was a big mistake.

After the storm hit, I luckily made it home, but was running on fumes the whole way.   Fortunately, I have a 5 gallon gas tank in my garage for my lawn mower, and was able to fill up my car with that.   If it wasn’t for that, I would have been in a serious predicament since every gas station within 30+ miles was closed due to no power.

Lesson learned: Don’t let my car get near empty and keep and extra gas can in the garage.

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What I came home to

3. Have Some Extra Flashlight and Batteries

This is one part where my deployment to Iraq really paid off.  We would always have power outages on our FOB (Forward Observing Base).  Since then, I’ve always kept extra flashlights strategically placed throughout the house in the event we were to lose light.  With the extra flashlights, means I also keep extra batteries on hand.  For the first night without power, it was easy for us to get around and most importantly “see” what we were doing.  I can only imagine if we were without power for weeks.

4. Are You Thirsty?

It’s always smart to keep some extra water on hand.  As a precaution, I always keep an extra case of bottled water in the back of my truck.  I can’t tell you why I do it, I just do.   Turns out it was for a good cause.

Emergency Alert: How To Be Prepared For a Storm

We had water until our tanks ran out, but were then out of water for a few days.  With a family of three (that’s not including the dog) that creates a problem.  That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a few gallons of water on hand just for times like this.

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Some new landscaping in the backyard

5. Snack Food Is a Must

No power + no refrigerator + no food = me very hungry.

By the next day, we were able to drive and get food and ice, but if we hadn’t- hunger would have start to set in.  Being a health nut, I tend to keep Kashi bars and Fiber One bars always in stock.  Those are absolutely perfect in times like this.

Emergency Alert: How To Be Prepared For a Storm

Peanuts, beef jerky,  and peanut butter are also good things to keep on hand.  Certainly not as delightful as a home cooked dinner, but it will do the trick until things are back to normal.

6. Communications

At the time of the storm, both my wife and I were separated (She was at home while I was at the golf course).  We talked up until the storm hit, but right after our phones were dead because the network was flooded with calls.  We both even tried text messaging to no avail.  My wife, being the clever woman that she is, tried sending me a BBM.  Wait, what’s  BBM?  We both have BlackBerry’s and a BBM is a BlackBerry Message.  It’s similar to a text message but can only be sent to other BlackBerry users.  Until I was able to arrive home, that was how we communicated.

Update:  We both have iPhones now and have Mophies.  The Mophie is a protective case that also has the ability to charge your iPhone when the batter goes dead.  In case of an emergency, any extra batter juice you can get out of your phone the better.

Emergency Alert: How To Be Prepared For a Storm
Even after the storm, all phone lines continued to be down and there was only two ways to get information 1: Radio 2. Twitter.   More and more, Twitter impresses me how you are able to gather and disseminate information.  Through Twitter, I was able to keep track of friends and bulletins put out by the local media outlets.   For almost all of Friday evening, I couldn’t call anybody, but I could send them a “Tweet”.  Isn’t technology amazing?

Speaking of communications, having cell phones is great, but all cell phones run off batteries.   When there is no power to be able to charge them, it would be smart to have a car charger on hand.   We were able to to keep our cell phones charged this way and made communicating with family a friends a “breeze” (Pun intended).

7. Emergency Kit

Fortunately, none of us were injured during or after the storm, so our emergency kit was not put to use.  We do have one on hand, and everyone should to.  The emergency kit could be where you keep your extra cash, batteries, first aid kit, portable radio, flashlight, and extra batteries.

Emergency Kit for a Storm

I wouldn’t have just one though.  Keep a few around the house and/or in your car, in the event one becomes inaccessible.

8. Generator Would Be Handy

One thing that would have been extremely handy would have been a generator throughout this whole ordeal.   For the present time, we weren’t ready to fork over the $600 to purchase one.  Being without power for a few days is definitely an inconvenience, but we survived.   We are hopefully building a new home soon and my understanding is that you can put a back up generator installed in the home.   That will be a strong consideration down the road.

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That's funny. I don't remember that tree being there?

9. Have a Good Supporting Cast and Clean Up Crew

Being prepared for a storm makes the aftermath that much easier.  What makes even more easier, is having family and friends to help you clean up the mess afterward.  We have a lot of trees that surround our property (as the pictures show) and clean up has been a week long process.  We are very fortunate to have a loving and helpful supporting cast that volunteered their time to help us out.   A quick shout out to all them!   Having them has made the whole process that much less stressful.

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My son helping out.

How about you? Are you prepared if a storm hit your area?

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