Planning for Emergencies.

With Dorian’s arrival we are going through our third hurricane in ten years. The nice thing about hurricanes is they are somewhat predictable, unlike earthquakes and tornadoes which give very little time for planning and preparation. key components of making it through emergencies in the hopes of sustaining the least amount of damage possible.

All through my life I have been trained to handle emergency situations…always having a plan. As a third grade teacher, common lessons were for fire safety and in California…earthquakes. I admit that I was proud when we had a major earthquake and everyone did exactly what they had been instructed to do. I had heard that the kids in the middle school all rushed for the door vying for the best position, rather than duck and cover…as was instructed. All students had to pass a safety course in which they learned how to be safe in these situations and in general every day situations such as cleaning up broken glass.

As a bus driver, we were required to do emergency evacuation drills twice a year. Our school had weekly field trips so we were often off the school premises. The kids never knew when a drill was going to happen but they knew if I suddenly said, “Bus evacuation”, they were prepared to carry out the evacuation and walk a distance of fifty feet from the bus to a safe location. Where they sat on the bus determined the role they played. Those in the front got the emergency kit and fire extinguisher and those in the back assisted students off the rear exit. Occasionally, I would add, “driver unconscious” alerting them that the student directly behind me had to place the vehicle in park and turn off the engine. They took pride in their roles and always handled themselves professionally.

As a parent, I followed my teaching advice and had my five year old daughter planning her escape from burning buildings, including drilling her on how to open her bedroom window and crawl out in case she ever needed to do it. Basically, she learned what the kids in my class learned, just at an earlier age.

So, it wasn’t surprising when I left teaching and entered into the health care industry that I was appointed the Safety Committee Chairperson and was responsible for training all the staff on safety procedures, including hospital evacuation. Fortunately, I never had to evacuate our hospital but there was one close call when a wildfire was nearby and I had to start the early stages of evacuation preparation. I admit to breathing a sigh of relief when the fire turned a different direction away from ours…and another hospital DID have to evacuate.

One of the key things to successful preparedness is to always be ready or as ready as possible. Now that I live in Florida, we always have cases of water available, charcoal and lighter fluid, a propane stove, flashlights, etc. We don’t wait for an emergency to take place. We also like to live in comfort and always set up a generator when the power does go out. An added bonus is that there has never been an issue of food spoiling because our refrigerator is continually on.  If you don’t have a generator and your power goes out you can do a little trick to check if the food in the freezer is still good. The day before leaving, place a penny in a small Dixie cup and stick it in the freezer. When you return you can check the cup  to test for spoilage. If it still has ice, you are okay. If it is liquid then you should throw it away. All refrigerated foods that are spoil-able should be tossed. One more thing we do is we prepare meals ahead of time that can be easily warmed up in a microwave. Though we have no internet, we have a DVD player and movies to watch, books to read and conversation to enjoy.

Hurricanes always bring out the best in people who gladly help another neighbor with prep and in some cases…electricity. The first time I experienced a hurricane we were pretty much the only one with power on the first day. By the second day there were a few more who got generators and by the third, the neighborhood was humming with the sound of them. Those that didn’t have them were given electricity…at least enough to plug in their refrigerators, as long extension cords ran from one house to the next.

About the only thing you can’t predict is wind and water damage. We are far enough away that surge is usually not an issue but should not be overlooked completely. On our last hurricane there was a last minute surge prediction of 12 feet. I spent the next two hours packing up important things and placing them on the highest cabinets in the house. Hooray for built-ins! And boarding up the windows is your safest bet against the wind…though it is oddly eerie to be in a house for days and not see what’s outside. We only had a beveled window on the front door to peek out of and the view was always  distorted. It’s a good thing to do a quick video of the contents of your house. Send a copy to your cloud account or some other off site storage, in case your phone/equipment gets damaged. Another thing I recommend is for those who have safes…put your name and address and phone on it, in permanent marker.

When the winds die down, it’s safe to survey the damage…of course, downed power lines being one of the first things we check. So far, we’ve been lucky, mostly tree debris and a bit of fascia on the Peachtree house. The Chicago house lost a tree, which fortunately fell away from the house and the next year lost some fences, which were able to be repaired once new posts were set. Rick actually reinforced them by putting a long horizontal board between two fence sections. It will be interesting to see how they hold up through Dorian. We’ve been fortunate in that we have not had any major damage. As we get nearer to the end of the project house, I hope the good fortune continues. We have invested so much time, energy and money into it…we need things to go well.

Dorian hasn’t made up her mind yet on where she will make land and maybe we will get lucky and she’ll pass us by. I always do before and after pics, so here is a before video on the project house.. I’ll be doing one on the Peachtree house as well….I’ll see you on the other side!

House video