5 Ways To Be Prepared When Mother Nature Roars (again)

(Note: This post was originally written in 2010 following the hurricane in Haiti.  In the wake of Hurricane Sandy it seems worthwhile to repeat these simple but important tips.  As a Florida resident who knows firsthand the physical, property and emotional damage a massive storm can cause, my thoughts and  prayers go out to all those families affected, and my sincere thanks go out to those who have opened their hearts and homes to assist their neighbors in need. – JWS)

When I was a kid, there was a series of commercials for “Chiffon” margarine that had the tag line, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” Lately it seems that perhaps we must have been trying to fool her and now Mother Nature is seeking her revenge and proving her prowess with a daunting display of disasters. Earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes are just the tip of the melting iceberg. What’s a mere mortal human being to do? In all seriousness, the Boy Scouts had it right when they made their motto “Be Prepared.” There are many things in life that we cannot prevent, and the sudden seeming wrath of Mother Nature is one of them. But we can do our best to be prepared, and keep our families prepared for the unexpected “force majeure.” Inspired by a recent recording of the Cast of Dads podcast, and my own experiences with Hurricanes living in Florida, here are…

5 Ways To Be Prepared When Mother Nature Roars:

1) Portable Power – An unfortunate side effect of many natural disasters is the loss of power. When Hurricane Wilma struck my neighborhood, we were without electricity for almost 2 weeks. You quickly learn how reliant we are on electricity. Having multiple sources of portable power in your home is a must. Options include generators and lots of batteries. There are many battery chargers that include USB or 12-Volt plugs so you can use them to charge your mobile phones and other devices. The problem with batteries, however, is that they have to have a good charge to be worthwhile, and they lose their charge over time when idle. Therefore it is important that “emergency” batteries are replaced with fresh ones periodically, and that battery charger devices are regularly plugged in to refresh their charging abilities. It goes without saying that multiple flashlights are an essential need, and I have found that having a few self powered (wind or shake) flashlights really come in handy as the “battery” issue is no longer a worry.

2) Reliable Communications – While we all rely on our mobile phones for just about everything, there is a good chance you won’t be able to use your phone reliably after a natural disaster. If the networks are not directly affected, there will be extraordinary high call traffic, making it hard to get a connection. Try text messaging if you cannot get through for a voice call as you may be more successful with the data network. Also, as you want to conserve battery life, you want to keep voice calls short and to the point. Eventually, you may no longer have use of your phone if the battery dies and you’ve exhausted your charging options, so it is important to have other ways to get information and find out the status of the emergency. I have found a wind-up (crank) emergency radio to be extremely useful. They are inexpensive and functional. I have one that has AM/FM/Shortwave Bands as well as a USB plug to charge other devices. I have a second one that has dedicated weather radio bands, and a built-in flashlight. Not only are these radios great for finding out the latest news and other reports when the power is out, but you also need to keep everyone relaxed and entertained, and a little background music from the radio goes a long way to give a semblance of normalcy to an awkward and quiet powerless home.

3) A Family Check In Procedure – Of course disaster can strike at any time and therefore it is possible that you and your family members may not be together when Mother Nature goes ballistic. As parents, our greatest fears are when we are away from our children, so make sure you and all your kids (or their schools and caretakers if they are too young to do it themselves) know what the family emergency check in procedure is. Assume that you may not be able to just call each other. Therefore you should consider establishing a reliable relative or friend in a different State or part of the country that can be the point person. Make sure all your family members know multiple ways to contact the point person – home/office/mobile phone, email, text message, social networks, etc. – and let everyone know that if they can’t reach you, the next thing they should do is contact the point person, and let them know their status. Of course the point person can also reassure everyone about who they have already heard from. Another good idea is to have an agreed upon meeting place away from your home in the event your home is inaccessible. (Note to self: refresh this program with my own kids!)

4) A Plan For The Pets – If you have pets they are part of the family, so a family emergency plan has to include your fine furry friends. If you have multiple pets and multiple family members, you might assign each person a particular pet that they are responsible for watching over and/or evacuating in an emergency. Have proper crates, carriers and leashes easily accessible and it is probably best to keep pets contained during the crisis, as they are every bit as frightened and concerned as you are. When Hurricane Wilma struck, we kept our three dogs and cat contained in a bathroom, and while their howling added to our stress, we knew exactly where they were and that they were safe.

5) Food & Water – It is always a good idea to have an ample supply of water in the house. Stick a case of bottled water in a closet or in the garage and forget about it. If you have 5 gallon water bottles delivered, make sure your regular order is for a few bottles more than your family actually drinks so you always have a few “spare” full bottles. A stock of canned goods seems like a good idea, but keep in mind that you may not have the ability to heat things or boil water. Take a look in your pantry and cabinets and see what foods you have that are not perishable and are “ready to eat” without cooking or boiling water. Stock up on more of those. Peanut butter, dried fruits and nuts and power bars are all good things to have “extras” of at all times.

These are just a few of the basics and I am sure there are many more important tips for being prepared. Please add your own tips and suggestions to the comments and together we can turn this post into a useful resource for parents and families.

Most importantly, especially for parents, do your best to remain calm and provide your children and family with the support, confidence and leadership they will most certainly need when Mother Nature strikes.

NOTES AND DISCLAIMER: Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those affected by the now infamous Sandy.  If you are so inclined you can donate to the Red Cross here. Also, some of the links to products in the above post are Amazon Affiliate Links. Any affiliate revenue generated by the links in this post will be donated fully to the Red Cross.

Jeff Sass is the proud dad of ZEO (Zach, 24, Ethan, 22 and Olivia, 21).  He is also a seasoned entertainment and technology exec and active social media enthusiast.  You can see more of Jeff’s writing at Sassholes! and Social Networking Rehab and you can listen to Jeff on the Cast of Dads,  Wunderkind!  and Gape Into The Void podcasts.

Photo Credit: © victor zastol’skiy – Fotolia.com

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