When natural disasters strike, it’s good to be prepared

With all of the recent earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, ice storms, snowstorms, tsunamis and drought, it pays to be prepared.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) publishes a 200-page booklet on how to prepare for certain natural disasters.

In the past 20 years, our family has dealt with a terrible ice storm, a horrendous snowstorm and electrical outages. Susan was actually in Orlando, Florida, with her parents to ride out Hurricane Irma.

After the ice storm, I bought a portable generator so that we could have electricity when the power is off. Someone broke into the shed in my backyard and stole that so I bought another one (that I now keep in the garage).

I couldn’t afford one of those all-house, natural gas powered generators that they attach right into your wiring. They come on once a month for routine maintenance and they are mighty handy in a blackout.

You have to plug stuff into my generator. And you have to run it outside your house to keep the exhaust fumes from killing you. I bought a heavy-duty extension cord plus a thick chain and lock so I could leave it outside chained to my house (in case the thieves return).

During that ice storm, our kids were still in school. We lost our electricity and we had to use oil lamps, flashlights and candles for light at night. FEMA doesn’t recommend candles because you might start a fire. We have a gas fireplace and our natural gas service was not interrupted. We cooked meals on our propane camp stove. We had food, water and sufficient warmth.

We keep our refrigerator and pantry fairly well stocked plus we have a spare refrigerator in the garage. The night before that big snowstorm hit, I went to Reasors at 71st Street and Sheridan Road to pick up some last-minute supplies.

All the grocery carts were being used. About two-thirds of the produce was gone and it looked like maybe half of the canned goods were missing. It struck me that some folks might not keep even a day’s worth of food in their kitchen. Maybe some of those people couldn’t afford to stock up.

Back in September, someone had a wreck into a light pole near our house and we lost electricity for about two hours. I have three new flashlights (gifts from my kids) and we had plenty of light. I didn’t try to fire up the generator because we called PSO and they said it would be fixed quickly.

We make sure that we have plenty of batteries, portable radios, a first-aid kit and other supplies in case of emergency.

We have high-quality water filters and keep several cases of bottled water in store. If there is an emergency and  people lost water service, most homes have an additional 30 gallons of water in their hot water tank. That could come in handy.

We probably have enough stuff to take care of ourselves and help others during a disaster. One of the keys to having a full pantry is having food that is easy to prepare and is nutritious. And it is important to check the expiration dates on food and to rotate it accordingly. A key principle is to store what you eat and eat what you store. In other words, don’t stockpile food that nobody likes (like Spam – although I like Spam).

It’s also good to have sleeping bags and other camping gear handy. We used to camp a bit with our kids when they were little and we still have most of that stuff, including spare bottles of propane for the camp stove. These types of supplies go quickly when a big storm is approaching. Imagine trying to buy plywood at Lowe’s in Houston or Miami the day before hurricanes hit those cities.

FEMA also warns of explosions, biological threats, chemical threats, a nuclear blast and other problems outline by Homeland Security.

I am not sure how you could adequately prepare for some of those scenarios.

When I was a student at Burbank Elementary School, I can remember having disaster drills when we were told to kneel under our desks. I am not sure those drills were in case of a tornado or attack from a foreign country. I am pretty sure hiding under a wooden desk would not save you from a direct hit from an atomic bomb.

We have tried to train our kids, who are grown, to prepare for disasters. They are well aware of the protocol for tornado warnings and tornado watches. I think they would do well in a catastrophic situation. I hope they would.

We have talked about a rendezvous spot should Tulsa ever come under attack.

America could go to war against North Korea if the madman leading that nation shoots a nuclear weapon at the United States or our allies.

Ever since Obama was elected president, racial harmony in the nation has declined. Tulsa has managed to avoid racial unrest but there is no guarantee that rioting could not pop up here.

The best idea is to plan for the worst and hope for the best.