Mary Beth Writes

The disaster unfolding in Texas right now is on my mind. How about yours?

On Twitter I saw several lists of where to donate to organizations. When I finish this post, I will donate to Austen Urban League - https://aaul.org/

In my life I have lived through several major life-lockdowns due to storm damage. The 1979 Chicago blizzard. Twice in Racine we went 2-3 days without electricity. Because our furnace worked via electric ignition, without the juice we had no heat. That November outage was a bear; I had bronchitis for two months after that episode of being so cold so long. Once the sump pumps in our basement went out and we had a 4” flood from which we cleaned up for weeks. On vacation in Florida, we hunkered down under a hurricane. No electricity, water dripping everywhere, no traffic lights the next day. And more.

Sometimes Len and I sit around talking about how to survive what might come next.

First this soapbox. I read a lot of frugality-minded blogs and there are too many people getting ready for doomsday by buying meat on sale to put in their freezer/s. What is the first thing to fail in crisis weather? Yup. The electricity goes out and there you are, hip deep in rotting meat. There are lots of fine and reasonable reasons to get a freezer but to be ready for disaster is not one of them.

I think the most valuable disaster prep most of us can do is simply consider what’s likely where we live. Climate change is intensifying weather systems. What we are used to will continue but it will occasionally be a whole lot more intense. Blizzards. Rain. Drought. Floods. Fire. What is likely where you live? Prepare for that scenario.

Philosophically speaking, I don’t think we need to build fortresses. We simply need to have ideas of what tools and assets can help us weather the crisis.

Here are some of ideas:

1. Belong to a congregation. This from a woman who happily did not attend church at least one-third of her adult life. I really don’t love going places on a weekend morning, especially when both Len and I were working fulltime. I get that and so this isn’t a command, but a place to have a conversation. When bad luck happens it powerful to belong to people you trust who will share their resources and skills with you. They can’t/won’t solve all your problems, but you will be a wolf with a pack.

Too many people think they way to prep for a disaster is to own disaster-allaying equipment. Some equipment helps, for sure - but a network of helpful friends and acquaintances is your best insurance for whatever will come your way.

And here is my plug for your local Unitarian Universalist congregation. We don’t have creeds! Some of my co-congregationalist are atheists and agnostics. Even if you don’t believe in much more than mayhem and beauty and love, check out UU’s. A pack might be waiting for you..

2. Food. We cook with beans a lot. We have about 10 quart-sized jars of various beans plus maybe 10 cans of tomatoes, green beans, and corn. Also, way too many herbs and spices. We could easily skip the grocery store for a week or two on what is in our house at any time. Plus, if a tornado hits our kitchen, we will lose about $50 in of food-equity.  (After one of those 3-day outages our insurance agent asked for an estimate of what was in our fridge and freezer. I replied “About $100? I mostly have flour I bought on sale in the fall.” He looked at me and then started laughing. “I’ve never heard of a tally that low. I’m going to put you down for more than that just so I don’t get audited.”)

3. We DO have a generator. Lesson learned from those episodes of no electricity. It cost around $500 which is a lot. It’s small and light enough (still heavy, but we can move it) so that we can put it in our car to drive to someone else if we want to. Like our kids. Or you if your your electricity goes out while ours is fine. We can’t run our whole house on it, but it would keep the furnace, hot water heater, fridge and stove going. And recharge our phones.

4. We have a humorous number of flashlights and they all have batteries. Frankly, I married into the flashlights.

5. We have anti-backflow plug for the drain in the basement which lets water flow out of our basement but would prevent sewer backup. It didn’t cost much; Len got it at Ace. If you own your house, and you have not thought much about flooding, call a plumber to stop by for a consultation. We did this several years ago; he replaced our outside faucet with a freeze-proof faucet. Which means that pipe doesn’t freeze, burst, or leak. These systems exist. Too bad Texas didn’t call their plumber ahead of time…

6. Think about what your home is most vulnerable to and insure against that. We upped our house insurance for basement stuff.

7. If a storm comes your way, did you know that most injuries and deaths happen when a victim is hit by falling debris? Put your bike helmet on yourself and your kids.

8. We have enough cash and change on hand to live a couple weeks without credit cards if that system goes crazy. We have hidden our cash in an unlikely place where we see fairly often so that come doomsday we don’t stand around going, “Uh, honey, do you remember where we hid the cash?”

9. I just read this tip today. If you pay your bills via automatic payments from your checking account, then keep a list of those creditors handy. If a disaster is going to affect your income and stability for more than a week or two, you want to be able to choose what bills you pay or don’t pay.

 

What disaster surviving strategies do you own, participate in, or know about? 

What crises have you survived and what was most helpful? 

Someone asked about generators: 

We owned a generator previously but it a wire inside it broke, plus the brand we owned (Coleman) was no longer manufactured. 

Basically, there are two choices to consider.  An INVERTOR style is smaller, lighter, quieter, more expensive and produces less electricity than a standard generator.  We bought an invertor because together we can pick it up and put it in our car.  We wanted to be able to drive it to our kids, should any of them need it for a few days. 

After we knew what kind we wanted, Len ordered a Chinese-manufactured brand (Predator) from Harbor Freight. We picked it up at the store once it came in. We paid over $400 although Len says one can buy them for about $300 now. 

They will always be WAY more money to buy if you wait for an emergency. The one we have could also be used for camping, although we don’t camp. Any more.

Hope this helps.

 

 

Comments

Lol - We have a lot of dried beans, too. I'm curious about your generator as I am looking at buying one. Can you give me a little more information?
Mary Beth's picture

Sure! later today I'll talk with Len, we can remember how we chose and what we have, and I will post that.

All great tips. Living in the Indiana countryside - we’ve gone thru a few of our own crisis. No water. No electricity. Olden days/no phone! Ha. One crisis sticks in my mind. Hubby and Eric drove down to the neighbors (she had fallen and broke her arm). They got stuck. I was home with Scott and Eric and my sister came down because we had food. No electricity. We all spent the next 24 hours in the living room with blankets and sock hats on. The phone was out and Scott couldn’t talk to his girlfriend ( he whined constantly) and he was 2 1/2 weeks out of an appendectomy. I can laugh now. It wasn’t funny then.

Yes, I’d rather depend on neighbors than technology/beaurocracy! Some of our neighborhood mailboxes were destroyed recently by a drunk driver. Apparently nothing the police, sheriff, post office, or road crews can do! We have five food drifts out there! But a nice neighbor is receiving and distributing our mail. Just as we shared generators in 2011!
Mary Beth's picture

You are right. I think we became closer to our neighbors, in all the places we lived, when we shared storms!

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