The latest reports put the death toll from Hurricane Harvey at 70. While the count is likely to rise further, mostly this will be from bodies revealed by receding water. Most deaths from hurricanes and floods happen while the storm is still in the area.
Yet, the one million people who have been displaced and others effected by the storm will still face many challenges. Roughly 200,000 homes have been damaged.
House destroyed by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, August 28, 2017.
Also, the financial toll of the hurricane is likely to be the most expensive in history, perhaps up to $180 billion. Gasoline, plastic, and organic chemical industries have taken hurricane-related losses.
How do you prepare for such a devastating storm?
Even though it touched down on August 25, the aftermath is far from over. Yet, for preppers, there have already been several key lessons learned from the hurricane. The best way to be prepared for future disasters is to learn from experience, even if it is the experience of others. So, we’re going to detail that experience and learn what we can.
1. Medical Skills, not just Supplies, are Key
Do you know how to make a make-shift sling from a scrap of fabric?
One boy fell during the storm and may have broken his arm. No one knew how to make a splint or sling until a National Guardsman dropped by and made one for him. Who knows how the bone may have healed?
While not life-threatening, a re-break of the arm and a proper set is not pleasant, and will be worse the longer the boy has to go without medical attention.
Point being, what medical skills you can develop, you should. A basic First Aid course usually covers how to make a sling. Even if you’ve taken a course, it’s a good idea to brush up on the skills every one and a while, or you may not remember it when you need it.
There are also more basic concerns about medicine that most preppers will be familiar with, but are worth repeating. If you or someone in your family regularly takes medication, you need at least two weeks supply of the stuff in your bug-in location or bug-out-bag.
After Harvey, diabetics, those with heart conditions, and others on other daily medications are in dangerously short supply of their medications.
While charity and government aid may get you the medication you need to save your life, it will certainly not be enough to keep you comfortable. They will have to supply to other people as well, meaning you’ll only receive the bare minimum.
Some health concerns are harder to plan for than others. For example, those who receive dialysis will not have the machine at their home, never mind be able to put one in a bug-out-bag. People who require frequent trips to healthcare facilities to receive this kind of care need to make sure they are not cut off from civilization. This could mean rural people with serious conditions need to get into the city, preferably an unaffected city, when disaster strikes.
Non-medical skills also come in handy after disasters. Before Hurricane Harvey, people boarded up their homes. Now, they need to rebuild fences and walls, sometimes entire structures.
Construction skills are not usually mentioned in prepper circles, but they are an asset worth investing in once you’ve covered the basics. Learn more about skill prioritization here.
2. Flood waters hold many dangers
One of the most recent deaths from Hurricane Harvey teaches a very powerful lesson. Often, the most intense tragedy of a major disaster is that those dedicated to helping others are most likely to be harmed and killed. Andrew Pasek, a young man of 25, went on a rescue mission with some friends to his sister’s house, where a cat had been trapped.
At some point in the journey to the house, Andrew reached an open current and was shocked. One of his friends reached for him, but Andrew stopped them from grabbing him, saying they would die if they tried. Andrew then fell into the water.
He could not be resuscitated after the power company had cut the power. Thankfully, Andrew was brave enough to prevent his friend from dying alongside him, and there are precautions we can take to avoid his fate.
The CDC offers some guidelines for preventing electric shock during and after flood conditions. The basic rule is to pay much more attention to power lines than you normally would. Don’t touch fallen power lines, or go near them if submerged in water, including when you are in a car.
Sometimes you’ll run into a power line without realizing it, if that’s the case, keep driving away from it. If the car stops near downed power lines, you should not turn off the car or get out of it.Instead, call emergency services, and the power company. Don’t let someone approach the car, as they will be shocked if they do.
When you’re arriving back at your home, don’t try to turn power on or off yourself when standing in water. You’ll have to call an electrician or the power company to do it for you.
Don’t enter the home until the power has been turned off. After things are cleaned up, the power can be turned back on, but you’ll still need to keep your eye out for sparks or other electrical hazards.
When walking through flood water after an event, avoid touching power lines even if they don’t appear to be damaged or appear to be in the water.
If you see someone who has been or may have been electrocuted:
Do not touch them
Call emergency services
Then, look and carefully consider if you can safely turn off the source of the electricity.
If you cannot access it (and you probably will not be able to), push the source away from you using something that does not conduct electricity, which is something made out of cardboard, wood, or plastic. Sometimes, you will not be able to move the source either.
In the rare case you can turn off the electricity, assess the person. If their pulse or breathing is weak or stopped, start CPR. If they act shocked (pun not intentional), or are pale, lay them down in a safe area with their legs up and their head lowered.
Don’t touch their burns or pull off their clothing, just wait for EMS
Pay attention to powerlines and don’t touch them
Don’t go near powerlines which are in water
If your car has stopped near downed powerlines, don’t turn it off or get out or let people come near
Call EMS in the event of any electrocution, and don’t touch the person
Don’t turn electricity on or off while standing in water
3. Water, water, water
You can only go three days without drinking water, and after 24 hours without it, you’ll be really hurting. In some areas post-Harvey water service has still not been restored. In those areas, sewage is also likely to be overloaded, meaning clean water for sanitation is even more important. Stores are unlikely to have much water before and after natural disasters, meaning that these people without water are essentially on their own.
Frequently, you’ll hear from people who complain that vendors “gouge” prices before and after storms, as if the businesses are trying to take advantage of the impending disaster. Frankly, people who are rushing out to buy water the moments before a storm have put themselves in this position.
It is only because few people are properly prepared for even 72 hours without access to a store, that vendors face higher demand than they could ever fill. Raising prices isn’t just a logical response to heightened demand– it also dissuades people from buying more water than they will absolutely need, leaving some on the shelves for the next desperately dehydrated people.
Remember: the secret to avoiding sky rocketing prices before and after storms is to have your needs cared for well before hand.
- Stock up on water when the prices are low, and/or buy a water filter
- Aim for two weeks of water storage for each person and pet when bugging-in
- Know how to make a filter and boil water in case those means run out
Note: You can also invest in some handy water filters.
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