Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

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stimulacra
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Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by stimulacra » Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:31 pm

Was curious if there was a Boglehead consensus on disaster preparations?

I live in Houston, just outside of downtown, and was fortunate in being largely unaffected by the storm this past weekend and all of the subsequent flooding. I know a lot of people that are not as lucky. Many have had their homes flooded and lost all of their belongings; tens of thousands of people had to be rescued by boat. Many of those who suffered flood damage or lost their homes do not have flood insurance and/or were told it was unnecessary where they lived (by some accounts Harvey is being categorized as a 500 year, 800 year, or million year flood). Close to half a million vehicles are estimated to be totaled due to flood damage. Some folks whose income are hourly or contingent are facing weeks without work or pay, meanwhile my employer is encouraging employees from closed offices to volunteer in their communities if they are able to. The list of hardship and loss goes on.

I count myself as being very blessed and fortunate in how the last few days have panned out but it has gotten me thinking about the next time if I wasn't so lucky. I guess a lot of the thoughts can fall under the category of contingency planning; rethinking where I live, the possessions I choose to purchase and keep in my home, the vehicle I drive, how much food and water I keep in my home, cash easily available, emergency fund, additional insurance on things, etc…

Just in terms of my own personal timeline and situational awareness:
08/23: Became aware of Tropical Storm Harvey heading towards Texas, later that night Houston
08/24: Went to the grocery store on my lunch break to buy water, beverages and non-perishables. Later that night did a second run on the way home from work to get perishables. Took out the max amount of cash from my bank's ATM.
08/25: Filled up my car with gasoline. Went to work but 90% of the office took the day off.
08/26: Checked all of my emergency supplies and first aid get (all of them were expired). Calm before the storm, ate out and ran last minute errands. Hurricane Harvey arrived in Houston that night, heavy rain.
08/27: Rained all day Sunday. Stayed indoors
08/28: Rained all day Monday. Stayed indoors
08/29: Rain stops and flooding starting to subside. Tried going to a grocery store and there were lines out the door. Went to Whole Foods where there wasn't a line.
08/30: Life mostly back to normal. Reading about the aftermath on local and national news. Personalized versions on social media and text. Keeping busy with volunteer work.

Reflecting on things you realize there isn't a whole lot of lead time leading up to a disaster and more often than not you'll underestimate how bad things can get. Getting food, water and gas days ahead of the storm was definitely a hassle but 10X easier than trying to get it during or immediately after. As a result of all of this I'm in the process of reevaluating my approach to disaster planning and tweaking aspects of my life to minimize the impact next time a 500 year storm comes in. I don't think I'll go full prepper mode and purchase a 4x4 bug out vehicle stuffed full of MRE's but am thinking a used pickup truck or diesel crossover isn't such a bad idea for Houston, I am learning how to decipher a 500-year floodplain map, and I am simplifying my life of unnecessary clutter that can be taken away from you in an instant.

Was curious as to how Bogleheads would approach a similar scenario. I remember reading KlangFool's version a few months back about his layered version of a tangible emergency fund and remembering that it was very pragmatic and fiscally grounded.

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VictoriaF
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:19 am

I rent and drive an old car. Thus, a disaster similar to Hurricane Harvey would cause me minimal financial loss. I live in a metropolitan area with many grocery stores, department stores, and drugstores within a short walking distance. At home I keep enough non-perishable food to survive for 3-4 weeks.

My biggest problem with a flood or fire would be losing my books. The most valuable books are those with my extensive hand-written notes which would be irreplaceable.

An important consideration is computer backup. If you keep some of your backup devices in a bank's safe deposit box, and both your home and your bank become flooded, you are likely to lose all copies of your files. Backing up to a cloud would solve this issue, but it brings up concerns about the cloud security.

Do you know if Houston banks were any safer from the flood than residences?

Victoria
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denovo
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by denovo » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:11 am

I would have left town on 8/23 , I think that's your biggest mistake. You gambled and got lucky and your house didn't flood, but whats to say it would be the case next time. You could have decamped to Austin for a couple of days.
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McGilicutty
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by McGilicutty » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:40 am

The problem with disaster prep is that pretty much everything expires. Gas loses its potency. The plastic holding bottled water breaks down and starts to leach chemicals into the water. Canned goods last at most a few years. Even MREs are designed to last only about 5 years. So if you were to go out and buy a bunch of disaster prep stuff now, you would have to replace each of the items at different periods which is hard to remember to do (and not to mention a pain).

As for simplifying your life, it doesn't seem like that would make much difference. After you buy a household item, its value drops precipitously so it's not like you're going to get a bunch of money back by selling it.

As for me, I live in an area that is far outside of a flood plain and I carry renter's insurance for my personal items in case something does happen. I also keep two cases of bottled water on hand and drink about a case a month to keep it fresh. About the worst that can happen in my area is a tornado, and those end quickly, so I don't worry about having access to food.

pfranz
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by pfranz » Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:34 am

denovo wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:11 am
I would have left town on 8/23 , I think that's your biggest mistake. You gambled and got lucky and your house didn't flood, but whats to say it would be the case next time. You could have decamped to Austin for a couple of days.
Evacuating smaller areas with a harsh storm imminent is a no-brainer, but with hurricane Rita causing 7 deaths from the storm itself and 90-118 deaths due to problems evacuating Houston, it's not so obvious. I grew up in FL and encountered this a lot. It's tough to know where to safely evacuate to because hurricanes are so large and often change directions and everyone is trying to leave at the same time.

mouses
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by mouses » Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:49 am

I can count on probably once a year or every two years having to consider evacuating due to a hurricane warning,

I have the house semi stocked up in case I have to live there for some time with normal services unavailable - I have a pantry with food and water, batteries of various types, candles, lanterns, paper products, hand crank radio, meds for me and the cat, food and litter for the cat, cash in case of power outages that put credit card stuff offline.

The food, water, and meds are part of normal use, so they get used and replaced and expiration dates are not an issue. I check the batteries every six months with a battery tester.

I have a list of items to do and take with me if I am going to evacuate. These include the cat in his carrying case, his food and meds, dishes, litter, and litter box, family photos, financial documents including insurance policy numbers and contact phone numbers, etc. on thumb drives, my laptop, phone and charger, a change of clothes, coat and pocketbook - this detail probably seems unnecessary, but it is easy to not think in an emergency and forget even obvious stuff.

I could probably keep a lot of the digital stuff on my Nook now that I am used to using it more and it certainly takes up less room than a laptop.

I always have a one page cheat sheet of medical information in case I wind up in the ER or at a new doctor's; this is always in my pocketbook.

As soon as there is a hint that this might be necessary, I fill the car's gas tank; I normally don’t let it get below half full anyway.

If I evacuate, I let my family and neighbors know and where I'm headed.

Ron Scott
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Ron Scott » Thu Aug 31, 2017 4:18 am

From a short term perspective, the weather service gives us ample time to plan for coming emergencies like Harvey. A "get out of Dodge" strategy would be a good one to adopt going forward. Similarly, it is probably best to ignore the psychology of your neighbors. If the mayor of my town told me to write my Social Security number on my arm if I decided to stay in my house I would factor that into my decision to stay or leave.

From a long-term perspective there is enough information about exposed geographies in the country to make wiser decisions about where to live. You do not need to live in a flood zone or close to one, and you do not need to live in a coastal community or on top of an earthquake fault.

To put all this in perspective and give you an idea about how people make decisions when emergencies loom, Walmart has studied the issue and ships extra beer to their stores in affected areas immediately prior to the emergency. They understand the planning strategies of their customers well…

basspond
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by basspond » Thu Aug 31, 2017 5:06 am

What happens is people (like me) survive a catastrophe unscathed and feel like they are safe from any future events. I will be getting flood insurance even though we didn't have any damage. It's like uninsured motorist coverage. Why do we need it when everyone is forced to have it?

We also have supplies including small generator and window unit to be able to survive for the worse case scenario. And definitely do not store things on the floor. Almost any area in the world has a chance to be effected by some sort of natural disaster. Evaluate what those risks are and do things to mitigate damage and survive.

Allan
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Allan » Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:10 am

I also live just outside of downtown Houston (2 miles west), and I've lived here all of my life (66 yrs). My wife and I have a weekend house in Chappell Hill just northwest of Houston 70 miles, and we had no thoughts of evacuating. We did fine. Since I have lived here for so long I know the areas that flood continuously: areas south of Houston, Westbury, parts of Bellaire, Braeswood, Kingwood, Spring Cypress, some downtown areas, parts of Baytown, etc. I will say in this rain, areas that have not flooded previously did this time. Also, I build new homes and have one 200 yards from Buffalo Bayou and it (and all of my new homes) did just fine, so go figure.

The obvious ways to prepare have been mentioned. Also, a whole house generator would be helpful.

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Watty
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Watty » Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:24 am

stimulacra wrote:
Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:31 pm
Was curious as to how Bogleheads would approach a similar scenario.
Floods and forest fires are about the only disasters that you would have enough advance knowledge of to be able to evacuate. We have little risk of those so we are more concerned something like a tornado that suddenly destroys our house or a big snowstorm or long power outage that would strand us in our home for a long time.

I once went through a flood so when I bought my current house I made sure that it has no chance of being it flooded. This isn't just based on a flood zone rating, which can be wrong or change, it is because it is high enough on a hill that flooding is virtually impossible.

We live in a suburban house with enough space that we can stock up on food when it is on sale so we could go at least two weeks on our normal food supplies that constantly get rotated. A while back Costco had a sale on a five gallon plastic bucket of dehydrated emergency food that is enough for two people for a month. It has a 20 year shelf life and only cost a bit over a hundred dollars so I bought that on a lark. I mainly got that so there would be food to share if it was needed.

We have a 50 gallon hot water tank which could supply us with drinking water for a long time if we needed it.

We keep some cash in the house so we do not need to rely on credit cards or an ATM.

We normally get a 90 day supply of prescriptions that we take so we would usually have a good supply of that.

I do need to come up with a better plan for backing up my photos at at offsite location.

My normal insurance will cover the material loss for something like a fire or tornado so I am not too worried about my material stuff.

I have earthquake insurance which is inexpensive since I live in a pretty low risk area;
https://earthquake.usgs.gov/hazards/learn/
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stimulacra
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by stimulacra » Thu Aug 31, 2017 6:53 am

denovo wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:11 am
I would have left town on 8/23 , I think that's your biggest mistake. You gambled and got lucky and your house didn't flood, but whats to say it would be the case next time. You could have decamped to Austin for a couple of days.
On 8/23 I knew a tropical storm was hitting Texas, there was zero indication that a record breaking hurricane would be hitting Houston. Vanishing from work 2-3 days before any storm hits isn't feasible for me.

It wasn't until late 8/24 (Thursday) that we became aware of how serious the hurricane was.

I lived through Hurricane Rita and Ike and have been conditioned to hunker down in place versus trying to evacuate. Houston city proper is 2.3 million but really the greater Houston area is 6.5 million people and we only have 4 arterial roads leading out of it. Almost all deaths from Rita happened during the evacuation, people running out of gas in gridlocked traffic in the middle of a heat wave surrounded by cars that don't want to lose their place in line. Even with Harvey, almost all of the deaths occurred within cars from people driving into deep water and drowning. I'd rather take my chances at home.

stimulacra
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by stimulacra » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:09 am

VictoriaF wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:19 am
An important consideration is computer backup. If you keep some of your backup devices in a bank's safe deposit box, and both your home and your bank become flooded, you are likely to lose all copies of your files. Backing up to a cloud would solve this issue, but it brings up concerns about the cloud security.

Do you know if Houston banks were any safer from the flood than residences?

Victoria
Up until 2014 I stored backup externals at a bank box that I would rotate out (A/B) every week or so. I then upgraded to a wireless router with attached NAS drive that was too large to fit so got lazy with my setup on that front. Also I pared down all of my crucial info to fit in my DropBox account or several encrypted USB drives that I keep at work, in my briefcase and in my car. I'm vulnerable to losing my digital photo collection (raw files) and 17 years of music but use Flickr and Spotify to help mitigate that risk. Not sure if the average retail bank is any safer than a residence but I always made sure to pick a safe deposit box 3-5 feet off the ground. But yeah this is a good reminder to improve my current setup.

ddurrett896
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by ddurrett896 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:14 am

McGilicutty wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:40 am
The problem with disaster prep is that pretty much everything expires. Gas loses its potency. The plastic holding bottled water breaks down and starts to leach chemicals into the water. Canned goods last at most a few years.
There is a solution.

Have fuel on hand and one a year, maybe make your birthday month the time, dump it in your vehicle and refill.
Fill water jugs from your sink prior to the storm. If you don't need then dump. Water is cheap!
Cycle canned goods. Keep a bunch on hand that you eat weekly and continue the cycle for replenishment.

dowse
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by dowse » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:25 am

What strikes me about the OP's post is that he is back to some semblance of "normal". Being 1500 mi. away from this tragedy, it is hard for me to put it in perspective from what I can see in the media. While there is an appalling degree of loss and misery to be sure, what I can't tell is what percentage of the population of the Houston metro area were largely unaffected, other than the inconveniences of trying to avoid lines for basic supplies. Is it 1%, 10%, 50%, more experiencing a major impact? Even 1% would be heartbreaking, but are people actually going back to work and is it business as usual for areas that came through relatively unscathed? I just don't feel I'm getting an accurate overall perspective.

For the analytical among us, (probably most of us), here is an article that I found useful:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/it ... ar-floods/

KlangFool
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by KlangFool » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:26 am

OP,

1) I used to live in Houston. I was there for many years.

2) I was in Houston when Hurrican Alicia strike.

KlangFool

aristotelian
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by aristotelian » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:36 am

dowse wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:25 am
What strikes me about the OP's post is that he is back to some semblance of "normal". Being 1500 mi. away from this tragedy, it is hard for me to put it in perspective from what I can see in the media. While there is an appalling degree of loss and misery to be sure, what I can't tell is what percentage of the population of the Houston metro area were largely unaffected, other than the inconveniences of trying to avoid lines for basic supplies. Is it 1%, 10%, 50%, more experiencing a major impact? Even 1% would be heartbreaking, but are people actually going back to work and is it business as usual for areas that came through relatively unscathed? I just don't feel I'm getting an accurate overall perspective.

For the analytical among us, (probably most of us), here is an article that I found useful:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/it ... ar-floods/
Anecdotally, I know three people in Houston and they are all for the most part unaffected.

The whole thing makes me want to be a renter again, and have a lot less stuff.

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teen persuasion
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by teen persuasion » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:54 am

We prepare for the extreme weather common to our area, it's to some degree a way of life. The people running out to get food is foreign to me - I have a stockpile of nonperishables that I cycle thru over time (purchased during sales cycles), we could go a long time on the stuff in the house. No natural gas down our road, so have tanks of propane for our stove, 6 months or more supply. Generator for when electric goes out, though we can deal w/o electric for a while rather than go to the trouble of hooking it up. Woodstove for heating in winter. You always keep a full tank of gas in your car.

This year we've had a bunch of extreme weather events locally, not hurricane level, but more than usual. Early March a windstorm hit my area and took out hundreds of power poles, 3 of them directly south of my property line (they were just hanging by their wires over the road). Power was out for a few days in the region. A tree came down on a co-worker's home, doing extensive damage. Less than a week later, a blizzard closed schools for another 2 days. Eh, we are used to those, just stay home and hunker down, it was just late in the season so a bit surprising after the 70 degree temps with the windstorm the previous week. Late April/early May, the area had unrelenting rain for weeks, leading to unusual spring flooding. My employer had basement flooding, which we'd never seen before, and eventually my home basement began filling, too (we are on a ridge, but the ground was just oversaturated). After reaching out to DH's volunteer fire company friends to get them to pump it out, it refilled overnight, so we bought our own pump to keep things under control.

stimulacra
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by stimulacra » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:57 am

dowse wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:25 am
What strikes me about the OP's post is that he is back to some semblance of "normal". Being 1500 mi. away from this tragedy, it is hard for me to put it in perspective from what I can see in the media. While there is an appalling degree of loss and misery to be sure, what I can't tell is what percentage of the population of the Houston metro area were largely unaffected, other than the inconveniences of trying to avoid lines for basic supplies. Is it 1%, 10%, 50%, more experiencing a major impact? Even 1% would be heartbreaking, but are people actually going back to work and is it business as usual for areas that came through relatively unscathed? I just don't feel I'm getting an accurate overall perspective.

For the analytical among us, (probably most of us), here is an article that I found useful:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/it ... ar-floods/
Cabin fever has been a real thing this past week. We had a wide variety of food but got bored cooking at home for 3-4 meals straight. Getting back into a sense of routine feels both necessary but also unnatural (esp. if you turn on the news). Other friends who came through unscathed have articulated a mild sense of survivors guilt.

Based on my own anecdotal observations I would guess between 2-5% suffered significant home damage from Harvey. A lot of people are volunteering but unless you have a flat bottom boat or some other crucial first responder or social services training, it largely consists of sorting through bags of donated clothes at the larger shelters or helping neighbors and family tear out soaked carpet and drywall. There is a sense of the city getting back to normal which is an awkward transition any way you cut it.

Yes, 100 year floods is B.S. We've had 3 in the last two years now.

livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:58 am

Ah, disaster prep is a favorite boglehead topic as is buying a home generator.
I wrote this in this 2011 thread viewtopic.php?t=70674:
As a survivor of a few natural disasters and married to a member of a CERT, I can say this: For short-term disasters, you need very little since you don't need to eat much in 3 days. You need water for sure, but not much else.

For long-term disasters, you need a credit card and a vehicle that you can drive out of the disaster area.

Have you ever been camping? It is good practice.

It is really that simple.
Before that thread I experienced a tornado, hurricanes while young, and hurricanes while a homeowner such as Rita and Ike. After that thread I experienced Sandy (trapped on NY shoreline) and now Harvey. I missed some others though like Matthew. In my personal experience, I never used cash during a disaster because stores were not open and nothing was available to buy. Cash gives folks a false sense of security. But I have read that some folks were able to pay cash to have trees cut off of their homes and get laborers to put up tarps.

I have few comments (which do not apply to disabled people, they have special needs):
Folks who go backpacking usually take some form of cook stove and water disinfecting method. They don't take ice and readily perishable foods. As for batteries, people now have solar chargers. Sure, the sun won't be out all the time, but one shouldn't need to use much battery-powered stuff anyways.

For water, we have a few old 2-l bottles we fill from the tap, but we also put 32-gal rubbermaid food-grade containers in our showers and fill them. We put the lids on so that we can still use the showers and tubs while they are sitting there. When not in hurricane mode, these garbage containers hold hurricane supplies like tarps, hammer, nails, and/or stored winter clothes. We just dump out the clothes to use them for water. Note that if your home is going to be underwater, these garbage containers will do you no good, but you won't be flushing your toilets anyways. If you have a 2-story house, make sure at least one is upstairs.

Our Harvey prep consisted of just filling up the cars with gas. Everything else was ready as it always is.

House generators are only needed if you lose power and you have a lot of stuff in your fridge you want to save. We don't have a generator and would use a power loss to force us to clean out the fridge which is a good thing. Items like cheeses, hard salami, pepperoni, and eggs are good for days without refrigeration as are staples like rice and beans. You probably have 3 days of canned good in your pantry now.

The BIG DEAL is how to GET OUT -- either before or after the disaster as needed and to be diversified in places to evacuate to. Some flood-prone folks may want to have a flatboat and PFDs in the future to go along with their SUVs.

Finally, I think this was posted on bogleheads before: Here is an OUTSTANDING set of work on one family's Katrina disaster experience with excellent actionable tips on preparation and afterwards:
http://www.theplacewithnoname.com/blogs ... p/map.html
On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina became the largest natural disaster in United States history. After the levees failed, it became the largest man-made disaster in United States history. This blog is a chronicle of what happened to myself and my family during those events. It is also a documentation of lessons learned from a survival and recovery viewpoint.
Good luck, be safe.
Last edited by livesoft on Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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KlangFool
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by KlangFool » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:59 am

OP,

1) My nieces' houses in Sugarland are flooded.

2) The uncles and aunties are working on a financial aid package to help them out.

Friends and families that are willing to help you should be part of the disaster preparation. "Pay it forward" to strangers when you can is necessary too. I donate money to the food bank whenever I am employed as part of my preparation.

KlangFool

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bltkmt
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by bltkmt » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:03 am

stimulacra wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:57 am

Based on my own anecdotal observations I would guess between 2-5% suffered significant home damage from Harvey.

This is totally surprising to me based on how things are presented on television. It looks like near 100% destruction.

livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:08 am

bltkmt wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:03 am
stimulacra wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:57 am

Based on my own anecdotal observations I would guess between 2-5% suffered significant home damage from Harvey.

This is totally surprising to me based on how things are presented on television. It looks like near 100% destruction.
I live near Houston, I have been watching / reading the national media which does paint a grim picture. Here is something to consider, with a population of over 6,000,000 why is less than 1% in shelters today? Some shelters are even going to close because people are already leaving. Folks are going to stay with friends and family rather than stay in shelters.

Places like Port Arthur and Beaumont will have a higher percentage of the population affected. They need help. And Beaumont is reported to have lost its water supply. That's not the case in Houston and Houstonians still have electricity, too.
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djpeteski
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by djpeteski » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:14 am

Pro tip that I learned from Charlie (Orlando, 2004): Have flashlights with uncommon batteries. After the storm you could not buy D, C, or 9 volt batteries. However, you could buy AA and AAA all day long. So now I have a multitude of flashlights that take those batteries. Also I keep a brick of those two sizes on hand. They are cheap enough at warehouse clubs.

Also have headlamps. They are amazingly handy.

livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:18 am

dowse wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:25 am
..., but are people actually going back to work and is it business as usual for areas that came through relatively unscathed? I just don't feel I'm getting an accurate overall perspective.
Yes, my spouse went back to work. Her employer asked that if one can house a colleague whose home has flooded or been damaged, that volunteers are needed.

Certainly almost all the hospitals are running normally and since they are scattered around the city, that's a good indication that other businesses can function normally. You may have heard of the "Waffle House" indicator, but in Houston it might be the H.E.B. grocery store indicator. Since the roads are now almost all open and passable, almost grocery stores can restock just as if there was no flooding.
http://houston.cbslocal.com/2017/08/29/ ... as-of-829/

Curiously, for folks in the thick of it, national media is practically useless for information.
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livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:20 am

djpeteski wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:14 am
Pro tip that I learned from Charlie (Orlando, 2004): Have flashlights with uncommon batteries. After the storm you could not buy D, C, or 9 volt batteries. However, you could buy AA and AAA all day long. So now I have a multitude of flashlights that take those batteries. Also I keep a brick of those two sizes on hand. They are cheap enough at warehouse clubs.

Also have headlamps. They are amazingly handy.
Yes, LED headlamps are the way to go. Found at sporting goods stores, too. Get headlamps that use AAA or AA batteries and not watch and hearing aid batteries.

Double pro-tip: I have rechargeable batteries like Eneloops. I have a solar-cell charger for them, too. I haven't used C, D, or 9-volt batteries in years.
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runner540
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by runner540 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:35 am

Tornadoes come with a few minutes warning if you are Lucky. We keep food, water, radio, flash lights and lantern by the cellar trap door so we can grab and hunker down immediately.

In some "emergency fund" threads, people question the need for cold hard cash at home. Maybe this will help them realize the value: one less errand (stopping at ATM), leave town sooner, no risk of ATM running out. I also keep my gas tank half full at all times.

Another thing that is helpful is keeping all inportant paperwork (passports, cash, insurance, etc.) together in plastic bags and in the fire safe, so you can grab and go.

livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:23 am

stimulacra wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:57 am
Cabin fever has been a real thing this past week.
[...]
Yes, 100 year floods is B.S. We've had 3 in the last two years now.
Re cabin fever: The Talking Heads have a some great songs for this. I'll give one link to the "Stop Making Sense" video with
Psycho Killer
Burning Down the House
"Hold tight
Wait 'til the party's over
Hold tight
We're in for nasty weather"

Life During Wartime
"Heard about Houston ... I got some groceries; some peanut butter, to last a couple of days ... This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no fooling around."

Once in a Lifetime

Take Me to the River


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZSymMlGQ28&t=1876s

and others. For instance, if you have a baby, then "Stay Up Late" is good.

Re 100 year floods:
The past 3 floods happened in different parts of Houston. Don't forget that the Houston metro area is bigger than Rhode Island.
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LeSpy
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by LeSpy » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:32 am

I don't have anything to add regarding personal finance that others haven't already said.

I would add that if I were in a similar situation thinking about future calamities, I would also factor in community-based volunteering or actions I could take or donations I could make to help the local area prepare for potential calamities in the future as well.

sls239
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by sls239 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:32 am

I think you have to realize that the decision made by officials to evacuate an area is just not the same as an individual's decision to evacuate.

In this case, the officials knew they couldn't pull off a full evacuation of the area in the time allotted. But a person with good resources could have easily evacuated their household.

And when people with good resources evacuate, that allows the emergency assistance to focus on those people who lacked the resources to evacuate themselves.

So don't base your personal decision on whether there has been an official call, base it on if you have the resources to go and if you can identify a good place to go to.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by mouses » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:38 am

livesoft wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:20 am
djpeteski wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:14 am
Pro tip that I learned from Charlie (Orlando, 2004): Have flashlights with uncommon batteries. After the storm you could not buy D, C, or 9 volt batteries. However, you could buy AA and AAA all day long. So now I have a multitude of flashlights that take those batteries. Also I keep a brick of those two sizes on hand. They are cheap enough at warehouse clubs.

Also have headlamps. They are amazingly handy.
Yes, LED headlamps are the way to go. Found at sporting goods stores, too. Get headlamps that use AAA or AA batteries and not watch and hearing aid batteries.

Double pro-tip: I have rechargeable batteries like Eneloops. I have a solar-cell charger for them, too. I haven't used C, D, or 9-volt batteries in years.
I have a stash of D and C batteries. I have an old style RayoVac lantern, apparently not made any more that runs on D batteries and lights up almost a whole room with "natural" light, ditto old style Maglites. I hate ice pick in the eye LEDs. I also have solar and hand crank stuff for when this runs out.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Rupert » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:41 am

I'm always amazed by the number of people who refuse to evacuate because of their pets. If you live in a hurricane-prone area (or wildfire or whatever), it's inevitable that you're going to need to evacuate at some point. So maybe reconsider buying that 30-foot python. :oops: But seriously, if you have pets, you need a plan. Many hotels and shelters won't take you in. So you'd better have family, friends, a campsite, etc., somewhere that will.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:48 am

mouses wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:38 am
I hate ice pick in the eye LEDs.
That's the cool thing about LED head lamps, when they are on your forehead, they can't point into your eyes. Instead they point to wherever you are looking and walk around with you without using your hands. Plus the batteries last many days if not weeks, of use. With sunlight during the day and a headlamp (mine has 10 LEDs in it, cost about $10), I haven't had to turn on the lights in the house all week.
Last edited by livesoft on Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:49 am

Rupert wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:41 am
But seriously, if you have pets, you need a plan. Many hotels and shelters won't take you in. So you'd better have family, friends, a campsite, etc., somewhere that will.
It is so true that you need a plan whether you have pets or not.
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by neilpilot » Thu Aug 31, 2017 10:00 am

When I lived in a coastal hurricane prone area, I flew inland for 48 hours until the threat had past. Later, my aircraft insurance reimbursed me $500 since I proactively moved my airplane out of harms way.

In Memphis, our primary natural disaster concerns are tornado and earthquake, so shelter in place is the first response. I do keep a wrench wired to the natural gas supply shutoff outside, to permit a rapid shutoff.

brito11
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by brito11 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:27 pm

Karl Denninger of Market Ticker has a post covering this:

http://market-ticker.org/akcs-www?post=232319

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Watty
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Watty » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:34 pm

For a prolonged power outage one handy thing to use for lighting is the solar powered stick lights that people put up along sidewalks. They are not bright enough to read by but a couple of them around the house can light it up enough that you can walk around without tripping. You can then put them back outside in the morning to recharge. Using them will help save your "real" batteries to make them last longer.

Be sure to also have a car cell phone charger so you can charge your cell phone in a car.

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queso
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by queso » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:44 pm

I'm probably a little more paranoid than most (if you ask my wife she'd put me as several multiples above "a little paranoid"), but here's my list:

- a few months worth of Mountain House food (in the big #10 cans that last for 30 years)
- a bunch of bottled water
- a hand crank radio that also charges cell phones
- a lifestraw for every family member
- a larger water purification bag system (Sawyer)
- a couple tanks of propane
- a bunch of fuel for my Jetboil
- a portable generator (gasoline)
- 20-30 gallons of gas with fuel stabilizer in it
- a few thousand rounds of ammo in assorted calibers
- guns for above ammo
- a few thousand dollars in cash
- an assortment of edged weapons and bludgeoning weapons (yes, I actually own and can use nunchucks!)
- antibiotics
- multiple first aid kits (including tourniquets, Israeli bandages, clotting powder, etc.)
- AED
- two different types of electric water pumps (for removing standing water in a hurry or moving water from one place to another)
- Quick Dam sandless sandbags and flood barriers
- a metric crapton of batteries for all my flashlights and headlamps (Costco sells big packs of batteries)
- assorted tarps, survival blankets, camping gear, etc.
- Motorola walkie talkies
- a crapton of paracord
- respirator/particulate masks
- shutoff wrench set for water and natural gas
- fire extinguishers
- 2 months of dry dog food
- whole house generator (natural gas)
- bugout vehicles: SUV, dirt bike, adventure bikes, 2 mountain bikes (several options depending on the situation)

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bltkmt
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by bltkmt » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:46 pm

Curious where abover lives?

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queso
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by queso » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:48 pm

bltkmt wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:46 pm
Curious where abover lives?
HCOL area - suburb of a big city, East coast.

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bltkmt
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by bltkmt » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:51 pm

As do I. Guess I need to step up my game!

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queso
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by queso » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:56 pm

bltkmt wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:51 pm
As do I. Guess I need to step up my game!
Depends on your level of paranoia/likelihood of incident and, uh, familial tolerance. Houston reminded me that I don't have any watercraft so I started wondering out loud if I ought to add a zodiac to the inventory. Of course, that doesn't have a cabin and wouldn't work well for longer durations on open water so maybe a largish sailboat WITH a zodiac might be more appropriate. Then I saw the looks I was getting at the table so I stopped talking and finished my dinner. :happy

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:59 pm

^You could get a flat-bottom jon-boat and cover it with one of your tarps. And maybe canoes or kayaks for others in your family.

But I didn't see your crapton of toilet paper. Yes, I know it is not necessarily needed, but why not if you have everything else? And hand sanitizer.
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queso
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by queso » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:02 pm

livesoft wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:59 pm
^You could get a flat-bottom jon-boat and cover it with one of your tarps. And maybe canoes or kayaks for others in your family.

But I didn't see your crapton of toilet paper. Yes, I know it is not necessarily needed, but why not if you have everything else? And hand sanitizer.
I didn't consider the toilet paper necessarily a disaster prep. I have 2-3 of those big Kirkland packs on hand at all times since I don't like to run out or be forced into an unplanned Costco trip just because someone comes down with the stomach flu.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Rupert » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:03 pm

Not to add fuel to this fire, but has anyone yet noted the forecast for Hurricane Irma, which just hit Category 2 status in the Atlantic? The European model has it as a Category 4 in the Gulf of Mexico early next week.
Last edited by Rupert on Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:03 pm

It might be a disaster if it isn't stored so it won't get wet.
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:04 pm

Rupert wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:03 pm
Not to add fuel to this fire, but has anyone yet noted the forecast for Hurricane Irma, which just hit Category 2 status in the Atlantic?
Saw that, but it probably will head north before it gets to where I'm at. :)
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queso
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by queso » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:05 pm

livesoft wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:03 pm
It might be a disaster if it isn't stored so it won't get wet.
Stop it! Now I'll start overthinking that and get into more trouble.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by smitcat » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:23 pm

queso wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:44 pm
I'm probably a little more paranoid than most (if you ask my wife she'd put me as several multiples above "a little paranoid"), but here's my list:

- a few months worth of Mountain House food (in the big #10 cans that last for 30 years)
- a bunch of bottled water
- a hand crank radio that also charges cell phones
- a lifestraw for every family member
- a larger water purification bag system (Sawyer)
- a couple tanks of propane
- a bunch of fuel for my Jetboil
- a portable generator (gasoline)
- 20-30 gallons of gas with fuel stabilizer in it
- a few thousand rounds of ammo in assorted calibers
- guns for above ammo
- a few thousand dollars in cash
- an assortment of edged weapons and bludgeoning weapons (yes, I actually own and can use nunchucks!)
- antibiotics
- multiple first aid kits (including tourniquets, Israeli bandages, clotting powder, etc.)
- AED
- two different types of electric water pumps (for removing standing water in a hurry or moving water from one place to another)
- Quick Dam sandless sandbags and flood barriers
- a metric crapton of batteries for all my flashlights and headlamps (Costco sells big packs of batteries)
- assorted tarps, survival blankets, camping gear, etc.
- Motorola walkie talkies
- a crapton of paracord
- respirator/particulate masks
- shutoff wrench set for water and natural gas
- fire extinguishers
- 2 months of dry dog food
- whole house generator (natural gas)
- bugout vehicles: SUV, dirt bike, adventure bikes, 2 mountain bikes (several options depending on the situation)
Our list is not all that different...
- we do not have a whole house genset , it is fairly unusable here
- packs of normal spare parts for mechanicals and defense items
- more stored gas
- zodiac like vessel (Nautica)
- tool sets
- books/guides on medicinal and survivor information

We were out for two weeks straight (electric, gas .cell towers, etc) during Sandy and did not really feel a huge hit except for the business/financial impacts.

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Pajamas
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Pajamas » Thu Aug 31, 2017 1:34 pm

I do keep some basics such as freeze-dried meals and canned food, alcohol burner stove in case the gas is cut off, baby wipes, crank radio and lights, plus regular battery-powered lighting sources. I fill up containers with water prior to a hurricane and also fill the bathtub to use for hygiene and flushing the toilet. but don't try to keep water all the time as I don't have a lot of spare room for it and there is almost always time to fill containers before the water tank on the roof is empty. Survived Sandy and the aftermath without any power for a week afterwards, not happy about it but safe, no hunger or thirst, and reasonably comfortable.

I think the most important decision is to stay or to evacuate. If you are told to evacuate, you should evacuate. If you are told to evacuate and don't, you are putting yourself at risk. If emergency personnel are even allowed to help you, you are putting them at risk, too.

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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by littlebird » Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:13 pm

Increasing age and health issues caused me to contemplate my disaster preparedness some time ago. The absence of the stronger, more physically competent spouse from the home, and the fatalism that sometimes comes with reasonable satisfaction with the number of years already allotted, have caused a ratcheting back of my preparedness.

I no longer have the strength or will to maintain the portable generator, so I gave it to someone who does. I no longer keep my gas tank at half at all times, since I have no second home to escape to any longer. Nor would I escape anywhere without my spouse, who is fairly immobile, in an assisted living home. I gave away our camping and back-packing gear because I know I can't/won't use it even in an emergency. I do keep a bag packed with my special, narrow dietary needs, but that's primarily for the more likely event of having to go to the hospital in an emergency, where they'd be hard-pressed to meet my needs quickly.

I keep regular Clorox on hand, separate from the "splashless" kind I normally use, and an eyedropper and dilution chart, a normal complement of first-aid (including potassium iodide pills, since I live not far from a nuclear power plant). Of course I have several days worth of canned food and bottled water. My medical insurance cards and Rx list are always with me. Lots of batteries and a battery-powered fan and radios. Emergency cell-phone.

My preparedness is now geared more toward the likely events that befall older folks, and which I can reasonably control: clearing throw rugs and other tripping hazards, wearing an alert button, making my home secure, but amenable to escape, etc. Real disaster preparedness, like bike-riding, is one of the many thing I've had to give up. :beer

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