Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

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

Post by H-Town » Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:15 pm

stimulacra wrote:
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…

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.
I live in Houston too - a neighborhood close by Addicks Reservoir. I've been dealing with the disaster and had to make quick decisions in the past 6 days. I've been here since Allison storm, living through hurricane Ike, Memorial Day rain 2015, and Tax Day rain 2016.

My approach to disaster planning is part of the overall risk assessment. Here are my thoughts:
1. When I bought my first house, I made sure that it's not in 500 year flood zone, has the highest elevation in the area, farthest away from bayou/lake, and has an easy access to exit routes. Living through Allison helps me with this assessment.
2. In my opinion, buying big SUV/4x4 to help with disaster planning is a knee jerk reaction. You don't need to travel when it's flooded out there.
3. I have flood insurance, costing $450 a year. It has 200k structural damage and 100k content damage.
4. Keep a cool head and pay attention to reliable source of information/forecasters who don't use hype for views. I follow spacecityweather.com and Eric and Matt are amazing at keeping me informed.
5. Keep a cool head when making decision whether to leave or to stay. This is critical because: 1) you don't want to stuck on highways with flash flood emergency out there, and 2) stuck in a house with rapidly rising water.

It does not have to cost a lot of money to prepare for disaster. Keeping a cool head is critical in these situations.

And no need to be nervous about the next big storm. Things happen and we'll deal with it when it comes.

2015
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by 2015 » Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:28 pm

livesoft wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:58 am

<snip>

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.
Oh my, I have been looking for this site for the past year, but couldn't remember it. Two years ago, finding it motivated me to create my own emergency disaster plan. As a result, in the event of a disaster, I can collect just 10 items in less than 30 seconds, go anywhere, and start my life over, with minimal disruption.

I agree humans have a tendency to the misjudge threats based on recency bias. For example, as a result of Harvey, prepping of all kinds will increase, while people continue to neglect larger, more likely outcomes like threats to their health (i.e., 2/3 of Americans are overweight, almost 40% are obese).

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

Post by ResearchMed » Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:42 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)
Did I just wander into the wrong forum perhaps?

:shock:

RM
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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 2:48 pm

Thanks for the responses everyone. After reading them I'm inclined to do some slight tweaks and updates to my current plan.

Evacuation is definitely an option for next time (if I can get a 48 hour lead) although not sure if Austin is far enough inland.

Re-evaluating my digital data backup system. A lot's changed since Rita and Ike (all my firewire drives and optical media are effectively obsolete).

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

Post by denovo » Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:07 pm

KlangFool wrote:
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

Did they not have flood insurance?
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

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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 7:02 pm

ResearchMed wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 2:42 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)
Did I just wander into the wrong forum perhaps?

:shock:

RM
I figured there would be a lot more crossover with Bogleheads and preppers, but maybe I'm in the minority. Being a little too over prepared isn't that dissimilar from LBYM, buying "safe" index funds, establishing an emergency fund, etc. I figured there would be more of us. :D

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

Post by Carefreeap » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:04 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.
My gf who introduced me to backpacking taught me about drying out batches of babywipes prior to going on a trip. Lighter weight and more compact if dry. Not a disaster if they get wet. :D

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

Post by stimulacra » Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:26 pm

queso wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:02 pm
I figured there would be a lot more crossover with Bogleheads and preppers, but maybe I'm in the minority. Being a little too over prepared isn't that dissimilar from LBYM, buying "safe" index funds, establishing an emergency fund, etc. I figured there would be more of us. :D
I'm going to wager you might hold more gold bullion, TIPS, and cash than the typical boglehead ;)

I can see the appeal. Me personally, I don't have to space to store all of those supplies since moving back into the city. I have a hard enough time tracking the shelf life of the food in my fridge and pantry much less a prepper's cache of supplies. But I do enjoy reading other people's philosophy on the subject.

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

Post by LadyGeek » Thu Aug 31, 2017 8:21 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (disaster preparations).
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F150HD
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by F150HD » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:23 pm

stimulacra wrote:
Wed Aug 30, 2017 11:31 pm
Was curious if there was a Boglehead consensus on disaster preparations?
how did you prepare for Y2K?

I recall some PhD guy on 60 Mins who sold everything and moved into a bunker in the desert somewhere.

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

Post by KlangFool » Thu Aug 31, 2017 9:44 pm

denovo wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 3:07 pm
KlangFool wrote:
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

Did they not have flood insurance?
No.

KlangFool

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

Post by stimulacra » Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:15 pm

Was listening to local news radio today on the drive in. An interesting cautionary tale about home buying during hurricane season. One individual just bought a house right before Harvey hit and his previous home was still under contract. Both homes were lost were lost in the storm and neither had flood insurance.

They didn't go into the specifics of the situation but assuming a median home price in Houston of $300k, this individual is probably on the hook for $600k and no asset to go with it.

Mostly got me thinking about what steps this individual could have taken to minimize risk in this scenario. Don't go house shopping between July and November? Close on your old home before buying another? Have flood insurance?

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

Post by livesoft » Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:23 pm

They still own the land under the houses. The houses could have been just $100K each and the land $200K each, but probably not as much now. :)

Also "lost" means different things to different people. It is possible that only lower 6 ft (or 1 ft) of home was flooded of a 2-story home. Sure, it's a loss, but the math is different
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stimulacra
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by stimulacra » Thu Sep 21, 2017 2:40 pm

Forgot about lot value… thanks!

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

Post by Herekittykitty » Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:36 pm

Always stay up to date on immunizations. Tetanus for example, but really, all of them.
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Ethelred
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Ethelred » Fri Sep 22, 2017 10:57 pm

Something else to consider in your disaster preparations: what if you are away from your home when you find out the hurricane (or whatever it might be) is coming?

We happened to be on a week's vacation to see the eclipse when we found out Harvey was going to impact us. Our neighbors checked on our house, and we had a plan for them to help if it flooded, but there wouldn't have been much they could have done. Our flights ended up being delayed over a week. We will be changing where we store some items, so they're safer at all times. Maybe other changes too.

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

Post by CurlyDave » Sat Sep 23, 2017 12:54 am

livesoft wrote:
Thu Aug 31, 2017 12:59 pm
...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.
If the plumbing is working, you want real TP. If the plumbing is not working, or if you don't have any plumbing where you evacuate to, you want paper towels for that function. Take it from an old woodsman and hunter.

TP is very flimsy because it is meant to be flushed and not clog the plumbing. If the plumbing doesn't work, you want paper towels because you are going to throw it away instead of flushing. Paper towels are sturdy and prevent the dreaded "finger poke through".

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

Post by JPH » Sat Sep 23, 2017 7:21 am

Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly!
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livesoft
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by livesoft » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:10 am

Imagine you are in Puerto Rico right now. What do you think you are doing? Waiting for the cavalry to come? The cavalry ain't coming. At least not anytime soon.
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Dtort
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Re: Hurricane Harvey has me rethinking my approach to disaster preparations

Post by Dtort » Sun Sep 24, 2017 3:48 am

One thing to definitely do differently; have important policy numbers and contact info in the cloud. We had to evacuate and couldn't get back into our flooded home for three days. Our records were safe in the attic, but I couldn't get to them and had difficulty remembering one insurance company and its contact info.
and always have a couple of hundred dollars in small bills in case prolonged power outages make ATMs unavailable and for making small purchases/

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

Post by Cosmo » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:43 am

pfranz wrote:
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.
This. Luckily, there wasn't a mass-evacuation with Hurricane Harvey. Your advice is just not practical. If Houstonians listened to every ominous 72 hour rain forecast (associated with a tropical storm or not), they would find themselves evacuating their home 3-4 times per year.

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

Post by Cosmo » Sun Sep 24, 2017 5:47 am

stimulacra wrote:
Thu Sep 21, 2017 12:15 pm
Was listening to local news radio today on the drive in. An interesting cautionary tale about home buying during hurricane season. One individual just bought a house right before Harvey hit and his previous home was still under contract. Both homes were lost were lost in the storm and neither had flood insurance.

They didn't go into the specifics of the situation but assuming a median home price in Houston of $300k, this individual is probably on the hook for $600k and no asset to go with it.

Mostly got me thinking about what steps this individual could have taken to minimize risk in this scenario. Don't go house shopping between July and November? Close on your old home before buying another? Have flood insurance?
In Texas, the home is not yours until you officially close on it. Prior to that, you can walk away from it. The most you would be on the hook for is the earnest money you put down.

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

Post by Dandy » Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:33 am

Glad to hear that you made it through that horrible event. The steps you took made a lot of sense.

We lost power for 4 days during a storm a few years ago and it was a wake up call. We were so lucky that the town next door had some electricity. Cash was king as most places wouldn't or couldn't accept credit cards. Any store with electricity had people lining up to charge their cell phones and laptops. People forgot that our gas stations needed electricity to pump gas and that gas generators therefore had limited value.

My mantra is don't mess with mother nature. e.g. if faced with a major storm like Harvey or Irma (or Maria) I would pack up car, gas up the car and head away from it at least 3 or 4 days before it was to hit. I feel you need to be a very early decider. That would hold especially true if I lived in a flood area or in hurricane territory. Unfortunately, some of these storms are so big and their track so uncertain that you might not know what direction to head for.

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