The last few weeks have seen back-to-back disasters, with multiple hurricanes, earthquakes and more around the world.
I arrived on an overnight flight just 48 hours after the worst rainstorm in recorded U.S. history slammed south Texas. Areas that had never seen flooding in living memory sat under eight feet of water, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes. Desperate people sweltered in the south Texas heat at strip malls and begged for someone to help them. Gasoline, food and clean water were very hard to find.
If the power is out, cash is king. Keep enough on hand to get whatever you might have failed to procure before the storm hit.A week later, I was off to Florida, where I rode out Hurricane Irma as it collided with the state, leaving nearly 7 million people without power and a colossal mess that will take months, if not years, to clean up.
These two events are just the latest in the dozens of natural and man-caused disasters I’ve witnessed in 15 years as a war correspondent. I’ve reported on fires, floods, earthquakes, wars, epidemics, terrorist events and Detroit. And there are some similarities I’ve noticed in every one of these tragedies that might be of interest to you, especially if you, like me, intend to avoid becoming a statistic.
Generally, people separate into two groups when the stuff hits the fan—people who are assets to the situation, and people who are liabilities. Those who endeavor to be able to care for themselves and their neighbors fall into the first group. The second group is made up of those who either a.) fail to prepare; or b.) expect someone else to fix the problem.
NRA members, by and large, fall into the first group by definition. We’re the kind of people who take steps to make ourselves and those we love safer wherever we can. With that in mind, here are some observations I’ve made covering disasters for 15 years that might be useful to you:
- Prior planning, people. PLEASE don’t wait until 24 hours before the storm hits to get gas and stock up on bottled water, cash, canned goods or any other essential. Sheep do this. You should be better prepared. Most crises are, by definition, hard to foresee. Hurricanes are the exception. If you live in a hurricane zone, you should be equipped to live a couple of weeks without shopping for food or anything else … RIGHT NOW. If you can’t survive without Wal-Mart for a week or more, you are a liability waiting to happen.
- Sit down and think through where you would go if you were forced to evacuate your home. Relative in another state? Hotel? Do you have enough gas and cash to get there? I’m always astounded at the desperate hordes of people lining up for gasoline six hours before the storm hits, or those who are begging for water or baby formula 24 hours afterward.
- These two events are just the latest in the dozens of natural and man-caused disasters I’ve witnessed in 15 years as a war correspondent.Think through what you will do with your pets. Many first responders in Houston were putting their lives on the line checking on people’s cats and dogs who had been left in the first wave of mandatory evacuations. Many pets died because their owners failed to prepare for their welfare, and many people could have died because they were unwilling to leave their pets.
- If your family ends up in a shelter, you are a liability. These chaotic asylums for the unprepared are the last place you want to be for lots of reasons, not the least of which is that they typically won’t allow you to carry a weapon inside the shelter.
- Sheep wait until there is water creeping under their front door to think about how to safeguard their valuables.
- If the power is out, cash is king. Keep enough on hand to get whatever you might have failed to procure before the storm hit.
- The ”Cloud” is your friend. Your family photos and important documents should live there. Your computers should be backed up there. Do it now.
- Take photos of every wall in your house, inside and out. Record model numbers, serial numbers, etc., and upload it all to the cloud. Dropbox, Evernote, Flickr, Google drive, or any number of services will store your stuff free or very cheap. Do it now. Why wait?
- Stay in shape. I’m not saying we should all endeavor to look like Adonis … just do the best with what you have. The vast majority of medical emergencies I see in disasters have to do with poor lifestyle—diabetes, heart disease, morbid obesity and just plain poor physical conditioning. Unless you are a child or well into your geriatric years, you should endeavor to be able to navigate stairs, walk several miles, live without air conditioning for a couple of weeks and forego nicotine for more than 24 hours without losing your mind. What I noticed in Houston and Florida: The fit were saving the unfit. Choose fitness.
- Can’t afford a generator? A DC inverter is a cheap substitute. It probably won’t run your refrigerator, but will allow you to use your car as a charging station so at least you can keep in touch.
- For heaven’s sake, pack a bug-out bag. When sudden disaster strikes, whether it’s a terror attack, an earthquake or a power outage, I’ve seen so many people stranded at work, school, airports or even in the street without water, food, something to sleep on, or the means to protect themselves and miles from home. Keeping a small pack in your car with the essentials for getting home is cheap insurance. (A pair of sturdy shoes is especially smart for women who might be caught in high heels.)
- Sheepdogs make people safer wherever they go. That’s because they have a plan and are trained and ready to act on it.
Being an asset is a lifestyle. We should all try to be someone others can turn to in time of need. It’s part of what makes America great.
Chuck Holton is a veteran Army ranger and NRATV correspondent.