Friday, September 5th, 2008

Mr. Prepared Reveals First Hand Advice From Gustav Survivors!

 Well, everyone expected Hurricane Gustav had the potential to be worse than Katrina’s devastation three years ago.  Fortunately, it wasn’t.  But plenty of damage was done – and history was made again!

I’m Mr. Prepared and, so far, Gustav has been the peak of an incredibly active hurricane season.  It started with Dolly drenching South Texas, continued with Fay dumping up to five feet of water over a week in Florida and just recently saw Gustav barreling towards New Orleans, causing the biggest evacuation ever seen of that city – it was estimated that only 10,000 residents remained in their homes, out of a population of over 250,000! 

Now, as I write this, three other storms are building – Hanna, Ike and Josephine.  What happens with that terrible trio, we can’t be certain about.  What we can obviously see, though, is that, as all the major weather agencies predicted, this is certainly one of the busier hurricane seasons in recent years.

You can’t know what it’s like to have to deal with an evacuation order and leave behind your home and possessions until you’ve gone through it yourself.  With that in mind, I’ve collected a few observations from the lucky evacuees who fled the Big Easy and escaped injury from Hurricane Gustav.  They’re eager to share what they did right – and what they did wrong – in their emergency evacuation preparations.

For instance, L.E. McNutt says that, when evacuating, you should “avoid hotels. Stay with family, friends, campgrounds, anything. Only as a last resort should you lock yourself into a box with nothing but two beds and non-stop cable news coverage of the hurricane.”

Karen Scallan, who dealt with both Katrina and Gustav, has some great ideas of how to help kids through an evacuation.  “You can never be too prepared. Never try to evacuate without the portable DVD player. People who say parents shouldn’t use TV as a baby sitter never sat in a car for 14 hours in one spot on the interstate with screaming kids who have nothing to do.  Also, give kids their own snack bags for when they get the hungries in the car.  And let them help before you go. Even if they’re little. Give them something “important” to do to help them feel in control.”

Stuart Palermo learned a valuable lesson about keeping copies of valuable documents: “Katrina taught me that an immaculate file cabinet means nothing when soaked underwater for weeks. Now I file everything electronically…I now have a back-up system, too. I make a DVD of my files and one of digital pictures that I send to a friend up north for holding. I only keep the originals of things that are certified (birth certificates, marriage license, etc.) and evacuate with them. Everything else can be reprinted.”

Karen Benrud took a favorite Mr. Prepared suggestion and kept a journal of her ordeal.  She reported, “At the top of one page, I wrote the heading “Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda,” and as I thought of things I wish I would have brought with me, I jotted them down. Here are a few I came up with:   More clothes than a three-day supply (just because you are a refugee doesn’t mean you have to look like one), my own pillow, my prescription sunglasses. (You don’t think of sunglasses when escaping in the gloom of an approaching hurricane), a sweater, the good bottles of wine we were saving for a special occasion, and lots of perfume!   We had no showers for 10 days. Of course we also had no A/C, so we stunk so bad that at night when I was trying to fall asleep for a few hours, I was wishing I was 20 feet tall, so that my nose would be further away from my feet and armpits.”

And perhaps the best advice regarding evacuation comes from Meghan Finnegan: “Biggest lesson learned: Leave earlier to avoid sitting in the most nerve-wracking traffic known to man for 17-plus hours!”

Most of the time, evacuations aren’t necessary, fortunately.  Whatever the situation, if you’re in hurricane country, you need to make sure you’re prepared for the worst.  Please visit my site at to find out more about how you should plan with your family and what emergency survival supplies you should always have on hand, so you can handle what weather comes your way.

Until next time, Be Smart!  Be Safe!  Be Prepared!  This is Mr. Prepared, bringing Awareness to Preparedness!