Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 Lessons from Hurricane Matthew

Fortunately the direct hit to Florida from Hurricane Matthew didn't happen.  It was still a good learning experience, however.  Here are ten lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew...

  1. Prepare NOW for the next hurricane and/or natural disaster that will happen.  There is no excuse to be playing tug-o-war over the last loaf of bread at your local grocery store, a couple of hours before a hurricane is set to make landfall.  This is what stores looked like just before Hurricane Matthew was set to hit Florida last week.  By stockpiling food and supplies now, purchasing plywood to board up your windows now, and (safely) storing extra fuel for your vehicle now, you won't be one of the people left with scraps when the next disaster happens.
  2. Double up your emergency fund.  Here is what it cost one family to evacuate Hurricane Matthew.  A lot of poor people were SOL when it came to evacuating simply because they had to money to do so.  Fortunately the emergency planners in Florida were made aware of this sort of situation after Hurricane Katrina and were able to use school buses to take people to shelters who would have otherwise been unable to evacuate due to having no vehicle or having no money for gas.
  3. I can't believe people would say that since they evacuated and nothing happened this time, they won't be evacuating again.  In the world of preparedness, 'plan for the worst and hope for the best' is the attitude to have.  This was an excellent way for people to test their evacuation preps, and most people were only inconvenienced and not seriously injured or killed--that is an excellent result.  I highly recommend following government orders to evacuate, even if it seems like in the past, out of an abundance of caution, the powers that be have "cried wolf" a time or two.  The time you don't evacuate could be the time your area gets a direct hit from a Cat 5 hurricane.
  4. And realize that disaster forecasting isn't an exact science.  While disaster forecasts may be completely off (like the recent warning about a major earthquake which was to hit the southern California area) or they may be slightly off (Florida didn't sustain a direct hit from Matthew as was forecasted) at least people get some sort of warning ahead of time (which is better than the alternative).
  5. While we are fortunate to live in a large enough and rich enough country that a hurricane such as Matthew can have a nearly immediate emergency response, that infrastructure can be put back together rapidly, and that there are places to easily evacuate to for safety, other countries such as Haiti are not so fortunate.  This is the initial after action report from Haiti.  Read and learn from this.
  6. When it comes to priorities for preparedness, the lives of you are your family are paramount.  Stuff can be replaced but people can't.  There will always be some scumbags who take advantage of other people's misery, but staying home during a mandatory evacuation order just to protect your stuff isn't worth it.  This is where good insurance--and a good inventory system--comes into play.  Of course a good video surveillance system is also a way to protect your stuff (well, not so much protect as to capture photos of looters which can be used for later apprehension and prosecution).
  7. And for the love of all that's holy, DON'T DRIVE THROUGH FLOOD WATERS.  People often associate the power of a hurricane blowing people away (or blowing things into people) for deaths directly related to hurricanes but drowning actually kills the most people during and after a hurricane.
  8. After the preparedness and the evacuation, you will come home when given the all clear.  But your work isn't done yet.  Generally after any sort of disaster you will need to clean up and repair/rebuild what was destroyed (often with less that normal services available such as no power even after the disaster has passed).  Be sure to have clean up supplies and tools on hand for use when you return.
  9. And even though Hurricane Matthew focused a lot of the nation's attention on Florida, much of its damage has been felt further up the coast.  This goes to show that while the national news can give you an overview of what is happening, you really need to pay attention to local news sources (local TV news, local newspapers, local social media reports from the DEM, law enforcement, etc) and react accordingly to what is happening in your immediate area.
  10. Finally, I found this little gem of a website when keeping updated on the hurricane...marine traffic in real time.  Fascinating.

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