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When Disaster Strikes
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Photo: Thomas Bush
We almost didn’t leave,” she said. “Our two children have a terminal disease, and they were so fragile. We weren’t sure they would survive the stress of evacuation. I am very thankful that we went. Our house was totally destroyed. Our insurance company’s field engineer said the chunks of bricks fell away from each wall as a result of tornadic winds racking our home until it literally fell apart.”

After a pause, she continued, “But we didn’t think we’d be gone but a few days so we only took a couple days' worth of clothing and few of our personal documents. We focused on packing supplies for our children. We never dreamed that our home and many of our neighbors’ homes would be destroyed--or that nearly two dozen would lose their lives.”

As we talked about the life-changing impact of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005, she shared her frustration about the transformation of a well-cared for home into rubble. “When my husband returned to search for our possessions, he found a number of items several blocks away in many different directions. His car that we left locked in the garage was down the street and damaged beyond repair. Worst of all, looters scoured the neighborhood, justifying their theft of personal belongings as ‘salvage rights.’ One neighbor collected photographs that were blown around the area and plans a gathering of neighbors to see if they can find their photos. Several weeks later while walking a couple of streets over from my house,  I found a picture of my parents’ last Christmas. It was under a basket of my mother’s. The interesting thing is that the two items had not been in the same room of our home so I can only guess how they ended up together.”

Preparing for Disaster

When asked what she would tell other people about preparing for a disaster (whether it’s a storm, fire, earthquake, etc), she shared the following:

Long before a disaster strikes, put together a file of important documents. Include birth certificates, passports, lease or homeowner documents, insurance information, copies of keys for all vehicles, a phone list of relatives’ addresses and phone numbers and any other vital information. Keep the file in an easily accessible area, and store a copy of the file away from your home.

Review your insurance coverage and sign up for flood and wind damage insurance.

Put together a disaster kit for your family, both a portable kit and one for use during power outages. Stock up on bottled water, canned food (with a manual opener), a corded phone and a portable radio (with extra batteries, or better yet, one of the crank type that doesn’t require batteries), and flashlight—again with extra batteries or a shake type. Include a couple changes of clothing, jacket, gloves, shoes and socks, extra eye glasses, prescriptions and medicines, and other items you need for daily life.

Have a place to which you can go—as well as an alternative should you have to change the evacuation route. If the government has issued a general evacuation, plan for a long, slow trip since lots of other people will be evacuating as well (hundreds of thousands from several Gulf states moved inland ahead of Katrina and the hurricane maintained its power well inland). Think through what you will need  and plan accordingly—ahead of time. 

For additional disaster planning information check this link to the Weather Channel Web site: http://www.weather.com/safeside/tropical/before.html?from=hurricane_welcome

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