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Be Prepared For Disaster: Practical Lessons Learned From The Houston Flood

Hurricane Harvey and the plight of South Texas has touched our hearts and restored our faith in humanity. We should realize, though, that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, and forest fires are fairly common disasters in various parts of our country so it’s wise to be prepared. We take our modern conveniences for granted, only realizing how dependent we’ve become when public utilities are suddenly cut off.

Seventy years ago, many Americans lived closer to the lad. Less dependent for food, power, and water than today, they could manage nature’s fury better than today’s highly urbanized people. Wisdom says, “But he who listens to me shall live securely, and shall be at ease from the dread of evil.” Prov. 1:33. So let me suggest a few basic things to prepare you and your family for emergencies.

First, every family member over age 11 should pass a Red Cross or Boy Scout first-aid course. These are skills they can, and most likely will, use the rest of their lives. They also equip us to help others in home accidents, car wrecks, and many other situations. “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor …you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” Lev. 19:16,18.

Since fires have many causes and are the Number One cause of home loss, you should, at minimum, have a fire extinguisher in your kitchen and master bedroom. Even better, an extinguisher should be in every other room, and one in each car.

There should be a first-aid kit on each floor of your house and one in each car. The cell phone is the greatest safety device ever invented, so keep it charged. Have back-up battery or solar powered chargers in case the electric goes out. Teach your kids that if the electric does fail, all non-communication use of phones must cease so as to extend battery life.

You should also have a battery-powered radio with a hand crank for power if the batteries run out. (The kids love to crank those.) Each family member should have their own flashlight and spare batteries. “The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.” Prov. 14:8.

If you can Stay at Home While the Grid is Down
Make sure you have sufficient water for 7 days: about a gallon per person and pet per day. You can only last 3-4 days without water. Floods often cause spills of heavy metals and chemicals from industrial waste. This may cause drinking water contamination for several days AFTER your water treatment plant is working again, so your own, clean water is a must.

Cooking is essential. At the first sign of emergency, start eating your refrigerated and frozen food, so you don’t lose it when the electric goes out. Charcoal grills can use wood and other combustibles for fuel when the charcoal runs out. Gas grills are good too, but your propane supply is finite.

Have chlorine and iodine tablets to make sure all critters are dead after boiling water. As soon as you can afford it, a gasoline, diesel, or natural gas generator is a great idea. So is a gasoline-powered chainsaw. A large generator isn’t necessary. Just get one big enough to run electric for essential needs for short periods.

As for food, on each trip to the store, simply buy a few extra canned and freeze-dried items that your family already eats. Build up to five to seven day supply. Rotate them into meals every 6 months or so, and replace with fresh items. Finally, at the first sign of emergency, get all prescriptions refilled. You don’t want your daily maintenance drugs running out during a crisis; and don’t forget pet meds either! If you’re able to stay, then a vegetable garden is a good thing for any home. Home canning is prudent, cheap, and fun as well. If you live outside of town, a well and some chickens are great ideas.

Looters are a fact of life in disasters, so you should be prepared to defend yourself. You should have one rifle or shotgun for EACH adult, and carry sidearms at ALL times, even inside the house. All firearms should be loaded at the first sign of impending emergency; loading all your spare magazines and speed loaders will save time and space, too. Most important of all, take a class on the law of self-defense for your state. You and your spouse should be trained in the legal use of force, and I DON’T mean your state’s required carry permit class. These are notoriously weak on the law! Take a class from a legal professional so you DEFINTELY know when to use force and how much.

You need know the law in any state you’re travelling to as well. In Texas, for instance, you can use deadly force to protect property, but in most states, you can’t. Deadly force is usually reserved to prevent attempted murder or permanent injury, rape, kidnap, robbery or carjacking of yourself or others. You MUST know the legal limits! “The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Prov. 8:15.

If You Are Forced to Evacuate
Staying or going, at the first sign of an emergency, fill up your cars so can get out of the danger zone if need be. Gas stations can’t pump without electricity. You don’t want be on fumes when that happens. If you anticipate “bugging out”, call friends outside the danger zone who can put you up (and put up with you). Pack clothing for five days, and double the underwear. Be ready to leave at one hour’s notice or less; beat the traffic if you can. Unless there’s a real need to stay, getting out early is your best bet to avoid traffic tie-ups and panicked, reckless drivers.

Provide water and nutritious snacks in the car in case you get caught in long traffic jams. Don’t forget a water bowl and snacks for pets, either. Also, have a means to urinate in the car. Caught in an ice storm traffic jam once, a Styrofoam coffee cup served me well. Re-sealable gallon-size plastic storage bags are good for this. Make sure to check the pressure on your spare tire every 6 months. A small collapsible shovel like an army surplus entrenching tool is always useful.

Finally, get to know your neighbors so you have a community network in times of trouble. Being a good neighbor just makes your life better all around. None of these suggestions is expensive. Just budget $25-50 a month and build up slowly, one item at a time. Read the definition of the word “emergency.” A little planning and preparation makes a huge difference. It will give you peace of mind and self-confidence.

Even if you’re out of town, you’ll be comforted knowing your family knows what to do. If you want to know more, ask a Prepper friend or check the many Prepper websites on the internet. This article just scratches the surface, but it’s a start. “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established. By knowledge its rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Prov. 24:3-4.

photo credit: Chabad.org DSC_2206 via photopin (license)

Share if you think applying lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey is the way to go.

Greg Hopkins

About the author, Greg Hopkins: Greg Hopkins is a recovering lawyer, city prosecutor, police Use-of-Force law instructor, former city judge in two towns and criminal defense lawyer. He’s been teaching the Bible to teens and adults for 40 years. He now trains CCP holders and armed church security teams in self defense law. He also does expert witnessing in firearms and self defense cases. His book is A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, on the Bible and Self Defense. View all articles by Greg Hopkins

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