Monday, August 22, 2011

Thoughts from Florida

For the last couple days here in Florida, I’ve spent a lot of time listening to intense coverage about the possible path of Hurricane Irene. From these news reports, I came away with the impression that Floridians take preparedness very seriously.

Or do they?

Clearly hurricanes are a yearly occurrence for anyone living along coastal or near-inland areas of this region. If anyone needs to be chronically prepared for some very tough (but predictable) events, it’s the folks in Florida.

Yet the radio announcers, covering the storm’s path, continually urged people to put aside food, water, flashlights, plywood, duct tape, and other hurricane necessities before the storm became imminent. And why were they doing that? Evidently it was because not enough people actually were.

To me, this seems the height of foolishness or naïveté or something similarly baffling. I mean, here’s a state that – yearly – faces some of the most fearsome and powerful forces in nature. And what do people do? They flood Home Depot in the hours leading up to the storm and try to get plywood that many have no idea how to affix to the outsides of their windows. They panic.

I don’t mean to pick on Floridians here, but am merely using this beautiful state to illustrate a broader point: namely, despite the fact that folks here have constant and chronic experience with tragic storms, many still don’t “get it” and just won’t prepare. Go figure.

About a year and a half ago, at home in Idaho, we had a serious windstorm with sustained winds of about forty-five miles an hour, with gusts much higher than that. We knew it was coming. We were warned with several days of forecasts. We prepared for it. We had water, a means to cook, a means to stay warm, a means to flush the toilet, and a means to see in the dark. In the time preceding the storm, we battened down the hatches: took a dump run, cleaned up the outside, and prepared the livestock. (The one thing I forgot to do was re-stake the young fruit trees.)

But some neighbors didn’t do any of this. Why, I don’t know… but they arrived home in the midst of the storm to a cold dark house. Since they’re entirely dependent on electricity, they had no lights, no heat, no way to cook, etc. We invited them over for dinner and had a pleasant visit, but once again it illustrated a broader point: WHY weren’t they ready? Didn’t they pay attention to the storm warnings? Even if they didn’t, why weren’t they prepared to be without power for a mere few hours? In this case our power was only out for five hours. What if it had been five days?

Folks, this is inexcusable. If you live in a place that regularly sees hurricanes or other natural disasters, I would expect everyone to have the necessary preparations in place to cope with all but the most severe storms. (Obviously this doesn’t count for the Katrinas or Hugos or Andrews that simply devastate a community. No one can “prepare” for that.) If you live in a place, like us, where a good snowstorm can strand people for days at a time, I would expect everyone to have the means to cook, see, stay warm, get water, and feed their animals.

Our severe windstorm and most hurricanes at least have the luxury of advanced warnings, thanks to the efforts of alert weathermen. But what if we’re afflicted with a natural disaster without warning? Earthquakes and tornadoes can strike with little or no notice.

That’s why I’m constantly nagging everyone to have the basics ready and available so you can live with moderate comfort through most service disruptions (or, alternately, to evacuate as necessary).

Being here in Florida for a mere three days, it’s gone through my head how vulnerable I am should something happen. The only “preparedness” item I have with me is a flashlight. I have no food, no water, no medical gear, no firearm. I don’t even have the emergency car kit we keep in our vehicle at home. I have nothing that could be used to mitigate any dire circumstances if the bleep were to hit the fan NOW. It’s kind of an unsettling feeling.

But once I’m home in the bosom of my family, I’ll be ready to handle the range of natural or artificial disasters we can expect in our region, both long-term and short-term.

I hope all the lovely Floridians I’ve met on this trip will do the same.


  1. Had to fly a couple weeks ago and felt naked without my BOB. It was a scary feeling.

  2. Oh Patrice, it looks like you're having a great adventure! I'm so happy that so many doors are opening for you, you deserve it! Best of luck with the TV interview.


  3. Thanks for the reminder. Spot on as usual.

  4. Patrice, it never ceases to amaze me how some people will wait until the last minute to prepare. They will wait until the last minute to go out and buy plywood for shutters. They will slap it over their windows. When the storm is over, they will leave it outside to get ruined in the weather so that it is useless for the next storm.

    As the storm gets close, every store will be a madhouse. There will not be a loaf of bread to be found and the produce and canned isles will be emptied as well.

    Most of Florida’s gas is brought in by ship. These ships are diverted into safer waters during a storm and this invariably leads to gas shortages and long gas lines immediately after a storm as the ships need time to return. (Most gas stations now have generators to pump the gas.)

    On a day prior to th storm, both highway 95 and 75 will be clogged with bumper to bumper cars stuck in traffic. In the past we have heard reports of cars running out of gas while stuck on the highways.

    The very sad part is that every July the news starts trying to get people to prepare. They ask people to make plans to protect their homes. They remind people to stock up on food, gas, and prescription medicines. They plead with people to at least be prepared to live on their own for 72 hours. We even have a tax free period every year for people to purchase hurricane supplies. However, sadly most people will not prepare.

    These same people will be screaming the minute the storm is over that FEMA and trucks of supplies should already be there waiting on them. They are too stupid to realize that if the trucks of supplies were that close, they too would risk being damaged in the storm.

    Stepping off of my soapbox,
    Southern Gal

  5. I don't believe Floridians are prepared. They actually can appear quite blase about it. It's the norm for them, so no "appears" to care. A case of water in the garage is not preparing. My mother lives in FL, and I worry about her. She isn't prepared if a hurricane were to hit. Frankly, moving to FL with only one road of egress is crazy. I mean it's the highway UP, or the ocean. That's it...even to shelter in place and be prepared would be great, but almost no one in their neighborhood is READY.

    Amy in TX

  6. Just a word of encouragement: you'll be out in plenty of time on Wed. and Irene is going to the Carolinas. Also, your message will be listened to and heard...LOUD and CLEAR! What perfect timing...for a time such as this! You go, girl! Your audience will be all ears!
    --K in OK <><

  7. Luckily, the travel requirement in my job has been severely reduced due to the ecomomy. The last 2 times I traveled, I've carried a mini-BoB packed in a fanny-pack in checked luggage. It's part of what I normally carry in my car trunk and is about half the size of a shoebox. In addition to a flashlight, it has a couple of mylar blankets, fire starter, MRE food items (wheat bread and peanut butter), water bottle, purification filter straw, P51 can opener, bandana, small first aid kit, sewing kit and pocket knife. I also make sure I have one set of clothes and shoes that will withstand walking and provide full coverage. It's not much, but it helps me feel a little better prepared.

  8. Any smart Floridian has all that stuff before June 1st, the beginning of hurricane season, so that they don't have to brave the panicky crowds two days before a storm actually comes near. The media feeds on this like you wouldn't believe, and frankly, many of us get tired of hearing it / desensitized. For every hurricane that actually makes landfall here, there are ten - no, fifteen -- that we are told is headed to our back yard. It seems that every hurricane appears to have Florida in its crosshairs for a day or two before going elsewhere. Our state sticks out into the sea like a big fat sore thumb. Never fails. Irene will be no exception. Yesterday morning it looked like it was coming to central Fl, this morning it's North Carolina. Just like that. Also, hurricane supplies is big business for the home improvement stores. They stocked it, and they want to scare everybody into buying it. The media cooperates with this as part of the annual game.

  9. i often wonder about what people are thinking about when it is obvious that they should be preparing for possible catastrophe and are not making a move to even pick up loose objects from their yards or getting the candles, flashlights and stuff ready just in case. they seem to think that if they get into a jam that someone out there will rescue and care for them. and they are very critical of those who do stay prepared for anything that may come along..we preppers are told all the time that we are wasting our money, wasting our time, etc..and we are questioned about where our faith is...

  10. I'm not surprised. I lived in Biloxi, MS for 8 years and the attitude was the same there. Folks would defiantly declare they're going to ride the storm out or they'll have a party on the beach and watch the waves.

    Apparently the stupid gene is dominant, not recessive.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  11. The latest updates should be your rule of frequent observation on the storms progress.
    having lived through dozens of hurricanes, I can concur, you are correct in your thoughts on the media hyper sensationalism played out to increase awareness. This however could be a very dangerous game to manipulate by playing out false agendas with the citizens who are actually in the pathways of a life and property damaging hurricane. Go instead for updates to the above mentioned site. Take heed of them and prepare for the probability of you being adversely affected if you are anywhere on the lower to mid Eastern seaboard of the US. Do not fall victim to hypo or hyper deceptions of local forecasters.
    Get your supplies tuned up and prepare for the worse and pray to God for the best.
    In addition, on the site mentioned above, you will find by clicking on individual state maps, all the recommended evac routes. Pull up your state and those that surround you, and print out several hard copies as a part of your prep maps. Notify and share the routes you chose with family members. Study all the possible routes now, not when you actually have to use those roads.
    Fuel up now for travel and for your back up power sources. Do equipment checks now on generators, flashlights, radios, batteries, water filtration, and sump pumps. Check your pantry for adequate supply of canned foods. Draw up a weeks worth of fresh potable water in barrels and treat it. Make sure you police your yard and trees and any items that can break apart or fly off in high winds and secure them down. Plan what you will do to protect all your animals, include food, water, and meds and portable penned provisions for them as well.
    Don't forget to pick up any pharmaceuticals you will need now.
    Most importantly, do not wait until the last hours in the dark, to try to do all these things. Time will not befriend you in an emergency situation.
    Get busy on your preps pronto.
    Pray to God for safety and protection from harm.


  12. Most true Floridians stay prepared. And, you are wrong, you have friends here and their phone numbers....stay safe.

  13. Definitely there's some truth to people being unprepared, in any state really, for the natural disasters that are common where they live. But Florida is also a big tourist state and retirement destination, so the population is always changing and there's always new people who are about to experience their first hurricane season, so that may play a part in why they overdo the preparedness talks.

  14. This is Darwinism in action. These people will be the ones that expect the government to save them. What will happen to them when the government - FEMA or what ever is no longer there? It seems like that scenario is getting closer all the time. I guess things will revert back to how it was when we had a government that lived within the Constitution.

  15. Patrice, have you considered carrying something known as EDC? I carry mine whenever I leave the house because you never know when something will go wrong. My EDC (Everyday Carry) consists of a keyring on which I keep a small Swiss Army Knife, a P-51 can opener, a pealess whistle, a tiny LED flashlight, a pill vial that contains a few Strike Anywhere (SAW) Matches, and a small length of paracord braided into a fob. All these items can be useful during times of trouble, and since they are on a keyring, they can easily fit into a purse or a pocket.

    Since I have not flown for some 20 years, I don't know if you could board a plane with these items. Someone else may be able to answer that question.

    Of course, each person would create an EDC that is best suited to his/her own needs and concerns.

    Today's earthquake on the East Coast should be a wake-up call to everybody. There is a marked increase in the number of natural disasters (although nobody appears to have been hurt in the VA earthquake, thank God), occurring throughout the world, particularly earhtquakes.

    Wish I could have seen your TV interview. Are you coming to Northern California any time soon for a book promotion?

    Anonymous Patriot

  16. Thanks, I am on another web site with some ladies and we are in the midst of a 7 day survival scenario coming up in the next month or so. This challenge ranges from not shopping, economic disaster, natural disaster, "honey the boss is coming to dinner in one hour", and even last minute issues at the house or on the road. I think this scenario would be a great thing to practice and will be sharing it with the gals. If any one on this site is interested in participating it is a great thing to do. The girls will give a scenario with rules etc and print outs ( one new scenario each day for 7 days) so as this scenario goes on you can write down what you did or didn't have or do and make changes to your life. The site also has the challenges from last year and the year before with comments from people as to what they learned. It is a great practice and eye opener especially when you think you are ready and then find out "opps! I totally forgot about ......." Here is the web site hope to see some of you guys there.

  17. On Friday August 13, 2004 Hurricane Charley roared into Charlotte County. It was supposed to hit Tampa but wobbled. It was a category 4 with sustained winds of 145 mph with gusts stronger. Charlotte county had not had a hurricane in 44 years. It was a complete disaster with eletric out for a couple of weeks and water out for about a month in our community and massive damage everywhere. Now 7 years later with no hurricanes in our area, people again have become complacent.

    According to our Emergency Preparedness Director, 50% of the population in Florida is new every 7 years - constant reminding is necessary. We try to let our new neighbors know what to do for hurricane preparedness but they have decided to just leave the area and let their insurance deal with whatever. It's not a good thing.

  18. I have to laugh at some of the generalized statements about Floridians, like any other population of people some of us take preparedness seriously and others take a wait and see approach choosing to procrastinate until the last minute to take any steps to get ready for the storms. In 2004 my family and small farm had no electricity for 12 days. I still cringe when I think about how hard those few days were on all of us. For me, preparedness in many ways has become a lifestyle, knowing what to do with all of the supplies you have gathered, knowing how to cook without electricity, knowing how to make sure you are providing a nutritionally balanced diet should the emergency become prolonged, and even knowing where to get water and how to make it fit to drink are all things that this Floridian ( although not native) strives to be able and prepared to do and I am certainly not alone.
    I am so glad you had a pleasant trip to Florida and that you are safely back home with your family.

  19. Just an update from this Floridian, in case you are still watching Irene. She is heading for NC, DE, MD, NJ, New York City, and New England. Places that almost never see a hurricane. She is passing Florida by as I speak. I'll bet the Home Depots and Lowes up there haven't stocked all the hurricane supplies that will be needed, while the shelves here are overpacked with the stuff. Too bad there isn't a way to ship it all up there quickly. Praying that it takes a turn out to sea instead of riding the coast through 5 heavily populated states.