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Are You Prepared?

I spent today getting ready for the last semester of my undergraduate degree at The University of New Orleans. I went buy my books. I got my first assignments turned in. That’s right, today was officially the first day of class, and both my classes had assignments due by midnight. College is not as easy as it was when I was a teenager.

I mention getting ready because tomorrow, Wednesday is the first day of the 2016 Hurricane Season. There have been several stories running about how public officials, the National Hurricane Center, Governor John Bel Edwards, and even President Barrack Obama have made pleas with people in hurricane zone to get prepared.

What exactly do they mean by prepare? There is the obvious. Do you have the materials stored and available to board up your house in the event an evacuation has been ordered for your area? You shouldn’t wait and hope for the best, because to be blunt, if you do, there will be no supplies available when you hit the lumberyard in the day or two before landfall.

Do you have at least a week or two supply of non-perishable food stored, including an ample supple of water for you and your family? This isn’t only in case you’re in the path of the storm and shelter in place. If you evacuate, you should take this with you to assure your family will have supplies no matter where you end up during an evacuation.

Do you have a plan for your pets? Not all hotels allow pets. You’re not going to want to leave them home with a few days’ supply of food and water, and how will they handle a multi hour ride in bumper to bumper traffic? This has to be thought out and prepared in advance.

You should have ample emergency cash on hand in the event that you start to head out and ATM or credit/debit machines do not work or the places you are able to find with supplies don’t take cards. It is something I’ve run into, and horror stories I’ve heard from multiple past experiences.

Now for the not so obvious. Where are you going? Do you have a plan if a storm is expected to hit your area. What about if it is tracking slightly west or east of your area? Is the plan to shelter with friends or relatives that live north of you, or does the plan change depending on where the storm is headed?

Is the plan to head out of the storm’s path and just keep going until you find an available hotel room? What happens if your home is in the direct path of the storm and you’re not allowed back for several weeks? How do you deal with another Katrina level of devastation?

Do you have all your important papers, including insurance policies, home inventory, pictures of your belongings, and your deeds/titles for your properties setup to take with you? It should all be ready to be loaded in your vehicle, and it should be a part of your plan.

Finally, do you have a plan for the amount of clothes you’re taking for the family, and will it all fit in the vehicle you’re going to have to take to leave town? It might sound crazy, but this can lead to fighting, delays in departure, and major headaches if you have your vehicle filled to the roof and need to change a flat tire, or grab the ice chest, which always seems to be loaded all the way up front.

As I’ve said, I have been there. I cooked for groups of people passing through Jonesboro, Arkansas where I was working after Katrina. I got to hear their stories of how they wish they had heeded the warnings to leave, or how they lost it all because they were not prepared to evacuate. With the season starting tomorrow, the time to start getting ready is now. Take it a little at a time, and before you know it you will have everything ready. Hopefully, it will not be needed, but better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have anything.