With high-end severe weather in the forecast and more undoubtedly just around the corner, it is (past) time to make sure your storm shelter is stocked and ready to go!
In talks with tornado victims of the past, there are three things most of them said they wished they had that really aren’t listed in “traditional” disaster kit lists.
1. Leather or Hard-rubber-soled shoes. About 5 days after the Joplin tornado, area hospitals reported a disturbing trend: patients with severely infected feet. After a tornado, debris is everywhere and much of it is sharp and bathed in bacteria. This is garage sale season, so why not hit up a few (or find someone who does) and have them pick up an old set of cowboy or work boots somewhat close to your size. Style doesn’t matter as long as they have thick soles that won’t be punctured by nails, splinters and broken glass. Put them in your tornado shelter because the tornado will likely find you in a flimsy pair of flip-flops or sandals or tennis shoes, and those just won’t do!
2. Cash. For several days after a major, regional disaster, all transactions will be done on a cash-only basis. Rescuers and great organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army will be on hand to help you with basics within hours, but if you need anything at all from the corner gas station or grocery store, chances are they will be out of electricity with no internet connection. Take a little from savings or your next paycheck and put it in your storm shelter in a zip lock bag. Better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
3. ID with picture and address. Within hours after the disaster local law enforcement and the National Guard will move in to seal off the area to protect it from looters and lookie-loos. This lock-down will last FOR EVERYONE throughout the “search and rescue” period and perhaps even into the “recovery” effort (for good reason). After that, only those that can prove they belong there are allowed in. A good form of ID to have around for this is your old drivers license. If your address has changed, put an old electric bill with it proving the address goes with your name. On a side note, please be patient with those doing their job. They may have lost friends and family members as well and have likely had to see horrific things that none of us would want to see. Be prepared for what you will find when you return. Even if your property wasn’t damaged that bad, rain will have likely done a lot of damage to exposed areas and much of the stuff, that if you could have just gotten to it in those first hours/days, will likely be ruined. It is not the authorities fault.
A final note about communication. During and immediately after even a minor disaster, your cell phone WILL NOT WORK. There are only so many cells, and if the towers are still standing and have electricity, the cells will be so jammed that you won’t be able to get through. Texts will take hours and in some cases DAYS to come through. This is a very good reason why you should not rely on your cell phone ALONE to get severe weather warnings and updates. I recommend having triple-redundancy of at least three ways of getting such information (unless one of those three is outdoor warning devices…commonly called “tornado sirens”…then you should have four). It is also a very good reminder to have a pre-designated meeting place for your loved ones. You won’t be able to call or text the kids at school or their activities to meet you at such-and-such place. They won’t be able to text or call you to tell you they are OK. Have a “very close” meeting place (the tree in the front yard), a “neighborhood” meeting place (the gas station on the corner) and a “regional” meeting place (Aunt Jill’s house). Everyone should know to try the close one first, then the neighborhood one, then the regional one. This can relieve an awful lot of anxiety in the minutes/hours/days after a disaster.
To sum it all up, BE PREPARED! We live in the most tornado-prone area on the face of the Earth! Have a family meeting to know about all of the things above. Talk about it today when the sky is blue because when the windows are shattering, the roof is being ripped off and everyone is running for their lives, it will be too late.