Discussions
Sanitation when the grid/water is down
23
12

My thoughts based on personal experience… we evacuated for Hurricane Rita and faced a nightmare traffic scene.  We live in a mandatory evac zone and are required to leave (not everyone does, but riding out a big storm is very unpleasant and can be fatal if your house is damaged).  Roadblocks and traffic created nasty bottlenecks and dramatically slowed down traffic, but it wasn’t impossible.  It took us 20 hours to go north through Houston and then drive west to Austin (it’s normally a 4 hour trip).  The first 3 hours were on a short stretch of county road (about 10 miles).  A roadblock was set up at the highway intersection forcing everyone to turn north on the highway.  People stopped to ask questions and argue with the police which caused the slowdown. We spent the next 14 hours or so getting through Houston, this was a mix of highway and side streets.  Eventually we decided to stick to the highway and made it through.  We turned onto a smaller highway about 60 miles NW of Houston and the traffic broke up.  Travel becomes impossible when the road becomes physically impassable – traffic accidents, flooding, snow/ice, mudslides etc. Lessons learned…  -Leave BEFORE a mandatory evacuation starts – even 2-3 hours makes a big difference.  Stress this with anyone you discuss it with.  -Smaller roads are equally risky for delays, but if you know the area you may have better luck finding gas– Keep gas tanks full when a hurricane / wildfire / other dangerous situations are “nearby”.  -Cell signals will be overloaded and unreliable (maybe they are better now – we didn’t have smart phones at that point).  Have non-online maps if you want to take alternative routes.   Ironically Rita turned out to be a huge practice drill for Houston (the storm weakened some and turned at the last minute). Rita happened immediately after Katrina (which devastated our next door neighbor New Orleans), and Houston hadn’t experienced a major evacuation in many years. Local government officials over-reacted and didn’t coordinate well.  People in relatively safe areas were told to leave before the high risk coastal areas were evacuated.  The mess resulted in significant improvements – there is now a phased area wide evacuation plan, fuel delivery plans, and the ability to make major interstate highways one-way out of town to reduce delays (It’s called “contraflow”).  The next big hurricane (Ike) caused much more damage in the area, but lacked the evacuation horror stories.  Hopefully the area remembers the lessons.  If you evacuate a city/area which never experiences major evacuations, it’s much more likely to be a mess.

Thanks for the excellent suggestions!  I’d like to throw out a tangential idea – to help prepare for a short term crisis emotionally, put yourself in situations where you need to get by without the “luxuries” of modern life.  I specifically recommend primitive tent camping (or backpacking) – find a camp site without electricity or running water.  I’ve found this to be an unexpectedly useful form of mental/emotional prepping. Don’t bring a cooler – shelf stable food only (I confess that I bring one for drinks!).  Only battery powered electronics.  Try going somewhere without cell service.  Get comfortable cooking on portable stoves and collecting/drinking filtered water.  Ladies – learn to pee outside (I recommend funnels!).  Do this a few times a year until you are comfortable for duration of the trip.  Make this “practice” a fun trip and include things you want to do.  It shouldn’t be a weekend of deprivation.  This has several big benefits: – you practice using your gear and develop confidence in it. You learn it’s limitations, change it as needed, and learn what does and doesn’t work for you. – it increases your comfort zone in a wider range of temperatures, environments, and weather conditions. The first night I spent in a tent I couldn’t sleep. Now I have no issues because I trust the gear and the sounds don’t bother me.  I’m confident I’ll be safe, warm, and dry.  – you learn your personal limits and stress points – personal hygiene is a big deal for me and it took a few tries to be comfortable going without showering for a few days.  I learned alternatives to keeping clean.  – most importantly – the experience changes your perspective and you start to see hot showers and our “normal” indoor temperature range as luxuries rather than necessities.  During a real crisis, you will still worry about the outcome, but the conditions of the situation will be much less stressful and allow you to function and make better decisions. 


Load more...
Sanitation when the grid/water is down
23
12

My thoughts based on personal experience… we evacuated for Hurricane Rita and faced a nightmare traffic scene.  We live in a mandatory evac zone and are required to leave (not everyone does, but riding out a big storm is very unpleasant and can be fatal if your house is damaged).  Roadblocks and traffic created nasty bottlenecks and dramatically slowed down traffic, but it wasn’t impossible.  It took us 20 hours to go north through Houston and then drive west to Austin (it’s normally a 4 hour trip).  The first 3 hours were on a short stretch of county road (about 10 miles).  A roadblock was set up at the highway intersection forcing everyone to turn north on the highway.  People stopped to ask questions and argue with the police which caused the slowdown. We spent the next 14 hours or so getting through Houston, this was a mix of highway and side streets.  Eventually we decided to stick to the highway and made it through.  We turned onto a smaller highway about 60 miles NW of Houston and the traffic broke up.  Travel becomes impossible when the road becomes physically impassable – traffic accidents, flooding, snow/ice, mudslides etc. Lessons learned…  -Leave BEFORE a mandatory evacuation starts – even 2-3 hours makes a big difference.  Stress this with anyone you discuss it with.  -Smaller roads are equally risky for delays, but if you know the area you may have better luck finding gas– Keep gas tanks full when a hurricane / wildfire / other dangerous situations are “nearby”.  -Cell signals will be overloaded and unreliable (maybe they are better now – we didn’t have smart phones at that point).  Have non-online maps if you want to take alternative routes.   Ironically Rita turned out to be a huge practice drill for Houston (the storm weakened some and turned at the last minute). Rita happened immediately after Katrina (which devastated our next door neighbor New Orleans), and Houston hadn’t experienced a major evacuation in many years. Local government officials over-reacted and didn’t coordinate well.  People in relatively safe areas were told to leave before the high risk coastal areas were evacuated.  The mess resulted in significant improvements – there is now a phased area wide evacuation plan, fuel delivery plans, and the ability to make major interstate highways one-way out of town to reduce delays (It’s called “contraflow”).  The next big hurricane (Ike) caused much more damage in the area, but lacked the evacuation horror stories.  Hopefully the area remembers the lessons.  If you evacuate a city/area which never experiences major evacuations, it’s much more likely to be a mess.

Thanks for the excellent suggestions!  I’d like to throw out a tangential idea – to help prepare for a short term crisis emotionally, put yourself in situations where you need to get by without the “luxuries” of modern life.  I specifically recommend primitive tent camping (or backpacking) – find a camp site without electricity or running water.  I’ve found this to be an unexpectedly useful form of mental/emotional prepping. Don’t bring a cooler – shelf stable food only (I confess that I bring one for drinks!).  Only battery powered electronics.  Try going somewhere without cell service.  Get comfortable cooking on portable stoves and collecting/drinking filtered water.  Ladies – learn to pee outside (I recommend funnels!).  Do this a few times a year until you are comfortable for duration of the trip.  Make this “practice” a fun trip and include things you want to do.  It shouldn’t be a weekend of deprivation.  This has several big benefits: – you practice using your gear and develop confidence in it. You learn it’s limitations, change it as needed, and learn what does and doesn’t work for you. – it increases your comfort zone in a wider range of temperatures, environments, and weather conditions. The first night I spent in a tent I couldn’t sleep. Now I have no issues because I trust the gear and the sounds don’t bother me.  I’m confident I’ll be safe, warm, and dry.  – you learn your personal limits and stress points – personal hygiene is a big deal for me and it took a few tries to be comfortable going without showering for a few days.  I learned alternatives to keeping clean.  – most importantly – the experience changes your perspective and you start to see hot showers and our “normal” indoor temperature range as luxuries rather than necessities.  During a real crisis, you will still worry about the outcome, but the conditions of the situation will be much less stressful and allow you to function and make better decisions. 

First of all thank you so much for the sane and reasonable information!!  I’ve was completely turned off by the online preppier information the last time I looked into it and ended up coming up with my own plans.  After living on the gulf coast for 20 years I’ve been through many of the emergencies everyone here is preparing for (hurricane evacuations, living without power, helping friends with flooded houses, helping friends evacuate for forest fire etc.) Based on my experiences I feel you have missed something critical on this page – the need to know people in your local community!  Friends, family, neighbors, and even associates like co-workers are lifelines when everything falls apart, and their generosity in a crisis is nothing short of amazing.  It was especially apparent after Hurricane Harvey when everyone poured out to help flooded neighborhoods – they showed up to help rescue people in their boats, gut houses, hand out hot food, and even direct traffic (and many of these were strangers!)  They are also your network of local information – like which parking lots are safest to park you car when your street is starting to flood or which gas stations have fuel today.  Realistically you cant prepare for everything, but a social support network will help fill in the gaps for you and those you connect with.  Just my 2 cents – thanks again for the great site and excellent coverage of COVID-19!