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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother | Tag Archive | disaster preparedness
Tag Archive - disaster preparedness

Why We Help With Disaster Recovery

A news story tonight, of how people rallied to rebuild a home for a Harrisburg, Illinois, single mother who lost everything in tornado and had another baby this week, made me cry. The mother said she didn’t know how, but she said, “One day I will do something like this for another family.” I knew part of what she felt and thought back to my own reasons for helping with disasters.

Losing everything changes your whole world.  At those darkest moments – in our case, as we wore borrowed clothes in church the morning after our home and business burned 11 years ago, we had no idea where we would go or what we would do. And we had 2 young children.

Friends, some we knew well and some we didn’t, all helped us in incredible ways. Several put their own lives on hold to help us when we need it the most. I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Though I describe it in more detail in my book, He Uses It For Good, there are some ways people helped I will never forget:

  • When we had 15 minutes to clear our home and office after the fire, friends helped us carry and drag our business equipment up what had been basement stairs to save what we could of our business.
  • Later that night, as I sat at a pharmacy waiting to pick up a prescription, in my smoked clothes, I burst into tears. A woman sitting beside me, who didn’t know us, handed me a $20 bill and told me we needed it more than she did.
  • Friends helped us with housing and childcare in the months that we rebuilt.
  • Friends worked with our church and helped set us up in a temporary apartment and collected enough dishes and groceries to set up temporary housekeeping.

I honestly do not know what we would have done without the help of friends, family, and strangers. There is no way I can ever repay those who helped us. All we can do is pay it forward. Maybe we can’t save everyone or end world suffering. But if we each help how we can, great things will happen.

I helped what I could when others suffered loss. In my heart, I knew when my kids were grown I would do more.

That day hasn’t yet arrived, but I’ve started preparing to volunteer with the Red Cross. They do an excellent job of training disaster volunteers in advance so they are prepared when disasters happen.

If something horrific happens in our area, if you want to find me, I’ll be at the Red Cross helping where needed.

Helping with a disaster isn’t glamorous. It may involve:

  • setting up cots in a shelter
  • delivering water to a shelter
  • answering telephones
  • responding to queries.

As I’ve met other volunteers, I’ve met some with stories like mine, who are paying forward help we were once given.

In my case, when that call for help comes, I feel like a rush like I’m one of the stormchasers in the movie Twister.  As I look for some way to help, I hear the voice of Mordecai in the Old Testament story of Esther, when he tells Esther her life has been preparation for such a time as this. I know my own life experiences prepared me to help others in such as time as disasters.

I can now do this for other families when needed.


Quickstart to Disaster Readiness

Life or death issues are sometimes made during disasters. The more you know and the better prepared you are, the smarter decisions you will make.  Different disasters require different knowledge sets.

Thanks to Greg Waite of Evansville’s American Red Cross for providing info for this blog. Thanks also to Dwayne Caldwell of the Vanderburgh County Health Department, who gave a survival workshop for Vanderburgh 4-H members, when I first learned of chemical threats and how to react.

Disaster Kits: have a 3 day food/disaster supply you can grab and go and have a 2-week supply if you stay in place.

  • Red Cross – How to Build a Disaster Kit
  • Ready.gov – Disaster Kit Checklist
  • Note on lists items besides food & water – include cash and prescription copies.

Disaster Plans:

Stay Informed:

  • Keep a weather radio good to go.
  • If you live in Vanderburgh County, Indiana, know your sirens. The Friday noon siren is the tone for severe weather. If you hear an undulating siren instead, going up and down, that is an alert for a chemical/biological disaster. Know the difference and how to respond. The responses for severe storms or chemical threats are in many ways opposite. If you choose the wrong response, the result could be fatal. If you live in another area, ask them how they broadcast chemical alerts.
  • Follow #Tristatewx on Twitter.

See specific disaster preparedness links below:

Evansville Red Cross site download links:

Vanderburgh County Health Department Emergency Links:

Ready.Gov Links: (be sure to read the chemical threat and shelter in place sheets):

  • Biological Threat
  • Chemical Threat
  • Shelter in Place during a Chemical Threat
  • Winter Storms and Extreme Cold

The good news is we have information on how to respond to different scenarios. Knowledge is power.

When you prepare and plan, it’s easier to respond appropriately.

Steps to Prepare for & Survive an Ice Storm

Two years ago, we survived an ice storm, spending 2 days in our home without power, with a tree limb crashed through my daughter’s ceiling. Our power was restored 2 days later. When an ice storm was forecast for later this week, I went through what I had learned and what would help us prepare if God forbid we had to manage that again:

Before the storm:

  • Fuel: Fill your car tanks, your propane tanks, and your kerosene heaters. Make sure you have batteries for your weather radio.
  • Charge: Charge all phones and laptops.
  • Gather: Get candles and flashlights together in a convenient location, along with backup batteries.
  • Clean: Wash all dishes, finish all laundry, and clear clutter from living areas.
  • Stock: have ready to eat food items plus staples. Shelf stable is good. So is variety. You will want bread and milk.
  • Review: safety procedures for any indoor heat or cooking sources. Carbon monoxide kills. Print safety guidelines if needed.

If you lose power:

When we lost power, tree limbs covered our yard, our roof, and our street. There was no way to drive in or out of our street the first day. Plus a tree limb went through our roof, our attic, and our daughter’s bedroom.  Here are steps we took to survive:

  • Simplify: We rearranged our living room as our living quarters with sleeping space for all. Our goal was to conserve heat in one room.
  • Insulate: We gathered every blanket, throw, comforter, sleeping bag, and large towel from our entire house. We covered every window with towels, closed all doors in the house and the basement, closed all blinds, and covered both doorways to the living room with makeshift blankets.
  • Heat: We do not have a fireplace or wood-burning stove. However, we did have a kerosene heater in our disaster plan. We placed it in the kitchen, next to the living room, and used it for brief periods of time in the daytime when all were awake. We ventilated the kitchen to ensure against carbon monoxide. When the kerosene heater was running, I kept a pan of water on it to humidify the air – moister air feels warmer.  We followed the same procedure with a mini propane stove, only keeping it on long enough to heat and eat food.
  • Refrigerate: We opened the refrigerator door once and put food we would need into a cooler which we kept outside the kitchen door.  We did not open freezer doors, managing on canned convenience foods and sandwiches.
  • Illuminate: candles can provide some heat, but do not leave them on overnight. Though the bathroom doors were closed, we kept a flashlight in there.
  • Entertain: once we had done what we could to survive, we read books aloud. In late evenings in the dark, we watched DVD movies on laptops on battery. I knit a scarf during that ice storm.
  • Communicate: if you can, talk with the outside world. We were grateful we still had a landline phone so we could conserve our cell phone batteries.
  • Evacuate: if you have a way out and your home is a risk, leave. When our house fell below 40 degrees, we left until power was restored.

My memories of our survival hang with me such that warnings of an ice storm give me chills. But we got over the chills and begin the business of caring for ourselves and those we love.