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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

Why Prepare? Ask The Survivors (Part 1) — “New Orleans Times-Picayune” Readers’ Post-Katrina List Of Preparedness Tips

July 28th, 2008 · 1 Comment

One of the simplest but most ingenious uses of the internet for disaster preparedness is the New Orleans Times Picayune’s list of reader hurricane preparedness lessons learned mostly as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

The Times-Picayune, which did such heroic coverage during and after Katrina, solicited these ideas from readers in 2006 and printed them weekly during hurricane season. In June of 2007, the paper reprinted “a comprehensive selection”, calling it the ”ultimate insiders guide to evacuee readiness. Enjoy and prepare.”

Though you (and I) may not agree with all of the ideas suggested and some are area specific, I think you will find it worth reading through this collection as a resource, an example of citizen resilience and even, yes, some laughs in the face of disaster. The article is also an example of the huge potential the media has to spur emergency preparedness if it focused more on the topic. 

The tips range from ”Take blank checks, internet passwords, copies of bills, long distance phone card, walkie talkies” and “Apply for a gas credit card” to “Perfume. No showers for 10 days. We stunk so bad” and “Keep nice with your Dallas relative with the big house.”

The article can be found at: 

Below are two particularly striking and helpful letters:

I always prided myself in being super organized before Katrina. In the safe-deposit box at the bank, I had placed the original savings bonds I was using to finance my sons’ college education, a video of my home’s contents and negatives of both my sons’ first days of life. My home in Lakewood South had 6½ feet of water. The lobby of the bank in Lakeview flooded, too!

Only copies of important papers are kept in the safe-deposit box now. I personally keep all original documents in a small fireproof box that is portable and will go wherever I go. In that box, too, is a stash of cash (proved to be very valuable last year) as well as my “password list” containing all necessary info to manage bills and finances online.

Videos of my sons have now been transferred to DVDs. They’re in plastic bags that are stored in the bottom of my Rubbermaid container that also will go with me. Digital pictures of my new home replace the home video. (After a catastrophic loss, the insurance companies want only pictures, I have learned.) I have my “Katrina Book” that also will go with me this year — inside is every important phone number, registration number, etc., which are critical for life after a storm.

New Orleans

What worked for us? Nothing. What would I do differently? I shall start listing:
Do not watch the news anywhere around your kids. Ever.
Do not leave ANY pet behind thinking you will only be gone for two days.
Know how to text message if the cell phones are no longer working.
Have an emergency account set up with a NATIONAL bank so when you cannot access money from your local bank there is a back-up fund.
Bring more than a few days worth of clothes.
Bring a copy of children’s shot records.
Know what “teaching methods” are taught in your school (yes, I was asked that question several times!).
Every year when getting your pets vaccinated, get a copy of updates to bring while evacuating.
Let people who want to take care of you and love you do just that. This is not boot camp or a pride parade. Let others help.
Bring pictures of items in your home for your insurance claim.
Bring needed medications.
Bring some wine.
Tell your family and friends where you are going and work out a “contact person” on the outside who can give your information to worried friends and family.
Never depend on the government. If it looks like a storm is coming and Bob Breck and Margaret Orr are a little stressed — GET OUT.
Brush up on some of those prayers your momma taught you. And just know we have been through the worst. It can never get as bad as it did. We are a strong people.

New Orleans

Can’t say it much better than that.


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Tags: Hurricane Preparedness · Media · Preparedness Tips

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Why Prepare? Ask (& Watch) The Survivors (Part 2) — The Pinellas County “Project Storm Story” // Jul 30, 2008 at 10:16 am

    [...] Yet, as Part 1, the Times-Picayune collection of preparedness tips I posted on Monday, indicates, the testimony of disaster survivors can also be very compelling and helpful. That’s why Pinellas County, Florida Office of Emergency Management has done something very smart as part of their preparedness education program. When I was in Washington. D.C. last week at the offices of James Lee Witt & Associates, Jordan Nelms, a summer intern there, suggested I take a look at “Project Storm Story” created by the Pinellas’ Emergency Office where he worked last year.  [...]

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