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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

On Katrina 5th Anniversary, A Compelling & Useful List Of Preparedness Tips, Lessons Learned From The Hurricane Survivors Themselves

August 29th, 2010 · 2 Comments

As the nation marks the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I wanted to post a terrific list of preparedness tips and lessons learned from the disaster survivors that was collected by the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

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.” The list is so interesting, because it reflects the real-life experiences of disaster survivors.

Though you 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, how humor is necessary in the face of crisis. The article is also an example of the huge potential the media has to spur citizen preparedness if it focused more on the topic.

The approximately 75 submissions have been divided by the author James O’Byrne into categories, including: On The Road Again, Kids And Pets, Staying Behind, Guest Relations, Take This Job And Leave It, Precious Papers Important Photos, Food For Thought, Potty Time, & The Big Picture. 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.”

Below are a couple of representative e-mails that will give you a sense of these survivor tips:

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

The entire article with all the tips/lessons learned can be found here.

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Tags: Hurricane Preparedness · Media · Preparedness Tips

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paul Harris // Aug 28, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    As a San Diegan who was trapped in the Superdome during Katrina, I’d recommend one weeks worth of provisions for your family and pets, not just 72 hours as most disaster personnel recommend.

    Paul Harris
    Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”

  • 2 Josh // Aug 29, 2010 at 1:52 am

    I think you can find the best information from others experiences of disaster situations. I would agree that not all of the information would pertain to you or you might not like to use yourself, but well worth looking into and taking those ideas that you would use for yourself or your family.

    Thanks for sharing!

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