If a Natural Disaster Struck… what would you do?

That question has been hanging in my mind for the last week. Two years in a row now, we’ve had close calls with tornadoes. Last year it tried to come down on top of us – as in you could look out ANY of the windows from the house and see clouds rotating directly overhead. 

This year, it stayed a few miles north of us, but for a while it was iffy about which direction it would veer.

oklahoma, tornado, oklahoma weather, march 30 2016
The tornado that touched down about 8 miles NNW of us on March 30, 2016.

It did veer further south toward us, and at it’s closest was only three miles away. The only reason we couldn’t see it at that point was because there are too many trees in our neighborhood, and they were blocking the view.

tornado, oklahoma, march 30 2016, oklahoma weather
A slightly better view of the tornado, it’s to the left of the billboard.

Tornadoes aren’t the only thing we have to worry about in Oklahoma, though.

In 2007, just before Mr. Loper and I were married, a massive ice storm hit Oklahoma. It was so bad that people described driving around and seeing the damage as if we were a war zone. The entire state was declared a disaster area on the federal level. So many mature trees fell in that ice storm that Oklahoma is just now beginning to fully recover from that damage.

But the falling limbs and trees created another problem – they took out power lines, and pulled breaker boxes off of people’s houses. Some people were without power for upwards of six weeks. In the dead of winter.

Contaminated water happens. Flint, Michigan is an ongoing crisis right now. A couple of years ago, several neighboring towns to Tulsa, OK (where I live) were under boil orders for their water because of contamination from water main breaks further up in the system. And if a water main breaks in the most inconveniently located place? It could mean going without water for days. Period. No boil orders required.

Going without power for an extended amount of time can be caused by something as simple the straight-line winds we get in this region. Forget copper thieves (which happens as well). In the very last apartment we lived in, we lived a little too close to the part of town where all the bars were, and it was COMMON to lose power because a drunk driver hit a power pole.

A lot of people in Oklahoma rely on natural gas for heat and cooking. We currently have an electric stove (I hate it), but our water heater and furnace run on natural gas. If that were disrupted somehow, we would be screwed. On that note, the only safe place we have to take cover from a tornado is in the hallway. Right by the furnace. That just seems like a prime opportunity for it to combust, or to succumb to carbon monoxide. sigh

Then of course there’s Oklahoma’s earthquake problem (not quite at the level of the West Coast’s earthquake problem, but still very concerning), seasonal grass/wildfires, the fact that a determined hurricane could sweep up from the Gulf of Mexico and hit is pretty strongly if conditions were right.

Really, the only thing I think we don’t have to worry about is a volcano (unless Yellowstone goes up, of course, but then about half of continental North America is screwed either way) or a tsunami.

Because yes, we even get the random blizzard. And that’s not even accounting for potential terror attacks, or any other non-malicious reason everything we rely on day-to-day might go down.

So, what are we going to do?

I’ve been reading up a lot this week on emergency plans – everything from bug-out bags/evacuation kits (if you have natural gas, this is a very realistic situation you may have to deal with in case of a gas leak), to keeping food stores on hand, to why it might be a good idea to have a gun you know how to use well (which is something we’ve already been working toward, especially after the pit bull incident).

The best site I’ve found, by far, that balances realistic SHTF* and TEOTWASKI** scenarios with common sense and a no-fear principal is The Survival Mom. I’ve been, honestly, slowly working my way through her site, and just absorbing information right now. And making a massive Amazon wishlist.

First things first, though: tornado season. It’s just begun, and so that’s what we’ll prepare for first.

I’m officially giving myself permission to dip into the emergency fund for this, because really, an emergency kit should be part of our emergency fund.

The Emergency Plan

  1. A fireproof/waterproof, lockable safe.
    We currently have a lockbox, but it’s not big enough to store our house deed and mortgage papers in. We need a way to keep those secure. The lockbox can be used for urgent papers/case we might need to transport with us at a moment’s notice.
  2. 72 hours worth of food and water for the animals and us – food that doesn’t need cooking.
    It occurred to me on the 30th, when we barricaded ourselves in the hall, that while in there we had plenty of access to food for the cat and the dog, but absolutely no access to water, and no food for me and Mr. Loper should a tornado hit the house and we be trapped under the rubble for a significant period of time. That needs to change. We also need a spare set of food and water dishes for the animals. And I need to not be so lax about letting the chicken’s water get low outside. It should be full, every day. As well as their feeders.
  3. Spare sets of clothing, shoes, and things needed for hygiene. Also car keys.
    Tornadoes are usually accompanied by mass amounts of rain. I’d like the option of being able to change into dry clothing whenever we were finally out of there, and being able to brush my teeth. Or my hair. And, of course, tornadoes have no respect for Aunt Flo. Also need to consider pet waste.
  4. Substantial first aid kit.
    If the house were to be blown apart around/on top of us, I think it’s safe to say there would be injuries.
  5. Pillows, blankets, and a way to have light.
    Preferably, this lighting would not require a flame, because as mentioned: in the hall, we’re right next to the furnace. We don’t want to cause an explosion with a spark, if the gas line were to be damaged somehow.

Other things to keep in mind are a leash and harness for the dog, a collapsible carrier for the cat, and possibly spare sets of glasses for me and Mr. Loper, since we kind of require them.

We’ll start with this, and then keep growing our emergency resources as possible.

*Shit Hits The Fan
**The End Of The World As We Know It

How prepared are you for an emergency? Would you be interested in a series/feature about preparing for emergencies?

Recent Comments

  • Robin S.
    April 10, 2016 - 10:15 am · Reply

    All good and important thoughts. I would also add: medications (human and animal), pet toys, backup weather radio, batteries, and an emergency cell phone.

    For our family, I keep bug out bags–one for each family member. 3-4 days worth of food, water, clothing. We also keep diapers in the girl’s bags and a few toys. Two back up cell phones that I take out once a week and charge (one in Mike’s and one in my own bag). This year I plan to add a cheap portable DVD player and some kids movies. There’s a small first aid kit in each bag with extra supplies in mine. I’m sure there are other things I’m forgetting. April’s task is usually to go through the bags and change items as they are no longer needed and add new things.

    Also: I would suggest having easy to find bug out bags. Ours are all orange (neon pink for the girls). They need to be easy to find in case disaster hits before you can get to the bags.

    • Rebekah Loper
      April 10, 2016 - 10:23 am · Reply

      Fortunately, none of us ARE on medications, though I am going to put the usual stock of flea/tick/heartworm stuff in the kit. That will also make me look inside them once a month and check on things. Back-up cell phones are a great idea!

      • Robin S.
        April 10, 2016 - 10:28 am · Reply

        Yeah, I didn’t use to keep the cell phones until I spoke with a officer about it. Even if the phones don’t have service, they can call 911. Plus, if you get the phones on the same network, you can have your number transferred to the phone after. For ours, I got basic $15 flip phones from AT&T.

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About Rebekah

Rebekah Loper writes character-driven epic fantasy featuring resilient women in trying and impossible circumstances who just want to save themselves but usually end up saving the world, often while falling in love.
She lives in Tulsa, OK with her husband, dog, two formerly feral cats, a small flock of feathered dragons (...chickens. They're chickens), and an extensive tea collection. When she's not writing, she battles the Oklahoma elements in an effort to create a productive, permaculture urban homestead.