Sunday night September 10th at 6PM the power went out. My wife and I had set-up a nice cave in an inner walk-in closet with pillows, water, flashlights, food and phones. From 8-12PM Irma was on the doorstep of Sarasota and the surrounding communities. Around midnight I received a text from a buddy who lives even closer to the coast saying congratulations you just survived your first hurricane. Soon after that we made the decision to retreat back to our own bed, yet I stayed vigilant throughout the night listening to the howling gusts, awaiting the possibility of a window breaking in.
Monday morning, the power is still out, yet it is a lovely day with a kind breeze and I am sitting on the patio with my wife beginning to write this article. I hear the freeway roar with weary travelers heading back to Miami and throughout south Florida from wherever they went up north for refuge. Families driving home and wondering what their homes may look like, are their neighborhoods flooded, their fences still up, roof still in tact, and if the power is on? And for those that stayed we were assessing damage and simply trying to get over the surreal event. Shelters were still on lock down as per protocol after such an event to assess for safety.
My family and I have been in Florida for 10 years with no real imminent danger from a hurricane. As fate would have it, our first hurricane just happened to be the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic, and I had no point of reference. Like many others we were throwing together our “hurricane kit” three days before Irma was to impact our area. Food, water, camp stoves, first aid, flash lights, cash, keys, important documents, tools, propane, etc, etc, etc.
My stomach was upset for days, which is unusual and my head was a bit scattered as if dazed and running on autopilot. I even found myself caught up in the herd mentality for a moment. In those final preparations it is easy to get lost in fear and scarcity especially when you are facing a foe you have never seen. No more water, no more plywood for boarding up windows, no more gas, no more generators. Last minute we spent hundreds of dollars on additional food items building our reserves. In lieu of available drinking water we bought Pellegrino and Gatorade. Constantly thinking and mentally preparing for no power or water for days or even weeks. The psychology of boarding up your windows and using a closet as a shelter is a whole other article.
So how do you prepare for what was being called the largest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic? First off, as Floridians we live outside year around. Tables, chairs, lounges, sofas, umbrella’s, plants, sculptures and BBQ grills, everything becomes a possible projectile, a menacing object that could be picked up and tossed through a sliding glass door or window. Everything needed to be boarded up, secured or brought inside. We thought of possible flooding in the house and rolled up the nice rugs and put anything of value up on tables. We wondered should we take the art off the walls? Then your monkey mind gets busy. How do I secure the grill when we saw cars turned over by the same storm days before? How will our fence hold up, or for that matter, how will the walls of the home bare the sustained wind force?
What’s the point your mind says, “forget the pictures on the wall, what if the roof goes, then what?”
That brings me to the final decision us and many of our friends and neighbors had to make. Like the song from the Clash, “should I stay or should I go”. Do we grab a last minute flight now 10 X the normal fare? Do we hit the freeway and evacuate voluntarily with a million others all heading up I-75, many of whom were given mandatory evacuation orders? Or do we go to a shelter with people, pets and others’ fear and drama? Our son is part of the Beach Patrol and an EMT and was working a 12-hour shift at one of the shelters, so we had some connection there.
I have spent many nights in camp with bears looking for food as I lay in my sleeping bag under the stars, yet for some reason that did not frighten me like this did. Maybe it’s because I have always respected the immense power of Mother Nature. I was telling some friends, “Irma doesn’t know anything about spaghetti models; she will turn at will.” You can’t fight the wind. Although since this is Florida, a Pasco County Sheriff did in fact have to warn residents not to shoot at the hurricane. “DO NOT shoot weapons @ #Irma. You won’t make it turn around & it will have very dangerous side effects,” the office posted on Twitter.
We made our decision to stay, or as it was being called, shelter in place. As with any time you struggle with an important decision and finally agree on a course of action, it is somehow calming, liberating and empowering. Family members in other states thought we were nuts, but they already knew that. We were as prepared as we were going to be, so now we wait. And as native Floridian Tom Petty wrote in one of his many hit songs, “the waiting is the hardest part”. I likened the 2 days before Irma hit to grade school when before first period the big bully calls you out for a fight ‘after school’ and now you have to wait the entire day thinking about the impending doom of the a** woopin’ you know is now your fate.
Cat·a·stroph·ic (involving or causing sudden great damage or suffering). We seem to hear this word every other day in some obscure place on the globe, but it seems far removed, somewhat insulated from our reality and day-to-day lives. Not in our backyards, not our home, not our neighbors and loved ones. Irma really brought it home for me and millions of others. I now have more understanding and compassion for the pain and suffering of our global family caused by catastrophes that can happen to any one of us, in an instant, on any given Sunday.
A couple days prior to the hurricane my new neighbor Rose, a lovely 83 year old gal whom I helped to get ready for the storm, told me some local folklore. As it’s been said, “two or three hundred years ago the wife (or daughter) of an Indian Chief said a blessing that this entire area and burial mounds be kept safe from the devastation of hurricanes”. As fate would have it, we were spared any significant devastation. As we go about getting our homes and our lives back to normal a deep sense of gratitude begins to sink in. Days passed before my guts relaxed and my conscious mind was ready to let go of the fight-or-flight mechanisms accepting the fact that catastrophe was not ours to endure. The fight-or-flight response is a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival. The after effects of such are often feelings of agitation and exhaustion which I myself experienced and heard the same from many other friends.
I pray for all those whose lives have been violently interrupted with devastation. How do you go on, move forward? No home, no belongings, no job, no income; and very possibly no hope. I guess as humans we somehow just do. The human spirit gives us the capacity to see it through. CC Scott wrote, “The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it”. The issue of resilience comes up when we are faced with extreme situations; situations for which we have had little or no occasion to develop adaptive mechanisms. There is no handbook for coping with a catastrophe. There are however some guidelines, and I would highly recommend anyone reading this article to heed those and get prepared the best you can on the outside, the rest is of course an inside job.
This experience has helped me realize in a very personal way what a powerful service our Age Safe America Advisor Members offer to seniors and their family members. Like the older adults they help to ‘age in place’, we chose to ‘shelter in place’, as we did not want to leave our home either. It’s where we feel safe, it is familiar, surrounded by our “stuff” even if the place was a bit in chaos and looked like we were moving, we had our neighbors and friends close.
At 58, I am still one of the youngest guys on my block and did what I could to help the older folks in the neighborhood, and if nothing else knocked on the door and let them know we were staying and I would be available if they needed me. Having been in this home only a short while it was the first time meeting many of the neighbors. To do so in such circumstances was actually a good thing, as we were already bonded in preparing for the coming storm, and subsequently the gratitude and clean-up.
Thank you to all the First Responders (our son Zak included) throughout the states and the Caribbean. It is good to know there are still Real Heroes out there! Also glad we live in Sarasota County! Even today there are buses with water, phone chargers and air conditioning for those still without power as a place of respite. And a high five to corporations like Starbucks who paid their people for hours they lost during mandatory store closures. A simple gesture, a good message.
The catastrophic rampages of Hurricane Harvey and Irma have left many displaced and in need. Organizations are on the ground helping victims. It is never too late for you to donate your time or money.
by Steven Bailey
Age Safe. Live Well.
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men/women are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Here are a few things you should do before a hurricane:
- Remove weak and dead trees or tree limbs on your property.
- Know whether your home is in a zone that could be flooded by storm surge, meaning you’d have to evacuate.
- Have plans for where you will go if you evacuate, when you will leave (maybe early to avoid traffic jams), and how family members will contact each other.
- If you might have to evacuate, have a “grab and run” bag ready with important papers, such as your home owners insurance policy, and prescription drugs.
- If you live outside possible storm surge zones, and your house is sturdy, you should plan on riding out the storm in a “safe room” inside the house.
- Have an evacuation or survival kit ready with nonperishable food, water, a first aid kit and other things you’ll need.
- Have a battery-powered radio, maybe a battery-powered television set for keeping up with the latest advisories.
- Gather supplies early, including flashlights, medication, food and drinking water.
- Make sure that your home is secure and shuttered. Ask neighbors to assist with preparations, if necessary.
- Make sure that a neighbor or loved one knows your whereabouts.
Of course, if you are living in a mobile home, or a house that isn’t sturdy enough to stand up to the wind, you should evacuate early and avoid the rush. In all cases, early preparation is the key to surviving a hurricane with as little discomfort as possible. If you need assistance at any point, be sure to contact your local social service agencies as early as possible, as agency employees will also be preparing for the hurricane and cannot assist you at the last minute. If you don’t live in an evacuation zone or a manufactured/mobile home, you can stay home if you take these precautions.
Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors. Close all interior doors – secure and brace external doors. Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm – winds will pick up again.
Living in Southern California, we don’t have to worry about the dreaded tornadoes or hurricanes that batter the Midwest and East Coast. However, we have our own natural disasters that we must prepare our families and homes for. Earthquakes can hit us at any time without any notice at all. It is important to have a plan in place that everyone in your house knows about. That will keep the panic down to a minimum when the inevitable happens. Use the list below that is given to us by Ready.gov to help you prepare your home.
- To begin preparing, you should build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
- Fasten shelves securely to walls.
- Place large or heavy objects on lower shelves.
- Store breakable items such as bottled foods, glass, and china in low, closed cabinets with latches.
- Mirrors, picture frames, and other hanging items should be secured to the wall with closed hooks or earthquake putty. Do not hang heavy objects over beds, sofas, or any place you may be seated.
- Objects such as framed photos, books, lamps, and other items that you keep on shelves and tables can become flying hazards. Secure them with hooks, adhesives, or earthquake putty to keep them in place.
- Bookcases, filing cabinets, china cabinets, and other tall furniture should be anchored to wall studs (not drywall) or masonry. Use flexible straps that allow them to sway without falling to the floor.
- Electronics such as computers, televisions and microwave ovens are heavy and expensive to replace. Secure them with flexible nylon straps.
- Brace overhead light fixtures and top heavy objects.
- Repair defective electrical wiring and leaky gas connections. These are potential fire risks. Get appropriate professional help. Do not work with gas or electrical lines yourself.
- Install flexible pipe fittings to avoid gas or water leaks. Flexible fittings are more resistant to breakage.
- Secure your water heater, refrigerator, furnace and gas appliances by strapping them to the wall studs and bolting to the floor. If recommended by your gas company, have an automatic gas shut-off valve installed that is triggered by strong vibrations.
- Repair any deep cracks in ceilings or foundations. Get expert advice if there are signs of structural defects.
- Get professional help to assess the building’s structure and then take steps to install nonstructural solutions, including foundation bolts, bracing cripple walls, reinforcing chimneys, or installing an earthquake-resistant bracing system for a mobile home. Examples of structures that may be more vulnerable in an earthquake are those not anchored to their foundations or having weak crawl space walls, unbraced pier-and-post foundations, or unreinforced masonry walls or foundations. Visit fema.gov/earthquake-safety-home for guidance on nonstructural ways to reduce damage and earthquake resistant structural design or retrofit.
- Store weed killers, pesticides, and flammable products securely in closed cabinets with latches and on bottom shelves.
- Locate safe spots in each room under a sturdy table or against an inside wall. Reinforce this information by moving to these places during each drill.
- Hold earthquake drills with your family members: Drop, cover and hold on.
Southern California has been plagued with a major drought in the last few years. As a result, huge wild fires have been destroying our neighborhoods. The fires have been even spreading to the coast where we thought they would never happen because of the coastal breeze and humidity. It is necessary to understand what you need to do during an emergency evacuation. Use the list below given to us by Ready.gov to prepare yourself and your family.
- Plan places where your family will meet, both within and outside of your immediate neighborhood. Use the Family Emergency Plan to decide these locations before a disaster.
- If you have a car, keep a full tank of gas in it if an evacuation seems likely. Keep a half tank of gas in it at all times in case of an unexpected need to evacuate. Gas stations may be closed during emergencies and unable to pump gas during power outages. Plan to take one car per family to reduce congestion and delay.
- Become familiar with alternate routes and other means of transportation out of your area. Choose several destinations in different directions so you have options in an emergency.
- Leave early enough to avoid being trapped by severe weather.
- Follow recommended evacuation routes. Do not take shortcuts; they may be blocked.
- Be alert for road hazards such as washed-out roads or bridges and downed power lines. Do not drive into flooded areas.
- If you do not have a car, plan how you will leave if you have to. Make arrangements with family, friends or your local government.
- Take your emergency supply kit unless you have reason to believe it has been contaminated.
- Listen to a battery-powered radio and follow local evacuation instructions.
- Take your pets with you, but understand that only service animals may be permitted in public shelters. Plan how you will care for your pets in an emergency.
If time allows:
- Call or email the out-of-state contact in your family communications plan. Tell them where you are going.
- Secure your home by closing and locking doors and windows.
- Unplug electrical equipment such as radios, televisions and small appliances. Leave freezers and refrigerators plugged in unless there is a risk of flooding. If there is damage to your home and you are instructed to do so, shut off water, gas and electricity before leaving.
- Leave a note telling others when you left and where you are going.
- Wear sturdy shoes and clothing that provides some protection such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts and a cap.
- Check with neighbors who may need a ride.
If you are a senior that would like help preparing your home for a natural disaster, Age Safe Advisor Members can get the job done!
by Fritzi Gros-Daillon Chief Advocacy Officer Age Safe America
Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. America has long stood as a beacon of hope and opportunity, and few embody that spirit here at home and beyond our borders more than the members of our Armed Forces. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen are part of an unbroken chain of brave patriots who have served our country with honor and made tremendous sacrifices so that we may live free. On Veterans Day, we salute the women and men who have proudly worn the uniform of the United States of America and the families who have served alongside them, and we affirm our sacred duty as citizens to express our enduring gratitude, both in words and in actions, for their service.
Basic Needs and Supplies
☐ Water — one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)
☐ Food — it is a good idea to include foods that do not need cooking (canned, dried, etc.) (3-day supply for evacuation and 2-week supply for home)
☐ Flashlight with extra batteries and bulbs (do not use candles)
☐ Battery-operated or hand-crank radio
☐ First aid kit and manual
☐ Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
☐ Multi-purpose tool (several tools that fold up into a pocket- sized unit)
☐ Sanitation and personal hygiene items (toilet paper, plastic garbage bags)
☐ Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, deed/lease to home, birth certificates, insurance policies)
☐ Cell phone with an extra battery and charger (s)
☐ Family and friends’ emergency contact information
☐ Cash and coins (ATMs may not be accessible)
☐ Emergency blanket
☐ Map(s) of the local area
☐ Whistle (to attract the attention of emergency personnel)
☐ One change of clothing
☐ Manual can opener
☐ Pet supplies (including food and vaccination records)
☐ Extra set of keys (car, house, etc.)
☐ Pack of cards to provide entertainment and pass the time
Cold Climate Supplies
It is possible that you will not have heat during or after a disaster. Think about your clothing and bedding needs. Be sure to include one set of the following for each person:
☐ Jacket or coat
☐ Long pants and long-sleeve shirt
☐ Sturdy shoes
☐ Hat, mittens and scarf
☐ Sleeping bag or warm blanket
Supplies for Your Vehicle
☐ Flashlight with extra batteries and extra bulbs
☐ First aid kit and manual
☐ Tire repair kit
☐ Jumper cables
☐ Bottled water
☐ Non-perishable foods such as granola bars
☐ Winter: Blanket, hat, mittens, shovel, sand, tire chains, windshield scraper, Florescent distress flag
☐ Summer: Sunscreen lotion SPF 15 or higher, shade item (umbrella, wide-brimmed hat, etc.)