A full week after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, most of the state is beginning to recover from what was touted as a “nuclear bomb” of a hurricane by governor Scott Brown, and one that set records for maintaining continuous wind speeds of 185 miles per hour for 37 hours.
After devastating a number of islands in the Caribbean as she moved west, Irma fortunately weakened considerably from its previous Category 5 rating by the time it hit mainland Florida, striking Naples at Category 3 strength but quickly downgrading to Category 2 once over land.
Despite Irma’s historic power and destructiveness, Florida was spared of what could have been a much more calamitous disaster. As a recent transplant to Florida, I had a front row seat and lived through a full hurricane cycle for the first time in my life. And as someone who prides themselves on regularly thinking through various contingency scenarios and planning appropriately, I wanted to use this article as a chance to conduct an after-action review (AAR) on what went well, what did not go well, and what I could do better next time. Bottom line up front: I had way, way too many guns.
Now, normally I would never say someone could have too many guns, but I quickly found that in my numerous disaster and emergency scenarios I prepared for, nearly all of them involved me getting into some sort of prolonged urban firefight. Or some apocalyptic scenario where I would raise an indigenous force of survivors and arm them to the teeth against an army of the undead. But here in the real world, it was just me, my wife, and my dogs against general discomfort in the wake of a hurricane.
I’ll keep the actual number and types of firearms I own private, but suffice it to say, I have more than I can carry, and way more than would be useful against a hurricane (although according to one Sheriff’s department here in Florida, some have tried).
What Went Well
Coincidentally enough, I had gone back to the drawing board on my survival gear well before Irma was bearing down on us. I had the basics of food and water covered, but lacked adequate medical supplies in the event I would need to administer first aid to myself or others. Hitting up some SOFREP articles and some friends, I started rounding out my medical supplies, which up until this point had just been some tourniquets and bandages. Not surprisingly, the injuries I accrued preparing for this hurricane were not sucking chest wounds or amputated limbs, but booboos like cuts and scrapes while I moved shit around and mounted hurricane shutters on all my windows. I was able to patch them up and keep them from becoming infected.
Because I had the food and water already taken care of before the mass hysteria Irma created, I wasn’t sweating the huge lines and fights breaking out over bottled water. But I was missing some other critical supplies that would have been a huge help..
What Did Not Go Well
Once it became clear that Irma was probably going to wreck Florida no matter where you lived in the state, I started thinking seriously about hardening the house itself to prevent damage. I had some hurricane shutters, but not enough for the whole house. So, I had to put on my man pants and get to cutting some plywood. But by the time I realized I needed to harden the compound, other quick-thinkers had already scooped up all the good plywood that could reasonably hold up in a hurricane. I was left with what is called OSB wood, which is an inferior wood type when trying to protect your windows from flying debris (it does not hold up as well as traditional plywood when impacted). However, it was at least something, so I got to work. After about eight hours of sawing apart wood panels, I had covered every window with some protection.
The house stood up well against what were apparently 110+ MPH winds, but what I was least prepared for was the aftermath. We went a full week with no power. While we had running water, we did not have any electricity. This I was not prepared for. I had tried to secure a generator during the madness leading up to Irma, but they were sold out everywhere I went. Having a generator is useful for things like keeping your refrigerator running so the food you have in there stays fresh. It can also be used for things like keeping lights on, using your water heater, running fans, and other luxury activities like having your television and computers run. In Florida during the late summer, having fans going is pretty much a necessity. But most importantly, a generator can keep your cell phone charged, which is critical in keeping in contact with others and monitoring the news.
Had the situation been worse, with roads being impassable or other critical infrastructure services unavailable, I would have been in a world of hurt.
What I Could Do Better Next Time
One critical thing I was not prepared for was a flood. Despite not living in a flood zone, Irma was projected to spew a wall of water in the form of storm surge across my area. Thankfully, the worst predictions did not pan out, but faced with the sudden reality that my house may have 4 feet of standing water in it à la Hurricane Harvey, I realized how foolish I had been in forgoing flood insurance. That would have given me huge peace of mind.
I have already ordered a portable generator that will be able to run my critical devices in the event of another prolonged power outage. In this scenario, having backup power would have been the most helpful.
I have also realized that the most likely scenario we will all face is something similar to what I just went through: i.e., not the apocalypse. While it’s great that I have the ability to lay down a wall of lead towards anyone that steps foot on my property, that isn’t very useful when society hasn’t collapsed and I just want to turn on some fans. If I had to re-calibrate my preparedness checklist, I would re-rack my priorities to address what is most likely first, and then work my way down to zombie apocalypse.
I hope this article has put some ideas in your head. Hurricane season is far from over, and then those of you in colder climates have the prospect of winter storms to look forward to. Get those supplies now, before it becomes a panic!
Image courtesy of NASA