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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tornado thoughts from Alabama, 2011

I got this off another website.  Used by permission.

May 2011- This is a letter my brother sent to our family this past week. In it are his thoughts surrounding prepardness and the recent Tornado disasters in Alabama for which he was involved with. He lives in Northern Alabama......

"Wednesday, April 27th, 2011, Alabama got hit hard by mother nature via a ton of tornadoes. Our county took a massive hit. Over 300 families lost
their homes. Every transmission line that the Tennessee Valley Authority
- TVA (produces electricity for North Alabama) had into our area was
severed. All power lost to about 500,000 people. In addition,
Huntsville Utilities, who distributes the power to us, took massive
damage. They both worked miracles and have restored power to about 80%
of customers by the end of day 6. We got power back almost 5 days after
the storm.

During the storm (that lasted about 8 hours) and for the 8 hours after
the storm, I spent in the disaster area doing rescue work, including
swift-water rescues due to the large amount of rain we had. Many people
not hit by tornadoes still suffered due to flooding and since no power,
they had no idea water was rising so fast and so high. I got home at
3am for a few hours sleep.

Okay, what we did right preparing for not having power for 5 days and
some lessons learned from our experience. We had our 72 hour kits but
didn't need them (this time) but many families hit by the tornado sure
could have used them. Many families as we helped them out of their
rubble piles that used to be homes, tried to grab a few things to take -
several said they wished they had listened when told to prepare the kits
(and/or taken them to shelter with them so they could find them
afterwards). We had our 1 year supply of food and over 500 gallons of
drinking water - again, we were lucky and did not need them.

You will be surprised on how much your life depends on electricity! Do
not panic. So many folks just could not handle the situation. Many of
our neighbors left town (at great expense). We stayed and had a decent
time. Keep calm, stay relaxed. Enjoy life without distractions such as
TV, Internet, cellphones, etc. Bring out the board games, go for a walk
or riding bikes, read some books. Our family had a bunch of fun during
this time.

Keep your cars fueled. A few months ago, Xina and I decided to keep
cars at least half full of fuel. This paid off hugh as gas stations
were closed due to power failure. So, try not to let fuel tank get too
low. If you have to evacuate, loose power, etc, try to at least have
half a tank of fuel.

Have car chargers and inverters so you can charge cellphones and other
important electrical items. We were able to charge cellphones and
Xina's Coclear Implant batteries in the car. I was also able to charge
my laptop and paging 2-way radios (for fire and rescue squad purposes)
in car. Many did not have a car charger!

When we switched to a cordless phone system in our house years ago, I
kept some of the corded type phones around in case of a power failure.
Paid off, I was able to plug three into different parts of the house.
Note, phones worked for a couple days but did go out totally for about
18 hours before coming back up.

Do not rely on cellphones. While most of the cellphone system was
untouched by storm, the power for the towers switched to batteries and
they went down after a couple days. In addition, an even bigger issue,
so MANY folks started using them, that it was VERY hard to get a call
out (was much easier to receive them as Janet found out). Have backup
plans in place. Try to keep off the cellphones during the immediate
aftermath of a disaster as public safety folks might need whatever
capability is left as radio systems are effected as well (the city's
main system even shut down due to overload, for about an hour).

Fridge and freezers will keep stuff cool for about 24 hours after power
goes out if you do not keep opening them up. Once they start warming
up, have a cookout for everyone (yes, you can cook hot pockets on a BBQ

Have food that does not spoil. Have a simple camp stove you can cook on
for food that you want to eat warm. Canned food can be cooked on a BBQ
grill as well (open first and remove label). Keep extra on hand. We
did not have to dig into any of our food storage. Many folks could not
figure out how to survive a couple days without fridges/freezers... I
was shocked on how many reacted.

Water may or may not be available during a power failure. Luckily our
city water system had back up power for water treatment plants but we
were prepared and had 500 gallons of drinking water stored plus quickly
filled up another 125 gallons of bathtubs and jugs to have bathing, dish
washing, etc water.

Electric hot water heaters will be missed. Have a solar water heater if
you want to take warm showers. I rigged one up and it was very nice.
Beats VERY cold showers!

Have a stash of cash, small bills. ATMs are going to be down, banks
closed, credit card machines not working. We worked over the past two
years to have several stashes of cash hidden so we could use in
emergencies. We did use this item of preparedness.
Keep plenty of batteries on hand. Make sure each family member has
their own flashlight (our family members each have a head light and hand
held flashlight).

Have candles as backups to flashlights, with candle holders to carry
them by. Shorter candles so they do not fall over. We found we had no
good holders, but plan on purchasing some VERY soon.

Battery operated radio with a list taped to it of news stations. We did
not have this and would have been hard pressed to know what was going on
if we didn't have back up internet access. Another purchase that will
be done VERY soon!

Again, keeping your cool and staying calm are the biggest ways to handle
the situation. Being prepared helps to you in the regards."

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