Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Getting Home
Originally published February 10, 2012

I read somewhere that “The best kit, is the one you have with you.” We can have our homes prepared to the max, but if we aren’t home when disaster strikes, it does us little good. It was November 18, 1996. I was at work at the Post Office in Langlois. As I recall, it was raining when I got up that day, but by mid-morning it really began to rain, in earnest. Along with the rain high winds swept in off the ocean and before long we had one of the most vicious storms I had seen.

The rain-swollen streams began to sweep all manner of debris along with the water and soon clogged culverts, flooding the roads. By mid-afternoon it was apparent there was no let-up and I began to hear reports that Highway 101 may close down. I live in Myrtle Point and I use a stretch of Highway 101 to get home. After I closed the post office and started home, I made it as far as Bradley Lake Road, four miles south of Bandon before ODOT turned me around. I had no choice but to head back to Langlois and prepare to spend the night. I had previously stashed a sleeping bag, a shaving kit and a few cans of non-perishable food at the post office.

I stopped by the Langlois Market to get some more groceries, Lee Pestana, owner of the market asked if I was going to be able to get home. Lee invited me to bunk in at his house that night. In fact, he wouldn’t take no for answer. We cooked a batch of spaghetti for dinner and later when the crew from Bandon Power showed up, we cooked dinner for them. My point is that I wasn’t completely unprepared, although I was pleased I didn’t have to spend the night on the floor of the post office.

If I had my way, any disaster would take place while my family and I are comfortably at home. But we can’t schedule storms or earthquakes, the reality is now I work in Bandon and spend eight or more hours a day in my office there. My wife spends all day at her job in Coos Bay. The likelihood of at least one of us being stranded away from home in an emergency is very good. So let’s play a game of “Let’s Pretend.” If you were stranded in another city during a disaster, would you have what you need with you to get by? And oh by the way, all the stores are closed and the ATMs won’t work because the power is out.

If you ask most people, “What would you do if you were in another city during an emergency?” Most people would say, “I’d get home as soon as possible.” Have you considered that you just might not be able to get home? Trees, power poles, power lines, building debris, massive traffic jam with everybody else trying to do the same thing, bridges out, and roads flooded are all realistic reasons why your best option may be to sit it out for a few hours. If the emergency is an earthquake, make sure you’re out of the tsunami zone and sit tight. If you have your kit with you, you’re good.

So what’s in a kit? Everyone’s kit will look different depending on your specific needs. We all have the same four basic needs: (1) food, (2) water, (3) shelter, and (4) security. (Maslow’s hierarchy of need notwithstanding.) Good, strong walking shoes are a must, if you take some kind of maintenance medication, then you should have your meds with you, at least three or four days worth. It’s called a “Get Home Bag”. Yours will look different than mine, but water, food and shelter are the basics. Some extra clothes, but the shoes you wear to work are probably not the ones you want to wear to walk any distance. Get a bag, get started and just imagine what you’d do if you were stranded some distance from home. As always you may email your questions or comments to disasterprep.dave@gmail.com.

Note: Dave Robinson is Bandon's Postmaster and has worked for the postal service for 30 years. He has a background in law enforcement, served in the Air Force in Vietnam, worked nine years for the Coos County Sheriff's Department, and serves on the Myrtle Point School Board, where he lives.

additional columns by Dave Robinson