Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us

by Dave Robinson

Dave Robinson

Paperwork Paperwork
Originally published March 30, 2014

A very big part of disaster preparedness has nothing to do with food, water, ammunition or first aid supplies. A few years back Hurricane Katrina blew in off the Gulf of Mexico forcing the hasty evacuation of New Orleans. Never before in history had it been necessary to evacuate an entire major city in the United States.

After the wind died down and the flood waters receded, the population returned to their city. Some returned to their homes, some returned to where their homes had been. In many cases all that remained was a foundation, a concrete slab or a set of front porch steps.

When we think of evacuation, we usually have a list that includes clothes, food, tent, sleeping bags and other items needed for survival. (I didn’t mention the kids or pets, I just assumed they’d be a part of your plan.) Because the ultimate goal of evacuation is to eventually return home and resume living, it is important that you are able to re-establish yourself in your former life. Re-establishing is a whole lot easier if your vital documents are intact. Things like your passport, birth certificate, home insurance policy, the title to your family car, the deed to your home and even college transcripts.

One account I read described the intention of one evacuee to seek employment in his city of refuge until it dawned on him he couldn’t prove his credentials. He had failed to make copies of his vital papers therefore was unable to prove his qualifications for the job he sought.

Even if the disaster is confined to your home in the form of a house fire, it is possible you could lose all your important papers. Home fire safes are better than nothing, but the best way is to store copies somewhere off-site. Banks offer safe deposit boxes just for that purpose. Another, more high-tech method is to scan your documents and store them electronically. You can store them on-line in “cloud” technology, put them on a flash drive or simply keep copies at a trusted friend’s house. Although there is really no substitute for original copies, you can still recover policy numbers, passport numbers and other identifying information from the copies. When you explain your plight to that guy at DMV, the process is expedited when you can show copies along with your explanation. So plan right now to sit down some evening and organize your important papers. Get them scanned or copied and placed in safe location.

Several months back I mentioned an item I own which was designed for use during power outages. It’s called a Storm Station, manufactured by Black & Decker, it sells for $89.99 at certain online retailers. It features a radio, including weather channel, a 12 volt power outlet, a 120 volt inverter (25 watts) , a room light and a built-in rechargeable flashlight. The book says you set it on a shelf, plug it in and leave it that way until needed. Its handy features make it one of the first items you reach for during an outage.

Last week during our “grid-down” experience I grabbed it, set it on the counter and hit the “on” button. Nothing. The battery was dead. Although the thing had been plugged into the trickle charger the entire time, the unit was dead. The radio would play, but there was no light, no inverter and no flashlight. Online research revealed that I’m not the only one. The remedy seems to be to purchase another battery, take it apart and swap out the battery.

I have since learned that other rechargeable power sources can experience the same problem. The lesson here is to check them out now before your power goes out to make sure they actually work as advertised. I plan to order a new battery for my Storm Station and will keep you updated on my battery swap-out plan.

As always send your comments and questions 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