Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lessons in the Aftermath of a Disaster

Since the calendar flipped to a new millenium, we've seen more than enough devastation to last a lifetime. Major earthquakes, tsunamis, 9/11, wars... and no one would argue that Katrina and Sandy certainly left plenty of destruction and even death in their wake.  In fact it's almost inconceivable at times. So many people whose lives will never be the same...

Photo Credit: NASA Goddard Photo & Video
Is there a silver lining in all of this? 

Yes. It's painful to look at, but if we examine things closely, we'll see that there are lessons to be gleaned from trials and tribulations of such magnitude. For example, by reading news articles, you can gather ideas of things people didn't stock up on and are desperately searching for after an event. And there's other factors to consider as well. Here's what I found by just reading 3 on-line articles:

Photo Credit: Casual Capture
So... what can we learn? 

Preparation does make a difference. I don't mean to make light of these experiences, but rather to analyze them historically. In doing so, it's amazing that a massive disaster can rip through a neighborhood and somehow leave a few houses untouched. And even if it does wipe out entire rows of houses, down the road some still stand. While some will lose everything, by far the majority will only be inconvenienced or suffer from a lack of preparation. If everyone prepped, the houses that DO remain would have supplies.

• Stock plenty of basics. Think light, heat, food, water, sanitation. Calculate what you need and double it. And that's just for your OWN family! Please don't do just the minimum, although that is good. By their very nature, most disasters are unpredictable. This is where those Hollywood scenarios can come in handy... they always make things out to be a "worst case scenario". If we all prepared that way, it might go better for us in such an event!  

• Prepare to share. Not everyone is wise. That's a fact. When a crisis occurs, if you've only saved enough for your immediate family, sharing will not come willingly. And maybe not at all. Think beyond your own and stash a few things for the neighbors. Yes, someone might take advantage of your goodness, and yes, it can make us angry that they aren't being prudent and you have to do it for them. But we never know how God will chose to use these acts of kindness to those made in His image. It may soften their heart and open the door for the gospel message, especially in a time of devastation, when people are searching for answers. Preparing to share can have eternal ramifications for others.

• Build Community. I'm not going to address this in detail here (because I plan to discuss it in full at a later date), but at least consider this for now... neighbors can be your worst nightmare or your greatest asset. But the later won't happen if you don't do some work ahead of time. You'll need each other if things really do get bad.

• Take safety precautions. Many will feel safest with appropriate weapons, but I certainly understand those who don't. Unless you're trained and proficient with a gun, your own weapon could be used against you! And let's talk reality... for the believer, it is very difficult to take another life, even when trying to protect your own family. Building community and making your home less of a target will go a long way toward avoiding trouble, although it won't guarantee your family's safety. Either way, you need to think about this and make a choice you can live with so that when the time comes you're not making this decision under the pressure of the moment. 

Being safe also means not taking ridiculous risks, such as traveling by car when flooding is going on or going through a building to find supplies when it's clear the structure has been compromised. And what about staying put when you really should evacuate? It's all just stuff... leave it behind and go! Most loss of life occurs because people take risks that aren't truly necessary. Makes me wonder if they're in shock over the event, partly because of the devastation, but partly because they realize they're unprepared and they can't handle it emotionally... they're not thinking like they normally would. Being prepared will to a long way to help you remain mentally sound and physically safe.

• Consider what you'll do while you wait. Granted, food preparation and sanitation will take more of your time if the grid is down, but you'll still have plenty of hours of silence, especially if you can't get outside. And with children and teens who have been raised in a technological world, nerves do get raw. This is where we'll see the repercussions of our lifestyle... I dare say, character qualities such as patience and contentment will be lacking! Be sure you have plenty of options for entertainment and other activities for the family that don't require electricity: Books, coloring or drawing supplies, toys, games, and even chores! Yes, this is an opportunity for little ones to feel important and that they can make a difference. Plus, it helps one's mental state to be productive and takes their mind off the devastation (in a small way). 

• Know your areas weaknesses. If you live in a flood zone (easy to determine), then you need to have a reasonable plan to elevate items and get to higher ground. Earthquake country? Where should you store supplies in the event that the house is destroyed or unsafe to enter. You'll need a tent, too... think of all the people around the world that don't want to go back in their home due to aftershocks. Hurricanes, tornados, forest fires, tsunamis, even volcanoes (think Pacific Northwest)... every place on earth has a potential disaster in the horizon. Prepare accordingly. 

Because we never know that hour or day something can happen, prepping should take place regularly and as a lifestyle. This is why I host the monthly Preparedness Challenge. When God is gracious and spares us devastation year after year, we can grow complacent. It's just way too easy to think this kind of thing will never happen to us... and so we quit. The monthly challenge has helped me to stay the course and remain balanced in my preparations. 

Overwhelmed? Let me recommend a few simple steps...

1. Join the Preparedness Challenge every month.
2. Read through my posts listed under Prepping.
3. Read the new Preparedness Review - it's FREE!
4. Read at least 1 prepping blog a week - one that is coming from a Biblical worldview! 
5. Turn fear into action (see #1 above). That includes prayer!
6. Memorize the promises of God! Stay in His Word regularly!
7. Get the family on board! 

Historically, a huge part of homesteading has been preparing... for winter months, for lean times, for various trials. Has prepping become a part of your regular homesteading efforts? Don't let the lessons of Sandy and other disasters fade too quickly from your mind! 

What have you learned from this recent disaster that will help you in your preparations?


  1. What a FANTASTIC post and so nicely written! Living in Florida most of my life, my hubby & I are usually prepped for hurricanes. We are moving out west at the beginning of the year so I will need to be doing some research on the most common types of natural disasters that take place there and begin to prep for those.

    Thanks for this post. A great reminder to those who do prep and a gentle wake-up call to those who do not.

    God Bless!

  2. Yes a fantastic post . Humans today rely to much on the modern world to keep them a float during bad weather . I feel that if everyone was to have a bit of homesteading in them they would be better off , learn to live with out all the modern ways cause one day Mother nature could take it all away and then what would they all do, how would they survive ! I was raised on a farm back in the 60s & 70s lived off of the land and even then things were much different then they are now , no one knows how to survive with out the things we have now a days ! That's the biggest way to me one can be prepared for anything . Take the show Revolution that could happen you never know ! The Amish have the upper hand on this modern world still to this day ! Have a good day !

  3. I'm glad you mentioned "consider what you'll do while you wait." I think for many people it is a huge surprise to discover that waiting is HARD. One useful thing I've learned is the value of developing a daily meditation practice. Different from prayer; it's simply focusing on breathing and releasing any thoughts that come along. Doing this for even a few minutes daily when there is not an emergency means that when there is a stressful situation, a person can quickly take themselves back to a calmer, more peaceful state of body and mind. I've found it more helpful than I ever imagined.

  4. People who live in NY generally live in very small places, with no room for a pantry, let alone additional food storage. They do not have ovens or prep spaces to cook and many do not, when they have restaurants with the world's cuisine at their doorstep. In that scenario, how do you address prepping. Is it worth it to prep for a natural disaster that may occur rarely when they are not in a hurricane zone ? I am trying to address this myself, living in a small house, though not as small a space as most NY apartments. Thanks

    1. Guest, you raise some good questions... the answers aren't always simplistic and sometimes they require us to make difficult choices. I've also lived in some small places (one was less than 400 sq. ft.) and having done so, the scenario you describe would be better suited for a single person or married couple, not a family because one or two young healthy individuals can often make do with a bit less in a crisis. And they're typically a bit more mobile.

      If I were young again (smile!), and single or newly married living in NY City, I'd have a GOODY bag and a plan to get out of town as fast as I could, along with a predesignated place to go that was prepared in advance. THAT would be my #1 prepping priority. If I had a small house in the burbs or in an actual neighborhood, I'd get really creative with the small spaces I did have (for some basic prepping) and I'd still try to have another retreat location set up in advance. Cities are not always the best place to be during a disaster for many reasons.

      Remember that for hurricanes, such as in Sandy, we typically have advance notice which allows for an evacuation plan to be put into action. That isn't always the case.

  5. Excellent post Amy! I so agree with you. We have a box that we affectionately call our 'Zombie Apocalypse' stores with staples, batteries, etc. in it. So we're ready for a hurricane, power outage, social upheaval, tornado. blizzard...or yes, even zombies! We have a generator, guns that we both know how to use and our chickens. Not that we would eat the chickens but they would provide us with eggs for a very long time if need be.

    When I listen to the news and its a mere 2 days after a disaster and there are people complaining that the lights are out and the are running out of food, I know its unGodly, but I have trouble sympathesizing. We could live quite easily for a month just eating what's in our pantry, never mind our 'zombie stores'. Light some candles, pick up a book and ride it out! Lisa

  6. Great blog, and great post! I appreciate all you've shared here, and I will be reviewing your related posts, too. You have beautifully woven in the Christian perspective, which is so refreshing and encouraging to see.
    Blessings to you :)

  7. Amy, you are so right, and I thought of you this morning as I watched photos of NYC. But I have to say, NYC has been threatened so many times with a hurricane like this, but it never came to pass. People are so used to the idea of going to a grocery store, this is a wake up call for a lot of folks, unfortunately...

  8. Very good post. Thanks for this.

  9. Thank you for the practical information here! Very informative!

  10. Love this post! I have been stocking up, but have slacked off lately. Time to get back to business and get prepared for harder days ahead. Thanks for covering this in such a great way, reaching out to neighbors, building community. I inherited my daughter's dog and have been taking him for daily walks around the block for some months now. I am amazed when I think about it how many of my neighbors I have met because of this one simple act of exercise. I was a stick to myself kind of person and now I know neighbors all around.
    Thanks for making me think.

  11. After spending ten days without power during a horrible ice storm, I can fully relate to everything you said. It really pays to be prepared!

  12. Just talking about this subject this morning with my husband. He was saying that he hates seeing so many people on tv begging for help when they knew for quite some time that this storm was coming. It does make us think about what we can do to be more prepared in our own home. Thank you for this post. It is very well written.

  13. I agree with langela. I am very sympathetic to all who lost life and property, but honestly, did these folks REALLY think the power wouldn't go out?? And did they really think that with such widespread devastation the power would be restored in a matter of hours?? Some of the folks I've seen on TV are very indignant that they are being inconvenienced. Take responsibility folks!!!! It is very easy, and very inexpensive to have some canned goods, batteries and flashlights, a small propane stove, and bottled water on hand. Stop waiting for someone to come and take care of you. Please don't think I am unsympathetic, I'm just realistic. Things happen. BE PREPARED!!!! Thanks for allowing me to vent :)!!! Prayers going out to ALL affected by hurricane Sandy.

  14. Just read some really good information on your blog! I'm a Mormon and preparedness is something our church teaches religiously (haha). I have a really good 1 yr supply of food and supplies and a 72 hr kit for each member of my family but I made a whole new Liston things I need to learn, update, and add. Thank you for the wonderful information!

  15. Having just lived through Hurricane Sandy and located in the suburbs, there are some areas harder hit than others. The biggest issue that we're facing is the lack of hot water for bathing and power because we don't have a generator - yet. Meanwhile, we are using lanterns, candles and flashlights. I see people all around me sturggling because they don't have enough gas to feed their gas pwered generators. I turned the fridge to the lowest setting 3 days in advance and we swapped all of the cold food into the beach cooler as soon as we lost power.
    I've got a few things that I need to refine after this learning experience, like write down a cookout menu, but there aren't too many areas that need updating.

  16. Well said. Think about where you are living and what you would do in a catastrophe should it ever happen. I won't live in a building with stairs...can't maneuver very well. I won't live too close to much out of my is one of them. I live on a corner so that there is only one house beside me and one behind the event of fire. On and on and on. Be realistic with your surroundings.

  17. Thanks for this post! Superstorm Sandy was definitely a reminder to me (and a kick in the pants!). We live in upstate NY, and definitely didn't get the brunt of the storm, but were warned of possible long power outages. My husband and I have been prepping and storing up for several years now, but we even had to make a last minute run to the store for a few items before Sandy hit. Thankfully we had some trees down, but our power remained (some towns just west of us weren't so lucky and as of today still had their power out). But it definitely woke me up to a few areas that we haven't prepared well. I'll be working on filling those gaps over the next couple months!

  18. Great post! I believe strongly in being prepared as well (though it is still cerainly a work in progress!). When I read some preparedness blogs and as I have visited with some people I am dismayed by the attitudes that I often find of figuring out ways to hide what we have so nobody would steal or knowing how to protect ourselves. I was very refreshed to read what you wrote about being prepared to share and building community ahead of time. I think this is so important! Thank you for your biblical perspective!

  19. Great post Amy! I live in Queensland Australia, and in the last 5 years our home was directly hit by a catergory 4 Cyclone (Larry) and last year a catergory 5 Cyclone (Yasi). With both cyclones we recieved damage to our home and also lost electricity for more than 4 weeks but because we, like many others in our rural community, chose to be as prepared as we could, we were able to carry on as normal - we had food supplys, generators, water etc. We have a fantastic community, neighbours and friends who help one another in good times and testing times like natural disasters. I pray for everyone in your country who have been affected by Sandy, and also hope that many people can learn from disasters like these to try and be prepared for all scenerios and to build their community as we can all help one another in times of need. Being prepared, having our community and having faith has really helped us through disasters. Thanks.

    1. Wow, Kirsty! Four weeks without services or being back on grid? Says a lot for the character of your community when they an pull together like that. And be prepared in advance. Seems like a stark contrast to what we're seeing in some areas affected by Sandy. I don't know each individual situation, but it sounds like many just didn't prepare.

      Thanks for sharing your experience... it's very encouraging to hear how preparing, community, and faith CAN make a difference!

  20. The US now has laws stating persons with more than a 7 day supply of food would be considered domestic terrorists! Sounds like there are a lot of us. They don't want us to be prepared because then we wouldn't be dependent on the government. Independence is a threat.

    1. Henni Penni, I'd really love to have a link on that to the correct law if you have one.
      Thanks in advance!

  21. Hello! I just found your blog today, and am really enjoying your balanced and biblical view on 'prepping'. I was wondering if you have planned (or have already done) some posts on emergency first aid kits. Also, if keeping vitamin and supplement stashes would be a good idea, since eating mainly canned food would short-change our bodies, especially if we were used to a fresh food diet.

    1. Good question, Lindsey. I probably should do a first aid kit post (great idea). As for keeping vitamins and supplements and canned food... I do have some canned goods, but very little. I concentrate on growing greens and other crops 3-4 seasons a year and storing root crops as well. But since everyone can't do that, then I would recommend it as a second option. Perhaps all this would be better explained in a post - I have lots of thoughts on this kind of thing, but not sure I've clearly communicated it here on the blog.

  22. Great list! As an Animal Disaster Responder to Hurricanes Andrew, Isabell, Katrina & Irene we are urged to have a "GO Bag" packed and ready to go.
    Water comes in fast, fire too. Have a bag packed for EVERY family member(update it at daylight savings time) and put somewhere handy incase you have to evacuate in the middle of the night because of a derailed propane train, or a crashed plane, broken levee, fire, etc, etc.
    Make a plan of where you are going (to friends, family, motel out of the area, etc) BEFORE you ever need it. ALWAYS TAKE YOUR PETS WITH YOU.
    Your dogs ID tags should include YOUR phone umber PLUS a phone number of a friend in a DIFFERENT state, just incase..... Lots of dogs in Katrina had tags with phone numbers that went to dead numbers.. Lesson learned.
    If you have livestock or fowl, please make plans for them as well.
    Come visit some Vermont flocks & Herds, when you have a chance, at:


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