There was a tsunami coming. We received an early call from a friend. We lived a block off the ocean in Oregon. I completely panicked as I tossed us all in my little jeep. I roared away and up the hill to a friend's home. No alarms had sounded yet, no one else in town knew. My son got out of the car with the family dog in his arms, and asked if we should go back for our 72-hour kits. In my panic, I forgot everything.
We watched the entire city in the summer evening light from our friend's balcony. The news rolled the story of the approaching tsunami while our city decided if they should sound the alarm, and frighten tourists. Sirens finally blared and car headlights came on. The lights turned in our direction, up to safety. They all went about 20 feet, the roads jammed like parking lots and old, young and infirm began running the mile or so up the hill on foot. Friends called to say they had made it out of town, but were bumper to bumper without gas.
Luckily when the tsunami (giant wave) rolled in it was about a foot high and nothing was damaged. It was a false alarm. But boy did we learn a lot that day. Here is a list of some of the things we learned:
Don't wait for the official announcement
Never wait for anyone else to notify you that you may be in trouble. You can purchase an N.O.A.A. radio can cheaply in the U.S. which will sound an alarm on the coast. I am signed up for text alerts for tsunamis and tornadoes. Consider owning a ham radio. Create a network of friends and family and plan a phone tree in the event one of you gets word of a flood, fire, tornado or other eminent disaster. Have a battery operated radio and know what stations to check for news.
Have 72-hour kits for each family member
Keep individual 72-hour kits, in case your family is not together at the time of a disaster. My husband was gone to work and unreachable. Keep one in every vehicle and one each within easy reach at home. They should include first aid kits, cash, food, water, and any medication you might need to survive.
Keep your gas tank half full at all times and emergency cash on hand as credit card machines may not work.
If you have family who require medications, keep a one month supply handy for evacuation.
Have planned meeting places memorized outside your community. Teach children your full name, address, meeting place and cell phone numbers without frightening them. Let extended family out of your area know your plans, so that they can locate you.
Plan and pack emergency gear for pets
In 2007, the first hurricane north of the 45th parallel hit the Oregon coast and once again the tsunami alarms went off. Winds over 120 miles-per-hour blew for 48 hours. This natural disaster was different. For three days, the outside world couldn't get to our community. Roads were totally impassable. Phone, power and television cables were gone. Fallen trees blocked every road and lay on houses. This time we were more prepared. We had our own alarms, 72-hour kits, cash and gas. We couldn't drive beyond our road, and barely made it to gather at our church. Medical emergency services were down, as was police communication. There was flooding, it was December and cold at night.
Because we were prepared, we had food and wood for heat. Ham radios were put to use for medical and police emergencies. Our chain saws were used to clear roads. We fed a neighborhood and housed friends.
Grocery stores took only cash. Without power or phone lines they had no way to process cards. Their shelves emptied quickly. Gas stations had to hand pump gas so they charged only cash and double for gas. There were lines. Cell phones and electric remote phones didn't work, but our old rotary dial land line did.
Even though we were prepared, this experience taught us about being better prepared.
Be sure that you have a way to communicate
Communication is extremely important. My husband is now ham radio trained. Make sure your community has alternate communication resources. Keep a battery operated radio in case you can get a signal.
Have provisions for any kind of weather
Have an alternate power source for heat and cooking. We later purchased a generator. Keep additional flashlights and batteries on hand.
You need water storage and a way to heat it for medical emergencies and dishes. Keep bleach and purification methods in your storage.
You need cold weather clothes and blankets in your vehicles and home.
Store more food than your family will eat. If you can, store food for at least three months. You will have neighbors and friends who are hungry and cold. You may think you can turn them away, but when children were in need, I couldn't.
Get to know your neighbors and pool resources. I had heat and hot water. My neighbor had great food for dinner. I had a way to cook it. Two days into the event we found a woman who had been without food and heat less than 60 feet from our home. She had suffered while we were roasting marshmallows around our fire.
Collaborate with neighbors
Do not assume a rescue is going to be fast. Get up and get to work. Gather with friends and neighbors and make a plan.
On the last day of the storm, we were eating a large dinner with several of our neighbors. My daughter and about 12 teenage girls were having a sleep over in front of our fireplace. They painted their nails and styled their hair in the lantern and firelight. We laughed, played cards and were grateful to be alive.
If you are prepared you will not fear. This time my attitude and preparation changed everything. I trusted my higher power and my children trusted me. Trust your higher power to help when you have done everything you can. Then, keep calm and paint your nails.