*Hurricane Ivan - A Feeling of Total Helplessness*
By: RedDon
30 July 2010

Lots of people are experts at not preparing for emergencies. That was me during Hurricane Ivan in September of 2004. This article describes how well I didn’t prepare, what I went through because I didn’t prepare, and how I changed my thinking since that time.

It was September of 2004 when hurricane Ivan ripped through the Gulf of Mexico and headed for land. The storm made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama with 115 mph winds and a storm surge of 10 to 13 feet. Ivan made its claim to fame by being the third most costly storm in history. Which probably explains why my home insurance more than doubled shortly thereafter!

As the storm headed in my direction, I decided to “ride” it out. I remember thinking that the storm would be a bit of an inconvenience, but would be over with quickly. I didn’t really think that I needed to get ready or anything.

The night the Category 3 hurricane hit, it grew worse and worse until we were getting the full force of the winds. It was the first time I actually heard my walls making creaking noises. And it wasn’t long before we lost electrical power. What an inconvenience! I couldn’t watch the News on TV. The storm pressed on through the night and I eventually fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning and went outside. There was a blanket of leaves, sand, trash and pieces of housing everywhere. The Am/Fm radio that I found last night (in a box in my storage room) described the area damage. And, they announced that the electricity would probably be out for up to two weeks. What? I had to think where my generator was…it had been so long since I last saw it! And of course, once I found it, it wouldn’t start!

And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, the radio announcer advised against drinking the water since it was probably contaminated. Great! No backup water either! What a mess I’m in now! The result of not being prepared was a ‘feeling of total helplessness’. Something I worked very hard to obtain. And that’s exactly what I got!

So, let me summarize what I did to “Not” prepare:

  1. Did not keep my generator in serviceable condition
  2. Did not have an ample supply of gas cans, pre-filled
  3. About a quarter of a tank of gas in my car
  4. No supply of emergency water
  5. No batteries
  6. No alternative method of cooking
  7. Ham radio gear was in storage
  8. Very little cash reserve

Because I wasn’t adequately prepared, I went into instant survival mode. I had to make things better, but what a time to start! My neighbor helped me rebuild the carburetor on my generator and we got it working. After borrowing some cash, I drove to a nearby gas station and waited in line for five and a half hours to fill the few gas cans I had (along with a few other containers I could find). And I was able to get a few cases of water and MREs being distributed locally. The electricity was out for seven days. I ended up loosing the food in my freezer because I just didn’t have enough fuel to keep the generator going. Well, did I learn a big lesson!

Hurricane Ivan gave me a big wake up call! During subsequent storms, I was better prepared. But even then, I would wait for ‘just before a storm’ and then start working on preparing to survive through it.

Then something happened that changed my life totally for the better!!! I happened to visit the Alpha Rubicon web site more than a year ago. There on the home page was my second wake up call! It was the statement - “It’s not enough to simply “Survive”, you must also “live”!”. That one statement had a powerful impact on me as it made me think about how I was handling my preparation. Was I preparing to simply survive? Yes! It was at that time that I really started getting serious about preparing. Not just for an impending emergency, for any disaster that may come my way! And not just to simply “survive” through it, but to “live”!

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