First off, I want to say that Houston is a great place.  I have been there many a time and always found the visit to be memorable and overwhelmingly positive.  The photos of flooded Houston now break my heart- I drove over those streets! I was in that area! I know how deep that water is based on what is around it- and I can’t believe it.  What Hurricane Harvey has done to the city of Houston is heartbreaking- and alarming.

Houston is not a small city.  Houston is the fourth largest city in the country. Coming from the third largest myself, I can’t help but add the sheer population and scale to this disaster and wonder- what if something like that happened in Chicago? Or LA? Or NYC?  And it makes me wonder how prepared I really am and how prepared I need to become. People are trapped in attics because the water is simply rising too fast.  And with a population the size of Houston, a mandatory evacuation doesn’t mean we are all clear- imagine the worst rush hour you have ever experienced, times 10- that is what it would become to evacuate a large city in an emergency, natural or man made. You create a parking lot of death, because no one can get anywhere.

With all of the event surrounding Harvey, the coming winter as well as the continual saber-rattling with North Korea, even the best prepper has to take a look at their plan. Your four-year food supply is worthless if it floats away. Your bug out plan may be pointless in a nuclear incident. And that underground shelter in your backyard (seriously- anyone have one of those?) better be watertight or you just sealed yourself off in your own death chamber. It seems that no matter what, there is not a solid, fool-proof plan on how to protect yourself and your family- but that is an incorrect perception.  The truth is that you can’t just have one plan. You need several.

I will use an analogy here loosely.  You likely have an escape plan if your house catches fire.  If you touch the doorknob and it’s hot, don’t open the door. Cover your mouth.  Purchase ladders that collapse from a second-story window so you can exit safely.  You see the point. You need to be in a position to have more than one exit and one plan, because you don’t know where a fire may start, how quickly it will spread, the time of the fire, who is home, etc. The same logic applies when you evaluate your overall preparedness plan.  Think about several different scenarios and how you would address each scenario.  You don’t need to get crazy.  But it would be crazy not to think about it.  Honestly evaluate yourself.

Long lines to get groceries in Houston.  Photo courtesy of Twitter. 

When I see lines just to get into the grocery store, I shake my head.  This time, though, I caught myself- who knows if all their food stores were destroyed by flood waters in their own kitchen? (Note to self- invest in some weather proof bags and containers) Even if you don’t live in a zone prone to hurricanes, you may still live in a flood plain.  And if you don’t live in a flood plain, you may still be subject to tornadoes.  What is your plan if all your stores get destroyed?  I had to admit to myself that I did not have a great one.  And I needed to get it together.

Think about escape routes.  If you had to leave suddenly, think about where you would go and at least three routes to get there.  Expressways will get crowded fast- think redlines and alternatives.  And if you need to get family (like elderly parents, in my case), at least three ways to get to them and three more ways to get out from there.  Same thing applies if you have to get kids from day care/school, from home and work, and if you and the family aren’t all leaving together, what are your plans to meet up at a safe point?

If communications are down, like all the cell towers in Rockport, Texas after the storm, what is your plan? We have walkie-talkies with a 30 mile range as part of our plan.

What about security? If you can’t get back for a week or two, is your property secure (as possible, anyway) from looters? I would caution you, though, to remember that material possessions can be replaced while lives cannot- so while security is important, it is not more important than getting to safety.

There are so many other things that run through my head, from pets to medicines to safety in snow, rain, fire and riots.  It can be overwhelming.  I would advise you to make lists, check them twice, and have open discussions with your family around disaster preparedness.  We can’t control everything, but we can do our best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.