Not everyone has a small house and a north driveway that lines up with gulf hurricane-twisted north winds so you can just roll the step van in front of the house like a storm wall, but all of you are one forecast or event away from storm prep too. So just having over prepared for what actually hit us, let me share this as the least you should have on hand for what could happen. Because that’s what you prepare for, the worst. It’s on my mind and the best thing I have to share with you this week, and I share because I care. The good that came out of Harvey for us? I’d give myself a B on getting it together and having a plan, gear, and supplies. When you live rurally you’re generally a bit more prepared for adversity with those things than a city or suburban life would guide you into being. Out here everything’s 20 minutes away, there are no quick responders, and systems are more than switches or flush levers because much of the time you were out here before they were, put the pieces together, and spent enough time doing without them to have alternate ways of staying clean and cooking.
There is a basic principle that works whether it’s a business, garden, relationship, or an emergency… whatever comes or wherever you go, if you want it to go well you dramatically increase those odds by HELPING it to go well. The best way to do that is to be prepared for what of it you can prepare for; it’s that simple. “Well if it’s my time it’s my time”, cool. I get that. But don’t die because you left a few gallons of water, easy food and a working flashlight up to God, OK? That’s 15 bucks and 5 minutes to round up next time you’re at the store. Sucked into a twister? Yeah, not much you can do. Out of toilet paper when the storm hits? Really? That’s just ridiculous. Have a few rolls put back you don’t touch. Being prepared is rarely the wrong answer. So, here goes - please hang in with me. This matters. At least it matters to me to share with you...
There are people who beat each other up for the last gallon of Ozarka water at the local store the eve of the storm and there are others who have basic preparations on hand to make 24-48 hours an inconvenience instead of a full-panic crisis. It is your choice as to which you will be. No matter who or where you are, bad weather can happen and the power can go out. Being left helpless because of circumstance or unexpected scope of things, that is what it is. But to have been made aware of the potential of what’s coming and done nothing? That’s a life or death misjudgment. Especially if you have a family and any kind of testicles whatsoever - we know of a friend of friends, a grown-ass man who, convinced it "...wasn’t going to be that bad", left safety and took his family home to Houston. With children! They were rescued later in chest high water by small boat. Chest level and rising – hey, how tall are your kids jack? If I was the boat man by the time we got to high ground there wouldn’t be enough left of this guy’s man stature to pose for a bowling trophy. Noble warriors from the East have fallen on their own swords for less.
So first in any kind of preparing – and in life – is to make peace with the fact you might face death. It's heavy, I know. It shadows the decisions in the lives of so many, though. Having your life affairs in order helps – will, life insurance, plans for your business. My bad event should not put 30 other lives into crisis when I could have made arrangements. Make peace. Talks, help, a happy pill, come to a place of acceptance with this and you can face life – and that moment whenever – with a little less fear and a bit more dignity. To that extent you should have a black sharpie for anything you might need to write on you or anything else as a last resort. Accept that black sharpie. Accept what it signifies. Once this is mentally out of the way then you can clearly get on with figuring out how to live, or at least survive a few days until things get better, which in most cases they will. Again, don’t die unless you have to. Don’t be helpless. Do what you can… but understand without water for a few days or food for a week, you won’t be able to do much except wait around for whatever good or bad comes next for you, thinking how easy it looks from there to have put a few simple preparations aside just in case. And certainly don’t be a schmuck and head into known danger unless you’re going in to save people. Life is dicey enough as it is just driving home from work every day.
So really, your first decision in pending event you know is coming and knowing your area will be at risk is to stay or go – and it’s a commitment. By the time you realize you’ve misjudged and “It won’t be that bad” really IS that bad, there are no roads and trees down and water rising where you didn’t think it could. It’s not like leaving a movie halfway in because it sucks. If high winds or flooding are expected there is only so much you can prepare for, but to not do that and decide to stay is foolish. It’s how people die. If you’re going to stay, and you’re going play fearless leader and have your family stay, you better know what the hell you’re doing or just pack the car, grab a couple of boxes of keepsakes, and get out as soon as that big twisting storm half the size of the country is rolling up its sleeves heading inland for you, or that wildfire is on the move, or that major snow storm is predicted. The boss can cope, school can deal, that meeting can wait. Let the other folks who decide to stay stay and let them think you’re crazy. Get up early, beat the traffic and be gone. That road goes somewhere; be there instead. The ones who rib you when it didn't happen? They'll get their chance to ride in the rescue boats of life sooner or later; leave them your spot.
If you stay, have a 24 hour bag ready so if the roof blows off or the evacuation becomes mandatory, if things turn dire, each family member can just instantly grab it and go and know they at least have what they’ll likely need. In mine is the following: 4 small drinking waters, 4 granola/protein bars, 1 roll of toilet paper in a sealed Ziploc bag, another with a travel size toothbrush and paste and deodorant and a little thing of mouthwash, a few toothpicks, a lighter, some matches, some cash in small bills, a couple of plastic grocery bags, a pair of socks and T-shirt, small canister of mace, reading glasses, multi-tool, big knife in sheath, flashlight, batteries, 1 cake of motel soap, small bottle of ibuprofen, a few no-doz pills, hair ties, the black sharpie, pens and a small notebook, 2 mini oil lamp lights (double sealed in plastic bags), and some inspirational reading. This all fits in a small backpack, weighs very little, and didn’t cost much. It’s a lot easier to say “Babe, anything happens, you grab the dog and I’ll grab the bags. Your truck.” And be done with plan C than to have to find these things or do without them for a couple of days when having them is SO EASY. Maggie the dog has hers too – 4 cans of food, 4 bottles of water, plastic bowl, spare leash, and chill-out pills. Near the bags – which stay together, and remain ready even when there’s no storm – in times of crisis keep all your essentials in one spot (license, keys, sneakers because you’ll have your boots on, passport, etc.) ready to grab and go. I did not have a simple first aid kit in each bag, or any sanitizing wipe packets, or some water purification tablets – my bad. No A for Scott. You do better.
In the house? Flashlights for everyone with spare batteries. Charge all phones and devices fully while you have power. Clear obstacles while there’s light – you’ve prepped so well, this is no time to break your ass faceplanting over the kitchen chair into the dog’s water bowl. Have a battery powered radio. Any self protection devices you deem appropriate given who and where you are and what exactly is going on. If you intend to communicate via internet, have a backup hot spot service for when your land-based fails or antenna comes down. Another principle is “Two is one, one is none.” What does that mean? I build guitars. If I have a chisel that’s absolutely essential, I have two – because if I have one and it breaks, I’m done. If I have a spare, I keep going. And it would be stupid to be sidelined by a frigging chisel! Or a simple dead phone battery when I needed to call for help or report myself safe.
Water - I look at a gallon a day per person. I’ve done van road trips and washed, brushed, drank, cooked, and cleaned just fine off of that. Ideal? Not at all – but it’ll get you through. Food – if you’re in and the roof is on and you don’t flood and you still have power, you HAVE no problems. So where the hell is the extra bag of food you could have bought a hundred times in the last year? Good God, man! No power? Hunkered in the concrete shed? Stuck on the 2nd floor? Non-perishables. A box of protein energy bars, a case of beans in the can (with a few can openers handy), you’ll be fine for weeks. For what, $20? $50 worth? This should be in your pantry NOW. Not because you think the world is going to end, but because one good lightning bolt can take your power out for days. That big tree could fall across your driveway. Life is precarious, folks! Even a squirrel has extras tucked away. Buy gallons, put a date on them, and put them in your closet. Once a year, rotate the stuff out and replace it. You have insurance on your car, why not have insurance you’ll have water and food for a week with no worries? And any medicines, have some. And a better first aid kit and some way to filter water.
Having most of this, some good brie and a nice merlot by candlelight is a fine addition as well. I'm not kidding. If you’re well prepared you’re a lot less scared. And I can’t speak for you, but I was scared a whole lot as a kid – I’ll be damned if I’m going to be scared as a grown-ass adult in my own house living my own life. If that takes having a few extras and reading a few how-to books and working through some things, then buddy that’s what I’m going to do. People don’t make sound decisions when they’re scared and I want to make sound decisions for myself and to be of assistance to those around me. Nobody’s going to be strong for me; I have to do that myself.
If you’re near trees you should have a chainsaw, tested and ready to run, and that includes a gallon of fresh pre-mixed fuel, bar oil, extra blade and any tools needed to service it. Something as small as extra little 50:1 oils for your neighbors to mix with fuel they can siphon from their car if they forgot could mean they can chainsaw their own way out. Or help you! You’re helping them help you – now that’s real preparation! Have it & share it. Good neighbors are great blessings. Since we’re talking neighbors, there will be others who cannot prepare adequately due to circumstances but are good folks. Have a little extra extra for them and your own plan Bs for them if they call. Know their limitations and factor in their needs. Friends rock.
One twister through a town or river flood and you don’t have electricity for weeks and your roads are gone. OK, if you’re supplied by a water pump and the toilet doesn’t flush when you lose power, you can use a bunch of water filling up the tank to flush it or have a camping toilet cleaned and ready, with supplies. We just heard the flooding in Beaumont caused a shutdown of their water plant. And just like that, those little levers don’t work anymore. Let me be real with you for a minute, if a touch crass - whatever life is at the moment having somewhere to poop and some TP to wipe makes it ALL a little easier! “This too shall pass.”
I had a Yeti-style cooler with 2 bags of ice (lasted 3 days!) and 2 bags of ice in the freezer. Also had a cooler as storage for with individual small waters & small Gatorades. Power out for a day or so? This can all be rearranged quickly with plenty of ice in coolers and we start eating all the most perishable food first.
Other than the first option of getting you the hell out of Dodge, your vehicle is your last resort, not just as a means of transportation but as shelter and power source. Be sure the gas tank is topped off and you have a little kit in it with a phone charger, first aid kit, some small waters, a few protein bars, flashlight, and toilet paper. In fact, cram this stuff in a small backpack and just keep it in the trunk all the time. If there’s a road hazard or accident and you or someone else needs any of it, it’s better to have it than not. If you need to leave for whatever reason and the conditions make this possible, use the biggest sturdiest vehicle you have with plenty of ground clearance – you’ll be driving over debris from even 30 mph winds. Have it facing out of your driveway with a full tank of gas and the keys in the ignition (rural) or on you. If your best bet is to drive to the picnic area at the top of the hill and wait it out, waiting it out with some supplies just upped your odds a bit and your quality of life tremendously. Especially buttpaper!
So this is basic, entry level grade preparedness for peace of mind. And that’s why I’m sharing this. Aside from those caught by the unexpected scope and perimeter of the flooding, there are a bunch who were warned and stayed, and the preparations I’m describing here… is there any one of either of them this would not have helped? And what makes you certain your own version of these events is an if and not a when for you? I’m a lucky man. I do what I love for a living, I live a life of my own design and where I want to be. But my biggest blessing is to have some of what I share and do go out and be ripples into your world that do something good. Most of them music related, these days most of THAT in wood & wire; but since I have this podium and we just dodged a BIG bullet many we know did not, and I have the gift of your attention, I wanted to share something deep and strong and meaningful with YOU. You are my biggest blessing and I want you to be feeling good and at peace no matter what’s going on. Something in here WILL help you and if it really does someday, if it’s not your drenched kids in that boat, if you find yourself displaced but equipped, if you don’t ever have to use the black sharpie and do have that roll of toilet paper when it really counts, feel good and be hopeful and when things get better (and they usually do if you help), pass it along.
Thank you for your time and thoughts and by next week I’ll know how the mess in Houston will affect things here. Lots of my parts & supplies come from that area. But that can all be worked around – times like this really help us see what are priorities and what are details. I’m working on both and we’re all OK. Please keep those people affected by the storm in your thoughts & prayers. Here are a few words I posted to Facebook after we were clear for a couple of days:
There's something about being back in the workshop returning wood to life as instruments, with the doors all open and the sun shining and the Grateful Dead's "American Beauty" album filling the air, that fills one with the feeling that everything's alright. To feel this while knowing so many suffer is strange but life is full of those moments where all you can do is keep others in your heart as you bring your highest to what it is you do... now is not the time to be discouraged or stilled by the scope of what cannot be fixed by my hands. Now is the time to work them hard in doing what they do best.
Listening to: Billy Squier Don’t Say No; Grateful Dead American Beauty; Jerry Cantrell Boggy Depot; Jerry Garcia Garcia.