What lessons can we learn from Hurricane Harvey which impacted a major metropolitan and industrial area in Texas?
(1) No matter what the government may say, you are on your own. The goal is being able to take care of yourself and your family first -- under any and all circumstances.
(2) The best response to a local or regional disaster is mobility; the ability to leave the affected area until it is stabilized and survive elsewhere for a sufficient period of time. Without water, electricity, sanitation facilities, and medications, conditions may be more than tough – they can be life-threatening. Do not assume that you will have access to your vehicle, you will be able to purchase fuel, or that roads will not be so crowded as to enhance problems beyond those created by the disaster itself. Do not hesitate, bug out while you can.
(3) Prepper supplies may be worthless if you are forced to leave them behind, or they are compromised by the disaster. An underwater generator is useless. Broken water containers are useless. The primary key to survival may be your “bug out” bag containing protective clothing, sturdy shoes, prescription items, money, a strong knife, multi-purpose tool, and a means of self-protection. Water purification straws, water container, work gloves, and an emergency whistle are also essential components of a bug-out bag. Real preppers will often have a distant, defensible, and environmentally sound retreat outside of a regional disaster area … Everyone else is buying fashionable gear that they may never use.
(4) While disasters highlight our shared humanity and instances of pure selflessness, it is a fact that your neighbors are not necessarily your friends, especially if you live in or adjacent to a sketchy area and that sharing your survival resources may mean diluting your survival time. There will always be a significant number of people unprepared to cope on their own, and you should decide, in advance, if and what you may share with others. Many individuals who shun firearms, often change their mind after being confronted with looters, strong-arm thugs, crowds demanding a portion of your supplies, and even the necessity of hunting your own food in rural areas.
(5) Hourly, temporary employees and those currently out of work are likely to be without an accessible source of funds. It is wise to establish a checking account in an out-of-state regional bank and to have some cash on hand; mostly in ones, fives, tens, and possibly twenties. You do not want to be caught in the position of paying $20 for a bottle of water because all you have is twenties and there are no means for making change.
(6) I have written federally-mandated, professional-level disaster plans knowing full well that there would be few employees willing to leave their families in an emergency to mitigate a disaster’s effects on their organizations. As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, even sworn first-responders may not abandon their families. No matter how grave the circumstances, it is far easier to obtain a new job than replacing lost loved ones.
It is up to you to care for yourself and your family.
The single best tool I own is a strong specialized multi-tool consisting of a hammer with a glass breaker point, a knife, and can be used as a wrench to turn off common gas lines to prevent fires and explosions. You should be prepared to do the following things: leave immediately if you can – don’t wait for conditions to erode further. If you can’t leave, seal your bathtub and sinks, turn on the faucets and fill it with drinkable water as long as there is water pressure. Transfer this water into closed, clean containers as soon as possible. Turn off the gas and electric feeds. Make sure the structure is sound or leave the area.