March 1, 2011

Tip of the day—Emergency Preparedness

Yesterday was a scary day.  I dropped our daughter off at school and returned home to work there.  It rained all day long, and I could see and hear it outside the office window pouring down.  The internet was out most of the day because of the rain, but since I was plugging away at other paperwork, I never bothered to turn on the radio or go downstairs and turn on the television.  The emergency weather radio was silenced. 

When it was about time to pick up our daughter, I drudgingly put on my raincoat to get out in the terrible mess and rain.  Little did I know, it had been raining much, much harder than I had realized.  I went the normal route to her school in our Prius (a low riding compact car), and the road was so covered in water that I had to turn around.  I phoned the school still thinking that it was an isolated incident.  I told them I would be a little late and that I was going a different route.  The receptionist told me not to go another route because she had heard it was bad. 

I turned around and headed down another main road to get to her school, going slowly with my hazards on because of the rain and water on the roads.  When I reached the main thoroughfare through my part of town I started to panic.  It looked very literally like a river, and what was worse was that there was a full sized pick-up truck floating in the middle of what would have been that road.  

I called my husband in a panic of tears and worry.  How was I going to get to our daughter?  He suggested another route that would bring me away from that area and drive me behind the school.  I tried that road only to see at the end of it that either way I would turn would be covered with water.  He said for me to calm down and return to the house, watch the TV and see what they were saying, and to call the school to ask about what they were hearing from parents.  They assured me that she was safe there, and they would make sure she was ok. 

When I phoned my husband back with the report, and even though he was over an hour and a half away, he decided it was best for him to come home and try and get her in the truck.  As time passed, the rain slowed and eventually stopped.  While waters didn’t recede quickly, at least there wasn’t more water added to what was already on the roads.  He listened on the CB to reports from trucks, TDOT, and traffic officers and decided on a high road that would lead him to the school.  I have never been happier in my life to see two people come through the front door!

What did I learn from this experience?

  • Emergencies are not usually anticipated for or expected.  As much as I try to be prepared for emergencies—keeping a car emergency kit, an evacuation kit, an emergency supply of food—it is the emergency that you never plan for that teaches you the most.
  • Keeping a level head is important.  I panicked.  Imagine the helpless feeling of not being able to reach your child in a situation like that.  I was terrified.  My husband kept a level head and reminded me that she was safe and probably oblivious to what was going on outside.  The waters would recede as the rain stopped, and we would find a way to get her.  He reminded me to take some deep breaths and go back to a place where I could get more information.  The school secretary was equally calming and could empathize with how crazy-making it is to not be able to reach your child.  She reinforced that they would not “put her out on the curb” and would keep her safe.
  • Information is important.  Had the weather radio not been silenced, I would have known what was going on, and I could have picked her up early from school.  I was so pleased with the job that local weather stations did on reporting the storm and giving photos and video of roads.  This allowed me to know which roads were blocked so that I could advise my husband on which roads might be better routes.  Hubby kept informed via the radio and CB. 
  • Don’t do anything drastic.  When fear takes hold, logic goes out the window.  When I thought I would have to find another way to get our daughter, I decided that if the roads didn’t improve in the next hour or so, I could walk to her school.  I decided that if I could at least get there to her that we would be together.  I could spend the night there with her if the school would let me.  My husband made me promise that I would not do that.  He said that there was much more risk that I would be hit by a car and it would take me a very long time to reach her on foot given the road conditions.  He reminded me that she was safe where she was and so was I.  Giving it time would allow for us to have a better plan.  He was right—he often is. 
  • Know your area.  Having a working knowledge of all of the side roads helped us to find the best way to get to her school.  Scope out the area around where you work, where your children go to school and other areas that you frequent so that you know how to detour if needed.  Keep a map in your car, as GPS sometimes does not show smaller roads in more rural areas.  When I called my dad to make sure he wasn’t getting out on the roads, I told him about what was happening.  He said that he would go get her because he has a truck.  I knew that he is new to the area and would not know what roads to take.  I stressed how important it was for him to remain where he was and that I would keep him posted on the progress.

We were lucky.  We haven’t had any flood damage and everyone is safe and sound.  Many others in our area had major damage to their homes and vehicles. Some businesses had damage to their buildings.  Especially worrisome is that the Second Harvest Food Bank, a major supplier of food to the needy in our area, had flood damage in their warehouse.  Please keep all those affected in your prayers. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh Gabrielle, I can empathize with everything you've said. Had I not caught a glimpse of the TV in a patient's room yesterday, I would have been oblivious to what was happening outside. I will admit, a did drive through 2 areas of standing water that I would otherwise NEVER have done, to reach my daughter at school...although it was NOTHING in comparison to the images on TV. (I was NOT as smart as you!) I called my co-workers to let them know of the road conditions and encouraged them to turn on the radio to listen for the traffic reports....otherwise they would have been oblivious too. Even with all of the available "technology" today we can still find ourselves on an island (no pun intended) if we are not attentive to what's happening around us. I am glad to hear that you are dry, so are we, but I am praying for those, especially Second Harvest, who have experienced great loss.