What Are You Really ‘Prepping’ For? Weather, Mostly.

What I prepare for is too boring for people to even self-publish books on, but it matters.

One thing I constantly think about when I am putting together supplies/preps are the two scenarios which are likely worst cases for me: what if the worst natural event hits when I am working, the kids are at school, and my wife is doing her things (meaning she is out, I don’t know where)? Or, what if it hits when we are all at home and sleeping and it is 4am, because 4am is scientifically the worst time — to early to be awake, too late to be awake…

What that event is varies drastically depending on where in the world you live. Those on the West Coast of North America would be foolish to not be taking the risk of earthquakes very seriously, and the mid-southern third of North America can add wildfire risk to the matrix too. In Houston it’s hurricanes, floods, and thunderstorms. Others will have tornados, tsunamis, monsoons, derechos, volcanoes and a variety of other lovely things. These events and wreak havoc, and while you could debate which type of risk you prefer, they all present a high level of risk. A high level of extreme disruption to comfort. And debate all we want, they will happen.

They are my nightmare scenarios.

So for me in Washington State I was preparing for that event when I am at work, my wife is out, and the kids are at school and a major earthquake hits. How do you go about getting yourself safe, as well as all of them? It could take out roads, water supply, certainly power. With the cell grids overloaded. Welcome to walking. And I don’t even know if it is better if you are home sleeping when something like that happens — different kind of bad, same kinds of horrible.

Here in the Houston area, my primary worry is unexpected flooding — weather systems which intensify more than planned, stall instead of moving on, and cause havoc on the roadways. I’ve had friends finding rides in trucks to be dropped near a major freeway so they can walk down the freeway and find their wife to help them navigate home — mind you this is during flooding, rain, and wind. I’ve been stuck in another city as a weather system unexpectedly turned to a tropical depression and made it unadvisable to drive home — keeping me away for an unplanned extra night.

For those times I have been hit with this unexpected, things worked out fine because for one reason or another, I had essentially what I needed with me. I had already been in Austin for a night when we realized we needed to stay another night so all my overnight gear was with me. And it was only a matter of booking a hotel room for the night. For the flooding roads my wife was home, the whether was not yet hitting her when the kids got home safe. Those are lucky moments, because I have gone to places like Austin for just a day trip and on those adventures you don’t pack like you are going to stay over, but you might need to.

So when people ask me what am I preparing for, it’s not for doomsday it’s for the “known unknowns” — the things I can reasonably expect might happen at some point, I just can’t plan when they might happen. And you might notice that Hurricanes are not something high on my list, because if one is bearing down on Houston, I am not heading out to the office. Rather, I have my house situated and am taking other precautions with my family — like leaving town.

As silly as it might sound to my friends and family back in Washington that weather might catch us off guard to an extent here in Houston where I need to prepare for it, know that what catches us off guard is not bad weather happening, it is the severity. It’s the same way those in non-Earthquake prone areas cannot understand how people are ok living with the threat of “the big one” when there will be almost no warning beyond perhaps flashes of light. Storms here are usually fine, but not always — it’s hard to tell when ‘not always’ might directly impact you.

So when I prepare, I like to think of the things most likely to happen that will cause me the most problems and which I can easily remedy:

  • If I am driving somewhere, it is simply making sure that I have stuff in my car which will allow me to walk to safety, deal with being stranded somewhere without cell reception, or being stuck wherever I am going for a night. In other words: decent backpack, change of underwear, some water, and solid shoes to change into — those are the bare minimum. I like to add some snacks if I can, I get hangry.
  • If I am walking somewhere: good enough shoes to walk back to where I came from is my minimum. I’ll have water already if the kids are with me, or if the walk is long.
  • If I am home: the things I would need to get myself and my family out of the home and to safety in the event that the home itself is unsafe (fire, flooding, what have you).

It is possible that a good water bottle, comfortable shoes, a backpack, and some level of fitness for walking is the best preparations you can make. But that won’t stop me from adding a flashlight, a good knife, and other things that certainly will make me feel a lot better because I know I have them.

The most likely thing to happen, where I need to use one of these bags is that I get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere Texas and need some stuff to feel more comfortable while I wait for roadside assistance. Or I get delayed in heading home because of a storm, and I’ll use my stuff to make myself more comfortable — whether I am in another city, or just at the office..

If I truly am in a situation where I have to walk 38 miles to my house in Houston weather — then things are not going to be pretty at all and no amount of preparations will change that to a situation that is good. While I could do it if pressed, I’d have to be pressed, and that level of prepping is not something I practice.

There’s not some apocalypse coming that I need to prepare for, as much as there is the increasing uncertainty and severity of weather. Here’s hoping for a safe hurricane season.

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