Jennifer from MO writes:

Every year there are disasters around the world. I always felt sad for the people involved and hoped they got the help they needed. I prayed for them, and even contributed money to organizations to help them. However, nothing much changed in my life. I lived a pretty happy and blessed life free from most problems. I built up my food storage knowing that perhaps someday I would need to have it for an emergency. Maybe my husband would lose his job or a trucking strike would cause the local stores to run out of food. Soon after my husband and I were married, I was put in charge of Emergency Preparedness at my church. I learned the importance of being ready for anything to happen. I had a 72-hour kit, flashlights, emergency blankets, and a lot of food storage. Last year I learned how much I still needed to be fully prepared.

I am from Joplin, Missouri. May 2011 brought an EF-5 tornado through our city. About 25% of the city was completely destroyed. This included 8,000 homes, 500 businesses, and 10,000 vehicles. I had always seen disasters from the outside perspective. Living one is a totally different story. You never know when you'll be faced with a disaster and what you aren't quite prepared for. My family were all in vehicles when the storm hit. We were at my sister's high school graduation. My husband, children and I were in one car; my parents in another about 5 minutes behind us; and my sisters in another car about 5 minutes behind them. My car made it home barely. As the tornado came down, we ran into our house for cover. My parents and sisters did not make it home and had to ride it out in cars. My parents were very close to the tornado and my sisters were actually in it. Their house was also in the path and was destroyed. Our home was only slightly damaged.

Where do you go in a disaster if you aren't at home? Where do you go if you don't have a home to go to? Where do you meet up with other family members if you're separated during the disaster? These are all questions everyone should discuss with their families. I sat at home hoping my family would all think to come to my house, if they were even alive. Cell towers were down so cell phones weren't working. Power lines were down everywhere and there was spotty landline service. Most of the roads were blocked with debris. One of the hospitals got hit. It was chaotic. Eventually, my family was reunited when they all showed up at my house to spend the night.

What did we learn from our tragedy? We needed an emergency plan that covered all eventualities. We needed safe-houses in the community selected so we could seek shelter or accommodations if we couldn't make it home or if our home was destroyed. We needed meeting places decided upon so that we could Replace everyone who was lost. We did not have nearly enough flashlights. Our power was out for one solid week. Some lost power for longer. Each person needed their own flashlight. We also needed lanterns for some of the rooms of our house. We needed lots of blankets and pillows because we ended up with four extra people in our home.

My plan was to go to the grocery store the next day. There were some things I was very low on and I was worried the stores would run out. I needed diapers and formula for my infant. Thankfully, we were able to have some brought in by some good friends. Also, thankfully, we had enough food because of our built up food storage. We were able to feed 9 people for a few months. Everyone should have easy to prepare food in their food storage because you don't want to be grinding wheat when you're stressed and traumatized after a disaster. Alternative methods of cooking are also needful. We have a grill and propane stove that got us through that first week. We used a lot of batteries that week and wished we had more. We also discovered that having a generator is very important. We had been saving up for one but had not bought one yet. Thankfully, even though the church was destroyed, the shed was mostly intact and they were able to salvage some generators and pass them out. We were blessed to receive a generator and then realized we needed more gas cans to keep the generator going.

Don't get caught up in thinking, "That kind of thing doesn't happen to me." We are living in crazy times. Disasters, of some kind, can strike anywhere. You never know what you might have to endure. Learn from others and be as prepared as possible. Disasters bring a lot of emotional trauma. It's hard to think straight. Make sure you have the essentials. That's one less thing to worry about.

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