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What will you do when the lights go out?
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Dear Editor, This is not a “chicken-little-sky-is-falling” question for those of us who live on the coast. It is an ever-present and uncomfortable reality called a hurricane. Savannah, Hilton Head and the surrounding area have been very fortunate. We have not experienced a storm in a long time. However, Hurricane Floyd came close and gave us a scare.  Those of us who evacuated were given a taste of what a real emergency might be like.  
Interstate 16 turned into a parking lot for more than 100 miles.  Hundreds of cars were abandoned when they ran out of gas.  My wife and I took back roads and crossed over the interstate at one point and the gas stations at that exit had lines 40 and 50 cars long. Drivers were waiting to get fuel that had been “re-priced” significantly higher for the opportunity. It took most people 18 hours to drive to Atlanta — a trip that normally takes four hours.  
FEMA called the evacuation a “success.”  
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the recent oil spill in the gulf should be clear reminders that our government, which, I believe, history has shown to be the finest on the planet, is not capable of managing a serious domestic crisis.
What would you do if there was a serious disruption in the power grid? What if the power went out for seven days? What if it was two weeks? What if the power was off for a month?
If power is lost for seven days, all of the food in your refrigerator and freezer will spoil. In addition, water will no longer flow to your faucets and toilets because electrical pumps are required to move water into the towers and out to the neighborhoods. You will be completely without water, and you cannot survive without water. Is there a stream or lake near you? Is it fresh water or brackish?
During Katrina, we watched as stores were looted and reports of home invasions flooded in. Desperate people broke into houses looking for food.  Do you think it would be any different here?
Let me be very clear and say that I believe you should drive to safety. Things can be replaced. You and your family cannot be replaced.  The only things my wife and I will take, other than a well-stocked hurricane kit, are a family photo album and valuable documents. If being included in your Aunt Mildred’s will is important, you might want to save the cheesy coffee cup she gave you.
If you are not tactically trained, do not stay and try to defend your property. Evacuate and return when the authorities have restored order.
Whether you stay or leave, you are going to need some emergency supplies. Let me suggest that you buy them now, not when the stores are filled with panicky buyers.
You do not want to argue over the last jug of water with a person who has that wild-eyed, pistol-waving look going on. My experience as an Army officer taught me that panicky people are not safe to be around.
If you are going to evacuate, you can find lists of things you might need on the survival blogs on the Internet. I would like to remind you of two things: fuel and water. You will need five-gallon cans of stabilized gasoline, enough to get you to your safe location.  
Running out of fuel on the highway is, well, I think the word is “bad.”
 Look up stabilized gasoline on the web so you maintain a supply of it. You also will need water. You will need some to drink, and you may need some for the radiator of your car.
You should have a hurricane kit. (I do not have any relationship to Costco) sells 72-hour emergency supplies in a convenient backpack. It does not contain everything you will need, but is a good start. They also sell emergency food supplies for longer durations. If you start buying your supplies at your local grocery store now — a few things each time you shop — you can do what I do a few days before the storm. Watch the crazed, panicky buyers on TV as they raid stores like locusts.
If you decide to ride out the storm and it is a category 1 or 2, I will not call you an idiot, but if the storm is predicted to be a 3, 4 or a 5 and you decide to stay, then you will have clearly earned the moniker.
Whatever you choose to do, remember, you and you alone are responsible for your safety and survival.  During Katrina, as I watched those unfortunate people sitting in the hot sun on the highway overpass, looking bewildered, waiting for the government to bring them water, food and rescue, it occurred to me that if you don’t take responsibility for your own survival, you might perish.
Our government officials have proven that they are not competent to handle the task.

— David Freeman
Richmond Hill
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