Following is a list of ten items I’ve either already purchased or plan to purchase in the near future as a result of lessons we learned from our Hurricane Rita evacuation experience.
more Plylox clips – The price of these little do-dads is downright obscene ($30 for 20 clips; a minimum of 4 clips required per window), but Plylox make the installation / removal of plywood over the windows of brick homes so incredibly quick and simple that I’ll be buying enough to do all my windows this way.
walkie-talkies – Walkie-talkies enable communication between cars without using cell phones. Nothing fancy, just something to get the job done. Our cell phones usually didn’t work because the networks were so busy. Plenty of batteries to keep the walkie-talkies up and running, too, should go without saying.
in-car cell-phone chargers – Our cell phone batteries quickly died through so many vain attempts to place a call (perhaps 1 in 20 went through). It’s amazingly frustrating to have a gadget in hand that enables contact anywhere in the world (if the network isn’t jammed), but it’s only a worthless piece of plastic if the battery is dead. A car cord charger – I’ll never be without one again!
gas cans – If you carry a spare tire, why not carry an empty gas can? The next time I evacuate I’ll be carrying several per car, not empty, on the bumper or roof if necessary. What I would have given for just two gallons of gasoline when were stranded due to being out of gas! But I would have had to have something to put it in to transport it, hence, the gas cans.
water – Plenty of water will go along next time. Gallons of it. Not so much for the people in the cars, but for the cars themselves. If your car overheats as it idles for many hours in 100 degree temperatures, you’ll be wishing for water and lots of it. I saw quite a few people stranded along the way due to overheated cars. I might just start carrying a bit of water all the time just like I do a spare tire. Two or three jugs of water and anti-freeze might keep you going or help get someone else going who is stuck.
Gatorade – Water is for my “horse;” Gatorade is for me. Water is good, but you sweat so much (remember, your windows are down to conserve gas), you need to replenish more than just the water you’re losing. Gatorade, or the equivalent, is good.
cans of fix-a-flat / tire sealant – I saw a number of people struggling to fix flats on the side of the road. Some were even stranded because they had fixed a flat, put on a spare, and then had another flat. Stuck! With all the “junk” falling off and being tossed out of cars all along an evacuation route, the chances of having a flat go up dramatically. A good tire sealant is a must in my book now.
car flags – Few things are more worrisome than leading a caravan through a sea of cars in the middle of the night while drivers constantly jockey for better position while at the same time wondering if your slightly night-blind wife is still in that car three cars back. Did she get cut off from the rest of us? Is she lost? We got to waving pillowcases / towels out our window to signal each other (thank you, daughter, for a superb idea). But there’s a better way. You know the sort of flags you see supporting football teams, etc. attached to automobile windows or roofs? I’ll get me a set of some that are very visible, but of a not so common team so as to enable a caravan in an evacuation to stay in better visual contact with each other.
a detailed Texas road atlas – I followed the authorities’ instructions, routes, timing, etc. to the letter this time (and even informally helped them a bit to enforce such) – and I know where it got me and my family as a result – stranded alongside the road helpless for nearly a full day with a hurricane bearing down on us. Next time I’ll leave whenever I want and go the route I think best.
a GPS unit – With a detailed atlas and a GPS, I can chart my own course with more confidence.