I live in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. During Hurricane Katrina I worked in the central business district of New Orleans. I am one of the people that were called into work on Sunday, August 28, 2005 as hurricane Katrina approached southeast Louisiana. Because of this, I could not evacuate and rode out Katrina in downtown New Orleans.
I have always thought I knew what I needed to know and could survive most disasters, both natural and manmade. I was sadly mistaken.
When disasters strike, you are sometimes left without any governmental and/or electricity, gas, sewage or potable water services that we are used to for hours, days, sometimes weeks. For the people that did not or could not evacuate New Orleans during and after hurricane Katrina, we did not have any assistance for two weeks and public utilities for much longer than that. We were on our own, totally.
Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area on the morning of Monday, August 29, 2005. At that time, we lost all public utilities, even natural gas. Because we did not have electricity Monday night, the City of New Orleans was in total darkness.
Looting started within hours after the winds died down. Society broke down quicker than anyone had expected. We heard shooting in every direction around us. The looting lasted for days. Both stores and residences were looted.
We learned the first night that when we lit Coleman lanterns or used any form of light, that light could be seen for miles. The light attracted many roaming people. These people, who did not evacuate and who did not have any emergency supplies, wanted assistance from us. They were used to the government taking care of them. At this point in time, the government was nowhere to be found. We had just enough supplies to take care of our needs, as we had planned. We did not have anything to spare. We were not a government aid agency. Needless to say, things got fairly tense.
This is one of the lessons that we relearned quickly. We had to black out the windows and be very careful with any light we generated.
Then we were presented with another problem. It was the middle of summer in New Orleans. With all of the windows and doors covered, there was no outside air circulating. It got VERY hot, VERY quickly.
So how does this apply to you?
During a major disaster, natural or manmade, the people who do not have will want the supplies that they need from the people that do have. They will use ANY and ALL means to get it the supplies they need.
If you doubt this, let me present you with a situation.
You and your family are on vacation. You are in a city far away from home. While in that city, a major disaster occurs. All routes out of that city have been cut. You cannot get out. You cannot expect any help for the foreseeable future. You are on your own. You have none of the supplies that you need. No food and the city water system is contaminated.
Your family has not had anything to eat or drink for three days. You are holding your crying seven year old daughter in your arms. She is crying holding onto you saying that she is thirsty and hungry. Your wife looks at you and asks what you are we going to do? My question to you is, what wouldn’t you do to get your family something to eat and drink? If you see a light in a building, would you go to that building to see if you could get food and/or water from the people there? If the people would not help, would you be willing to use force to take what your family needed to survive? Would you be willing to break in to a house or business, whose occupants have evacuated, to take what your family needed?
Are you now a looter or just attempting to obtain supplies to survive?
On the other hand, if you were the person with the light on and could not evacuate and have the supplies you needed, what would you be willing to do to defend your supplies in order that your family has something to eat and drink? How far would you be willing to go to protect your supplies?
You are the one that planned ahead and stored what you needed. Do you give some of your supplies away and possibly short your family of what they may need? Would your wife pressure you to give away some of your supplies to help their crying children in need? Now the people without supplies know where to go to attempt to get future supplies.
Also, what if those people that you helped tell their relatives and/or friends where they got their handouts.
A portable generator can be heard for a long distance when the electricity is out and nothing is moving. If you needed food and water and heard a generator running several blocks away, would you head to the generator noise to attempt to get what you needed.
If you are planning on cooking ANYTHING, how far do you think the smell of the food will carry, especially if the people that are doing the smelling have not had anything to eat in days!
Now I will give you something else to think about. Post Katrina, we saw many signs in the New Orleans area that said, You loot, we shoot! If you use deadly force on someone that is only looting and your life or the life of someone else is NOT in danger, when civilization and the government come back and order regains, will you be charged with murder?
So what do you do?
I cannot answer that question for you. You might want to pose this situation to your county prosecutor or personal attorney so you know the legal answer before you have this situation present itself during a disaster. You also need to sit down with your wife and family and discuss this before a disaster. You are the one that will have to live with your decisions during and after a disaster.
By the way… for those of you that live far away from the cities and think you are safe and secure: Just before Katrina hit southeast Louisiana, the a lot of the people evacuated that lived there. Would you like to guess where they went? The answer is, EVERY WHERE in a four state area around Louisiana. There was no city or county that did not have evacuates in their area.
Just think what the rural areas of this United States would be like if it was a nationwide disaster. How long would it be before the farming communities were inundated with hungry people? How many people are planning on hunting and fishing post disaster? How long before all of the game is depleted or gun battles break out because someone is using someone’s favorite hunting or fishing spot?
If you live in a rural area and do not live around anyone, you had better have a good security warning system set up to let you know if anyone approaches where you are. At least in the suburbs you can form a neighborhood watch group. Place two persons, not related, on a roving patrol for two hour periods. Then have them relieved by two other people for the next two hour period through every 24 hour period, day and night.
After a major disaster, cover your windows and doors at night so that no light escapes through them or do not generate any light at all, this also includes camp fires, unless you want to attract all types of people. If you have to turn on a light, do what the military does, use a red filter on your light.
One of the best things you can do is, DO NOT tell anyone, now or during a disaster, what supplies you have. If you think a good friend or neighbor would not turn on you if their family needs what you have, you are sadly mistaken.
Also remember, the people with firearms make the rules and will take what they need from people who do not have firearms. If you buy a firearm, get instructions from a well-qualified instructor on a regular basis and practice!
Remember, if someone tells you, “We are from the government and we are here to help”, RUN!