As you are probably aware, South Florida recently experienced a bad hurricane. So today, as a South Florida homeowner, I want to review some of the lessons I learned from this experience -- lessons that I believe can be useful not only in hurricanes, but in other natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and children's birthday parties.
The most important precaution, for a homeowner facing a natural disaster, is:
1. Sell your house before the natural disaster occurs.
Trust me, this simple step will save you a lot of trouble. My wife, Beth, and I are still kicking ourselves for not doing it. When we heard that Hurricane Andrew was headed directly at us, we rushed around doing things like putting patio furniture inside, securing doors, etc. What a pair of morons. We should have used that time to sell the house to somebody, and let him worry about the patio furniture.
Granted, at that point there probably was not a large pool of qualified buyers available, so we might not have gotten absolute top dollar.
If you're foolish enough to keep your home, you should definitely:
2. Search the home for working drum sets and destroy them with an ax.
We weathered the hurricane in the home of some friends who are normally sane people, but who had allowed their 11-year-old son, Trey, to purchase a used drum set the day before the hurricane. Here's the thing about drums: They don't need electricity. They are designed to function perfectly during a natural disaster. This meant that at 2 a.m., when the power went out and the wind was shrieking and we were sitting in the darkness, rigid with tension, terrified about what was about to happen, fearful that the house might bang bang bang bang whammma whamma whamma ohmigod what's happenning?!!?
Ha ha! It was only young Trey, sensing somehow that this was a superb time to practice. So we all had a good laugh, and there is a strong chance that some of our hearts will eventually resume beating.
3. Destroy your garden hose.
Few people realize how dangerous a garden hose can be. I found out while attempting to siphon gasoline into a chain saw so I could locate our house, which was somewhere inside a mass of fallen trees approximately the size of Cambodia.
We had obtained the chain saw from these men who sprang up all over the place, mushroomlike, immediately after the storm. They were selling truckloads of potentially lethal chain saws to South Florida homeowners whose experience with dangerous tools was pretty much limited to corkscrews.
I unpacked my new chain saw and determined, using mechanical aptitude, that you had to put gasoline in it. I decided to siphon some out of my wife's car. My wife's car is her pride and joy, and it spent the hurricane inside the garage. A tree landed on the garage, but the car was undamaged.
So I cut off a length of garden hose, and I stuck it down the car's gas pipe, and it got stuck in there. When I tried to pull it back out, it broke. Which meant there was 4 feet of alien garden hose somewhere deep inside my wife's car.
This is why you need National Guard troops in disaster areas. I needed a National Guard troop to come into my garage right then and shoot me. That would have spared me from having to go into the house to tell my wife that on this day -- a day when our trees had been knocked down and our roof damaged and our other car bashed and our roads blocked and our power knocked out -- that on this day, the first thing I had done, the first step on the road to recovery, was to screw up her car.
When I explain this to our mechanic, he'd better not laugh at me. I'm going to have the chain saw running by then.
I want to stress that my family and I are fine. But a lot of people in South Florida aren't. If you want to do something, please send a check to the National Disaster Relief Fund. You can mail it to your local Red Cross Chapter, or P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013. Or call (800) 842-2200 and put it on your credit card. People down here really need your help. I'm not making this up.