Volunteering for Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma Clean-Up? Here’s What You’ll Need

Unfortunately, I know all too well the paralyzing fear and anxiety the folks are feeling in Florida right now, since I went through Ivan and got displaced from September 15th, 2004 to end of January 2005 (and months later, received a whopping $300 from FEMA — thanks for nothing!)

My cameraman Kenny is helping his cousin in South Florida once Hurricane Irma clean-up begins, so I put on my producer’s hat (the problem-solver’s hat) and started compiling a list for him of stuff he’ll need to drive down there with once it’s over. I may go with him, depending on my workload. It occurred to me that some of you reading this may be helping with Hurricane Harvey clean-up–or Florida clean-up–so I’m sharing this list with all of you, just in case.

3 Things You Need to Remember Whenever You Enter a Hurricane Clean-Up Zone:

#1. There are nails and broken glass on the road and in parking spaces everywhere. You will need spare tires and tire patch kits for your vehicle–you can only drive over that debris for so long before you get a flat.

#2. The air quality will NOT be good. It gets funky. Some people are affected for a very long time afterwards with skin lesions, breathing issues, etc. Have masks for breathing and wear thin, soft clothing that keeps your skin covered. Have an asthma puffer medication on hand, if you can get one. Whenever someone has a chest cold, I tend to save the half-used ones for later on.

#3. The mosquitoes will be out of control with all of that humidity, so eat your odor-free garlic pills for a week before you head down there so the mosquitoes love you a little less. Bring Avon’s Skin-So-Soft or head to Cabela’s and get yourself bug repellant with DEET. I know, I know…it’s deemed unsafe, but trust me, you will need it.

Here’s your list of supplies to drive down in your moving truck rental:

#1. Bottles of bleach for the mold. Rags, towels.

#2. Sledgehammers and crowbars to pull off the water-damaged sheetrock. You will have to strip the home’s interior down to the studs. (I know this first-hand!)

#3. 50-gallon garbage bags galore!

#4. Sheetrock, construction nails, sheetrock mud, hand-held manual sanders (since electric will be unavailable for a while), saws, hammers, saw horses, a battery-operated drill, drywall screws, gloves, 2 x 4 pieces of wood, caulk and caulk guns, rolls of insulation, duct tape, large, thick Sharpie markers, spray paint.

#5. If you’re lucky, the home you’re repairing has a natural gas generator, but most likely, it’s gasoline-generated, so bring empty gas cans for getting fuel, and lots of money because they WILL price gouge you…once fuel is available again, that is, which could be a week.

#6. Ziplock baggies — gallon-sized and sandwich-sized. They will come in handy.

#7. Brooms, dustpans and shovels. I remember the storm surge during Hurricane Ivan literally filled the first floor of the condos on Okaloosa Island with sand, from floor to ceiling. If this Hurricane Irma situation is similar (and I’m sure this happened for Harvey victims), you will be digging out debris forever before you can even start the home repairs.

#8. Pre-charged phone chargers. LOTS of them. We were lucky we had a land line in Florida, so we never lost contact with the outside world. But that was 13 years ago. Now everyone’s on cell phones, and that’s one of the disadvantages of having no land line.

#9. Tons of bottled water. As much as you can buy and pack. Also, coolers filled with ice.

#10. Pre-packaged foods that won’t go bad without refrigeration — you know, the stoner crap you’d buy at a convenience store when you’re starved and in a helluva hurry — those peanut butter crackers, granola bars, cheese crackers, etc. Also, soup and bring manual can openers. Paper plates, cups, plastic silverware (an oxymoron), also. Juice boxes are convenient if there are kids involved.

#11. In Hurricane Ivan, the ceiling crashed in on our bed and it was soaked all of the way through (and I was 8 months pregnant with Master Jack at the time) so I ended up sleeping on a blow-up floor mattress in the most God-awful, un-air-conditioned, moist, hot air. If you can hook up a fan to a generator, you will be so glad you did. Those blow-up mattresses are wonderful — about $50 — buy up one for every person in the home you’re renovating. Pillows & blankets, too.

#12. The anti-gun folks among us won’t appreciate my next comment, but looters are a serious problem.  Don’t judge until you’ve been through a fucking hurricane, assholes. When your possessions and family are at risk, you’ll wish you had one. The only thing that deters looters is knowing you have a weapon, and you’re unafraid to use it. Hearing warning shots in our neighborhood, post-Hurricane Ivan, wasn’t uncommon.  I hope there’s a special, more torturous hell for those who prey on the vulnerable (including those price-gouging gas stations).

#13. First-Aid kits – Band-Aids, plenty of peroxide, Cortisone cream, Triple Antibiotic Cream, Bactine, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant / hand sanitizers. Also, bring pain relievers, ace bandages, and tweezers (lots of slivers will occur when you’re working with wood, even if you’re wearing gloves).

#14. You’ll want tons of wet wipes/butt wipes and dry/spray shampoo for your hair. Personal hygiene will be at a bare minimum for a while, so at least try being odor-agnostic to be around. Depending on your bathroom situation, toilet paper may not make sense, but ziplock baggies and wet wipes will be a good alternative. You will likely need to bring a porta-potty (like the kind in any camper).

If anyone has additional items to add to the list, speak up — I’m just brain storming as I’m writing this, so I may overlook the obvious.

 

 

 

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