Hurricane Irma: Personal Crisis Preparedness -- Survival of the Fittest or Love thy Neighbor!?


“Hurricane Irma, downgraded to an ‘extremely dangerous’ Category 4 storm with winds reaching a sustained maximum of 150 mph, hurtles toward Florida.”

“The dramatic mass exodus from South Florida could turn into one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history.”

“Florida air travel starts to shut down.”

These are just a few of the headlines as I take a front seat in Orlando to what could be the worst hurricane to strike Florida since Charley 13 years ago.

With a couple of decades of being front lines handling issues management, crisis communications and “Expect the Unexpected” crisis preparedness training for clients for numerous situations (evacuations, bomb threats, workplace violence, fires, explosions, etc.), I was already taking steps given the early warning signs of the hurricane.

With the help of my wife – armed with her street smarts, engineer-like skills and years of watching “The Walking Dead” to deal with a Zombie Apocalypse – we checked our existing supplies such as battery-powered television and lights leftover from Y2K and the blackout of 2003.

Then, we were off and running to stores (starting as early as one week ago) to purchase water, food, batteries, battery-powered lights, propane, wood, sandbags (and makeshift ones due to limited supplies), dog food, etc. Some supplies were scarce, especially as people hoarded cases of water. We fueled up our cars, checked the tire pressure and charged up our electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.

We feel that we are pretty prepared to hunker down and weather the storm (we are #OrlandoStrong), unless there is a mandatory evacuation, then we’re out of here … but what we underestimated despite all of the knowledge and preparations, was the Me vs. Us Mentality. It became survival of the fittest vs. love thy neighbor! And, fortunately, a little bit of both.

People – like ravenous zombies – raced into stores to load up their baskets. It wasn’t quite the Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight (at least not yet), but more like the supermarket scene from “Christmas with the Kranks” in search of the prized Hickory Honey Ham.

People have been in crazy bumper-to-bumper traffic getting out of town or searching for supplies -- like the young man driving, and looking at his phone to find a store with propane, who rear-ended my wife’s car. We’ll be taking it to a Gold Class collision repair shop (full disclosure, a client). And two-near miss accidents happened while exchanging insurance information and filing a police report.

The only thing we didn’t have until today – sandbags, despite searching for some the past several days. Today it came down to a choice: a two-hour bumper-to-bumper car line to get 10 filled sandbags or immediately get 10 empty ones with the mission to find our own sand. The latter was chosen and the road rally was on.

A “free sand” sign at a county location about 15 miles away from home caught my wife’s attention. People surrounded the sand and loaded their store-bought garbage bags with sand. People stared at our premium official sandbags, and exclaimed (like it was a Hickory Honey Ham), “Where did you get those?!” The “secret” spot was shared. And so were shovels (ours was at home!). And plenty of words of encouragement to stay safe.

Yes, there is still good out there … despite the dazed zombie-like looks in everyone’s eyes.

Are you prepared for a potential crisis? Are you heeding the early warning signs? Are you expecting the unexpected? Don’t be caught when it’s too late. Contact MCCI to develop/test your crisis plan.