Shouldn't I be going in the other direction?
May 18, 2006 8:27 AM   Subscribe

What should you take into a tropical post-hurricane situation?

It is likely that, following a big hurricane in the Carribean, I will be sent with a small team into the area to work on humanitarian relief / evacuation (mainly for foreigners). We're all civilians. (Sorry not to be more specific.)

As the hurricane season is about to start I want to set up my pack ready to go. I want to a) be as safe and healthy as possible; b) be comfortable; c) travel light (carry-on only if possible). Money's not really an object.

What should I take? What shouldn't I take? And any tips for staying alive and comfy when I'm there?
posted by TrashyRambo to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
A good pair of waterproof snake boots, at least knee high, and maybe even a pair of waders, depending on how soon after you get there. I'm talking soles thick enough that loose nails floating around won't penetrate.
posted by saladin at 8:47 AM on May 18, 2006

Take the FEMA Healthy Hurricane Disaster Cookbook (PDF link) - it's all about how to eat well (and safely) without electricity or refrigeration. It's really pretty great - although that's just my opinion from browsing it - I've never had to use it for real.
posted by chr1sb0y at 8:52 AM on May 18, 2006

Find someplace that carries small sealed and purified bags of water you can use in a pinch.

Some more must haves:

strong mosquito repellant: don't bother with the fancy smell-good kind. get the nasty stuff that works.

an LED flashlight: bright, and easy on batteries.

parachute cord: invaribly, you'll have to tie something/someone up/down. a billion and 7 uses for it.

military MRE: some of them actually taste good, and you can spread them out over a good meal and a good snack.

Take my word on these things. I went through both Katrina and Rita, and spent over a week in southwest Louisiana without electricity or water immediately after Rita.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 9:35 AM on May 18, 2006

Presuming you had all the shots you can possibly get for various illness that could breed in such a situation:

plastic sheets
way to make fire
good multi tool
Very good boots
lightweight and sturdy rain gear
pocket chainsaw
good hat with chin strap
bug spray
venom sting/extraction kit
concentrated food
Prepaid cellphone that will work in the area
sturdy sunglasses
first aid kit
heavy duty waterproof flashlight/headlamp
work gloves
face/breathing mask (those white lightweight ones)
caffeine pills
sleeping pills
iodine water treatment pills (a small water filter may be good as well)
ear plugs (to block out sound if you need to sleep at odd times)

Some of this, of course will be provided, and some is obvious... but.
posted by edgeways at 9:44 AM on May 18, 2006

Waterproof paper and writing implements
permeate marker
Waterproof camera
small battery radio

If you don't speak the language, some sort of translating ability, book, gadget ....

Something small to distract you during down time, a good book for example

Think of it like this, you need to be prepared for 1) self survival in the worst case scenario, 2) to help others 3) physcial work 4) communication 5) self care
posted by edgeways at 9:52 AM on May 18, 2006

I'd add on camp mosquito netting -- ideally something that will fit over a sleeping bag. You probably won't need the bag itself, given the temperature of tropical nights, but netting is a good equivalent to having to keep yourself constantly swathed in DEET. Also, despite what you do, you will still likely get bitten. Consider calamine notion as a contingency, but leave this out if it's exceeding your packing capacity.

in addition to your work boots, you should have a separate pair of sandals for when you're "off-the-clock", since some relief camps will force you to leave work boots and gloves in a separate common area away from the dining and sleeping facilities, to keep you from tracking mold and infectants around.

baby or handi-wipes can be a convenient way to clean yourself up without relying on possibly tainted taps.

On that note, your org should provide hand sanitizer in its facilities, but it doesn't hurt to bring some of your own. Normally, hand sanitizer is an inferior cleaner to soap and water, but if you can't depend on water quality, then this is the next best option.

I'd ditto the battery radio recommendation. If you have a wind-up camp radio, it'd be even better. Depending on the duration of your trip and the state of infrastructure, I'd aim to lean on fewer things that require battery or outlet power.
posted by bl1nk at 12:09 PM on May 18, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for these tips. To clarify: my organisation (read: government) won't provide anything that I don't buy and take with me.
posted by TrashyRambo at 1:09 PM on May 18, 2006

Update your Tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations
posted by Gungho at 1:58 PM on May 18, 2006

You might consider a hammock, with a tube-type mozzie net. In the Amazon it was by far the best way to sleep. (A trick to hammock comfort is to lie diagonally.) Allowing air to circulate under you means being a lot cooler. The all-fabric Brazilian style of hammock is a bit easier to manage than the Mayan-style all-netting type; the Mayan type weighs less and takes less room - just don't let it tangle.

I think the minimum span between tie-ups is about nine feet, for comfort; you could take some extra nylon rope for times when the poles/trees/whatever are further apart.
posted by anadem at 2:14 PM on May 18, 2006

If your focus is evacuation, I would recommend some kind of index cards so you can record their essential information and properly document it when you get to (I assume) the consulate. Also, a high end hand held water filter could be a blessing.
posted by Megafly at 2:53 PM on May 18, 2006

Not just your tetanus and diptheria, but also your hepatitis (I know that's a 6 month series, I've just had the first one) and anything else you don't want to catch. Bring a current first aid certification card with you, as well as some kind of first aid kit that you can have with you at all times. duct tape. candy that doesn't melt. extra batteries. small travel game. deck of cards. cards and postage for mailing things home. something small and portable to do on your own (i suggest knitting, socks). another few bags of candy that doesn't melt. extra socks. an extra deck of cards. a sense of humor. something you like the smell of, such as a packet of lavender or rosemary.
posted by bilabial at 6:28 PM on May 18, 2006

-Degreaser so you can get oil off of you and your clothes after wading through scummy water. Baby oil is good for this.
-A water purification device of some kind just in case. If you work for the government see if they'll buy you on of those nifty Army oxidiser things, otherwise hit up REI for at least some iodine tablets.
-Drybags, the see through ones are nice for a substitute backpack/ purse/ lunch container in wet conditions. The bigger ones are good for storing your clothing or for schlepping your luggage about in muddy places. Kayak bags are nice too but cost more.
-Pelican cases for electonics that might get dropped on, rained on or just absorb enough water from damp air to quit on you. An added bonus is that you can lock them to something. If you get one for your cellphone as a storage device? make it big enough to hold the charger too.
-stuff for rewaterproofing other stuff, tape, caulking, glue.
posted by fshgrl at 7:02 PM on May 18, 2006

A good shock proof, water proof watch
posted by edgeways at 8:47 PM on May 18, 2006

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