February 19, 2018

Preparing for a natural disaster

As Tinker readers may know, I live in Houston, Texas, and we’ve got Hurricane Ike bearing down on us.  Twenty-four hours ago, I was busy with everything else and hadn’t even stopped to think about it.  Earlier this week, the forecasts had Ike going far south of here.  That all changed and now it appears likely that Ike will hit the Texas coast not to far away.  The eye of the storm is probably not going anywhere near us, but we’ll be on the “dirty” side of the storm, and that means lots of rain and possible power outages.

Yesterday, I went to the supermarket and stocked up on assorted non-perishable goods, waters, batteries, and all that.  The lines were entirely reasonable.  The supermarket was clearly more prepared than I was, bringing in several shipping palettes of bottled water.  (Today, I’d bet the supermarket is crazier, but I’m not heading there to find out.)

My house is 51 feet above sea level and is outside the statutory flood plain.  At least in theory, I don’t have to worry much about flooding.  The most likely concern would be wind-driven rain getting through the not-terribly-well-sealed front door or some of the “French doors” that our builder overused on the house.  (“French doors”, which I doubt have much to do with France, are double doors, hinged on the side, and meeting in the middle where they latch to one another.)  My plan is to run a seam of duct tape around around the outside of the doors and windows on the first floor.  We’ll get in and out via the garage (which we tend to do, anyway).  I’m not going to try climbing up a ladder to the second story, since those “casement” windows seem to be more solid.

To evacuate or not to evacuate?  That’s the question.  When Hurricane Rita came through three years ago, we spent a thoroughly unpleasant 17 hours driving from Houston to Dallas (normally a four hour drive), where my parents live.  This time, our plan is to ride out the storm and then evaluate what we’re doing next.  Assuming the house is intact and we have power, we’ll be fine.  If we lose power and it appears unlikely to come back any time soon, or if our house is thrashed, then we’ll worry about evacuating.

Of course, I have to worry about more than just my family.  I also have to worry about my research group, the students in my classes, and so forth.  My security class meets this afternoon.  We’ll be talking about disasters.  (I tried to get some people from our university’s IT department to come talk about their disaster preparation, but unsurprisingly they’re busy preparing.  I’ll try to get some of them after it’s all over.)

For our research group, I’ve got a paper in the works for NDSS ’09, whose submission deadline is basically the same as when the hurricane is due.  The chair was nice enough to give us an extension, so now we just have to work out how we can keep doing the writing, even if there’s no power around.  (Felten has graciously offered to host our subversion server.  Luckily, the experimental work is all done, so it’s just a matter of getting it written up properly.)

Who knew disaster preparation could be so much fun?