Wednesday, September 3, 2008

A Prescription for Preparedness:

Meet Robbie and Margaret Chambers: as Ole Miss graduates both with their B.S. in Pharmacy, not only do they share the same profession and work for the same company (Wal-Mart), but they have also been married for 16 years.

You could say they have experienced practically everything in their combined 35 years as retail pharmacists.

Then Gustav made its way into the Gulf of Mexico.

“This was my first, I’m a hurricane virgin!” Robbie said over the phone as another tornado warning sounded in the background.

Neither one had direct experience with a hurricane, having only moved from Memphis to the Mobile Bay region of Alabama a little over two and a half years ago.

They took positions at nearby Supercenters, Robbie as pharmacy manager in Bay Minette and Margaret working as a part-time staff pharmacist at the Saraland location.

In 2005, Katrina forced a massive surge of water into the bay, knocking the USS Alabama off its mooring and causing flooding in downtown Mobile.

While both pharmacies are within 25 miles of Mobile Bay, the couple resides--along with their 11-year-old son--in Spanish Fort, which is less than five miles away from the inlet.

As the weekend and Gustav got closer, the Chambers spent time gathering flashlights, fresh batteries, non-perishable food, water and gas for their generator at home.

“Personally, it was a little exciting--but please don’t take that the wrong way!” Margaret said about the possibility of a storm, “Having never been through anything like this, we were not sure of all the things to do to get prepared.”

Both pharmacies saw a sharp increase in volume on Friday, with Bay Minette filling near 500 prescriptions and Saraland topping 650.

“The only thing I can compare it to is the craziness that occurs when snow or ice is predicted in Memphis,” Margaret said, “it’s not just a little increase like the normal seasonal increases. It was like a frenzy.”

Saturday in Bay Minette, the inventory were increased by nearly $100,000 (retail cost) worth of drugs. As mentioned in a conference call it was in anticipation of evacuees but also in case trucks were not able to run their normal routes.

By Sunday evening as the pharmacies closed, there was still no absolute certainty where Gustav would make landfall.

“I had to tarp over all of the prescription bays, in case the roof started leaking. I had to cover all the computer equipment with garbage bags and make sure nothing was on the floor in case of any seepage,” Robbie explained.

Pharmacies were close Monday in anticipation of Labor Day, but Gustav continued on its path to Louisiana.

The Chambers spent the day listening to the rainfall, watching television and paying close attention to the tornado warnings.

They never doubted their decision to move to the Gulf Coast.

“We have always vacationed nearby and fell in love with the area. There is always a chance for some catastrophic event where ever you are,” Margaret said, “at least with hurricanes you have plenty of warning.”
As turned into my Feature Writing class.


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