Thursday, October 25, 2012

Danger, Will Robinson!

A gas generator (1)
I keep an eye on the weather throughout the day using a website called Wunderground. This morning, they sent me an email saying that their usual "winter preparedness" email series was being suspended because they wanted to do an emergency preparation series instead, ahead of the storm that's heading our way. I went to their website to check out all the details. The storm we need to watch, called Sandy, is currently (2:30pm EDT on Thursday, October 25, 2012) a category 2 hurricane coming through Haiti and into the Florida area.

Go grocery shopping (2)
Sandy may be downgraded to a nor'easter by the time it gets to New England where we are, but they are warning not to consider that lightly. Apparently, it's a 50% chance whether it'll head out to sea, or hit us square on. NOAA and other weather agencies are urging people along the coast and throughout New England (and New York City as well) to be prepared for emergency conditions. Part of the problem right now is that the autumn weather is not cooperating. They can't tell which way the wind will blow things, nor can they tell whether it will be warm and produce rainfall, or if it'll be cold and come down on us as hail, sleet or snow.

The bottom line is, be prepared. This doesn't mean you need to be ready for the Zombie Apocalypse, but it does mean making some common sense decisions now, well in advance of the possible storm.

Let's look at the whole Rule of Threes thing in regards to our potential storm. Those of us who may be in the storm's path should do what we can so that we're not a burden on the system. We can last three minutes without air (first aid), three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food and three months without hope.

Three minutes without air in this storm translates into being ready for possible household emergencies.  Is your first aid kit stocked up? Do you have bandaids, enough of the usual medications and vitamins, and a good supply of ibuprofen and acetaminophen? Consider the kind of injuries you might have to deal with during a three day storm with no power, and be ready for them.

Three hours without shelter isn't as difficult when you're already in your own home. If you lose power and have no other means of heat, wear several layers of clothing, close off all but one or two rooms of your house, and keep everyone in that small, confined area. Cover windows with thick blankets at night to hold heat in, and let the sun in during the day for as much passive solar energy as you can get. Break out the winter coats, gloves and shoes, and don't forget hats! A sleeping bag can keep you (or you and a child) warm, but you might be warmer if you and your whole family snuggle together in one place under the same batch of blankets. There's a reason Alaskan sled drivers used to sleep with their dogs!

Got fuel? (3)
Of course, if you have a fireplace or wood stove, make certain you have enough wood or coal on hand to see you through the emergency. Have the fuel in a spot that's easy to get to, and as much out of the elements as possible. Have tinder and small pieces of wood on hand to make starting your fire easier. If you run a generator, ensure it's full, and have an extra gas can on hand, and don't run it all the time (turn it on long enough to cool your fridge and freezer and run the hot water for bathing, then off again to conserve fuel).

Three days without water is unlikely to be a problem during a storm in New England, but having clean, potable water might be problematic. Do you have a way to filter water so it's safe to drink? Can you store some in clean milk jugs just in case you need it? At a minimum you'll want one liter of water per person per day, but if you're at home and you have the ability to store more, then do so. Water can be used for washing, drinking, flushing the toilet manually, brushing teeth, cooking, and a hundred other things.

Three weeks without food should not be a problem for anyone with the amount of advance warning we're getting about this storm. If you're not the type to keep a lot of food on hand, pop out to the store now and get some extra bread and milk, and any other staples that will be easy to cook with what you have on hand and that will last in the pantry if you don't have to use them.

Three months without hope doesn't seem to be something that would be an issue with the upcoming storm, but don't dismiss it so quickly. You may be stuck in the house with children or friends for a few days, and having some cards on hand for poker or euchre, or a board game or two, is easy to do. Pick up some popcorn at the store and have an old fashioned night of popcorn and story telling. Grab a few books and have them stashed in the room you'll retreat to if you lose power, and maybe have a craft or two ready to work on as well.

Cars get buried. (4)
All of the above might seem like over-kill, but consider for a moment the possibility of this storm (or another) catching you unawares in your vehicle. You've become blinded by snow or driving sleet, and you pull over. You're prepared, having a "get home" bag available to pull some food out of, and some warm clothes. You decide to wait it out, a sensible thing to do. Come morning, you wake up to find your car is thoroughly buried in snow, and you can't get out. What happens now?

If you're prepared, it's not going to be a problem. People will have at least a vague idea of where you are. You can expect outside help within a reasonable amount of time. If you're prepared, it might be uncomfortable but it won't be a panic situation, nor will it be a disaster.

Be prepared! Don't let yourself fall into the trap of thinking "preppers" are just doomsday prophets calling for the end of society. In reality, "preppers" were (and are) people like your grandparents, who put up food from their garden and who saved every penny to make sure they had what they needed. They're people who have the necessities on hand or know how to make them should something (like a surprise snow storm) happen. They're you, and me, and your neighbors, ready for whatever the New England weather throws at them.

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You may also be interested in:

Cooking without electricity
Making dilled green tomatoes
Ham and Bean soup
Learning at the Freehold
The Fall and Winter Update, 2012


1) Image by Calvin Ho Jiang Lim / Wikimedia Commons
2) Image by David Shankbone / Wikimedia Commons
3) Image by MJCdetroit / Wikimedia Commons
4) Image by woodley wonderworks / Wikimedia Commons