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Thread: Preparing for Disasters; How To

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  1. #1
    Custom Title CoyoteChris's Avatar
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    Good luck and hope the new storm passes fast. I dont think I still have heard even an approximate number of how many homes are destroyed or seriously damaged.....I think everyone is open to some disaster...here in Spokane County its wildfire.
    The midwest has its tornados....the east coast , storms. The west coast has tsunamis and volcanos and earthquakes. You cant prepare for everything, but it amazes me how many people dont even know if they have air in their spare tires, let alone food, water, heat, and light for two weeks.....

  2. #2
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Chris, I don't think they know yet how many homes were destroyed. In my county, over 200 homes are listed as uninhabitable, at least until the they are check for structural soundness and that the electric services are checked by a licensed electrician, not to mention gas services.

    Different kinds of disasters call for slightly different strategies for preparedness. Having just been through Hurricane Sandy, I remembered some things to do and forgot some others. I hope people to tell each other of their lessons, because no one knows everything for sure.

    Hurricanes are the disaster I know most about. One of my earlier sets of memories centers about Hurricane Carol in 1954. My father took the time to do a certain amount of teaching about hurricanes. He took me outside to see the hurricane's eye pass over, and showed me that the wind was so strong you could lean it and it would hold you up. He also told me that just because there are no clouds when the eye passes over, it doesn't mean the storm has passed. You're only half done. But more important he took me to the line of daffodil plants at the foot of the garden, told me that that was the height that the water in the Hurricane of 1815 rose to, and that that was why the house was built on a little rise that was about 5 feet higher.

    Preparedness starts when you build or buy your house. If you're going to live near the ocean on the east coast, you need to consider what happens in a hurricane and in a bad winter storm. Yes, you can lose power for two weeks, even a month. You should pick a house that isn't going to be underwater (build above known storm surge lines) If the property is not above storm surge lines, the house should be built on the highest elevation on the property (even if you have to pile up gravel to put it there) and if you're building it new, it should not have a basement, and water should be able to pass under the house without knocking it over.

    If you suspect water might get in the cellar, don't store anything in it that water can damage, obviously. Unfortunately, although up 18 inches on bricks, our furnace is still in our cellar, which flooded to a depth of 30 inches in Sandy. However, if you have an oil furnace, fortunately salt water often does not kill it; it just requires 3 pieces to be replaced. To ensure this happy condition, when you leave your house, be sure to turn off the circuit breaker to the furnace so that it does not try to start when the power is restored. If it does, you will surely lose the fan motor, which you may be able to save.

    And definitely, if you are in a flood zone, do not put your main electical power panel in your basement. Ours is in a closet upstairs.

    In any case, oil & gas furnaces do not run when there is no electricity. You need a house with a second type of heat that does not depend on external power. I have a propane gas log; in my younger days, I had either a wood stove or fireplace. You really should have a gas stove too. Cooking with gas is just wonderful when the lights are out. Remember to have a drip coffee pot on hand though.

    And your food will spoil if you can't run the refrigerator. We have a $120 small generator that runs, by turns, the refrigerator and the sump pump. You only have to run it every several hours. And remember to get a tank (or tanks) of gasoline ready to run it with prior to the storm. Make sure it runs prior to the storm. After the storm, winterize it, so it will run next year. The little generator can run a lamp as well as the refrigerator, too. And if you have a surge suppressor bar, you can charge your cell phone with it. If you're going to be stuck cooking on a gas grill, make sure your propane ball is full before the storm. And when you buy a grill, make sure it has one of those little burners on the side to make coffee on.

    If you are a camping type, have all your camping equipment out. Those sleeping bags will be nice. And the camp stove is a plus too.

    Lights-those LED battery lights work well, as do kerosene lamps & candles and those hand crank flashlights with radios in them. We used the handcrank radio to find out what was going on. Very useful.

    Generators...gas stations should be required by law to have a big one. The gas problem in NJ and NY right now is pretty grim. There's gas, but with the lights out, the pumps at the gas stations don't work. This is creating a horrible mess. A guy in Mystic learned his lesson in Hurricane Irene last year, his gas station was without power for 2 weeks, and of course he could sell no gas. He installed a big generator at his gas station, and this year he has paid off the whole cost because he's the guy that can be open.

    And charging: before the storm, charge all your cell phones and laptops and tablets and Kindles & Nooks. However, remember that any device that uses wifi will be down, including your internet phone. If you want to download a new book, you will have to find a place with power and a wifi hotspot during the 2 weeks your power is out.

    If you have a generator, make sure that you run it outside with a big extension cord. It gives off lethal fumes. Two girls died in this storm because of generator fumes. And if you're using a propane or gasoline space heater, you also have to be very careful about fumes.

    One thing I forgot, when I had to evacuate the house, was to close the valve on the propane tank. As it happens, the police went around the neighborhood and closed the valves. Consequently, when I came back the next morning, I found that my gas stove & gas log wouldn't start. We had to relight all the pilot lights. We had never had to light the pilot on the oven, so we had to find where it was first before we could turn the gas on again, or we would have had gas leaking from the oven pilot into the house...not a good idea. We should have known that before we evacuated, just saying, but we didn't.

    As to how serious a problem propane tanks and natural gas lines can be, many of the fires you have seen going on in the disaster footage were caused by the rupture of natural gas lines. If a house is swept away, of course the gas piping may well be destroyed, and Boom, there you go. Even if the house is not swept away, the propane tank can be ripped loose. In Sandy, while we were at my son's house, we were cooking outside on the barbecue and kept smelling propane. It was due to two huge propane tanks that had been torn off houses that were severely damaged, and the valves broken as they floated around the bay. (Yes, the tanks float) The town's disaster squad had corralled them and chained them to a street post, but they were still giving off fumes that could be smelt at my son's house a quarter of a mile away. In fact, if I had not had that little experience, and had thought, man, I forgot to close the valve on my propane tank, I would have struggled to find out what was wrong at my own house when I couldn't get the stove to turn on.

    Water--even during the 1938 hurricane, my family has never lost its connection to the town water supply. I presume the system is run mostly by gravity. Consequently, a couple crates of drinking water are all we stock. It may be different at your hosue.

    Baths--if you don't have heat, and you don't have a propane hot water heater, you don't have hot water. Even if you are warm and fed (as we were), you are feeling really grungy, and cold showers do not appeal. Oh how weak we are, compared to our ancestors. Fortunately, I had a very large, thin pot that I use for boiling lobsters. I boiled up a pot of water on the propane stove, ran some cold water into the bathtub, and then added the water to it. Bliss! It was a lovely bath. A friend of mine went to a spa that was not affected by the storm to get a shower. Another friend went to their gym, which had showers.

    Escape..if you think you might have to evacuate, plan for it. We do. We keep all our most important stuff in a safe deposit box, and our working records in one of those big plastic tubs. Our laptop and cell phone chargers live in a bag with other stuff we might need if we have to evacuate. As it happens in Sandy, we came home from Skate America with our clothes in suitcases already (and we had done the laundary at our friend's house in Oregon; what a blessing that was!) We just threw the stuff in the car, locked the door and left. We had previously moved stuff that might be water damaged to the second floor.

    But before next time, I'm going to put a lock that I can lock from outside on the back door. As it happens, Sandy flooded the front steps but not the back steps. It's better to make your escape from cover.

  3. #3
    Custom Title CoyoteChris's Avatar
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    Doris, thanks! a very good lesson on preparedness. Yes, depending on where ones lives and what the habitat is like (I live in the country on 15 acres, some live in high rise appts) I camp 30 days a year so have many stoves, led laterns, camp food, etc and can heat the whole house with wood....but on the other hand, without a generator to run a 220v well pump, I have stored water, plus what is in the water heater and well pump pressure tank. I store stuff in the lock box but anything really important, like photos and docs are stored on line as well as on digital small hard drives scattered around with friends and the lock box. When I had to evacuate my state patrol vehicle during Firestorm '96 (see Discovery Channel, Storm Warning, " Wrong Place Wrong time") I had learned to have a few grab and go items but now in the digital age, important papers and photos are much easier to store on line. I would love to have a gas stove normally but I refuse to have that big propane tank in my back yard.
    We are pretty lucky here in Spokane County....ice storms, sure...volcanos, sure, firestorms, yeah....but I would hate to fight a hurricane......

  4. #4
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Chris, yes I know how that ice storm thing goes. We were living in a log cabin in VT when we lost power for 9 days. We had a well, and an electric stove.

    Fortunately, we also had a woodstove & a fireplace (in fact wood was our regular form of heat

    I cooked on the woodstove, and we were warm, but the biggest problem was flushing the toilet. I had to take the ax mornings, chop a hole in the ice in the little brook back of the house and haul buckets of water to flush it. If I were to do it all over, I'd have a steel drum of water in the basement just to use for toilets.

    We begged showers at friends' houses.
    Last edited by dorispulaski; 11-09-2012 at 03:59 AM.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, the flushing was the worst. We had intermittent water for the past week and a half, so you could replenish the water you stockpiled in basins for flushing. Also, I have been keeping a supply of bottled water so that I don't have to depend on the faucets for drinking, cooking, and toothbrushing water. I don't think our recycling bins are back yet, so I've piled up quite a few empty water bottles. But I was glad I'd amassed water of both kinds, and that I had a good flashlight (LED, good enough for getting me safely up and down many flights of stairs in a pitch-black stairwell). I stupidly forgot to check the little transistor radio, so the batteries in it leaked and ruined it. I have to get another radio. I should get one of those hand-crank radios.

    By the way, thanks for your thorough run-through, Doris! I'm glad we didn't have to evacuate, but we definitely lived rough for a few days. Because the temperature dropped so precipitously, warmth was a much greater problem than it would have been even two weeks earlier. I slept in many layers (including a snug wool knitted hat) and had one of the great technological developments to protect my body temperature: two hot water bottles! Fortunately, I have a gas stove, so I could heat water any time I wanted. (The trick was that I had to save the water from one night to the next, because of the supply problem.) I also had three comforters: for their weight they give twice the warmth of blankets. When power but not heat came back, I unearthed my heating pad and sat on it.
    Last edited by Olympia; 11-08-2012 at 08:43 PM.

  6. #6
    Custom Title heyang's Avatar
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    The other step is to start preparing early. For Sandy, I purchased water and non-perishable's on Thursday, instead of shopping with the hoards over the weekend. Less stress.

    Fill up containers with water and put them in your freezer - making them as full as possible. If the power goes out, the additional ice will keep the contents frozen longer. Keep the door of the freezer closed as much as possible - i.e. don't peek to see if it's still cold. Stuff inside will stay relatively frozen for 48 hrs - after that things will begin to thaw. You'll also have the melted water in the containers if you still need it. Technically, it's not a bad idea to have your freezer filled all the time - saves energy since your freezer won't need to cycle as often.

    Fill the bathtub and other containers up with water. This is very important if you live in a highrise or have well water or water needs to be pumped. No electricity = no pump. You can use the water in the tub to flush the toilet, sponge baths and washing dishes, etc.

    Also, water treatment centers can be inundated and/or lose power, too. So, even if you don't require electricity to get water, the bottled water and filling up containers should be considered just in case you have to go to 'boil water' because the water can't be treated.

    As others have said, have a radio. Without wi-fi, cellular service/internet, the radio will allow you to know what's going on. I was fortunate that I recently got the iPhone 5, which requires a data plan. Between the radio and accessing internet on my cellphone I knew what was going on. My radio is just a basic transistor radio that I've probably owned for 25 years. When I was at Target before Sandy hit, a woman was looking for a battery operated radio and none were to be found. It really doesn't take up much space and uses very little battery power - I had it on for 12 hours a day for 3 consecutive days and no problem with regards to battery power. The hand crank ones are good too. I also had handcrank flashlights.

    Don't forget the manual can opener.

    Other food options are dried fruit, nuts and jerky.

  7. #7
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    I.know views arent only for the rich, but the homes built in earthquake park and upper hillside are multimillion dollar homes. If they arent the "rich" building them then they are even more fool hardy.

    From whbat i understand of hillside homes they are unable to get fire insurance beacuse of where they live.

  8. #8
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Are there no roads at all to these homes, Toni? (I'm asking, because I totally have no clue)

    In VT, there are a lot of house up mountain dirt roads; I owned one. However, the firetruck could make it up, and the house had what we called then a "firepond" behind it, full of water, so the fact that there were no hydrants didn't matter; they could use a pumpertruck. We had no trouble getting fire insurance. (I know the firetrucks could make it up the driveway because the next door neighbor set his porch afire by dumping hot coals from his fireplace off the porch and not noticing how high the snow had gotten, so the coals set off the porch. The firetrucks arrived just fine; after calling the firestation, the neighbors wife starting making coffee and setting out cookies on a tray for the firemen. They were fun neighbors, and still good friends, but they were way crazy sometimes

  9. #9
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    they're paved roads, but they are at weird angles (lots of "turns") and are narrow and people park on the street so it's nearly impossible to navigate a fire truck to it... they also don't have access to water for their trucks iirc. I don't know that a firepond would work, either... they'd be covered in feet of snow most of the winter... and I don't think we have pumper trucks (then again I don't really know)

  10. #10
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Ours was covered in snow & ice, but it was fed by a brook, so it was easy enough to chop through (ice was always thinner at the inlet), and our fire dept. knew how to do it (saw it, as described).

    If you don't have pumper trucks, you need hydrants everywhere. In small towns in northern VT, there are no hydrants. But there are rivers, lakes, streams, fireponds, and the water stored in the tanks in the truck (truck & tank store in a heated firehouse). We didn't get colder than about -35F though, and one whole January every night was 20 below with the days all below zero; not as cold as parts of Alaska, but pretty cold.

  11. #11
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    The state has a couple of snow melters... don't know about pumper trucks lol

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