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Thread: Preparing for Disasters; How To

  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.....

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    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
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by heyang View Post
    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.
    ITA that early preparation (a lot of it before there is a disaster) is key.

    Unfortunately, if the bath is full of water, your options for taking baths are zero. But, that water can be used for flushing, for sure, and I used that method in preparation for later storms when we were on a well.

    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.


    It's worth mentioning that in the Experimental option, reached from the front page of the old style Kindle, there is a web browser. It is clunky as heck, and difficult to use, but it runs on 3G. However, as it happens, we lost 3G in Sandy, something I didn't expect, after the cell towers ran through their battery back up. I was glad to have the hand crank radio. The messy battery thing has happened to me with old radios before. It's not a bad idea to store them with the batteries out, even though you then have to find working batteries.

    Which reminds me, be sure you have batteries!

    Don't forget the manual can opener.
    No kidding! That's one I should have mentioned! I have one, and used it, for sure. But fortunately for those that didn't have one, many soups and other canned products use pull tops these days.



    Other food options are dried fruit, nuts and jerky.
    This is why I prefer a gas stove or camp stove
    At the shelter, they serve MREs; one reason among many to be able to get home as early as possible.

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    Yes, I just thought of the manual can opener on another thread. People don't think of that, and it is crucial. You should also try out any can opener you get beforehand, because some of the cheaper ones are not really effective and can cause injury besides. Either you cut yourself while opening the can, or the jagged edges make the can unsafe once it's opened. It's worth spending the money for a decent opener, even if you never need to use it. The ones with longer handles are usually the best. I have a Swing-Away:

    http://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&key...l_7q0imjx3f8_e

    There's a slightly less heavy can opener, with several variations, called a classic can opener.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=...9QEwBg&dur=354

    Whenever you buy a can opener, I recommend trying it out right away. Whether you can then take it back or not is irrelevant. If it doesn't work, get another one. You need to know that you can count on it in an emergency, when your stomach is growling and you're staring at an unassailable can holding your only food supply.

    Trust me. You will not be able to get the food out using an ice pick. And the nearest hospital may have been evacuated, so you can't just show up at the ER bleeding profusely.

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    Custom Title CoyoteChris's Avatar
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    Hey, Some MREs are actually edible, but I prefer freeze dried food....I have a nifty hand crank LED lantern and AM/FM radio...but then I have a flashlight fetish and you wouldnt believe the ones I have and tested....
    Very few beat the Techlite Lumen master 200...see youtube, costco, amazon, etc....
    Hey, we got some water for flushing and baths today!
    http://i1217.photobucket.com/albums/...2/Nov9th12.jpg

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    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    There's something to be said for melting snow, but it takes a lot of snow to get a little bit of water...there is a reason I opted for chopping a hole in the pond ice ... well other than youth & stupidity.

    Here's another jewel of past technology (I have one in the back porch)

    a soap stone wash sink for washing clothes from the days when keeping the water as hot as possible as long as possible was a big deal:

    http://images1.americanlisted.com/nl...a_28211793.jpg

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by CoyoteChris View Post
    Hey, Some MREs are actually edible, but I prefer freeze dried food....I have a nifty hand crank LED lantern and AM/FM radio...but then I have a flashlight fetish and you wouldnt believe the ones I have and tested....
    Very few beat the Techlite Lumen master 200...see youtube, costco, amazon, etc....
    Hey, we got some water for flushing and baths today!
    http://i1217.photobucket.com/albums/...2/Nov9th12.jpg
    Wow, Chris, that's one impressive winter scene! Our piddly little snowstorm pales in comparison.

    I once got some freeze-dried food from a camping store. It was pretty good. The freeze-dried ice cream (in tiny little pearl-sized cubes, as I recall) was especially tasty. If you can store it in a watertight box (I have a new respect for waterproofing), it would be very useful for longterm deprivation, because these packets aren't very bulky and you can stockpile a lot of them in a small space. Also, you can carry them around a lot more easily than a bunch of cans. (I have a new respect for lightweight supplies, too, having toted bottled water and other groceries up thirteen flights of steps in the dark while holding a flashlight in my third hand....)

  12. #12
    Wicked Yankee Girl dorispulaski's Avatar
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    I have a new respect for ground floor apartments

  13. #13
    and... World Peace! Tonichelle's Avatar
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    Just realized we've all forgotten a first aid kit... which is crucial in an earthquake like situation. Dad's a med tech so we have all sorts of things from the standard kit to more "advanced" stuff, a glucose meter (no one who lives in the house is diabetic, but sugar levels are still important) we have bandage gauze to immobalize an entire army's worth of injuries lol

  14. #14
    Custom Title CoyoteChris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tonichelle View Post
    Just realized we've all forgotten a first aid kit... which is crucial in an earthquake like situation. Dad's a med tech so we have all sorts of things from the standard kit to more "advanced" stuff, a glucose meter (no one who lives in the house is diabetic, but sugar levels are still important) we have bandage gauze to immobalize an entire army's worth of injuries lol
    I am not saying a first aid kit isnt a good idea, I am just saying that I never saw one, including the one we had to carry in our state patrol vehicles, that impressed me much to where I even wanted to carry one on motorcycle trips....lots of the items I carry in my shave kit anyway. Drugs, on the other hand, are a good thing to have a good supply of and rotate stock.
    Chris the posterboy for Big Pharma

  15. #15
    Custom Title CoyoteChris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympia View Post
    Wow, Chris, that's one impressive winter scene! Our piddly little snowstorm pales in comparison.

    I once got some freeze-dried food from a camping store. It was pretty good. The freeze-dried ice cream (in tiny little pearl-sized cubes, as I recall) was especially tasty. If you can store it in a watertight box (I have a new respect for waterproofing), it would be very useful for longterm deprivation, because these packets aren't very bulky and you can stockpile a lot of them in a small space. Also, you can carry them around a lot more easily than a bunch of cans. (I have a new respect for lightweight supplies, too, having toted bottled water and other groceries up thirteen flights of steps in the dark while holding a flashlight in my third hand....)
    Well, headlights are nice to have too! If I was forced at gunpoint to live in a city highrise apt, I think I would have a big plastic tub filled with basic needs in a closet. Freeze dried food keeps for years.....
    Here is a pic of my driveway, 100 yards long, in 2008.
    http://i1217.photobucket.com/albums/...blizard007.jpg
    Chris who still has nightmares about living in a town.

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