The Real Survival Lessons from Superstorm Sandy

November 4th, 2012 . by Felix

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone but the aftermath will continue for weeks to come. What are the real survival lessons that came out of this storm and how can you prepare for the next time?

They predicted it was going to be bad and it was. They didn’t call it Frankenstorm for nothing. Everyone in it’s path had several days to prepare or evacuate. But that didn’t stop thousands from waiting until the last minute to grab supplies. Everything from water to batteries were sold out leaving some scratching their heads wondering now what? For the most part grocery stores were orderly but long checkout lines were the norm. Others were already in full panic mode.

The time to shop for plywood to board up your windows is a nice sunny day, not when the wind and rain have already started. Anytime you have to stand in line for anything you are going to be at a disadvantage. Supplies run out, crowds run short on patience and your stress level will go up. Anytime you are faced with large crowds things can get out of hand quickly and turn into a war zone.

Power went our for millions and will continue to be out for several more days. While a number of people had generators they didn’t have enough fuel to run them, so they ended waiting in long gas lines with everyone else.  How many people also had a gas powered water pump to pump out flooded basements? If you are in a flood prone area, a water pump is as necessary as a generator. The best place to store extra fuel is in your full gas tank before the storm hits. Even if you don’t have a generator having led flashlights and lanterns with spare batteries will prevent you from sitting in the dark and are safer than candles. A 12 volt fully charged deep cycle battery with a power inverter will supply you with power for a short time. Don’t forget a radio or even a digital portable TV to stay current on news and weather.

110 People have died and over 80 families lost their homes not to flooding but to fire. I am sure they never imagined they would lose everything to a fire during a hurricane.

The standard recommendation is to have on hand a 3 day supply of food and water. Why has that always been the magic number? Life is rarely back to normal after 72 hours. You need a minimum of 2-3 weeks supply of non-perishable foods. When the power is out for more than 10 days and the stores are closed you may end dumpster diving for food like dozens of people did the other day. Or waiting in line for a handout or begging for food. You need food that takes little effort to prepare. Also have on hand high energy, high calorie foods such as energy bars. You may be walking long distances or up and down 15 flights of stairs. You may be under a great deal of stress, you may be involved in search and rescue helping friends and neighbors, or you may be involved in cleanup and rebuilding. You could very well be pushing your body to it’s limits. You need to fuel your body like a adventure racer or long distant runner. Your mental and physical health will depend on it. Also don’t forget pet food.

If you live in a flood prone area or at risk of fast spreading wildfires you must absolutely be prepared to evacuate or bug out on short notice. And you must be in the mindset that there will be a very good chance you will lose everything you left behind. All that matters is you and your loved ones are safe, everything else can be replaced. Your important papers should be together in one place, your important computer files should be backed up. Make sure you have a working camera to document any damage. Have cash on hand for those things you may still need. Many merchants were not able to accept credit cards when the power went out.

While 25% of the cell service was shut down, for some their cell phone was their only contact with news and family. Service was spotty at best. Make sure you have a way to charge your cell phone. Have extra emergency cell phone battery chargers on hand. Have a printout of your contacts incase your cell phone goes dead and you need to make a call from another phone.

Be prepared for a medical emergency. When the closest hospital loses it’s backup generators what is your plan B. Normal medical services may not be available, first responders are already pushed to the limits. What happens when you have a headache and the corner drugstore is now closed? Stock up on your prescriptions and medicines before the storm hits. Have a basic first aid kit and medical supplies. And don’t forget extra toilet paper.

Crime doesn’t take a break from disasters. Any disaster can bring out the worst in people, and those who are going to take advantage of the situation. There has been price gouging and looting. There have been accounts of persons impersonating FEMA workers and Con ED workers in order to gain access to peoples homes. Buying your supplies well ahead of time prevents you from becoming a victim and keeps you out of harms way.

The floodwaters turned into a toxic stew with sewage, bacteria, fuel and pesticides. Be sure to have cleanup equipment on hand including boots, gloves, disposable coveralls or protective clothing, goggles, face masks and disinfectants. You don’t need to come in contact with potentially dangerous unknown hazards.

The economic toll will be in the billions but in the coming weeks the power will come back on, stores will reopen, and the rebuilding will begin. Life will get back to normal. At least until the next storm. But for those who didn’t learn their lesson this time, they are bound to repeat the same mistakes. Will you be prepared for the next storm or are you going to be waiting in line for a handout?

What if a disaster like this was even more widespread? What if there were no trucks bringing fuel and supplies? What if the power was out not for 10 days but 10 months? How would you cope? How would you survive? Now is the time to prepare. There are storms on the horizon we just don’t know how soon or how bad they will be. By learning from others you will be much better prepared to ride out any storm. The real survival lesson once again is to plan well ahead for the expected and unexpected.

One more thing. Stock up on birth control. They are predicting a Hurricane Sandy baby boom.

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