Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
1 Nov

How to Survive a Natural Disaster

tribe 1With one of the biggest storms – Sandy* – in recent history having just ravaged the eastern seaboard of the United States, bringing flooding and power outages and downed trees and the kind of awe-inspiring displays of raw power that only Mother Nature can bring to bear, I got to thinking about Primal disaster/emergency preparedness. Obviously, regardless of the lifestyle habits we subscribe to, we’re subject to the same basic concerns as anyone else: food, water, warmth, light, shelter, entertainment. The food we eat is gonna look different, and we might try to look at the bright side of being without power, but not much else changes.

Food? Yeah, it’s important, but this post isn’t about food. And anyway, a couple years back, I published a tongue-in-cheek guide to surviving the apocalypse, and despite the humor, the recommended non-perishable foods and drinks from that post are still solid choices. The only items I’d add would be canned seafood beyond just sardines – like tuna, salmon, oysters – and kale chips. Because kale chips are that awesome. Oh, and try to get everything in BPA-free packaging. Avoiding endocrine disruption may not be your first priority in a disaster situation, but it can’t hurt.

I won’t go into the standard disaster preparedness checklist. That’s pretty basic stuff that you can find anywhere. Everyone knows the material items they’ll need to survive, the things you can buy at the store and keep in your basement or garage and forget all about until the day arrives. But in the event of a real disaster, whether it’s modern fast zombies, old school shambling zombies, or an unprecedented subtropical storm, there is one essential – and totally Primal – factor that many of us are in danger of overlooking:

The importance of having people nearby on whom you can rely (and they you).

In my experience, most discussions about disaster preparedness overemphasize the individual aspects of survival. You’ve got your bug out bags, your go kits. You’ve got your fantasies of building underground bunkers capable of withstanding a direct hit from a nuclear weapon, amassing as much ammunition as you can find, stockpiling an arsenal that would put Michael Gross from Tremors to shame, and lining your property with machine gun nests, bear traps, and a moat full of great white sharks, piranhas, and salt water crocodiles. Ultimately, these folks are assuming the worst – not just of the situation, but of the people around them – and end up preparing to face the coming onslaught all by themselves. It’s important to be self-reliant, but is it enough? Is it even possible? Are you prepared to move that fallen tree blocking your front door all by yourself? What about the extrication of your living body from the ruins of your house – think that’s a one man job? Can you wrap wounds, set bones, and fashion slings? Do you have carpentry, hunting, and masonry skills? If not, you might want to think about having a group of people upon whom you can rely (and vice versa). You might want to think about obtaining the one resource you can’t simply buy and store in your garage (without going to jail, that is): friends.

Friends can help each other hunt, forage, and garden. Ten pairs of hands (or guns, or minds, or sets of legs) are better and far more effective at doing the things required for survival. Ten guns can defend better than one gun. Ten pairs of hands can chop more wood, carry more water, build more things, and pull more weeds than one pair of hands. Ten minds can come up with a better solution for water purification or shelter fortification than one mind. Ten sets of legs can cover more ground and find more survivors and food than one set of legs.

We all have friends, of course. But in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter feeds, message boards, email, and mobile phones that allow instant connectivity with anyone and everyone anywhere, our friends often live far, far away from us. Or perhaps across town, which doesn’t help us if the roads are blocked and our cars are underwater. For friends to be helpful in disaster recovery, they need to be close. What about our neighbors – the people who we do have at arm’s reach? These are the people who will be able to help us when disaster strikes. These are the people with whom we’ll be able to share supplies and divvy up responsibilities. However, research shows that these people are increasingly not our friends. We might share casual words on trash day with them, but we probably feel awkward asking them to feed our cat and water our plants when we’re away.

When life is going as planned, strangers are fairly civil to each other. You bump into someone in the mall accidentally, you apologize. You see someone coming up behind you as you enter the bank, you hold the door open. This is basic common decency. Easy stuff. But when the world is falling apart around you, what do you do? Your innate sense of preservation kicks in. You grab your kids, your spouse, call your friends, your parents, and stuff the cat into a pet carrier. In other words, you don’t even have to think about saving you and yours; you just act. This is an incredibly Primal response.

When you expand your circle of “yours” to include the people who live around you – and they expand their circles to include you – everyone looks out for everyone. Everyone’s better off. Most importantly, each individual person is better off, because if you’re the unlucky one whose ceiling fell in or whose canned goods were washed away, your neighbors are that much more likely to pull you out and invite you in for some canned tuna and water. And you’re more likely to do the same for them. The beauty of it is that because these are now your friends that need help, you don’t feel “put upon.” You want to help them, because, well, they’re your friends and that’s what friends do. That’s what a tribe does.

Research even shows that in real life disasters, it’s not the government aid, the fire trucks, or the emergency responders that really help people survive in the immediate. It’s the friends, the neighbors, the community. It’s Paul from next door who you let borrow your tool set last year who’s going to pull you out of your collapsed kitchen, not the anonymous emergency responder coming from fifty miles away. A government worker isn’t going to know how many people live in the house across the street, nor will he know whose room is whose; you will. The official response is important, but we can’t rely on it (or ourselves) for everything.

Daniel Aldrich, professor of public policy at Purdue, has made the study of post-disaster resilience in communities his focus. After living through Hurricane Katrina shortly after moving to New Orleans, he noticed that the most successful pockets of the city were the ones with the strongest social ties. The federal response to the hurricane’s aftermath was infamously inept and initially nonexistent, and the folks who knew and liked each other survived and rebuilt their communities faster than the folks who had fewer ties, making this a prime example of the power of community, or what Aldrich calls social capital (PDF). The same held true for communities struck by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the 1995 Kobe, Japan earthquake, and, I’d imagine, the many thousands upon thousands of tribes, neighborhoods, communities, towns, city-states, and enclaves hit by floods, fires, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disasters throughout history and prehistory. Why else do you think humans are social animals? Why else would the tribal structure have been evolutionarily preserved if it weren’t helpful for survival?

So, folks, if you want to survive the next disaster, make friends with your neighbors. Get to know them. If you have a lemon tree, take a paper bag full of them over. Have a block party. Throw a barbecue. Pet their dog, feed their cat. Get yourself a tribe.

What do you think, folks? Do you know your neighbors?

*To all my east coast readers and anyone else affected by the recent storm, our thoughts are with you.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. WHAT A REAL COMMUNITY – BUT THAT MEANS I MIGHT HAVE TO TALK TO SOMEONE FACE TO FACE – ITS SO MUCH EASIER TO JUST TYPE SO THEY CAN’T SEE MY REAL EMOTIONS AND IF I AM BUSY I CAN IGNORE THEM…..opps caps lock

    lockard wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I don’t know any of my neighbors, not a single one. I guess I get caught up in the digital world and hanging out with my friends who live further away. At least I do meet my friends face to face.

      Wayne wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Yes, it’s tricky nowadays. I live in London in a house that has been converted into five flats. Most of the other houses around are the same. I own my flat but all the others are rentals. The tenants come and go so I never get to know them. It’s vastly different from when I was growing up in my parents’ house during the 70s. They knew most of the people in our street. Life seems to be more transient now. I have real friends but they are spread around the country. Fortunately England isn’t prone to huge disasters (we’ve had a few in my lifetime – the great storm of 1987, the 7/7 bombings) but nothing like Katrina or Sandy. Still, if something like this happened it would be very difficult.

        Indiscreet wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  2. Looks like I’m gonna be one dead sociopath!

    Groktimus Primal wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Hansel and Gretel tactics!

      Animanarchy wrote on November 1st, 2012
  3. I had the good fortune to move into my current home only a few days before Hurricane Ike hit the Texas coast. I was able to meet and help and be helped by almost everyone in my immediate area. It was a great experience.

    John wrote on November 1st, 2012
  4. Thanks for the post, Mark! Good one. Unfortunately I just moved into my cabin two days before the storm hit and I didn’t know anyone! In Mt Nebo, WV we got nearly 3 feet of snow (it’s still snowing!). I’ve been without power and unable to move my car for three days now, but thanks to living outside all summer (raft guide/kayaking instructor) I’ve been pretty accustomed to the routine. It’s been like winter camping in a really nice shelter :) I’ve had plenty of food and propane for cooking but I’m sure as prepared as I was I would have been better off knowing one of my neighbors (they all have generators). Imma have to find myself a tribe :)

    Jessica Gold wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • This would be a great time to go introduce yourself to your neighbors, and see if they need anything. And when you do, I bet they will feel bad for not checking in on you first!

      CrazyCatLady wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Thanks! That’s a great idea :)

        JessieG wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I agree with CrazyCatLady – this is a great time to go check on neighbors and get to know one another. It sounds a little crazy, but disaster really do bring people together.
      Hope you come out of this without too much damage. Stay safe!

      Casey wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Thanks for concern! I was finally able to leave the house today… Went to Walmart looking for reading material. Lol. Nary a sudoku puzzle book to be found. Guess I’ll retread an old favorite… Or just prowl MDA archives ;)

        JessieG wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • i know your situation sucks – but being in the mt’s with 3ft of snow sounds like heaven to me

      lockard wrote on November 1st, 2012
  5. Whatever else you do, do not get reduced to searching for a working outlet to charge your phone as your #1 priority, as so many NYers have done. If you’re going to have a smart phone, BE SMART about it and get a solar charger to go with it for times like these. Better yet, save the cost of the phone and spend it on REAL emergency supplies, or even just a plane ticket out of there!

    Wenchypoo wrote on November 1st, 2012
  6. Love this! Living practically on the San Andreas fault as I do, I have been prepared with my family disaster kit for years. We’d be one of the last to be got to by the emergency services living at the highest point in our city and I have imagined many times what it would be like to live through one. Primalizing my kit, and undergoing our local emergency training course have been my priority. But I need to know my neighbors better. Our street isn’t the friendliest.

    Alison Golden wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I hear that. My area doesn’t seem the friendliest either. A lot of people here in the boonies of WV seem pretty wary of outsiders. Not sure how to circumnavigate the local culture…

      JessieG wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Jessie,
        Having been thru this – fortunately with a husband raised in a mountain area who knew what to do – I can tell you the best way is to smile and be outgoing without being pushy. Definitely either drop by to “jes’ say hey” and ask how they’re doing, etc. Country folk are often gun-shy about outsiders who move in and then look down their noses at country customs, so if you make yourself casually accessible, they will come around. Also, maybe offer to help with small chores “so they can show you how it’s done” (this really works well – most folks there love to teach).

        Chris B wrote on November 2nd, 2012
      • Mt. Nebo, WV? Why move there? I concur with what Chris mentioned. Wave, say hi, be polite, ask questions without being bossy. Friendly store clerks can be helpful. I’m from a small town 2.5 hours away and it never fails that in most every place there’s people who just sit around and talk. Might get some good tips and maybe some neighbors that way. I’m not that familiar with your area, but have been through Charleston and Beckley and a lot of the other wonderful rundown coal mine shantytowns. At least you’re far away from Jesco White. ;)

        Jason wrote on November 3rd, 2012
      • I’m from the Eastern Southern Coal fields of WV now. I got here after living the last 40+ years in Georgia and Wa. State. I have a job that takes me into the deepest “hollers” and putting my nose in others people’s business along with work for the govt. ( I work for “the welfare”.) You’d think that I would not feel safe with the WV reputation of being hillbillies suspicious of outsiders. The truth is, I feel safer here than in Wa. state and esp. in Ga. West Virginians are not full of false Southern hospitality. They are filled with the genuine stuff however, especially the poor and country folks. You need to let them know who you are and that you are not a threat, chose to live there and intend to contribute to their community. I bet you’ll feel right at home after that. Good Luck!

        Potter wrote on November 10th, 2012
  7. Not to nitpick, but the federal response in the aftermath of Katrina was among the fasest federal responses to a disaster. To your point, it was the local and state agenices that were non-existent in the early stages. In a crisis, local is better – rely on yourself and those close to you. There is no omnipotent organization that is going to do the work of crisis management for you.

    nadavegan wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • And yet, you can hear all the stories about it, and see it dramatized in NOLA, and read about the evils that people in power did to their own.

      raydawg wrote on November 1st, 2012
  8. I’m not sure if BPA-free cans are worth worrying over, since there’s a significant chance that the cans have had their bisphenol-A (BPA) replaced with bisphenol-S. From what I’ve read, bisphenol-S is at least as bad as BPA, and possibly much worse if claims that it degrades more slowly than BPA are true.

    Charles wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I once tried to store mandarins and the juice they were in from a can in a styrofoam cup. Within hours the cup was leaking because the acids burned through it.
      I’ve heard it’s best to avoid anything acidic that’s been stored in a plasic or plastic-lined container.

      Animanarchy wrote on November 6th, 2012
  9. I agree totally! I camp in the summer and have gotten to know my neighbors over the years. Inevitably we face severe storms, and everyone checks on each other to take down awnings and batten down hatches even if the owner is away. I’d like to think that would happen in my neighborhood too. I only know the people next door and across the street. What I need to do get acquainted with the rest of the street!

    gibson girl wrote on November 1st, 2012
  10. I bought a lot of food for the storm incase we lost power and the stores were closed for a long time. I got a decent amount of fruit since it doesn’t need to be refridgerated but now I am trying to go into Ketosis and I have all this fruit I shouldn’t eat. I don’t want to waste it so I guess I will delay going into ketosis. 4 bananas, 1 pear and 4 apples to go…

    Wayne wrote on November 1st, 2012
  11. Great focus. Not another ho-hum list of things to keep in your garage, which every newspaper will be publishing now. I must admit that I am in the category of waving to neighbors when taking out the trash or bringing in the mail.

    Harry Mossman wrote on November 1st, 2012
  12. It’s never been discussed, but I’m sure many of my workout buddies and myself would converge at the YMCA. Most of us live within a mile, and it just seems like a natural meeting place. We don’t all know where everyone lives, but most of us know at least a few other people in the group. I guess we should actually talk about this!

    Oh, yeah, I guess I’d check on the other people on my block, too. Unfortunately, they’re all in pretty crappy shape, and they’d probably be relying on me to do all the hard physical labor.

    dragonmamma wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Reminds me of camping this spring. The rest of the group (generalizing..) sat around inebriated, or just plain lazy, eating my food since they never bothered to get any for themselves, engaging in bullcrap and waiting for me to complete water runs. So I left that group.. and in good time too, the cops showed up that night.. and made my own campsite in another town.
      It’s great to have friends but if they’re selfishly depending on you to take care of them, best leave them behind.

      Animanarchy wrote on November 1st, 2012
  13. Fast zombies: I’m dead
    Shambling Zombies: Bring it!

    Logan wrote on November 1st, 2012
  14. There is also benefit to having friends that are somewhat further away in a localized emergency. Then you have somewhere to go, and someone who might actually want to take you, your skills, and your pet cat in once you make the trek to where ever they are.

    Chantelle wrote on November 1st, 2012
  15. I live in AZ, where everyone pulls into their garage and shuts the door without making eye contact with anyone, let alone conversation. Luckily, a huge benefit of living here is that we don’t have to worry about snowstorms, ice storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados, earthquakes, or any other natural disasters. I live in the city, so I’m protected from wildfires. Being celiac, I wouldn’t live anywhere I could be a victim of a natural disaster. Oh, and I have a diabetic cat who needs twice daily shots, which just makes for more drama. I can’t imagine what a nightmare going through something like Sandy would be! I’d rather stay here and fear stupid politicians than natural disasters.

    Jen wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • In a pinch I suppose you could “go Alf”, HA!

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I think the worst thing that could happen to AZ that is a posibility would be living without water…

      Byrce wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • I live in northern Az and being short of water is a concern (although I have 6600 gallons capacity in three tanks). I think that Phoenix peeps would be seriously FUBAR’d if the power went out — especially in the summer. Lordy, that could get ugly quick!

        I try to think like a Boy Scout. I’ve got water, food, junk silver, cash, tools, firewood, and — oh yeah — guns and loads of ammo. Booya!

        There’s always something we forget about. It could be your weakest link if you need it badly enough. Batteries, prescriptions, dog food, toiletries? Now what else have I forgotten . . . .

        Algboy wrote on November 1st, 2012
        • You forgot solar power. To start, get 3, five gallon gas containers. Then get a pure sine 1000 watt inverter. With this you can hook the inverter to your car while it is idling (outside of course) and hook up the inverter. This servers as your generator. Now just hook up your fridge and freezer and some lights….
          Now start on your solap panels, charge controller and inverter.
          Here’s how I did mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcKJX8kCZy0&feature=plcp

          dave, rnar power wrote on November 1st, 2012
        • There seriously aren’t enough people around with Scout experience…or, sadly, even a manual!

          Wenchypoo wrote on November 2nd, 2012
        • I forgot to add that, being off-grid, we have a 4000watt PV array with a back-up Subaru inverter-series generator. We have lots of wind-up LED lanterns, flashlights, and SW radios, too.

          But, there’s always just one more thing . . . .

          Algboy wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  16. Ahoy from Boston!
    This post reminds me of my friend’s grandfather. If you were ever describing someone to him he would often stop you at some point and ask, “Would you want him/her in the wagon train?”
    One of my favorite ways to think about people.

    Anders wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • That’s a great question! And one to ask myself, too, of myself.

      Joy Beer wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  17. I spend a lot of effort making friends with the neighbors and we move very often, every three years or so (but within the Portland metro area). I also reach out to my boy’s classmates and teammates. Even in very friendly Portland people can look at me like I’m nuts when I wander over to introduce myself. It’s worth it though. They say that dogs and kids make the best ambassadors – I also put front yard gardening right up there. After a while of “working my neighborhood” I can barely get any weeding done when I’m out front.

    Vanessa wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Sounds like my mother. She’s on first name terms with 3/4 of the city.

      Madama ButteredFly wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  18. Really good podcast. Actually been meaning to send the guest form to Mark since I think he’d be a good interview (the host is paleo and has had Robb Wolf, Lierre Keith, Dr. Ellis, and more on his show). But for this topic, it is superb. Besides “normal” survival stuff..food storage, generators, etc, he has a big emphasis on building community. Check it out.

    http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/

    Brandon wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Thank you–this sounds neat and realistic.

      Joy Beer wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  19. My way of looking at it has been if I were going on a five-year voyage as Captain of the Star Ship Enterprise, would I want he/she/it as part of my crew.

    PrimalGrandma wrote on November 1st, 2012
  20. Great post. I live in an earthquake-and-tsunami-prone area and am fortunate enough to also live in a townhouse complex with a pretty strong social component. It could be better, but I know nearly all my immediate neighbours to the point of asking any of them to water plants and look after the cat. We’re in the process of doing up a strata emergency plan that will include a list of important skills (ie carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc.) and who has them. We have bbqs and impromptu cocktail parties (usually when the kiddos are all outside playing). I’m SO glad we live like this instead of in a standalone house!

    Sarah wrote on November 1st, 2012
  21. My husband and I are members of our CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), the community is broken down into NERTs (Neighborhood Emergency Response Team), and there is a whole chain of command in place. Many times a year we participate in mock drills with mock disaster incidents staged, etc. It’s alarming that we see such little participation from our particular NERT. We need to hit up of neighbors to get with the program! Especially living in southern California earthquake territory!

    CAn8ive wrote on November 1st, 2012
  22. I’m feeling guilty about complaints I’ve made when we have a dust storm in Phoenix, Az. Can’t imagine how all the poor folks on the East coast must be going though.
    I am BLESSED!

    Jay

    Jay wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Hi fellow Phoenician and Haboob survivor!

      Diane wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  23. I always make it a point to get to know the elderly neighbors first, wherever I live. One summer, in my old neighborhood, we had a storm knock out power for two weeks right when temperatures hit above 100 degrees. It was a rough neighborhood with some gang activity, but even the thugs were out knocking on doors, checking on the elderly. It was good we did because a couple of them were in bad shape.
    That storm really showed me how a community can come together. Some neighbors were walking around with cups of water, making sure everyone was staying dehydrated. We set up our grill alongside another neighbor’s grill and everyone brought out their meat and we all ate together. We set up some elderly people in the basement, where it was actually still cool. It was like everyone forgot about their differences/problems and came together to survive.

    Casey wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • +1.

      Good on you, Casey, for having the orientation to BE one of the ones who helps. Caring for others is what makes survival, or life, a joy.

      Joy Beer wrote on November 1st, 2012
  24. This is a timely post because, although I didn’t suffer nearly as badly as many did as a result of Sandy, I did have problems. No power, road blocked due to fallen trees, one of which narrowly missed my home. On top of this my car decided to die. My neighbors, friends, and landlord stepped up and got me to work, provided showers, transportation, food, and yes, chainsaws to cut up those trees. I am astonished and gratified after this difficult week. I am a proud and humble member of a tribe.

    Siobhan wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • Siobhan,
      Off topic, but can you tell me how to pronounce your name? I am seeing it in more and more places and I can’t figure it out.

      Joshua wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Hi, correct me if I am wrong, it’s a lovely Irish name and is pronounced, umm, shiv-awn.
        :)

        Heather wrote on November 1st, 2012
        • Shivawn it is, then. Better than my guesses.

          Joshua wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  25. I live in a very small town of 1600 pop. Last year a micro blast wind hit the town knocking down trees and powerlines. There was an out-of-town construction company working the area. Immediately after the wind was over people were grabbing their chain saws and went to work cleaning up. Elderly folks whose electricity had been knock out were looked after. Within a few days all the broken trees had been cleared and moved to a vacant field to wait for the chipper to come and turn the limbs into mulch and compost. The construction company owners said they’ve worked areas in three other neighboring states and had never seen a community pull together the way this one had for similar disasters.

    Scott wrote on November 1st, 2012
  26. Most of my neighbors are idiots.

    Lynna wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • People tend to be what you expect them to be.

      Sofie wrote on November 1st, 2012
  27. Just move to Tennessee! We take care of each other around here! A few years ago, when half of our city (Nashville) was under water, everyone pulled together to help those affected by the flood. We even had too many volunteers! Many people in the country weren’t even aware that Nashville had an 1,000 year flood because there wasn’t much bad to put on the news.
    I agree. It is extremely important to get to know your neighbors. Unfortunately, it’s not like it used to be. People just walked down the street to visit their friends.

    April wrote on November 1st, 2012
  28. I really appreciated this post! We live out in the sticks, and while we don’t regularly have our neighbors over for dinner, we have gotten to know all of them over the past 8 years. They are all truly wonderful people and have helped us out just as we have helped them! Get to know your neighbors—it could be a pleasant surprise!

    solstice wrote on November 1st, 2012
  29. I really have no intention of getting to know my neighbors. Most of them don’t speak English and I Don’t want them knowing all about me and my business – and I frankly don’t care about them either.

    Sarah A. wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • gobsmacked.

      Jane wrote on November 2nd, 2012
      • blistering honesty is shocking where’ere it be found.

        Joshua wrote on November 2nd, 2012
    • Fences make good neighbors. Sandy blew my fence away. Drats.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  30. One of my favorite posts to date Mark

    Tyler Curley wrote on November 1st, 2012
  31. Thanks to Sandy we still don’t have commuter rail to NYC, don’t have power, just have natural gas to power the stove and water heater, but not the heat as that’s electronically controlled.

    At night we read by LED lanterns, or listen to podcasts/music. We recharge these devices in the car or off UPSs. We turn off the UPS after an hour or so because they drain very quickly. Seems newer UPSs have fans in them that turn on when on battery power – they tend to drain in 5-8 hours with little load. Strange.

    One’s an android tablet so backlight, doesn’t need a lantern, another’s a kindle and does. Also have regular books. Lanterns are AA, C, or D. We have some spare batteries left. Usually bought in big batches from Costco so that should last us a while.

    So we sleep in sweaters and sweats under comforters. Outside at night it’s about 45-50F right now, inside is around 60-65F.

    Luckily a local supermarket has had regular deliveries of ice. Not sure where they get it from and how, but I suspect a generator. Our deep freezer is perfectly fine, almost no ice melted in it in the last 4 days. The fridge/freezer upstairs however isn’t doing as well, some of the food has gone bad, but that’s a small price to pay (the grassfed beef is safe in the deep freezer. Yeay!)

    It’s difficult to cook in the dark with LED lanterns since they make everything blueish and you can’t really tell what’s happening. It helps when there’s sunlight.

    Sanitation is critical. Have to ensure everything is still fresh, and that you clean up carefully to prevent unwanted guests and reusing non cleaned utensils.

    Some neighbors had gone with electric stoves and thus have no way to cook but their BBQ – if that. Sometimes newer technology can be a bigger problem than the older versions.

    What really pisses me off is how many gas stations are shut down, and how there’s something like an 8 block line to one gas station that does have gas. In this day an age, you’d expect that a gas station would have a small gasoline generator, one that could be hooked up to the pumps and fed from the underground reservoir.

    Right we’re driving one town over to our inlaws who have power and internet, so I can at least work remotely. But at some point, I’ll run out of gas or come close and will need to wait many hours to get gas. I brought one of the UPSs with me, it’s been charging for 8 hours and it’s barely moved – these guys take days to fully charge I guess and drain quickly.

    Schools are closed, so the kids are with us. Young boys without entertainment is a very difficult situation when you’re trying to concentrate and do work.

    Our town has no street lights, and no traffic lights. Each intersection is now to be treated as a 4 way stop, and has become very slow to travel and dangerous.

    Storing gasoline doesn’t sound like a viable solution long term. Very volatile, will gas off and very dangerous. A propane/nat-gas generator sounds like the way to go in the future.

    Truly, we are very lucky. A few died as per the news, some were hiding in their basements when the ocean rushed in and drowned.

    The new internet is now people talking in groups outside their houses, walking down a few houses more, relaying information.

    Two blocks down from us, ocean view properly had several feet of ocean come in to their houses. Much damage was done. Even on our block, just a couple of hundred feet away, salt water came up 2-3 feet up the road and destroyed cars – salt water and electronics don’t mix. SUVs survived, regular cars didn’t. Ours weren’t reached.

    If you live anywhere near water, DO NOT hide in your basement from a hurricane. You might drown.

    You might think this is an excuse to sleep with the dark. Not to be. The stress of the situation is far too high, blueish lights from LEDs don’t help, but worse of all is hearing the several neighbors’ small gasoline generators run all night long – kind of like a chain saw running endlessly.

    raydawg wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • So sorry to read this rawdawg. Sending best wishes for fast return to normal life….

      mars wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • +1

        Madama Butterfry wrote on November 2nd, 2012
    • All too familiar with the nighttime songs of the gasoline generators!! Also getting concerned about the shortages. Sorry for your losses. It has been a year+ for us recovering from Irene, and the first few days/weeks were a hellish nightmare. Even from a distance, Sandy just seems so much worse, with the ocean impact on the infrastructure. Know that we are all sending wishes to the shore towns in the hopes that your recovery will be quick!

      Defrog wrote on November 1st, 2012
      • Oh believe me, I’m quite thankful to be safe and alive and in a house, from what I’ve seen around us.

        Things are looking up. The rail is starting up, made it into work today. Just trying to not run out of gasoline before power comes back, else won’t be able to go to work unless I want to walk many miles to the train station.

        raydawg wrote on November 2nd, 2012
        • Good luck fellow NJers!

          Man I am so disturbed that Princeton University is going to try and have everything run like “normal” tomorrow… tons of staff and faculty are out of power still I think… we’ll see what happens. I’m disappointed that the university seems to have such uneven standards of care for the community…

          Khainag wrote on November 4th, 2012
    • You can thank government subsidized insurance for people locating in dangerous places, and government imposed price controls that prevent gas and supplies from having an incentive to go where it is most needed. Also government that decided to build islands in the ocean and then put in tunnels like they wouldn’t get flooded. Stupid.

      Joshua wrote on November 2nd, 2012
      • We weren’t in a flood zone until in the last 4 years. Never had a flood until 2008. This is a new trend.

        raydawg wrote on November 2nd, 2012
  32. Hey,Mark, you forgot storage foods, Like Sardines, pemmican, canned vegitatables…

    dave, rn wrote on November 1st, 2012
  33. Awesome post! We are fortunate to know of our neighbors well, and we (7 families total) can definitely count on each other!

    mars wrote on November 1st, 2012
  34. I think Mark has also been watching revolution.

    Bobert wrote on November 1st, 2012
    • I think he might of read an essay on SOTT from a little while back, or one of the Worker Bees read it and suggested this idea.
      No matter, all ideas come from somewhere.

      Animanarchy wrote on November 5th, 2012
  35. Thanks for this post Mark. I’m in the DC area and got hit with a small taste of that storm. I am proud to say that with a couple of notable exceptions on our street we know are neighbors and they know us. Through all of the large storms, freakish weather and other horrific events here in DC, on our street we all have someone to turn to. My family is in MI, my husband’s in CA. It is comforting to know that if my cans get washed away somebody will feed my kids and me. It is a great insight and I hope all of you out there will get to know your neighbors.

    Kelly wrote on November 1st, 2012
  36. I have about a dozen neighbors, and I know them very well. Almost too well. We have gone through some bad times together; had huge fights; reconciled, etc. My biggest problem with my neighbors revolves around sexual harassment. The older men in my neighborhood are really bad about this. I got most of them to stop, but one old alcoholic got very bad this past summer and harassed not only me and another woman, but a young girl. I have to avoid him completely now. It sounds great to say, “Know your neighbors,” but the truth is, getting to know people sometimes means you find out that they’re crazy assholes.

    shannon wrote on November 1st, 2012
  37. How did you know I have a neighbour called Paul…?

    Kitty =^..^= wrote on November 1st, 2012
  38. Mark, timely topic! As NJ residents who had 4+ feet of sewer water to clean up in our basement after Hurricane Irene last year, my husband and I prepared for the worst as we heard about Sandy’s approach. With several homes being condemned by FEMA last year, our whole town braced for impact.

    We are fortunate to live in an area with a strong sense of community; our town even has a community-supported charitable organization that will help residents with mortgage/utility payments and food in the case of job loss or illness. People in town believe that this connectedness makes people who grow up here want to stay in town, generation after generation.

    About three weeks ago we had new neighbors move in; their daughter will be in the same grade as ours, and with them and two other families, we are forming a great block-long network of families where we trust to send our young children for a few hours at a time so we can run errands or take care of our houses. After Sandy, we have many downed trees and electrical wires (but have maintained power!). We are helping each other to get back to normal as quickly as we can, when our other friends and relatives aren’t able to get to us.

    Having a widely disbursed network of friends and family is wonderful, but there is something to be said for having a group of people nearby who can help out.

    Defrog wrote on November 1st, 2012
  39. If you are preparing for the big disaster (end of civialization type), make sure your friends include not just your close neighbor, but also a farmer a long ways out there. Unless you and your neighbors can survive on your garden you will need someway to get food. The farmers with thousands of acres (non primal corn…) will not be able to tend that. However if you are friend they will let you plant a garden in their fields, set you up with a cow: you can survive on that.

    Henry Miller wrote on November 1st, 2012
  40. I don’t know my neighbors, but my brother does. Of course, I’m there only 2 days per month. My community is a mobile one. Truck drivers go out of their way to help each other and fellow travellers. I keep a back-pack stocked and ready to go in case of emergency (earthquake, flood, marshall law, emp blast, etc). I have friends and family all over the US to rely upon, should the need arise. I have had first aid training and, thanks to BP, I am fit enough to save myself and others. Community is important, but its important to be able to contribute. I wouldn’t want to be a burden.

    TruckerLady wrote on November 1st, 2012

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