How to Survive a Natural Disaster

With 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.

TAGS:  prevention

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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98 thoughts on “How to Survive a Natural Disaster”

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    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

    1. 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!

    2. 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!

      1. 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 😉

    3. i know your situation sucks – but being in the mt’s with 3ft of snow sounds like heaven to me

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

    1. 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…

      1. 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).

      2. 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. 😉

      3. 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!

  6. 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.

    1. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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…

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

    1. I think the worst thing that could happen to AZ that is a posibility would be living without water…

      1. 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 . . . .

        1. 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:

        2. There seriously aren’t enough people around with Scout experience…or, sadly, even a manual!

        3. 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 . . . .

  14. 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.

    1. That’s a great question! And one to ask myself, too, of myself.

  15. 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.

    1. Sounds like my mother. She’s on first name terms with 3/4 of the city.

  16. 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 storage, generators, etc, he has a big emphasis on building community. Check it out.

  17. 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.

  18. 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!

  19. 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!

  20. 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!


  21. 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.

    1. +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.

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. Hi, correct me if I am wrong, it’s a lovely Irish name and is pronounced, umm, shiv-awn.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

    1. So sorry to read this rawdawg. Sending best wishes for fast return to normal life….

    2. 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!

      1. 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.

        1. 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…

    3. 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.

      1. We weren’t in a flood zone until in the last 4 years. Never had a flood until 2008. This is a new trend.

  28. Hey,Mark, you forgot storage foods, Like Sardines, pemmican, canned vegitatables…

  29. Awesome post! We are fortunate to know of our neighbors well, and we (7 families total) can definitely count on each other!

    1. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. We experienced this first hand in the Queensland floods in 2011 (Australia). We didn’t have power for 6 days, which is probably a good deal shorter than what NY will have to deal with after Sandy.

    I can tell you from experience, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, once the power shuts down and your home/community is damaged, instinct puts you out there. You go looking to see if people are safe, and they come to see if you’re safe (even if they didn’t know you very well). You both ask if you’ve got enough food, especially where children and the elderly are concerned.

    The best thing we all discovered was rustling up community resources. We made sure everyone in the street was taken care of, then those who didn’t have children to care for, went out to volunteer in the wider community.

    I was able to get into town after a few days (as the roads were all chopped up) and when shop assistants knew what area I was from – one of the flooded ones, they literally gushed with how glad they were I was safe. They were complete strangers, and I couldn’t help by cry once I left the store.

    It’s remarkable the love and community support that comes out after a natural disaster. I feel for those affected by Sandy, as I know it’s going to be a tough few weeks (and then months) ahead.

    I can talk in hindsight because of our experience, but it’s another matter when you’re still feeling raw, immediately after the destructive forces of nature hit.

    Community is the balm of life. 🙂

  36. Well, since I can wrap wounds, splint fractures, have carpentry and masonry skills, can hunt, fish, farm, can and preserve food… my family is screwed if anything happens to me!

  37. Great post! We moved to new neighbourhood 2 years ago and got a puppy. On our previous street, we only talk to 1 neightbour (who was constantly gardering outside). With the dog, I now know the morning and night routine of the entire street, all the kids’ names and most of the neightbours. What a difference! It’s nice to have a ‘reason’ to interact with people, especially when you’re naturally an introvert.

  38. Great post. This is a wake up call to all of us socially isolated modern people. I’ve already started up saying hi to people, difficult when you’re not used to it. (I know!) Many people do not acknowledge greetings and some are downright hostile. But others are friendly and those are the ones I could take the next step and stop in my walk long enough for a conversation. Baby steps like my walking program was post surgery.

  39. After the New Zealand earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 one University student, Sam Johnson, started up the Student Volunteer Army (SVA) which utilised Facebook and other media to co-ordinate thousands of university students to help with the manual shoveling of liquefaction off people’s properties (and many other tasks). What those students did was incredible and changed the perception many older people had of Uni students, from the beer drinking, partying types to hard working awesome volunteers. Take a look at their website, maybe someone could do the same for the Sandy victims.

    1. To add to my post above, the SVA just held a concert with many top bands in Christchurch but there was a catch. You couldn’t buy a ticket, you had to do a certain number of hours volunteering to get a ticket. Another great idea, I think.

      1. That is a good idea. I used to wash dishes at a resource center for poor youth. It was normally a staff job but if I did it and occasionally did some sweeping they’d give me bus tickets.
        Sometimes I’d take them to the city square and sell them to people waiting for the bus at a discount price. Everybody won.

  40. So what I like and at the same time don’t like about all your advice is that we should really know this stuff.

    And I don’t like that we need to be reminded of it over and over again!

    But the PB guidelines are going back to the basics – like get some natural light each day, move your body, etc. – We should know this stuff! I am just like everyone else who needs the reminder.

    So this particular post hit a nerve because I always felt like I lived in the crappiest neighborhood where no one knows each other, and no one makes an attempt to know each other. After reading this post, I got up off my a$$, made a sign-in sheet and walked around the neighborhood and got everyone’s information.

    People actually thanked me for doing this!

    I came home, typed it up, emailed it out, hand delivered it to a lady who doesn’t have a computer, and everyone’s happy.

    Really? It was so easy to do. And it should have been done YEARS ago.

    Thank you, Mark. For reminding us of the little easy stuff that we should already be doing!

  41. I just got power back this evening and including my neighborhood from Hurricane Sandy.

    And I definitely agree with this blog post.

    I agree that a community (friends and or neighborhood) helps rebuild after a disaster.

    This past week, I noticed my neighbors ran out of gas for their generator and saw them chopping wood for their fireplace. I offered them half of wood from a fallen branch that fell in front of my yard. The owner was grateful that I would offer half of wood, but declined stating that his son-in-law brought over more fuel for the generator. I could tell he was grateful for the offering.

    A close community like this helps rebuild faster.

    Now I got to talk to and help another neighbor who has a fallen tree in their yard. It’s a great way to build a relationship and gather firewood for the next storm! 😀

  42. How do you survive an Obama re-election? Lock and load, move to Texas. This nation is finished.

  43. Katrina was the disaster that first got my attention and I have been following them since. I find it scary that so few people take this seriously enough to put together even a basic Plan! Keep up the GREAT work!

    Jeff Morris

  44. Yeah, I totally agree that friends definitely play a big roll in an emergency situation.
    We once had a fire in our house and somehow my older brother got trapped between the fire while we were all running outside. One of our neighbors, who is a very old and close friend of my father(=he didn’t know about the fire because he was out of town), got tired of waiting for the fire department to arrive so he decided to take a risk and try to save my brother.

    Luckily they made it, but if our good old friend hadn’t helped my brother he would probably be dead now.

    By the way, here is a quick recommendation regarding surviving natural disasters. I accidentally stumbled upon this free audio series that talks about how to survive natural disasters like Sandy, Ebola, Tsunamis and others. Pretty cool stuff. Check it out here:

    Thank you Mark for this insightful article.

  45. Very good point made here. When you say in actual disaster, it’s not the govt. aid but friends, family & community helps, it has been proved correct so many times.

    Thanks for the article.