Prepping 101: Learn from the Past to Prep for the Future

sandy thermostat

Hey, friends!  As promised, here is the cautionary tale on being prepared that I promised you in this week’s earlier post.  My dear friend, Shannon, from Financially Blonde, went through her own 10 days of trouble as they experience a long-term power outage after Hurricane Sandy.  Here, Shannon shares her experience, and some of the lessons she learned about the importance of preparedness.  Thank you so much, Shannon, for sharing your story!

I lived in Florida for five years, and during that time, we experienced some very active hurricane seasons. And I always remember the local news teams interviewing families who were “surprised” that they got hit by the hurricane and were not prepared for it. I would sit there in shock at their lack of preparedness especially after having lived through previous hurricanes and I vowed that I would not be one of them. We were fortunate in our years in Florida to never get hit by a hurricane despite a few near misses. The irony was that we moved back up to New York and had worse luck with hurricanes in New York than we did in Florida.

 

You don’t know what you got…

 

There is a great song by the 80s hair band, Cinderella, “You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” where they obviously lament the loss of a loved one; however, the song also applies for our basic needs like electricity. We learned this in August of 2011, when Hurricane Irene impacted New York. At the time, we were living in an apartment and lost power for three days.

At first when the lights go out, you actually think that it is romantic and that you could use a break from being constantly plugged in. However, you quickly realize how much you rely on your phone for communication and information and without a source to recharge your phone, you will rapidly lose your connection to outside resources. Our apartment’s water heater and oven were also electric, which severely limited our personal care and meal options when they went out. During this period, we were in the process of looking for a home to buy, and the experience definitely impacted our decision making process for the home.

 Home Preparedness

After the experience of losing power in the apartment, and knowing what could happen in Florida, we realized that there were a number of items we would need to make sure that our future home would be a good place of refuge should an emergency weather situation arise. Here were some things we looked for:

 

  1. A gas operated water heater
  2. A gas based cook top
  3. A basement
  4. A generator
  5. Storage for basic supplies
  6. A wood burning fireplace

 

We were fortunate enough to find a home with all of these features and one year after finding this home, our preparedness was tested.

 Hurricane Sandy

On October 28, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit us, and while I definitely know that there were a number of people who struggled more than we did, we did not come out unscathed in the process. I live in a heavily wooded suburb of New York and while we did not have the flooding problems that many coastal areas suffered, we did have a number of downed trees that left us without power for a total of 10 days. Having learned from our previous power outage situation, we were definitely prepared for this situation. Here is how that home prep list paid off for us.

 

  1. A gas operated water heater – Despite the fact that the house temperature was somewhere between 42 and 50 degrees, we were able to take warm showers everyday. The showers were critical for us to thaw our bodies and retain our sanity as the days without power wore on.
  2. A gas based cook top – We were able to prepare warm meals every day that consisted initially of food that needed to be cleared from the refrigerator, followed by canned goods that we always keep for emergencies.
  3. A basement – The basement was cool enough to act as a natural refrigerator for most of our food and also the place that we escaped to when the winds were at their highest.
  4. A generator – My hubby turned the generator on twice a day for a few hours at a time. In the morning, we turned it on to run the coffee maker and my hair dryer predominantly (I did have to continue going to work everyday) and in the evening, it powered our internet for an hour or so for entertainment for my son and any communication needs that we had.
  5. Storage for basic supplies – Over the years, I have saved candles, especially used ones to provide lighting should we lose electricity. Some people have made fun of me for my candle collection; however, over 10 days, we burned through most of these. We also ate quite a bit of our canned goods that we had on hand for this type of situation as well.
  6. A wood-burning fireplace – We not only had to handle a hurricane; however, we also had a cold front that brought a snowstorm in early November on the heels of the hurricane. The fireplace was critical for heating our home and also giving us a great place to congregate.

 Don’t Miss Out on Learning Opportunities

Despite the fact that I felt as though we were very prepared for this event, we could have been better prepared. We were smart enough to have a generator and a supply of gas; however, we did not have enough gas to run the generator for more than a few days. My hubby was forced to have to find gas and that was not an easy task three days after the hurricane. In fact, there were gas lines like you heard about in the 70’s all over our county. Thanks to the app, gas buddy, he found a station almost 20 miles away; however, he had to wait in a very long line to refill our supply.

I also realized that while our homeowner’s insurance covered the basics, we did not have flood insurance. If you do not live in a flood zone, you won’t be required to have this, yet if your home gets hit by a hurricane, your insurance provider will likely say that it was flood that damaged your items and not wind. So, we have since added flood insurance to our home coverage. And the great news is that because we don’t live in a flood zone, it is not a big hit on our budget, but it did help us rest easier through this last hurricane season.

 Use the past as a guide for the future

I think the most important part of prepping for emergencies is to understand that we are given lessons from the past and it is important for us to learn the lessons so that we are not taken off guard like all of those families in Florida that I would watch on the local news. It is not fun to have to live through natural disasters, but it is even worse when you are not prepared to handle them. Despite the fact that we were well prepared to go for 10 days without power, we still had a tremendous amount of stress and worry through the process. I am glad that it was not compounded by a lack of preparedness.

 

Did a natural disaster that impacted you or someone else, change your view on your preparedness? How would you fair without power for 10 days?

25 comments

  1. Wow, I couldn’t imagine being without power for 10 days. However, it definitely sounds like you were able to make it through it fairly well thanks to some planning. When I was a kid we had one time where we were without power for 5-6 days and it wasn’t fun at all. That said, we have a few of these things covered, mainly the gas operated items but I know there is more we could do. We’re at risk for tornados, so thankfully we have a basement. 🙂

    • Laurie says:

      I know what you mean about the basement, John. That is one feature we are grateful for in this house. I can’t imagine not having one in the tornado prone areas.

  2. Kathy says:

    Our generator got us through a tornado and an ice storm, both of which knocked power out for almost a week each time. At the house we live in now, we invested in a whole house stand-by generator for $5000. It comes on automatically and is tied into our natural gas line.

    • Laurie says:

      Kathy, I was just talking with a neighbor about the power outage we had and she said “Oh, yeah, that. We knew the power went out at one point b/c the digital clocks were all blinking, but we had no idea how long it was out.” They have a generator hooked up to their fusebox/power supply. 🙂 Now, that’s a nice way to handle a power outage!

  3. Wow! What an experience. Thanks for sharing with us. Prepping is something I need to do more of. Laurie, I really liked all of your related posts about this topic lately. Thanks for telling us more about prepping and why it necessary for everyone.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, Shannon’s story really hit it home for me. Going 10 days without power seems kind of surreal, but once you find out that someone you know has actually been through it, it makes it a real possibility.

  4. E.M. says:

    Thankfully, we were only out of power for about three days with Sandy. I can’t imagine 10! Some parts of LI were bad, though. My job actually had power, so I took advantage of that. Most of our food at home went bad, even though we had put big bags of ice in the freezers. Gas was insane! We used gas buddy as well; my dad actually filled up our cars at 1am one night. I just remember being so scared the day after as we couldn’t get in touch with anyone. It’s a horrible feeling. In all the time I lived there I never remember anything that bad coming through, so unfortunately we were not very prepared, but we did the best we could.

    • Laurie says:

      One thing we always do is to make sure our vehicles are at least halfway filled up. This way if we need to get out of town, we’re prepared to do so. SO glad you guys made it through okay – even 3 days would be tough, E.M.!

  5. We had just moved in to our house the weekend Hurricane Sandy was on it’s way. What a mess it was. We were lucky to only lose power to a few hours but many of our neighbors went a week without it. The gas situation was just crazy and I managed to be ok because I filled up the Saturday before the storm. That was a lesson learned. Always have a full tank of gas before a storm hits. I think a lot of people learned that lesson. Also, get some cash from the bank. Many ATMs were not working because there was no power.

    • Laurie says:

      Wow, Raquel! Smart move on your part, filling up on gas and having some cash on hand. Glad you guys weathered the storm okay (no pun intended 🙂 )

  6. My overall preparedness level is probably a 3 or 4 on a scale of 10. However! My area was under a tornado watch yesterday. When the winds picked up and the rain poured, I looked down at my phone– only 18% charged! I immediately ran to plug it in, just in case! Baby steps!

    • Laurie says:

      Yikes!!! Good for you for checking your phone right away. We would’ve been out of luck too, as my phone was near dead, but luckily my daughter is smarter than me and had charged hers up the night before. 🙂

  7. Coming from Florida, I’m no stranger to hurricanes. I couldn’t imagine having to go through that up north though. At least during hurricane season in Florida it’s somewhere between 80 and 100 degrees, so a good cold shower isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But wow, 40-50 degrees with no power, that would be bad! Growing up, my dad always had the MREs fresh water and more saved up during hurricane season. Now, I’ve got Ana. She’s the most prepared person I’ve ever met! Personally, I’m horrible at preparing for the worst…then again, with Ana around I don’t have to!

  8. Marie says:

    Last year, our country was hit by two big calamities, the 7.2 earthquake magnitude and the super typhoon Yolanda. Thankfully, we had stored enough foods and we also had an emergency kit that really helped us a lot.

    • Laurie says:

      Marie, SO very glad you were prepared as you dealt with those two terrible disasters. I would imagine it would’ve been much worse without those supplies on hand.

  9. Wow great job on being prepared! 10 days is a really long time to be without power! Ive never been that adversely affected by any kind of natural disaster, but I live in earthquake country, so my guess is it’s bound to happen eventually. I think the biggest hurdle I run into is lack of space in my apt. I also don’t want to stockpile TOO much food, because even canned has an expiration date right, and I don’t really eat canned food enough to cycle through it. Any tips?

    • Laurie says:

      Under the bed is a great place for storage, Tonya, and as far as food, we don’t eat much canned food either, but we have on hand stuff that we can stomach. Also, things like peanut butter, and granola bars, that stuff is good too. Crackers and chips don’t have a terribly long shelf life, but if you rotate out your favorites every six months or so, at least you’ve got some good stuff that you like on hand. And in your case, 3 or 4 gallons of spring water wouldn’t hurt either.

  10. “There is a great song by the 80s hair band, Cinderella, “You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” where they obviously lament the loss of a loved one; however, the song also applies for our basic needs like electricity.” I have no idea why that made me laugh out loud, but it did.

    I remember being really impressed with how prepared my parents were. I think it was because we camped so much, we essentially just camped inside for the week after the storm until the electricity came back on.

    It was also VERY helpful that my grandmother lived a few blocks away, but on the local hospital’s power grid, so she had her power restored about 24 hours after the storm. We spent a lot of time over there the following week too.

    • Laurie says:

      I love it when unseemingly funny stuff gives us a case of the giggles. 🙂 Wow, what a blessing that your grandmother lived where she did!! I would’ve never though of that as a survival tip. 🙂

  11. I am not anywhere near a hurricane area, as we are very sheltered, however, we are constantly being told that we will experience a huge earthquake sooner rather than later. I feel horrible for this, but we are not prepared in the least, should it happen. Except for earthquake insurance – we do have that. Lots of the stuff that you have mentioned for hurricane preparedness would not do us good for earthquake preparedness, but we should have something!

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