What We Can Learn From The East Coast Power Outages
It has been interesting to me to read through the stories that have come out of the cities which were hit the worst in the recent storms that have swept the East Coast. For those who are wise enough to sit up and take note, there are lessons to be learned. The first and most important lesson being that preparing for an emergency doesn’t have to be for an all out End-Of-The-World-As-We-Know-It scenario. Something as common as a bad summer storm can be all it takes to cause enough damage to cripple towns and cities with extended power outages.
We were fortunate in that we only lost power for the good part of one day. But even that quickly became uncomfortable as temperatures outdoors rose well over 100*. And as much as we’ve tried to be prepared for stuff like this, there’s always something you realize you forgot to do. I’ll share my thoughts on that in a minute, but first I’d like to go over a few quotes from other articles that stuck out at me, and discuss them a little.
“Today makes seven days without power since last Friday, and we don’t have water either,” said Tammy Pickles, a 40-year-old convenience store manager waiting in line with a dozen other people under a hot midday sun for a meal.
“Money is really tight,” said Pickles, who has a 12-year-old daughter at home. “I’m not sure how many more trips I can make out here to get a hot meal. I’m not sure I can afford the gas.” Chicago Tribune
If you’ve been on my blog long enough you’ve heard me say it over and over again. At the very least, you need to have enough non-perishable food and water to sustain your family for two weeks. This must be a priority. You do not want to have to depend on other people to feed you and your loved ones.
A Safeway supermarket tried to remain open with a limited power supply and handed out free bags of dry ice. But the air inside was stale. Shopping carts with spoiled food, buzzing with flies, sat outside the store. Huffington Post
Don’t be foolish enough to think that grocery stores will always be there for you. Without electricity, food spoils and cash registers don’t run. Gas shortages or price increases can cause truck drivers to be unable to deliver goods to the stores. Fallen debris in the roads, accidents, traffic, and blocked lanes can also cause deliveries to be late or unable to be received. Don’t take it for granted that you’ll always be able to get what you need when you need it.
In this heat, ice has become the most valuable commodity. Pinehurst Wine Shop in Maryland is buying extra ice just to give it away at the end of the night.
That ice may salvage a few more perishables. Families have lost food and have to spend money on eating out.
“We can’t afford to go out every single meal, so we’ve been bringing some stuff home, using the grill, used up everything we could possibly use up in the first 48 hours,” one woman without power said. CBN.news
It’s important to have a backup non-electric method of cooking or heating food. And it’s helpful to have a stash of meals that basically only need to be heated. When an emergency strikes, you may not have extra money to go out to eat with, and local restaurants may not have power either. It’s so much better to have your own home “store”.
The following locations are now serving as food pantries for residents who have lost food to power outages:
Vineland Salvation Army, 733 E. Chestnut Ave., Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. until 2:30 p.m. Residents must make an appointment before arriving. Call 856-696-5050 to set a time. Emergencies will be taken on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Please note, NJSNAP (food stamps) recipients cannot make an appointment until after July 20. Recipients must provide a photo identification, proof of income and proof of residence.
A clothes pantry is open at this location Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1:15 p.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday from 9:30 a.m. until noon. For food or clothing at this location call 856-691-1841 for an appointment. You must provide your Social Security card.
• Vineland Ministries Fellowship Emergency Food Bank, at the First United Methodist Church, Seventh Street and Landis Avenue, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. However, this location will be closed the Wednesday and Friday nearest to the first of the month.
• Help & Hope Ministries, 216 Howard St., Millville. Emergency food assistance available Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to noon. Call 856-825-2375 to make an appointment.
• The Bridgeton Salvation Army, 29 W. Commerce St., will serve as the emergency food referral for residents in the Bridgeton area. They will be operating Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., but will be closed daily from noon to 1 p.m. for lunch. A referral from a municipal or county office of emergency management (OEM) and identification is required for food assistance.
You need to understand that even handouts may not be very easily acquired. Food banks may only be open for short periods of time and may be impossible for you to reach. They also may require proof of identification, and food stamp recipients may have to wait even longer for help.
About 286,000 utility customers throughout Virginia are still without power this morning as a result of violent weekend storms that have been blamed for at least 11 deaths in the state, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office said.
Officials are urging Virginians to take precautions from the high heat and advising those with immediate need for shelter, food or water to check with local governments, social services departments or volunteer groups for assistance. Roanoke.com
Think about it. Would you really want to be waiting with thousands of other unprepared residents for food, water, and shelter? Doesn’t it seem wiser to just be ready to take care of yourself and your loved ones?
Residents using walkers struggled to navigate doors that were supposed to open automatically. Nurses had to throw out spoiled food, sometimes over the loud objections of residents. KCRG News
She said she had lost $400 to $500 worth of food from her freezer and refrigerator when the power went out. Chicago Tribune
Many of these folks lost hundreds of dollars worth of food that spoiled. It would be wise to keep only a limited amount of food stored long term in your freezer. Canning what you are able to would be a good idea. The sooner, the better.
The area has been without power for a week to run the gas pumps, and locals are struggling to find gasoline to run the back-up generators.
“You couldn’t get gas for two days to run anything,” said Darius Snedegar, a retired 71-year-old truck driver, as he took a break from cutting his lawn. “It ain’t been good at all.” Chicago Tribune
The Stop Lights were out, the streets were blocked off, Gas Stations across this area were lined up all the way in one block. Fast Food Restaurants were packed including the drive thru. Surviving a Derecho Wind Storm
Be sure to have backup fuel stored for emergencies. You do NOT want to be caught in an emergency without it. You’ll need gas or diesel for vehicles, a generator, and chainsaws, all of which can be vital in disasters. We’ve all heard the stories of people getting in fights at the pumps, gas stations running out of or rationing fuel, or gas stations simply being without power and unable to run the pumps. Don’t allow yourself to depend on them last minute.
Dollie Gabbert, 64, said she had just finished dumping food from her two refrigerators and two freezers. She was worried about her husband Gene, a 79-year-old diabetic who is on oxygen for heart and lung ailments, she said. Without power, the Gabberts have been using bags of ice to keep his insulin cold.
“We are having a time, having a time,” she said, a miniature flashlight in one hand.
The Gabberts have been able to recharge the batteries for his oxygen pump from a neighbor’s generator and he has been sitting in their truck running the air conditioning to feel more comfortable, she said. Chicago Tribune
The lack of power completely upended many daily routines… People on perishable medication called pharmacies to see how long their medicine would keep. KCRG News
If at all possible, get a backup generator if you don’t have one already. Something that you could at least use to run water if you’re on a well, the fridge/freezer, and a few small appliances. People who depend on electricity for life-saving equipment or perishable medications particularly need to have this in place. It could mean life or death.
…Vineland Police say they’ve stepped up patrols in the hardest hit areas. Lieutenant John McCann tells NBC10 there have been at least three reports of stolen generators within the past week.
“The best thing is to make sure they’re chained to something and locked.” NBC News
You’ll want to have a heavy duty chain and a good lock to secure your generator with as well.
For the Brennan’s, a young family in the Chicago area, it was bedtime stories by flashlight, followed by sleep soaked in sweat, for the second night in a row.
“It’s sweaty. It’s got to be above 90 in here, it’s hot, there’s not much air moving around,” dad Pat Brennan said. CBN.com
At the Springvale Terrace nursing home and senior center in Silver Spring, Md., generators were brought in to provide electricity, and air-conditioning units were installed in windows in large common rooms to offer respite from the heat and darkness. KCRG News
If you do have a generator, a window unit a/c would be a good thing to have as a back-up to central air, especially for unbearably hot days when you are stuck at home. A small unit is all you would need to cool a single room, and would give your family a retreat for relief from the heat.
In Baltimore County, Eveena Felder, a registered nurse, had been relying on air-conditioned public areas to keep cool during the day and a fan to help her family sleep.
“We’ve purchased a ton of batteries, that’s where most of our money has gone,” Felder said. “Turn the fan on and keep still, don’t move, less energy.” KCRG News
Be sure to have plenty of batteries and a couple of box fans on hand. Or battery operated fans.
More than 2,200 Vineland residents were still in the dark as of Friday afternoon, due to multiple problems municipal utility workers have been encountering this week, including instances of stolen cables.
“…people out there are stealing cables, for the copper or aluminum and trying to get whatever they can for them. People don’t have a lot of money in some areas, and it is disrupting the work to get everyone back to power.” Nj.com
There were many stories of people coming together to help each other. But let’s face it, there are also bad people out there just waiting for an opportunity to take advantage of a catastrophe. They will do whatever it takes to take care of their #1: themselves.
Power was out for 100 hours. The landline telephones were down for 3 days, 911 was down for two, and the water restrictions lasted upwards of a week. Some counties are asking its’ residents to boil their water before drinking it. Surviving the Derecho (a fun, interesting first hand account)
911 is not a given. Their lines can easily be overrun with calls and put out of service. Be prepared to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your home. Don’t assume help will always be available.
Brooks will likely fork over more cash for a hotel room rather than sit and bake inside his Woodlawn home.“It’s rough. It’s wiping out my account,” he said. CBS News
Even if you don’t plan on going anywhere, it is a good idea to set aside some cash just in case you absolutely cannot stay at home, and you have nowhere to stay but a hotel. You just never know.
Did you gather any other lessons from these article clips, or from others you’ve read??
The kids and I were fortunate in that we only lost power for half of a day during the storms. But with it over 100* outside, indoor temps were quickly hovering close to a very humid 90*. And when we lose power, we lose water as well. So, the very first thing I did was run all of the water in the taps into a container and stuck it in the fridge. This would be for drinking, mainly.
Here were a few thoughts I jotted down as the hours went by:
When changing diapers I had run out of wipes solution, and had been using just plain water on a wet rag to wipe baby. Fortunately, I had a squirt bottle of water I could use for diaper changes. I had rain barrel water and sanitizer to wash my hands. Disposable diapers and wipes would be good to have as a back-up.
The thought crossed my mind that we could use the ice in the freezer to drink if it started melting.
I had to remind the kids to keep the fridge closed to keep the cool air in.
I was grateful when my phone rang. It’s a new phone that a friend gave us recently, and I didn’t realize it was a rotary! It was nice to be connected to the outside world.
It’s tricky to clean the kitchen without water. Usually I wet a rag and wipe counters that way. And the dishes just had to wait. It occurred to me that disposables would be nice to have in an emergency, when dishes can’t be washed. Paper would be better than plastic, as it can be safely burned.
Toilet drop-ins are not a good idea. The water in the tank is potable otherwise.
Little battery-operated hand held fans would have been nice. I considered folding some paper to make Chinese style fans for all of us.
The only food we could eat immediately was stuff that didn’t need to be cooked. I was glad to have sandwich stuff in the fridge, and fresh fruit and veggies.
Make sure you’re caught up on laundry.
It also occurred to me that disposable feminine hygiene products would be good to have on hand when running water isn’t available. I know I’ve talked about the Diva Cup and washable pads… but now I think disposables that could be burned should also be stocked up.
Even though my kids are very low-tech, they quickly got bored when they couldn’t go outside to play and there wasn’t much to do indoors. Crafts or games are good to have ready and waiting. For those whose kids would be bouncing off the walls without video games or movies, some battery operated hand held games might suffice. Have batteries ready.
It didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t have a single battery operated clock in the house. I had no idea what time it was until I called a friend.
Keep your cell phones charged.
Flashlights or “sun jars” would have been necessary had the outage lasted through the evening.
Of course, this is not a full on survival primer. Just my thoughts on miscellaneous things that should be considered.
Did you or someone you know experience the recent “derecho” or long term power outages? Were there any lessons to be learned that really stuck out at you?