Friday, November 9, 2012

Urban Hurricane Preparation

So I've recently lived through the effects of Hurricane Sandy here in the Northeast and I want to give my perspective on how to prepare for a Hurricane if you live in an urban area like me. This isn't a guide per se, but a few things I ran into.

  • Thanks to modern weather forecasting, we knew there was a potential monster storm coming in at least 3 days before it actually hit. My first tip is not to ignore the weather forecasts. Especially if they are dire.  In fact, if you need to guarantee productivity (ie power and internet connection) for office/computer work etc., you might even want to fly you or some of your staff out of town and stay in a cheap hotel somewhere out of harm's way for a week.
  • Gas up. Before the storm comes in, fill your car with gas, and if you have gas cans, fill those also. (Note: if you live in an apartment you likely can't keep gas cans in there due to fumes and general safety. This is more for people with garages and generators. Be extremely careful when storing and transporting gas.) There are long gas lines in NY, NJ and CT at the moment. Bonus points if you have a bicycle that you can attach a basket to for groceries in a pinch so you dont even need to use that much gas.
  • This is an odd one, but something that came up. Your garage door opener might not work after a storm. Go into your garage and pull the disengagement handle for the electronic opening mechanism. You now have an old fashioned door that pulls up and down by hand. Tie a rope with a heavy weight on the end to weigh the door down so it does not blow up in strong winds.
  • A lot of people were so focused on the storm that they ignored the weather forecast for after the storm, which was pretty cold. Be ready to stay warm if needed. Blankets!
  • If you have an electric stovetop, you could be screwed. People with gas at least had something on which to cook, make coffee and tea etc. Ditto for the electric coffeemaker. I highly recommend this regardless of hurricaines, but get an Aerobie AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker immediately (check out my review of the aeropress here)!
  • Stock up on dry, canned foods and water. 
  • Stuff sealed ziplock bags mostly full of water into the empty spaces in your freezer. They keep stuff cold longer if the power goes out and in a pinch you can even drink the water.
  • Follow the advice on Go bags etc. are handy. If floods are a threat, you need to be ready to move.
  • Have good battery powered lighting. I own a Fenix E21 Flashlight and I kept it on me at all times during the power outage. I love this thing. The advantages of this light are: 1) it is super bright. I'm talking daylight in a dark room bright. 2) it is small 3) It is heavy duty and waterproof. I saw a youtube video where someone had it lit in a bucket of water for a day or something and it still worked. 4) It takes common AA batteries. Another suggestion is to get a book light for reading and a LED lantern for general lighting. A headlamp is also good for doing dishes or other work in the dark. Try to get them all running on common batteries so you can stock up on those (AA for example). Also have CANDLES. I hadn't had a candlelight (only) dinner in years and its amazing how much light a couple of candles can throw off. 
  • Have a good battery powered radio. When the power goes off, BOOM, instant loss of all those nice news anchors giving you up to the second updates on doppler radar so you will be dying to hear some kind of news and the radio is your friend in this situation. Seems like all of our clock radios took 9 volt batteries and at one point we ALMOST considered taking the battery out of the smoke detector to put in a radio for a few minutes but luckily we found one. Bonus points if it also has a hand crank as backup in case you're out of batteries. I can see these things selling like hotcakes in the wake of the storm. If you had solar powered stuff, it might have been ok for a very brief period of time, but there hasn't been much sun around lately.
  • Make friends. So you haven't spoken to your neighbor in three years? Well how do you feel now that he has a generator and you're in desperate need of someplace to plug an electric heater for an hour to keep frostbite at bay? I saw a lot of examples of people helping eachother out with some food, or even a place to stay. Your neighbors and family can be a huge help in times of emergency.
That's just a little advice from personal experience. There are more complete guides elsewhere ( for example) and I definitely recommend you check them out if a storm is headed your way.