Oh, Sandy — And How to Be Ready for Her Sisters

It’s good to admit weakness.  Although we were lucky enough to not suffer any serious damage from the storm, it was an acute reminder to this household, and I’m sure others, that we were generally underprepared.  It’s so painfully easy to get wrapped up in the day to day and to put off doing things that will make your life easier when you have something more serious to worry about than your own busy-ness.  One of my own personal challenges is failing to approach things in digestible pieces.  I tend to try to tackle the whole mountain — in this case, investigating, reviewing, interviewing experts, before sitting down to stuff a safety-pack.  However, there’s no time like the present, when you’re not staring down the eye of a storm, to start preparing for the unexpected, even if that start is just making a list of what you might need.  It is okay to start small, and proceed small, and eventually you will have something very big accomplished.  (A writer/mentor/friend of mine, Crescent Dragonwagon, advocates relentless incrementalism, and I’m incrementally incorporating the notion.)

That in mind, I am finally ready to start getting serious about getting at least more adequately prepared than I felt about a month ago, as Superstorm Sandy was rolling in.  (It’s an awful feeling when the drain in your bathtub doesn’t work and all you’re hearing on the radio is how everyone should be filling their bathtubs to the brim in the event of pure catastrophe — the unknown is always the villain in these scenes).

There are many lists available online for how you should stock your home in the event of an emergency.  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments on this list, and to recommend others.  As for now, I’m keeping it simple with an old standard — FEMA.  According to FEMA, the following is what you need to stock your basic disaster supplies kit.  (If anyone can think of a better name for the “basic disaster supplies kit,” please share.  While I’m no Pollyanna, I still think the words we use help shape and create our own reality.  Maybe something along the lines of Adventure Pack for the Unexpected, or Welcome the Unknown Gift Basket….?)

Anyway, here’s the list…

  • Water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert and extra batteries for both
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • Dust mask to help filter contaminated air and plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Manual can opener for food
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers, inverter or solar charger

I was calling my adult daughter the day before the storm hit, making sure she had good old-fashioned paper maps, atlas, etc., since her cell phone has been her fifth appendage since high school.  From my own experience on September 11, I can’t vouch fervently enough for value of a good radio.  I walked from Houston to 83rd that day, keeping quick pace with a stranger who gave me one ear bud to get the news on his handheld transistor radio.  Granted the news was all wrong, including reports of Chicago being bombed (seriously – and from a legit source), but that was in the cacophony of confusion so I don’t hold it against anyone — just one of those things no one seemed to remember after.  Still, access to any news is better than no news in such situations.

I skipped Black Friday — trying to do the “be local buy local” route — but I have a specific shopping list for the days and weeks ahead.  (relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism, relentless incrementalism)  It’s an early gift to my family, my home, and myself.  Will keep you posted.

The Storms: Death and Destruction, Help, Hope and Recovery

While counts of the toll the two storms that hit the northeast in recent weeks continue toward a final tally, people of the area busy themselves donating to others still in need, waiting in gas lines, resuming (or trying) semblances of normal in their work and personal lives, while others wait for electricity and struggle to stay warm. 400,865 homes in the eastern U.S. remain without power as of yesterday.  The least fortunate of us trudge the long uphill road of grieving lost loved ones. For those, the pain will last long past the clean up crews and news media. For those, the recovery never really ends. The death toll of victims in the U.S. has reached 120. At last count, it was close to 70 victims in the Caribbean, hitting Haiti (52 fatalities) the hardest.

Flashes of hope of the basic compassion of humanity are present in the vast relief efforts underway. From local long-standing businesses such as Two Boots Brooklyn, organizing food and clothing drives, to the new and innovative Mealku, making sure those who have lost much are receiving home cooked meals. And of course there are so many others lending a hand and organizing volunteers: Red Cross, NYC Mayors office, New York Cares, Congregation Beth Elohim, Occupy Sandy, the Humane Society (leading pet search and rescue efforts), Staten Island Recovers, and of course The Salvation Army. If you are donating, please remember the victims in Haiti, whose suffering is all that much greater given its extremely impoverished state and particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and global warming. Please consider contributing to groups such as Direct Relief and International Medical Corps and Americares.

Most everyone I know is in some way in the trenches, whether by helping a family member or hard hit local business (like Rocky Sullivan’s in Red Hook – my friend, part owner, was there with a pump before realizing the task ahead was too great — he was able to keep himself safe but the bar/restaurant itself has suffered serious damage). (Please check out this NYT blog post if your small business was affected by the storm).  Others are rolling up their sleeves and coming from our of state to see what help still needs to be done. At Greenwood Cemetery, they’re busy removing the 150 trees that were destroyed during the storm, and restoring many broken monuments. Donations for that restoration are being accepted online.

Please let us know of other disaster relief efforts you are supporting, what people can do to help, and any useful links you may have. In the wake of so much destruction, the helping hands of others is the real source of recovery.

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