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Old 03-11-2012, 10:24   #1
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Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

As I watch hurricanes or major storms from a distance, it always seems easy to "monday morning quarterback" and say this should of happened or that should of happened. What is happening to individuals concerns me most. It seems like there is always a group of people- not of any particular background- that sits down and waits to be rescued. This group always tends to do worse than the ones that: prepare with what they have and then get out and get busy afterwards.
Sometimes, when all electricity, food, and shelter is gone this may mean walking or driving to another place, in other words, becoming refugees. To others, esp sailors, it might mean working to get your boat in full order, and living on your own "island" until civilization is restored.
As a survival instructor, I taught kids how to live if everything had been taken away. I would like to hear how you guys did it after the storms took away your home, or your town. How did you find shelter, get food, hold yourself and your family together? I am not voyeuristic as much as interested so I can learn the lessons through you and pass it on to my kids...
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Old 05-11-2012, 18:36   #2
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Re: Lessons learned in Self- suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

I worked in and around New Orleans and the Mississippi coast for 4 months doing recovery after Katrina and have also lived through a few hurricanes here in Florida.

We lived in tents with refugees for a few weeks at the start. It sucked. A circus tent with 300 people and a plywood floor on a cot, yikes, still have the cot though, pretty nice cot.
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Old 05-11-2012, 19:10   #3
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

I think things are finally calming down and electricity for the most part is back on. Why were some desperate while others seemed to get along? Did the people that stockpiled before do better afterwards? Is preparation the key?
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Old 05-11-2012, 19:27   #4
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

Many people just don't have the money to do the stockpiling, the leaving and returning after the storm, or buying the hurricane supplies. Then, some that do, they find when they return to their house after the storm, their stockpile of supplies, as well as there house simply insn't there. That is what happended in South Carolina after Hugo. I saw it, and it took a long time for people to get back on their feet.
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Old 06-11-2012, 05:45   #5
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

I think it's at least partly attitude.

When we lost power for about 6 days after the surprise derecho that came through this area last June, we (sorta) just sat it out... while some of our neighbors were frantic for power to run their well pumps, TVs, etc.

(I say "sorta" because as it turned out our immediate neigher ran out an bought a generator at about 0600, and we ran our freezer with some of his spare capacity and a looooonnngg extension cord.)

We keep a supply of potable water available, we have a few inexpensive battery lights and a radio, a propane grill, nothing else seemed all that critical. No major expense... But I guess some folks don't do that, maybe don't tink ahead to anticipate potential "what if..." situations.

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Old 06-11-2012, 06:03   #6
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

Preparation, basic skills, and attitude certainly can make some people better able to function in the face of disaster. But I think the problem is more basic than that. The real problem is that urban centres, particularly large ones, are death traps once external resources have been cut off.

Cities support their populations through massive external inputs of food, energy, and water. They require equally massive systems and resources to deal with the effluent of concentrated humanity. When these systems are severed, those living in cities are stranded in a desert.

So sure, if you've got some food and water stored, you'll do better -- for a while. If you've got the ability to cook, drink, heat (or cool) yourself for a while, you'll do better -- for a while. And if you're not prone to panic, or descend into a state of despair, you'll do better.

But the real lesson we should all be learning is that the foundations of our civilization do not run nearly as deep as many of us think.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:07   #7
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

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I think things are finally calming down and electricity for the most part is back on. Why were some desperate while others seemed to get along? Did the people that stockpiled before do better afterwards? Is preparation the key?

According to the news report I just saw, 1.3 million people still don't have electricity, and no electricity means no heat. If they're lucky and their home (and chimney) are intact, they have a fireplace, but many homes do not have fireplaces. Where they do have fireplaces, many people are burning the rubble around them for heat.

In the case of this superstorm, a lot of people who are still in a lot of trouble did not expect to be so heavily impacted, and for many of them, that was a realistic expectation.

Meanwhile, living in Forida, I saw a commercial last night about hurricane preparedness.

It said to have food and water for (are you ready?) THREE DAYS. No way would that have prepared anyone for the extraordinary calamity that was "Frankenstorm."

People need shelter, food and water for basic survival. Many people still do not have that.

When we lived in St. Louis, we lived in a brick frame home, the kind of house most likely to be severely damaged in an earthquake zone. St. Louis is actually a high risk earthquake zone. So here's what we did. We bought two tents big enough to house the four of us, plus Coleman lantern and stoves, other camping supplies. I went to thrift stores and packed up cheap warm jackets, blankets, etc. This was all packed right in the front of the garage so we would be able to maybe (with help if needed) dig it all out.

Then we took an extended camping trip so we knew how to use it all. Turns out we really sucked at camping! But ironically, at the end of the trip we were caught in Hurricane Bob on Cape Cod, and used most of it, stayed on Cape Cod without power or water for four days with another family -- and managed to have a wonderful time.

They never mention it but part of my hurricane preparedness if I had a stand alone home would be ... a tent. I'd get a bigger, better quality tent than what we got the first time. Cots too.
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Old 06-11-2012, 06:10   #8
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

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Preparation, basic skills, and attitude certainly can make some people better able to function in the face of disaster. But I think the problem is more basic than that. The real problem is that urban centres, particularly large ones, are death traps once external resources have been cut off.

Cities support their populations through massive external inputs of food, energy, and water. They require equally massive systems and resources to deal with the effluent of concentrated humanity. When these systems are severed, those living in cities are stranded in a desert.

So sure, if you've got some food and water stored, you'll do better. If you've got the ability to cook, drink, heat (or cool) yourself for a while, you'll do better. And if you're not prone to panic, or descend into a state of despair, you'll do better.

But the real lesson we should all be learning is that the foundations of our civilization do not run nearly as deep as many of us think.
This is correct. cities are death-traps when the sh*t hits the fan. Having said that, an attitude of self-sufficiency goes a long way towards ensuring survival. Can you figure out alternative food sources, water sources (now the basics are covered). Cruising sailors are probably better at that than most because they have been DIY people in places where you only have yourself to rely on.

Perhaps the best thing is to 1. remain calm. 2. Logically think through your situation 3. catalog your resources 4.make a plan, play off your strengths. 5. stick with the plan until obvious it's a bad plan, then replan.

Doing the above will get you through most situations.

Finally - always carry a knife.

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Old 06-11-2012, 07:38   #9
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

When we lived in San Francisco, our primary "natural disaster" concern was earthquakes. Understanding that we could easily loose our house and cars, we prepared and maintained our boat for extended living. Having been back-packers during our younger years, we were well acquainted with items such as Mountain House dried foods etc. and so had a supply on the yacht sufficent for our needs plus some extra for a month. We always kept the fuel tank topped up, the CNG Bottle full, and the water tanks filled. We also had a hand pumped water maker that would allow us to make drinking water if necessary. Several of our friends, other engineers, did the same, although other of our friends laughed at our approach claiming we were "excessive". When we moved to southern California in 1985, we continued our practice and, fortunately, never needed our supplies before we relocated to Florida in '92. Other friends of ours were not so fortunate. The Loma Prieta quake in '89 destroyed several of our friends' homes (and cars) in San Francisco, particularly in the Marina District. But not their boats, and several families ended up living on their boats for an extended period before their homes were restored. The same held true after the Northridge Quake in '94 and several folks we knew that lived in the San Fernando Valley ended up living aboard their boats in Long Beach and San Pedro for several months each.

Here in Florida the issue is not earthquakes but hurricanes but our preparations are much the same. Each spring we lay in a stock of bottled water, fuel and long lived foods against the possibilities. Likewise the yacht, although obviously differently. Although our house is 20+ miles from the ocean, a tributary of the Manatee River passes through the woods, 100 yards from our back door, and we are in a primary flood evacuation zone. If ordered to do so, we will quite the place and head to relatives' and or friends' homes in safe zones as, by prior agreement, they will come to us when/if their homes are threatened. We will bring our own supplies along with us.

For folks in densely populated areas such as New York City and environs, I think preparing is much more difficult, particularly those living in multi-story buildings. Having worked on the design of many high-rise buildings in past, I have always argued for the inclusion of auxiliary power generation equipment to ensure that power would be available if necessary, particularly in residential buildings. Such proposals were almost universally rebuffed as too costly and unneeded. Obviously that is not the case, particularly in the "public housing" developments. Other than laying in supplies of food, water, batteries etc. and filling bath tubs with water to be used to flush toilets, I don't know what more people in these buildings could do and, frankly, I don't think many had the faintest clue that they needed to make even these rudimentary preparations. They may have been forwarned but I don't think many were either ready, or willing, or able to make preparations, or had blind faith that "government" would provide for them. I hate to say it but just maybe the Sandy effect will be to disabuse many of the illusion that "government" can/will do everything.

FWIW...
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Old 06-11-2012, 07:49   #10
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

Newt,
Something I did with my sons while they were growing up... We were involved heavy into bicycling, mostly mountain bikes, and would do multi day outings where we would have to carry all our gear with us. And it took time for them to refine what was important for them to take.
Once my oldest, at age 12, decided he wanted to take along some canned peaches, without my knowledge mind you, and that was the weekend we did the flume trail out of Lake Tahoe. A 2 hour ride up hill with 4 cans of canned peaches, in his panners along with all his camping gear , taught him a good lesson.. he ended up leaving them on the trail and picking them up on the return trip down the hill.
I let them make there own choices as to what to take, and it didn't take long for them to realize that a quarter pounded dosent cut it after being packed for a couple days.
After a few trips, they were packing granola and dried fruit, cooking full meals,
And sleeping on comfy inflated foam, in mummy bags, with protective covers..and at times would do weather confirmation to see if they needed cold weather gear.
Remember , kids are pretty smart,let them make the choices and then let them live with those choices.. once without enough blankets and they will be sure to pack enough next time..
Now one thing they came up with. And.we kept it as a staple.. English muffens and penutbutter ..n. your choice of jam.. the ones in little packets from Dennies work well.
They last along time, and great for snack to get you by..
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Old 06-11-2012, 09:02   #11
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

You know, I agree that people in a high density area are really at risk. Those living in high rise apartments I think have one choice-get out. Stockpiling food and water would work for a while, but a city is not the place to be during a disaster. But a boat may or may not be there in the aftermath of a superstorm. Maybe multiple boats or ways to get out and survive? And a couple of dirt bikes to get around on?
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Old 06-11-2012, 11:08   #12
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

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You know, I agree that people in a high density area are really at risk. Those living in high rise apartments I think have one choice-get out. Stockpiling food and water would work for a while, but a city is not the place to be during a disaster. But a boat may or may not be there in the aftermath of a superstorm. Maybe multiple boats or ways to get out and survive? And a couple of dirt bikes to get around on?
I think that good mountain/dirt bikes--man powered--are a very useful tool that are frequently overlooked. One can carry an amazing amount of "stuff" with relative ease and obstructions that might block a car or truck can frequently be circumvented relatively easily. Looking at all of the lines of pedestrians carrying gas cans up to gas stations on the news reports, I did not see a single bicycle that could have made their efforts much easier. Schlepping 5 gallons of gas or more several miles by foot can be rather much. For the less physically fit, I have also seen small motor attachments for the front wheels that can help one up a hill and recharge on the susequent down-hill runs.

One thing I have not seen much of, but come in very handy for charging cell phones are small solar chargers. Many of these can fit in a pocket and yet will make a mobile phone usable for something other than a paper weight two daze after a major storm. Our emergency supplies actually includes a couple of felxible solar panels that can provide power for cell phones and batteries for LED lights/flash lights.

FWIW...
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Old 06-11-2012, 11:43   #13
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

Interesting read here:

Sandy victims furious as FEMA troubles begin to build | NJ.com

As a Canadian, I hear as part of the regular, and, to us, appallingly uncivil civil discourse in the States that "government is on our backs" and "socialism is rampant" and "Obama's a Muslim Commie", etc.

I find it interesting that those who desire (at least when it comes to their rhetoric) "freedom and liberty from collectivist solutions" are frequently the first to cry foul when government agencies don't give them a steak and a footrub.

People who live on beaches or up tidal rivers should perhaps purchase flood and storm insurance, and maybe pack some supplies and keep them in an aluminum fishing boat staked down in the backyard.

Just a thought.

Because we are fitting out for extended cruising, we have basic medical supplies, food and water at most times in the house. There's a genset in the garage. There's gas stored in racks. There's a basic tent. There's batteries and flashlights.
There's candles and sleeping bags and thermoses, oh, my.

And we live in Toronto. The power has gone out maybe 18 hours at one time in my entire life.

But hurricanes have hit here. There's been rare, but moderate, quakes. Icestorms. Snow. Massive power outages have happened. It's the Canadian way.

A lot of this stuff is cross-over gear from boating and camping. It's not a lot to ask that "basic prep" for a brief interruption in our privileged existences be made.
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Old 06-11-2012, 12:24   #14
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

I wonder if there isn't a parallel between this discussion, and past "simplicity" threads here on CF.

The problem urban dwellers face in times of crisis is that their very existence depends on a multitude of supports, most of which they have little understanding of, and small ability to control. Urban life sits on a complex, and fragile foundation. Pull a few beams out, and the whole edifice starts to crumble.

The same challenge faces us cruisers who seek the sweet spot in our choice of onboard systems and tools. If I rely on a tool that I don't understand, and have little hope of repairing or replacing, I am no more resilient than the high-rise dweller without electricity.
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Old 06-11-2012, 12:50   #15
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Re: Lessons learned in Self-suffiency. Sandy and Katrina

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I think that good mountain/dirt bikes--man powered--are a very useful tool that are frequently overlooked. One can carry an amazing amount of "stuff" with relative ease and obstructions that might block a car or truck can frequently be circumvented relatively easily. Looking at all of the lines of pedestrians carrying gas cans up to gas stations on the news reports, I did not see a single bicycle that could have made their efforts much easier.
But why? If you have a good bicycle you dont need gas.
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