The storm that hit the NE part of our country was more devastating than I expected – and I expected it to be severe. The original projected pressure of 939mb turned out to be very close to the actual 940mb recorded – the lowest ever for the eastern seaboard. When I saw that forecast pressure a week ago I knew it was going to be very bad, but even I was shocked at what eventually transpired. My thoughts are with our countrymen at this hour.
Watching the news from the area I was struck by a reporter’s comment: she saw hordes of people wandering the streets looking for food. They didn’t show any video, but I can imagine in an area where seven million homes and businesses are without power (and not expected to get power restored for many days yet) there would be a lot of scavengers. It becomes a survival tool. I can’t, however, think of anything I’d want to do less than roam the streets looking for scraps and warmth.
That’s why we prepare. Everyone reading this faces dangers simply by virtue of living, and while the ways in which we each prepare might be different the goal is the same: survive the event so that we can bring ourselves and our communities back to something resembling normal. Sometimes, though, in our preparations we forget the little things that turn out to be bigger than we expected.
After my Monday post about prepping I got an email from a reader who related the story of a friend of his. Seems this lady turned her hall closet into a canned goods pantry, which was probably a good idea given that she lives in hurricane country. The next hurricane wiped out her electrical service for a few days, but this time she was ready! Well, except for a little problem: seems she didn’t have anything other than an electric can opener, which of course was inoperative. All her food was locked in those pesky metal cylinders!
Now you or I may have used a knife to gouge open the cans, but that didn’t occur to her. Yes, adaptation and flexibility are important aspects of being prepared but there is a more important point in this tale: if you make decisions about your preparations, you need to think through all of the ramifications of those decisions. Simply investing a buck or two in a couple of hand-operated can openers was all she really needed, but didn’t think of doing.
I was struck by this same problem watching the news footage from the East Coast prior to landfall. In one scene a gas station was being mobbed by people filling up their gas cans in advance of the power outages. Most of them had a couple of tiny 1-gallon plastic cans; how long would that stash run their generators? A couple of hours, if they’re lucky. Then they’re right back where they started simply because they didn’t think their plans through. Generators need fuel, and you have to think in terms of hours of power. How many hours might you expect to be without power and how many gallons will the generator use per hour (or vice-versa) will tell you how many gallons of fuel you need. It’s more than you might think.
So you’ve got a generator and plenty of fuel? Great! How do you plan to get that power where you need it? Most people have extension cords, but they’re typically too short and almost always of too small a gauge to be safe. The generator by necessity sits outdoors, and the run of extension cord into the house is also by necessity long. The longer the run of wire, the greater the diameter of that wire must be. If you’re going to use extension cords with a generator you need the heaviest gauge your can get for both safety and usability. (I’m partial to these, which are both tough and easy to handle, because they stay flexible in the cold.)
Better yet is to have your electrician wire in a cutover panel and a special outlet into which you plug your generator. He can also wire up the super-heavy-duty cable you’ll need to feed the output from your generator into the panel.
You do know that your generator, unless it’s quite large, is unable to power your electric oven and range, right? In fact, depending on the size of the generator it may not even be able to run your refrigerator, lights, and microwave at the same time. How are you going to cook your cache of canned food?
How about a good, old-fashioned suitcase-type Coleman stove! Cheap, easy to use, safe, and if you get the propane type the fuel is readily available and stores for years. (Do you have a way to light the Coleman stove? How about one of the long spark-type igniters that you can find for a few dollars in the camping department of any outdoor store? Get several.)
Think through all your preparations; look for the weak points. Remember that just because you have a piece of equipment that works under a specific set of circumstances doesn’t mean that you can ignore the support equipment necessary to utilize it properly. Sometimes, like our lady with the can opener, it means analyzing every single step of the problem and actively questioning your assumptions. Looked at in the proper frame of mind it might even be entertaining!
OK, maybe not entertaining…but you get the point!
-=[ Grant ]=-
- Posted by Grant Cunningham
- On October 31, 2012