By Steve Nolan
Great Emergencies and crises show us how much greater our vital resources are than we had supposed. — William James
As this nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, millions of Americans all across the mid-Atlantic region dig out from the aftermath of violent storms that swept across the eastern United States. High winds downed many trees—killing at least 13 people. Over 3 million people were left without power…left to fend for themselves in a sweltering heat wave. Local utility spokesmen say the power won’t be restored for several days to a week—likening the swath of widespread damage to that of a serious hurricane. Emergencies were declared in Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Virginia and District of Columbia. Governor Bob McDonnell said, “This is a very dangerous situation.”
Over 230 Amtrak passengers were stranded Friday night on a train that was blocked by fallen trees in front and rear of the train. The passengers were forced to spend upwards of 20 hours at a rural station before buses could be arranged to pick them up.
In Illinois, storm damage forced authorities to transfer 78 inmates from a maximum-security to another prison facility, some of them were mentally ill.
All throughout the nation’s capital, 911 emergency call centers were out of service as huge trees fell across Washington streets, destroying cars, and interrupting local cell phone and Internet service. Even gas stations were forced to shut down while residents were urged to conserve water, postpone watering lawns and gardens, washing cars or clothes—even flushing toilets until sewage plants were brought back online. The Falls Church water utility advised customers to use boiled tap water for drinking and cooking.
Accepting the grim prospects of a week without electricity, area residents have been forced to cool off in local swimming pools or the few operating movie theatres while others search in vain for operating gas stations or an outlet to charge their cell phones. Scores of drivers in search of supplies ended up being stranded on the road when they realized that the gas pumps were not working due to lack of electricity.
The bottom line is that on any given day we can experience an unexpected scenario that interrupts our way of life. Depending upon our personal circumstances, this could mean serious danger to our lives and subsequent health risks.
Jessica Gresko of the Associated Press reported:
The outages were especially dangerous because they left the region without air conditioning in an oppressive heat. Temperatures soared to highs in the mid-90s in Baltimore and Washington, where it had hit 104 on Friday. “I’ve called everybody except for the state police to try to get power going,” said Karen Fryer, resident services director at two assisted living facilities in Washington. The facilities had generator power, but needed to go out for portal air conditioning units and Frywer worried about a few of her 100 residents who needed power for portable oxygen.
The major storm’s damage stretched from Indiana to New Jersey while residents in West Virginia, Virginia, Washington DC and suburban Maryland bore the brunt of the impact. As of Sunday there are still about a million customers without power due to Friday night’s storm. So far, 13 people were reportedly killed in the aftermath of the storm that ripped through states. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered the National Guard to deliver fuel for generators and fresh water to stricken areas.
While most of the nation is reeling with the recent Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of Obamacare, nature’s fury has reminded us that having preps in place can make all the difference in the world when disaster strikes. Preparations allow one the ability to cope with the aftermath of a calamity versus having to sit and wait for assistance.
We thought it appropriate to use this event to remind everyone of some basic preps and tips that we all can start implementing such as:
Storing Water: It is the single most important item to have yet it is probably one of the most overlooked of our preps because we take for granted having clean running water on demand.
Freezer: Keep fresh tap water stored inside cleaned out 2-Liter soda bottles in your freezer. This will do wonders to keep the contents of your freezer insulated. Try to limit opening and closing of your refrigerator and freezer doors. If you experienced a prolonged outage, start consuming your thawing food before tapping into your canned goods. Once the frozen 2-Liter bottles serve their cooling purpose, they can then be opened and used for drinking, cooking or flushing toilets.
Water Filtration/Purification: Last month’s Beacon had a detailed article on water filtration and purification. Knowing a nearby source for running water (creek, etc.) is key. The last thing you want to do following an emergency is spend time, energy and dehydrate yourself searching for viable water source. Knowing you have the ability to filter and purify water is a Godsend.
Solar Energy: Many of the residents in the article mentioned the need to find an outlet to charge their cell phones. There are many portable solar chargers on the market that are inexpensive and would work in a pinch to recharge critical items such as flashlight batteries and cell phones. They won’t provide enough juice to keep your refrigerator or freezer going but they will bring some peace of mind. For emergencies, you can invest about $1,500 and purchase a portable solar generator. Simply remove it from your garage and start powering your mission critical appliances. For those unfortunate people requiring oxygen or who suffer from sleep apnea, having one of these devices could make a life-and-death difference.
Generators: These come in quite handy assuming you have the fuel to run them. It’s amazing how many “friends” you will gain from having one of the noisy saviors! Having said that, you will also likely invite the masses of unprepared to your home to relieve you of all your inventories of supplies. In a disaster of limited scope, we encourage you to be generous with your preps. In a total collapse, or SHTF situation, you may want to use a bit more discretion with whom you make aware of your supplies.
Tarps & Ropes: Tarps are inexpensive, require little storage space and come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. Most are equipped with aluminum grommets to allow for ease of use in fastening them down. Tarps can come in handy when your home suffers from accidental tree or hail damage or if you need a temporary shelter from the rain.
Flashlights & Lanterns: I can clearly remember back when Hurricane Hugo ripped through Charlotte. During a prolonged power outage, you can never have enough alternative light sources like flashlights and lanterns (and batteries which we will discuss next). Some of these lights have built-in legs, others are designed to be worn on your head, freeing up your hands to carry on various chores and tasks, while the more traditional Lanterns are great for illuminating an entire room or provide some mood lighting for your home-cooked meal!
Rechargeable Batteries: It goes without saying that in a prolonged power outage, you will undoubtedly being going through a ton of batteries. Batteries are some of the first things to fly off the local grocery store shelves. Having rechargeable batteries and the means to recharge them will make the stress of a prolonged power outage much more bearable.
Chainsaw, Saw, Axe and Hatchet: When a storm like the one that ripped across the country Friday night strikes a heavily wooded town, fallen trees and tree limbs are a major hindrance to your roads, vehicles or even your ability to live in your home. These are must-have tools for your tool shed. Just be careful when working around fallen power lines.
Cooking: Most people have an alternative means to cook. Throwing burgers on a barbecue grill goes hand in hand with Fourth of July! However, during winter months where power outages are just as prevalent, resist cooking indoors or using your propane heater as means of heat. The grills give off deadly carbon monoxide that can kill you and your family.
Learning Opportunities: These painful experiences of others can be turned into positive opportunities to discuss prepping with your neighbors. Use these thoughts to promote discussion about what you and your neighbors can do to be better prepared next time or if such a calamity were to hit your area. None of the items we discussed here represent wacky or extreme examples in these scenarios, so take advantage of these as topics to introduce the idea of prepping while they are on everyone's mind. It will pay off for sure!
In closing, as we gather with our families this week to celebrate our Independence, let us try to put aside politics and take stock of everything we have to be thankful for. Let us keep those who have lost loved ones in our prayers, and keep the many folks struggling with this oppressive heat in the aftermath of these devastating storms in our thoughts.
In the meantime, keep your powder dry and your faith strong!