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Thursday, November 20, 2014
Snowpocalypse 2014 Lessons Learned
Snowpocalypse 2014 Lessons Learned
Much of the northeast has been crippled by its first major snow storm of the year and some of the images I found online (which I will share with you below) and some of the stories I have heard have shown me how much as a society we live on the brink of disaster on a daily basis. Gone are the days when nearly every family could wait out three feet of snow and no power for a week, today we lose internet for an hour and expect a presidential disaster declaration. This event, like so many others has shown me how much we are depended on a just-in-time delivery system, the power gird and so many other things which never used to have control over our lives even twenty years ago.How many of you believe if this came to your community today you would be ready to be self sufficient and warm for two weeks without power or access to goods and services? So lets just review a few things that went through my mind as I reviewed some of the news coverage.
1) Vehicle Winter Emergency Kit: How many of you keep one of these in your car year round? I keep a jump box (inverter, radio, light, battery jumpstart, air compressor, etc.), snow shovel,small heater regular shovel, wool blanket x2, tent, food, 1 gallon of water, snow chains,sleeping bag, sleeping mat, two sets of spare clothes, +my EDC bag ( EDC Bag Overview LINK) and various bushcraft type items. Would I be able to survive indefinitely I believe with this kit with my knowledge base and skill level but who wants to live out of their car? Just last year in Chicago people were stuck on lake shore drive for over 24 hours due to a snow storm. I have shut down major arteries of travel with the fire department for days due to hazardous materials incidents and people have been stuck as they refused to take the alternate route. How do you keep your vehicle prepared for this type of emergency? Do you always keep your gas tank above 1/2 in the winter? Even when traveling long distance to visit family or for work? Would you survive a night or two in your car if stranded?
2) Dealing with Long-Term Power Outages: When I was growing up in rural West Virginia (The State...... Not just west of Richmond) one or two major snow storms were expected and it was a regular occurrence to get a three foot snow each winter. Power outages were more common (5-10 each winter) and lasted anywhere from six hours to two weeks. We were fortunate/prepared enough to have a backup generator and multiple heat sources built into the house in a pellet stove and a wood stove. Fast forward 20 years and I live in a new construction home that has only one source of heat and it is electric. Gone are the days where a wood burner is a requirement for a home in the North East and those who have them in new homes often are for decoration or for burning candles and have never seen a burning log, let alone heated the home. So what do you have as an alternative heating plan for your home assuming you have a newer construction home without the advantages of a wood burning stove? I personally invested in two options A) a buddy propane heater which can heat a room for about 48 hours on one small propane cylinder and B) A kerosene stove (to go with the lamps). Between these two items I can easily heat both levels of my home to a livable 65 degrees for two days before changing the fuel. Aside from those heating methods I can always add blankets and layers of clothing and have plenty of plastic and wool blankets on hand to cover the windows to ensure maximum heat retention for the house. If all else fails a tent, thermarest and -40 sleeping bag in the living room will always work. Now onto off-grid cooking.... I have the following: A) Propane grill, B) Propane camp stove, C) Fire pit and lots of wood, D) Alcohol stove, and E) Sun Oven. So what are yours plans to heat your home and cook your food in an extended power outage?
***Important Point- If using generators, propane or other alternative heating methods PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE be cognizant of the fact that CO poisoning is a high probability and you need to monitor for its presence. Last year my EMS agency responded to over thirty CO poisoning calls due to the polar vortex and extensive power outages. Get yourself an individual CO gas meter that doesn't rely on electricity. These meters can cost less than $50.00 and can save the life of everyone in your family.***
3) Structural Damage or Sheltering In Place: This is something I always took seriously as I remember my first structural collapse with the fire department was due to an excess snow load on a roof. Since that time I have always been concerned with excess snow build up on the roof and also having heavy duty plastic, duck tape, tools, contractor bags and several pieces of plywood on-hand in-case of a structural issue or shelter in place issue (i.e. hazardous materials release- we have a major producer of hazardous materials in our town and an interstate less than a mile from our home). So if you should need to make an emergency repair to your home or remove excess snow from your roof are you confident you have the materials on-hand to do so? Will home depot or Lowe's be open during a state of emergency (hint- nope!).
4) Lack of Goods and Services Due to interrupted Supply Chains: The cities near the great lakes are already having supply chain issues, particularly in NY (Buffalo more so than most). Right now grocery stores are not receiving shipments and many stores shelves are empty or nearing empty. Pharmacies are limiting refill lengths due to lack of new medications coming in and many businesses simply are not open due to lack of power or lack of employees being able to get to work. Are you prepared for a week or two of self-sufficient living? If you are reading this blog I assume you are, but how many of you keep an extra supply of medications or other everyday goods that make life easier? Just a few things to think about, I'm sure most of you have some sort of food storage and water storage but what about everything else you may need?
Over the last few days I have been rethinking my approach to winter preparedness and have come to the conclusion that I need to revisit the old ways of preparedness. As a society I believe we have become soft and need to get back to our more primitive roots. I would love to just move off-grid and live a more primitive lifestyle, unfortunately daily life will not allow such a move with my job and my wife's job. A cabin with a wood burning stove that also acts as an oven and hot water heater would be the ideal addition for off-grid winter preparedness and have been looking at them for years and would love to add one to the house. What items do you still lack and what would you like to add to your preparedness tool kit to allow you to get throw an extended storm or grid-down emergency?
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