A year ago Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard affecting 24 states and causing damage from Florida to Main and even as far inland as Michigan and Wisconsin. The interesting thing about Sandy’s timing is that, thanks in part to shows like Doomsday Preppers, prepping had gone mainstream so lots of people got to test their plans. The other interesting thing is that lots of people who never thought they needed to prepare for a hurricane realized they were in big trouble. Sandy was a terrible ordeal, but we can take the opportunity to learn from those who endured it. Fortunately many have shared their stories in the news and on personal blogs. Here’s what they’re saying they learned:
1. Evacuate early. If your region is advised or ordered to evacuate, you need to be moving in under an hour. That means everything has to be ready before the order comes. Many said they hesitated to evacuate because the sky was blue, and everything looked fine. Now they say get ready and stay ready – you want to be in the front of the line and well on your way to a pre-booked hotel or relative’s house before the sky gets dark.
2. Prepare for looters. Many people said the reason they stayed in their homes even when it was dangerous was to protect their houses from looting. Their advice now? Load up people, pets and papers and go. “Stuff” can be replaced.
3. Prepare your pets. Never, ever leave your pets behind. Both Sandy and Katrina showed us it could be days or weeks before you’re able to return home. Prepper pet parents say:
- Ensure you have a two weeks supply of food (and medicine) ready at all times.
- Keep pet transport crates assembled and packed with a warm blanket and clean bowls.
- For cats, stash an empty, clean spare and a small bag of litter in their emergency supplies; more than one Prepper lamented being stuck in a car in evacuation traffic with a used litter box!
- Get your pet microchiped so that if they get away from you, you’ll be able to reunite quickly. Also, shelters will know the pet belongs to someone and isn’t a stray.
- Get a muzzle for your dog. Preppers reported that even their friendly dogs sometimes acted out of character when stressed.
4. Get cash. Stash a supply of cash in denominations of $5, $10 and $20 in your emergency supplies. Preppers saw a run on ATMs and no access to cash at all after the power went out. You won’t be able to use a credit card and in an emergency situation, money talks.
5. Get water. People found out the hard way that you can’t go without clean water for long. A water purifier and a WaterBOB is a must have if you’re going to shelter in place. One prepper reported that in New York, some residents were walking more than five miles to get water from fire hydrants. Even then you can’t be assured that the water is clean. If you live near the ocean, get a desalinator or learn how to make a desalination still (and make one now – before you need it).
6. Plan to go through more food than you think. A lot more. Traditional wisdom was that three days worth of food should get you through a power outage. Many affected by Sandy were able to safely stay in their homes but they went for more than two weeks without access to groceries. And, many said they discovered their neighbors had no food stored for their pets or their children so they ended up sharing their own emergency supplies. Prepare to be a Good Samaritan; store twice what you think you’ll need.
7. YOU are the first responder. Sandy victims saw that first responders can take hours (or days) to reach hard-hit areas, and once they’re in they can be overwhelmed by the need for emergency medical help. Make sure you have a comprehensive first aid kit and you know how to use it.