Saturday, August 27, 2011

Last Minute Preps
     Here are just a few last minute things to do before tomorrow:  

  • Recharge all rechargeable batteries. 

  • Fully charge all cell phones.

  • Have all members shower before this evening.
  • Turn up your refrigerator to a colder temperature so food will stay longer.
  • You can also turn up your AC if you don’t mind the cold.
  • Make sure all flashlights and radios function properly.
  • Have a few alternate forms of entertainment, especially if you have children (i.e. board games, cards, books, etc.)
  • Fill a few pots, pans or buckets with tap water before you go to bed tonight.
  • Fill your bathtub with water if you feel you do not have enough water stocked.
  • Prepare a slimmed down lightweight version of a B.O.B. for each family member.
  • Figure out where you would go in case you did have to bug-out from your apartment or home (i.e. shelter, friend’s home etc.)
  • Precook some essential foods like pasta and rice. Keep them in a container in the fridge until you need them. You can eat them cold if forced to. (Quick tip: If you have uncooked pasta, rice, or dehydrated beans they can be reconstituted without cooking by being soaked in cold water for at least 24 hours.)

     Remember, the storm might only last a day, but the effects can last much longer.  You and your family should be prepared to survive without basic utilities for at least a week.  Stay safe! JV


Friday, August 26, 2011

Last Minute NYC Hurricane Preppers' Guide

     At this point, the masses have gotten wind of the seriousness of this storm.  I feel that people are much more tuned into disasters over the last few years, especially after the media has found that disasters make good TV.  Now I’m not saying everyone out there is going to turn into preppers, I’m pointing out that many have learned to listen to the warnings a bit more willingly.

     If you are not prepped for this storm yet (i.e. adequate water, food, sanitation needs, candles, and batteries) you probably won’t be.  When a disaster is upon us, people tend to mass buy supplies.  This leaves a huge gap in stocks, especially for an island who imports all of its goods on a daily basis.  This post is meant for those of you who are un- or underprepared and have decided to not “bug-out”.  If you have a good amount of supplies for your family members, you should read my previous article if you have not already.  If you are looking for more information on hurricane preps for future storms, check out this article here.  It is not perfect as it does not apply to New Yorkers directly, but it’s a nice base.  I will do a post sometime in the future on hurricane preps that will apply to New Yorkers.

     At this point, you have either said to yourself “this storm will fizzle like all the other hurricanes of our lifetimes” (if you grew up in the tri-state area) and it didn’t.  Or you’re starting to realize that this is going to be bad because it’s pretty much on top of us.  Either way, it doesn’t matter anymore because you now have to figure out how to get through it with limited supplies.  The good news is that you will most likely only have to deal with crappy conditions for a day or two.  Remember that you can live without food for three weeks.  Water, you’re not quite as lucky though, because most of us will die within three days, and the last day will be a bad one to say the least.

     Since this hurricane is happening at a very temperate time, we are fortunate enough to not have to throw exposure (the number one killer of outdoor survival scenarios) into the equation.  Even if you are forced into the water for some unforeseen reason, your chances of survival will be high due to the temperature.  Provided you can swim of course. So that leaves your water, food, and sanitation needs.

     Potable water is going to be by far the most important item for you and your family. If you do not have enough for each person (about one gallon per day) then I suggest filling your pots, pans, and anything else that can hold water before the storm arrives.  Try and fill these things up Saturday before you go to bed.  You can also fill your bathtub with water if you don’t have enough containers.  The bathtub water can be used for things like cleaning (dishes, posts, pans, or yourself.)  Remember that the water from your taps may flow after the surge, but the water can be possibly infected from cross contamination with sewage.  Make sure nothing gets in the water you will consume, and try and cover all containers.  You can purify water by boiling it (if the gas or electric stay on) or by using small amounts of bleach.  Here is an article on purifying water with bleach explaining how much bleach, and how long you should let it stand.  You can, in a pinch, stick a container in a secure spot to catch rain, as rain water can be consumed.  Just make sure to taste it first, as hurricanes can have a mix of salt and fresh water.  You also should sanitize it before you drink it to be safe.

     The next thing you should be thinking of is food.  As I mentioned earlier, a healthy human can last upwards of three weeks without food if necessary.  It won’t be fun, but it is possible.  Hopefully the disaster will only last a few days at the most, but there is no telling.  If you have a limited amount of food in the apartment, you can ration it out until you can get more.  I’m guessing you will at least have some form of food in your apartment, so get creative.  If the utilities go out, and you have no way of warming food, remember that you can eat canned foods cold.  They won’t taste great, but at least you won’t starve.  If you happen to have a portable stove like one from a camping store, remember to crack a window because they release carbon monoxide.

     Sanitation can be a little iffy for New Yorkers if we flood and or lose utilities for an extended period of time.  The water in the taps should be considered contaminated, so I would not suggest bathing or showering until you get the word that the water is safe again.  You also need to be careful with your toilets, as they will back up if the utility company’s pumps don’t run.  I recommend only flushing when you have to.  To keep yourself from feeling dirty if you don’t get to shower for a day or two, I suggest using baby wipes to wipe yourself down if you have them.  You can also use potable water and a clean wash cloth with a bit of soap to spot clean.

     I didn’t mention a lighting source, because it is not essential to survival.  Lighting is more of a luxury.  If you don’t have candles or flashlights in your home, you will have to do what the old timers did and go to bed at sundown and rise at sunup. Batteries are another luxury, so I won't get into it.  One thing I will mention here is to charge your cell phones the night before the storm and to use them sparingly if we lose electric.

     The last thing I would like to bring up is a bug-out bag, or what the media is calling a “go-bag”. You should have a bag with a few supply ready to go and easy to carry in a conveniently located spot. The bag should be filled with a few basic supplies that I go over below. The bag is a last resort, as you should not be running outside during a hurricane unless your life is in danger.
  • Clothing - Basic shirt, socks, don't worry about pants as you can use the pair you have on.
  • Cash - Try and get $100 or so out of the bank in case we lose electricity.
  • Toiletries - Toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet paper
  • Medicine - Make sure to have any medications you take.
  • Rope - Rope has a million uses, if you have any in the apartment bring it as you will need it.
  • Water - If you have a proper water container, try and carry a liter or so.
  • Important Documents - Things like your birth certificate, marriage licenses, deeds, passport, bank records all sealed in zip lock bags if possible.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricanes in NYC and You

     Here we go our second possible disaster of the week, right on schedule.  I guess the obvious questions are: What can happen?  What can I do?  And how will it affect my life as a New Yorker?  Well most of the answers are pretty straight forward.  Over the next few posts I plan on giving you the worst case scenario, and also offer you advice to help you and your family with your planning.

     Having grown up on a beach in NJ, and being an all around ‘beach bum’ in my youth, I definitely have a good grasp on hurricanes.  When your childhood home is located on a barrier island that has been wiped clean in the past, you tend to pay attention to hurricane preparation.  We may not have a track record of places like Florida in the city, but it is definitely a possibility and has been a reality for NYC many times in the past.  How often is besides the point right now though because it's coming.

     New York is an island, making it a wonderfully natural port and the reason it has been such a successful city for so many years.  Not only that, but we are protected from many storm surges (Quick explanation is when the wind blows the surface water hard enough, it forces large quantities to be moved to that location.) because we sit in from the coast.  As the map here shows, we are protected from the open ocean because of where Manhattan sits in relation to the outer burrows and NJ.  This is a wonderful thing for most storms, but hurricanes are not most storms.  If a storm surge is large and blowing hard enough against the shore line it causes massive flooding.  Because of where the island sits, a massive funnel effect happens as the surge blows into the channels flooding all low lying areas along the water line.  The water then recedes very slowly because of the small space it has to recede through.  So what that means for us is flooding all over the low lying areas of Manhattan as you might have guessed.  Lower Manhattan, some lower areas along the rivers, the low lying areas of Brooklyn including Dumbo, Greenpoint, and areas of Long Island City as this map here shows.  Besides the obvious flooding damage to buildings and subways, which will be a disaster in its own right, the biggest problem that can affect the city as a whole is our power grid.  Our wonderful power line free skyline is made possible by the fact that we use a ground cable system.  Great for winter snow and ice storms, not so great for flooding.  Flooding is NYC’s Achilles heel.  When salt water and electric lines mix, they don’t play nice.  In fact the salt water completely destroys the cables and they have to be replaced.  If flooding got bad enough, our entire grid would be ruined for months.

     Luckily it would have to be a very large storm surge and this is probably not the storm, but it is something to keep in mind.  What I do suggest is that if you live in lower Manhattan, the low lying areas of Queens or Brooklyn and are not prepared for a loss of electricity, and or massive flooding you should consider bugging out (go somewhere else) for the weekend.  There is no reason to ‘ride out the storm’ if you don’t have to.  If you have nowhere else to go, you need to make sure you have clean water and food in sealed containers.  Sanitation could also be a problem, I have written a post on the subject that you can read here.  I will be going over preps in the next post to help you as well. 

     The next ‘planning flaw’ the city suffers from is the way wind gets tunneled through our streets and avenues because of large buildings.  We all know that standing on certain street corners on a windy day is like standing behind a jet, many a dead umbrella can attest to that.  The problem is that the high rises have changed the wind patterns of nature, in effect causing wind to be funneled through tight spots, very similar to our water channels.  What this means is that a category 1 or 2 hurricane is in essence a 3 or 4 at certain locations all over the city.  That drastic increase in wind can cause large amounts of debris to be thrown all over the place at great speeds.  That debris can break windows, and cause chaos on a grand scale.

     If you are in an apartment that has a bunch of windows, or worse yet all windows, I suggest bugging out.  Get out of the city and go to your second home, a friend’s home, or hotel.  Anywhere but near those windows.  If you live in an apartment with just a few windows, you can tape them up with masking tape if it will make you feel a bit safer.  You can also place a few boards (or take the items off your shelves and use the shelf itself as a board) with a box of nails near the window in case it starts getting hairy outside.  If you don’t have nails and boards, then you can place large furniture in front of the window to stop glass if the window breaks.  If your bed is set up near a window, I suggest moving it to the center of your apartment and sleeping there the night the storm hits.

     Here is a CBSNews video from '06.  It is one of the many warnings we have received from experts over the last few years.  He tells of the pros and cons of our geographic location. 

     And here is another one of those Spike TV Surviving Disaster videos I always suggest on hurricane survival. 

     In my next post, I am going to explain what you can do to prepare.          


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquakes in NYC and You

     So I wanted to put a post together for New Yorker’s who might be looking for more information on earthquake preparation.  Now many of my normal readers will know these things, and will be well on their way to having many of these preps in their everyday lives by now, so for them this post will be a refresher.

     I would like to first point out that I don’t believe that another earthquake is in our near future, but I do believe that we should prepare for the things we can, and let go of the rest.  Disasters, or narrowly averted ones, should be a wakeup call to the un- or underprepared.  I’m hoping I can guide a few new people to prepping due to this week’s dual disaster threats when they look to the internet for information.

     When we start the journey of self-reliance, we may find that it can be overwhelming.  The key is to not get lost in the hype and to realize that there is a commonality to our preps.  So if I’m prepared for a snowstorm, then my preps for a hurricane are not going to be much different.  We also start to look at what is much more likely in our area.  Earthquakes are not common, but bad thunderstorms and loss of electricity due to a heat wave are.  So if I’m prepared for those, I am most likely prepared for something less likely, but still possible (i.e. hurricanes.)  The preps that I’m suggesting below are just a few basic preps that I believe everyone should have in place for any disaster.  There is much more detail and guidance for you in many of my other posts if you are looking for more information.

     The first topic I will discuss when it comes to earthquake preps is what I’ll call “work preps”.  Most people that are familiar with this blog and others like it already know we suggest carrying an ECB bag (Everyday Carry Bag) during our everyday routines.  We also suggest a good EDC (Everyday Carry) system.  There are many different types of jobs in the city, too many to get into here.  So I will break it down into the most common types; on the go, and office workers.  For those of us that have “on the go jobs” (i.e. jobs where you’re not in one place all day) I suggest a well thought out ECB.  You can find a link to a previous article I’ve wrote on that here and a link to my EDC here.  For those of us that sit in the same office building all day, we can have a bit more leeway.  Not only will you be able to have a detailed EDC system, but you can also have a few preps in your office.  These would be things that you would not necessarily want to have on your person or in your ECB because of weight or size restrictions.

     The first and most important work prep is actually the same one you should have for your home, a hand-crank or solar rechargeable radio.  Being in the know can make the difference between chaos and survival.  I suggest keeping a pair of headphones attached to the radio as well in case you need to be discreet, or can’t hear over the others panic.  The below radio is one I own and suggest.  It is small, lightweight and can be left in a window to allow it to remain fully charged.

      The next prep is a rechargeable flashlight.  You can keep a higher quality battery operated one in your office if you prefer, just make sure you keep a sufficient supply of “good” batteries next to it.  I personally suggest a headlamp as it allows you to have both hands free for whatever you need.  Once again though, make sure you check the batteries every few months.

      Ever climb down 60 flights of stairs in high heels, or barefoot?  Well if you have, then you probably know about this prep already and should move on to the next.  If not, then this prep will allow you to hopefully never have to.  That prep is comfortable shoes.  These allow you to move safer, comfortably, and much faster.  Having a pair of lightweight comfortable hiking shoes, or old running sneakers can make a world of difference and is much better than high heels and or hard sole.  A few pairs of socks should be stored with them as well.  No telling when you are gonna be soaked in a rainstorm again.

      This is one of those optional ones, but they definitely won’t hurt; a cheap pair of work gloves.  They can be useful if you need to remove debris or if you unfortunately have to resort to self-defense.

      As yesterday, and other disasters before (911) have proven, our phone system can’t handle the weight of everyone using their phones at once.  Texting is the best choice as it takes the least data usage to perform, and has the best chance to go through.  But if the disaster was on a much larger scale, the system would either fail or be restricted to emergency and government use only.  To combat against cell phones false sense of security, I suggest keeping a two-way radio of some sort in your office.  The second radio should be left at your apartment, or given to your significant other to leave in their office.  Price ranges for radios can be cheap to bank breakers, so you’re going to have to figure out what kind of investment you would like to make.  The radios I suggest below are on the cheaper side, and I’m not entirely sure they would work as I have not personally tested them.  They say there range is miles, but obstructions can throw them off.  If you don’t trust radios, or you don’t want to make the investment, the next prep is a quick solution.

      Have a plan!  If there is a disaster, and you can’t reach your immediate family members make sure you have a plan on where to meet and what to do.  In fact, you should have multiple plans, for different situations.  Talk to your family now, as there is no better time like after a disaster to really get them listening and motivated.  You should also make sure that your extended family knows a few of your plans as well.

      These are just a few possible suggestions as each office and situation will be a bit different.  This list is my basic bare minimum suggestions, and you can add to it whatever you would like.  It should suffice especially if you have a well thought out ECB, as well as a good EDC system. 
In my EDC system you will notice I wear a whistle around my neck on a necklace. This is for a few reasons, but the two most important ones are self-defense and for being found if lost or trapped under rubble.

     When it comes to home preps there are many similarities.  Radio, flashlight, gloves should all be in place already.  Water and food are of course big ones as well.  I have written extensively on these topics before, and you can find much more detail on the blog.  Remember the basics of earthquake survival, if indoors find a good solid doorway, and brace yourself between it.  If outdoors, get to an open location where nothing can fall on you (easier said than done in NYC, I know.)  If there are bad aftershocks, then you will have to leave your structure and sleep in open areas like a park until they subside.  This is where a good B.O.B. and tent may come in handy.  Spike TV has a great series on disaster scenarios and they have an informative episode on earthquakes that you can find here.
     I won’t bore you with my personal story of “What were you doing during the earthquake?” as we’ve probably heard one too many stories, and I know we’ll hear many more.  I will mention that I was not in the city, but was off the island in one of the boroughs.  Having a well prepped ECB on me with enough water and food to last me for a few days I felt empowered and confident.  As that is the goal of disaster preparation; taking matters into our own hands as responsible New Yorkers so that we will not have to rely on others whatever the crisis may be.