This weekend the east coast of the United States was wallopped again with snow. In our area, we received 17 inches. We received more snow in the December blizzard (almost 24”) but all of the hype about “Snowmageddon” made this storm feel a little worse. We lost power for about 5 hours and telephone service for about 24 hours.
Today, I thought I would share some survival lessons learned during this recent storm.
- Stay Home. When an emergency is occurring, some people feel a strange need to be out to “experience” it. They get in their cars to drive around, walk to the grocery store, etc. If a handful of people did this, it would not be a big deal but when scores of people do this, it really hampers the recovery efforts. In all of the recent snow storms, there were news stories of people trying to drive the highways in the middle of the storm. They inevitably get stranded, require the assistance of police or emergency crews to get unstuck and sometimes they end up stranding our first responders as well. In this weekend’s storm, there were also numerous stories of plows not being able to get down the roads due to stuck cars and even pedestrians. We all need to remember that we all pull together in an emergency. If you are not in danger and you are not a first responder, your job is to stay put and not create additional problems. If you are bored, go visit your neighbors to see if they are OK.
- Chill Out About Food. It is interesting how quickly everyone turns to food in the event of an emergency! As I have written about before, technically most adults can survive for weeks without food. The mere thought of not being able to get to the grocery store for a few days, however, puts many people in a panic. On Thursday evening before the storm, my husband asked me if he should run out and get a few things. Our fridge was looking pretty lean, but having completed the Refrigerator and Pantry Challenge, I now know that even my “lean” fridge has at least a week’s worth of meals in it. I told my husband that he didn’t need to go, that we might not have our first choice of things to eat but we would definitely not starve. And, sure enough, we were fine. This is another time to think about having your emergency food supply ready. If you already had a month’s worth of non-perishable food stockpiled, there is no need to rush last-minute to the grocery store. I have been delinquent in setting up my own emergency food stores so I am pushing that back to the top of my to-do list.
- Know Your Water Supplies.
Each time we lose power at our house, we also lose water since we are on a well system. You need two types of water during an emergency…”gray water” (for washing hands, rinsing dishes, flushing toilets and bathing) and drinking water. A great source of gray water is your hot water heater tank. If you know how to drain the tank, it will come in extremely handy. During our power outage over the weekend, we had to use this trick once. Our hot water heater requires a screwdriver to open the valve but it is a fairly simple operation that anyone can do. It would be a good idea to learn how to drain your hot water heater tank if you don’t know how already.
- Stockpile Essential Tools. One lesson that we needed to learn during this storm was that if there are critical tools you need for a particular emergency, make sure you have more than one! My husband did so much shoveling he actually managed to break our snow shovel! There is not a snow shovel to be had at any store for miles. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a snowblower and snow shovel from a neighbor. When we finally are able to buy a snow shovel, we will get two. It is a good idea to have one extra or to have one for each able-bodied adult. Even if you can’t shovel at all, it might be a good idea to store a shovel to loan out to neighbors. They might dig you out in return!
- Redundancy is Great. When you have more than one way of achieving an objective, you are better prepared for emergencies. For example, when the power went out, since we have both electric and gas lines in our house, we just switched over to heating food on the gas cooktop instead of in the electric oven. When the phone lines went out, it was great to have a cell phone. IP phones also worked great once the power came back on.
- Have an Emergency Radio.
We received a Grundig emergency radio as a Christmas present one year. At the time I remember thinking, “When will we ever use this?!” but I have to say we have genuinely needed it for at least two emergencies so far. When the power goes out, the phone lines are down and you can’t use your cell phone either because coverage is spotty, the cell networks are overwhelmed with calls, or your cell phone battery has died, radio is the way to stay updated on any emergency information. Get a radio that can be cranked to maintain a charge if your batteries run out.
- Basic Technology Can Be the Best.
Toward the end of the power outage as sunset was approaching, we started lighting some candles around the house. While we have battery-operated flashlights and lanterns, they do eat batteries fairly rapidly. It was nice to have something simple like a candle that only required a match. Candles also give a calming, peaceful effect to any situation. A box of candles and a box of matches will also stay on my emergency supply list.
- Switch Off the News if you are Starting to Panic. At the halfway point during the storm with the snow coming down rapidly and the power out, listening to the news on the radio was not helpful. Perhaps for dramatic effect, news stories started coming in that we might get 50 inches of snow! 50 inches!! Then, of course, you start to get stories about buildings collapsing, people rushing to the grocery stores to grab all the available food and even people dying. If you are a bit nervous to begin with, you don’t need to hear all of this. When you turn off the news and just focus on your own surroundings, there is a lot less panic. Keep reminding yourself that you are currently fine, that you are not in danger and that things will be OK.
- Create Your Own Projects. One of the biggest dangers during an emergency is boredom. Some people just cannot sit still at home. (See #1 above.) If you are one of those people that cannot relax, give yourself a project. Snow shoveling is exhausting and a good workout for antsy folks deprived of television and the Internet. I amused myself by going through a megaton of papers in my office. If you are focused on achieving your own project, you worry less too.
- Have Extra Batteries and Memory Cards Available for your Camera. You will want to document and remember your experience of these events. The world covered in snow is so beautiful and little ones dressed in their snow gear are hilarious.
Have a snow survival tip? Please share in the comments.