A ferocious Nor’easter lashed central New Hampshire recently. The howling wind and rain knocked out my electricity before midnight. My cable Internet access was cut as well. It was impossible to get a good night’s sleep.
I have a standby generator that powers essential systems in the house, but for some reason it failed to automatically start. I trudged out to manually start it in total darkness. When you live in a rural area, you have a crisp understanding of the term “pitch black.”
It’s important to note that I set a very powerful flashlight by the front door just a few days ago. Without that handy tool, I may have had to depend on the LED flashlight in my cellphone that currently has no service. The powerful storm obviously did serious damage to the local cellphone towers near me, but I was unable to find that out, as I was completely and utterly disconnected from all incoming news.
I’d like to add that I was very fortunate that it was a balmy 60 degrees outside. It could have been 15 degrees with a foot of snow on the ground.
I sat at our breakfast table in a mild state of consternation after coming inside from powering up the 17,000-watt generator. A lack of sleep and my dependency on having constant access to the Internet contributed to my frustration as I sat there.
I suspect I’m not alone in that respect. I’m willing to bet you or someone you know has become far too dependent on technology and modern conveniences. You may be surrounded by the same fog that surrounded me the past few years but don’t realize it.
I decided to write this column to help you and to create my own checklist so the next time a big storm hits, I’ll not only be ready to deal with the aftermath but also able to go about most of my normal daily routine.
I’ve seen myriad get-prepared checklists over the years. Most of them are quite good. You may be one who says: “Those are great ideas. I’ll knock out that checklist when I get around to it.” But then a week, a month and a season goes by, and you’ve done little or nothing to get prepared.
Electricity is the cornerstone of surviving for most of us. It powers just about everything in your home you use on a daily basis, including flashlights. I’m now a fan of rechargeable flashlights that don’t depend on traditional batteries. I have several flashlights that can be recharged with a 16,000 mAh storage battery that has its own small solar trickle charger. I recommend that you invest in several of these so you can keep your cellphone topped off and even recharge a laptop if necessary.
I also own a 28-watt folding solar panel that connects directly to a hefty lithium-iron-phosphate battery. This battery not only has a built-in controller that regulates the incoming electricity from the solar cells, but it also has an inverter so it can convert the stored DC power into 120 volts of AC power. Small appliances or a traditional transistor radio can be powered by this clever power pack.
How good is your memory? How many telephone numbers have you memorized? Something tells me you’ve delegated this job to the memory chip inside your cellphone. If your cellphone battery dies and you can’t access your contact list, how will you call up the contractors, roofers, electricians, plumbers and so forth that you might need to help you restore your life back to normal?
It’s time to get a small waterproof note pad and write down important phone numbers that are need-to-know, not nice-to-know. I have some Rite in the Rain waterproof note pads in my office, but when I looked at them after the storm, each page was completely blank. I changed that. I jotted down many important numbers the way it was done 20 years ago.
What are the absolute basic things you need to survive for 24 or 48 hours? Make that list. Where are these items? My guess is they’re scattered all about your house.
What happens if you have to leave your home fast? A wildfire, a train derailment or some other calamity could cause local authorities to evacuate your neighborhood.
Give yourself an early Christmas present and buy a go bag or a nice daypack that has enough storage space to hold all you need. Inexpensive things that you can duplicate can be already packed. More expensive things you need can be rearranged in a nearby location so you can pack up and be gone in 10 minutes or less.
There’s a huge advantage to making this effort. When you get stressed out by the disaster, you might not think clearly. You may forget some all-important item. You may waste valuable time trying to find something in the dark or in the debris field surrounding you. When your life gets upended, you don’t need small problems to take up valuable time and resources.
I was really frustrated during the power outage, because I couldn’t even reach out to my best friend, who lives only eight miles away. We’re both amateur radio operators, but I had failed to set up some agreed-to plan as to exactly how we would use our battery-powered radios to communicate. That plan will soon be in effect, for sure.
You may want to consider hand- or gasoline-powered tools you will need to claw your way back to civilization. I own a powerful chain saw. I always make sure I’ve got plenty of fuel and extra chains. Three years ago a freak snowstorm with wet, heavy snow trapped me at the end of my street. It took hours of work to cut a path to freedom.
I recommend that you gather all of the disaster preparedness checklists you can find and pluck tips from them that fit your life. Devote a day or just part of a day in the next two weeks to complete the most important things on the checklist. I know I’m going to do everything possible to burn away the fog of complacency that surrounded me over the past few years. You should, too.
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