Don’t blame the messenger

Storm Babe

Power’s back in most parts of town (sorry about those who are still freezing in the dark), and the recriminations and blame which started almost the night of the storm, have been growing ever louder. That energy is misdirected.

We live in a society entirely dependent on electricity, far more so, even, than a few decades ago. When the power goes, our modern world goes with it and it’s awful. But after tree massive, prolonged power outages in just two years we should, I think, acknowledge that it can and will happen again, and probably again and again, and prepare better for long periods of disruption. Blame global warming, blame CL&P or the refusal of homeowners to have their front yards denuded  for the protection of power lines, heck – blame Bush – the result will be the same.

You can buy a generator and assuming that doesn’t float away in the next flood, you can maintain heat and water, but I’d go farther (and I’d skip the generator myself, but then I enjoy a bit of camping out). Prepare your household for survival mode.

Mountain House

Stock up on freeze dried food – here’s just one brand, but one that I like. It’ll last for years and if disaster never comes you can use it for backpacking trips – tasty stuff.

Stock up on bottled water. Wells can fail, municipal water supplies can get contaminated when their own pumps lose power.You may very well want a water filter too. Here’s one, from Katadyn, a brand I’ve found to be extremely reliable and fool-proof in the woods, so there’s no reason to think it won’t work in Khakum Woods too.

Water and food are good things to have, as are sleeping bags for the family, cases of batteries and lights to use them in. You might consider a chainsaw, but if you do, the time to learn how to use it is before, not after a storm.

You get the general picture, but don’t forget a solar phone recharger. And if you have kids, buy a case of them – they power iPods, too. Bottom line: prepare now, be (more) comfortable later. “Bugout kits”, which enable you to quickly flee a calamity and shelter in your Adirondack baronial palace, involve far more than most suburbanites can handle: guns, real SUVs, a pre-stocked shelter awaiting you, etc. If it comes to all that, we’re so friggin’ doomed that we probably shouldn’t bother.

Happy camping.


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15 responses to “Don’t blame the messenger

  1. Earth Image

    Thanks for a realistic appraisal –something your profession doesn’t dispense with just straight talk. ( real SUV’s ??)

    Loved your Maine woods escape plan.

    We ‘ll be live blogging the next storm on Wednesday from our own favorite campground in Florida.

  2. Walt

    Dude –
    I am not like you. I am a normal person.

    But you may be right. The end of times may be coming. So what better way to go out than be prepared and blow the snot out of any human being that crosses your path?

    Can we sleep in teepees? Maybe we get to bang Elizabeth Warren!!!

    You can have my turn.
    You heathen.
    Your Pal,

  3. Walt

    And the chIck in the picture is a hottie. She can ride my log any time.

  4. Martha

    Nothing happening here and our generator is getting feisty. We did see some progress with clearing trees in the neighborhood yesterday, though. Where are people finding time estimates from cl&p? All I can find is the outage map that lists % down. But then, I’m only on an iPhone bc cablebision is still down-cant get an estimate on that, either.

    Ps, gardener processed half our trees over the last two days and is going to try and finish up today😊

  5. Anonymous

    31% of Greenwich still without power. Times like this I wish I lived in Cos Cob.

  6. Pete

    If your stocking up on water I suggest adding a few cases of red wine. Hydration, with nutrients and pleasure all in one reusable and recyclable glass bottle. The corks are handy too. Also a little whiskey on the side for medicinal purposes.

  7. FlyAngler

    OMG, the Prepper League snuck a replicant pod into Chris house and replaced Chris with a Prepper Chris.

    Seriously Chris, great public service message and I hope some of your unprepared readers take the advice. While a dependence on electricity has been a feature of our society for 50 years or more, over the past 10 to 20 years too many affluent Americans have also become dependent on others for too many things that make life go forward. Consider:

    Too much eat out, take home or delivery of prepared food allows folks to have bare refrigerators, pantries, etc. if you rarely cook, you have no reason to have fresh, canned, dried or frozen food in the house. Thus, when the power goes off, you have nothing to live off of should food preparation establishments or grocery stores be closed.

    In our credit card, debit card and ubiquitous ATM culture, few people carry around more than pocket change and fewer keep a real amount of cash at home. What happens when banks can’t open, ATMs are either unpowered or out of cash or the entire processing system goes down? In times like that, any merchant willing to be open for business can only take cash or IOUs (good luck with that). Yet, is see people daily use a debit card for a latte at Starbuck$ and I am sure it is because they don’t keep cash on hand.

    I grew up with city supplied water and remember the water always worked when we had blackouts. Today, many rely on wells which are useless in a storm if you don’t have backup power. How much bottled water do folks with wells keep on hand?

    Communications is another key change where increasing numbers of people are surrendering their POTS lines (Plain Old Telephone System) and becoming reliant on just cellular. Do such folks not understand that the landline system is hardy and usually only susceptible to local tree damage? Do they realize their mobile phone coverage is only as good as the backup power at the nearest cell site which is usually battery driven? And the there is the challenge of charging their phones. I am astonished how few people have chargers so they can use their vehicle to charge their phones.

    Which gets me to the last point in this rant on our current culture, gasoline. If you have a generator that runs on liquid gasoline why don’t you have several days supply stored at home? Buy five 5-gallon plastic cans, throw a double dose of Sta-bil in each and fill them. Rotate those into you vehicles every six to twelve months and never have to worry about gas in the next prolonged outage.

    And drivers, stop driving around regularly on fumes. Fill your tank when it gets to half so that you always have half a tank. Even in my gas guzzling truck, that’s 200-250 miles. Add that to the 35 gallons safely and properly stored in my garage, and I have nearly 700 miles without needing to get shot at a gas station.

    More importantly, FILL THE DAMNED TANK at the first notice of a storm headed our way. There is no way all those folks panicking in gas stations lines have driven the equivalent of a half or full tank of gas over the past week.

    Chris, I worry that we have become a lazy people (generally) who poo poo storms and preparedness and then complain at the first inconveniences. the average person does not have to become a candidate for the Doomsday Preppers TV show but, as you point out, some small steps can make such situations far more survivable. And it does not require a mountain of money to become modestly prepared for a week long event.

    If your home is not impacted directly by tree or water damage in a storm, there is no reason why you have to suffer or become dependent on the government. But you also have to be smart as evidenced by a home near Taconic which burned to the ground yesterday. Seems the family pet knocked over a quartz space heater that was being powered by a portable generator. My guess it was a big dog who should have been leashed or caged in the house with a hot heater standing in the middle of a room. Bad luck but poor planning as well.

    Be smart but be prepared. The easiest way to avoid being a victim is to become more self sufficient. And don’t just buy equipment, learn how to use it.

    Good luck!

  8. We’re still w/o, as a matter if fact, the whole village of Bedford is still out. While I don’t share your enthusiasm for camping and freeze-dried foods (that you will most likely doing in a tent for one!), I do agree we are doomed. The grid system is beyond antiquated and with the crazy housing density in so many towns, the electric company workers are fighting a lost cause. We haven’t even STARTED to get lines repaired yet; the tree damage is still being removed by National Guard tractors. And for the last two years, ConEd spent a fortune cutting back limbs – for what? Nothing. It solved no problem nor did it save any transformer from being sent to the ground in pieces.
    The good news in all of this is people: Peeps said it best (and dear dear Peeps, please don’t leave), neighbors are helping neighbors. A bunch of us spent the day yesterday at the fire house, making meals to give out. And anyone with a generator was asked to house those without. As I type on my cell phone, 8 people I don’t know are still sound asleep upstairs. So for all the hardships many have endured this week with loss of property, its incredibly heartwarming to see people actually caring, coming out of the moat-surrounded fortresses, getting to bond like neighbors used to. Maybe all this outage isn’t a bad thing afterall.

    PS: Cos Cobber: thanks for the link to Bramble’s website. WOW!!

  9. Anonymous

    A friend of mine who did a stint as a the Homeland Security liaison in a major US city after 911 said that in a real disaster you only need enough survival stuff for a week. After that the have nots are going to come take all your stuff and you need to get out before then, rather than try to stay put. Better to be stuck on a major artery out of town, which can be policed, than hunkered down having your family butchered.

  10. db

    I’d also add:

    One of those Powerstation PSX things you see in Costco. Allows you to put air in tire, jump start your car and has 18000 mah of power for phones, tablets to you name it (typical phone uses 2k mah per charge). One note, make sure to charge it monthly in summer and right after each use to get 4 or more years out of them.

    Buy an inverter to convert 12 volt dc (car, powerstation above) to standard 120 volt for low wattage stuff you may need in an emergency (laptop etc).

    Know power is going, empty ice maker and put in freezer bags. Nothing more fun than cleaning out the large puddle at bottom of fridge if you forget.

  11. Balzac

    EOS – hooray for you, housing the neighbors!

  12. Mr. Independent

    In the 60’s my friends used to tease me about staying in Boy Scouts learning the practical stuff you write about. Now I find it some of the best education I ever had.

  13. FlyAngler

    Anon@8:59 – that’s when precious metals come in hand. Not gold and silver, but lead, copper and brass in various calibers.

  14. NY Tax Refugee

    I highly recommend Cyalume Snaplight safety lightsticks as part of your emergency preparedness kit. They glow for 8-12 hours, provide adequate light for getting around in pitch black darkness, and they are safe (non flammable) around kids and pets. I cracked open my last two this week during our 78 (but who’s counting?) hours without electricity/heat/hot water. They “expired” 3 years ago according to the date on the package but worked just fine. Will replenish the supply because they’re better/safer than candles. And more reliable than my battery flashlights.