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Things I Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy touched ground in New Jersey six days ago today. There are still thousands of people without power and hundreds who are now without homes because they were destroyed by the storm.

Life is still not back to normal. Thankfully the kids go back to school tomorrow. Most schools in the area were closed down all last week. At least the kids can get back on their regular schedules.

Store shelves are still not fully stocked.

Don’t get me started on the gasoline situation. I have never, ever seen anything like it. People having to wait 5 hours just to get 10 gallons or $20 in gas (every station around here has been doing it a bit differently). If you are in New Jersey you can only get gas on odd or even days depending on the last digit on your licence plate

Help is on it’s way and crews are working around the clock to restore power. Some people still won’t see power for another week.

We always try and be prepared in case of emergencies. Sadly, like many others, we have that ideology that “it can’t happen to us”. Now we know better. I think many people got slapped in the face with reality and know that the next time a storm is coming BE PREPARED!

These are a few things I’ve learned from Hurricane Sandy.

- Fill up your gas tanks! Most people didn’t think to do that. When gas stations ran out of gas (or were without power) there was no way to get gas. You can’t get places without gas. Some people couldn’t even get to work because they didn’t have gas.

Some stations are getting gas deliveries, but, the lines to get the gas are crazy! Most lines are hours long. Many people are losing patience and fights are starting to break out.

When a big storm is heading your way make sure to fill your car up with gas. If you have more than one car fill them all up. You might need them in case of emergencies long after the storm is over.

- Stock up on supplies to take care of your family for at least 7-10 days. Most people stock up on 2-3 days worth of supplies in case they lose power. Talk to people who have been without power for almost a week, and might have to wait another week to get their power back, and I’m sure they will agree with me. Plan for being without power for at least a week. Even if you are in a major city you can still go a long time without power. New York City is one of the biggest cities in the world and there are people there who are still without power.

Make sure you have at least one gallon of water per person per day. Don’t forget extra water for your pets. Stock up on non-perishable foods like canned soup, canned pasta, canned tuna, crackers and anything else you can easily open and eat. Make sure to have more than enough batteries too. If you have a flashlight on for several hours a day you can go through batteries quickly. Stock up every chance you can. Consider going to warehouse places like Costco and buying one of the huge packages of batteries.

- If you live in an area where the temperatures can drop make sure you have plenty of blankets available. It’s been very cold at night here in the Northeast. Local shelters are begging for more blankets to keep people warm at night.

Having hats and gloves you can wear at night will also help, plus you should dress in layers.

- Don’t forget about your pets! Make sure every pet has a tag on it with a way to reach you in case you get separated. Many animals were left behind, making it impossible to find their owners unless the owners come looking for them.

If possible make arrangements for your pets to stay with another family until it’s safe to be home. If you know a storm is coming consider bringing them to another location where they will be safe until it passes.

Pack an emergency kit for your pets which includes water, food, bowls, toys, medications and a blanket.

- Make arrangements to stay with family and friends. If you are going to be without power or possibly displaced for your home for a long period of time, make sure you can stay with family and friends. Our condo complex is filled with cars from people who are staying with family and friends in our complex until they can go home. So much so that it’s impossible to find any place to park. If we had to leave our condo I know I could go upstate and stay with my father and stepmother. It’s a much more comfortable situation than hanging out at a shelter.

- Get flood insurance and up your home owners insurance. Even if you don’t think your home can flood – think again! Flood insurance is available. It might not be available with all home owners policies, but it’s worth looking into. Flood waters can do serious damage to your home as well as destroy property. Protect yourself and make sure you have ample insurance. If possible upgrade your home owners insurance just in case.

Credit: NY Daily News

- Get a firebox and keep all your important papers in it. In case of an emergency and you have to flee your home it’s important that you have a firebox to store all your documents in for safe keeping. A fire box will also protect those documents in case of fire. I’m sure the families whose homes were burned down in Queens were not expecting their houses to burn to the ground during a hurricane.

Fire boxes are available at many retail locations and are not that expensive.

- Visit the ATM BEFORE the storm. If power goes out you will not be able to get cash. Plus some stores might not be able to accept debit/credit cards and will have a “cash only” option. Make sure to tuck away some emergency cash and use it ONLY in case of an emergency. You can always take out more than you need and re-deposit what you don’t need after the storm has passed. It’s “better safe than sorry”.

- Help your neighbors. If you have elderly or disabled neighbors please check in on them. If possible help them to find a better location to ride out the storm so that they are not home alone. Offer to help purchase supplies in case they are unable to make it to the store. If you have to flee make sure they have a way out as well, or else offer to take them with you.

- Always check trees and branches. If you have a lot of trees on your property make sure to check on them on a regular basis. If need be have potentially dangerous branches removed.

If possible park your car away from trees during a storm.

If there are huge trees in your yard, try and confine yourselves to a part of the house where you will be safer in case the tree (or trees) fall and hit your home. Stay on the lower floors is possible.

- Don’t think that you are invincible! Even if you think you can ride out a storm, or drive your car thought flooded waters, don’t take any chances. No one is Superman. Don’t be foolish to think you are not going to get hurt. Sure, it might be fun to see 10′+ waves crashing on the beach, or flood waters racing through town. But is it worth your life? Let the professionals take photos and you can enjoy them from the comfort and safety of your home.

I learned A LOT more from this storm, but I don’t want to bore anyone.

We were fortunate. Our lights flickered a few times and we’ve had Internet problems off and on over the week, but aside from that we were one of the lucky ones. Friends, family and neighbors were not so fortunate.

Right now there are thousands of people who need our help. On Monday, November 5, 2012, Disney and ABC are having a Day of Giving. They are hoping that viewers will donate to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

This is how you can help.

  • TEXT: Text ABC to 90999 to give a $10 donation to the Red Cross.
  • ONLINE:  Go to www.RedCross.org/ABC to make a donation of any amount.
  • BY PHONE:  Call 1-800-HELP-NOW. This number will bypass all the other menu options and direct your call to Hurricane Sandy relief.

You can also donate by volunteering your time to help with clean up. Or you can offer to make a hot meal for families who are still held up in shelters. Many shelters are in need of food, water, clothing, toys for the kids, pet food and so much more.

My mom always told me “Do on to others and you wish others would do on to you” (I know it’s worded different ways, this is the way my mom said it). If YOU were stuck in a shelter because you just lost everything in a bad storm, what would YOU like for others to do for you?

My heart goes out to all the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Kimberly

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About Kimberly

Kimberly Vetrano resides in the suburbs of New York City with her family, five cats, dog, a tank full of fish and snails. She is also a freelance writer and photographer.

Comments

  1. All good information, but you know, most people who haven’t been through a disaster won’t pay any attention to it. Even people who’ve survived a disaster will, in a few years, get complacent about preparing for the worst. I’ve been blogging about hurricane safety for seven years, since going through Ivan, Dennis & Katrina, and everything you say is 100% accurate for my disaster experience, but unfortunately, most people have to learn by experience.

    That said, I remember after the major storms that hit the Gulf Coast, don’t try to give clothing or household goods unless you can do so through an organization, such as a church, that has specific needs for specific families. After Katrina, for example, people took truckloads of clothes, which got piled up in vacant lots, it got rained on, got dirty, and just created more debris to clean up. Part of the problem is, after a major disaster, the infrastructure is not in place to store, sort and distribute the clothes and items so they get to people who can use the same size slacks and shirts that you donated. If you can get a list of people in need, their sizes and ages, then you can prepare boxes of donations just for them and know that your generosity is not going to waste.

    One more thing – you mentioned running out of water. We had horrible water pressure for several days after Ivan because of the wastewater treatment plant flooding, lines breaking, etc. Here’s a couple of tips. Unless your water heater is working, you may have several gallons stored in it. Many of them have a tap on the side, so you can drain water directly into a container to use for drinking or washing.

    If you have plain household bleach, nothing with fragrance or other additives, you can add a few drops to a gallon of questionable water and purify it for drinking or washing. The Washington State Dept. of Health has a whole page on it: http://www.doh.wa.gov/Emergencies/EmergencyPreparednessandResponse/Factsheets/WaterPurification.aspx

    I hope this helps!

  2. Wow, these are really great tips! We have an emergency kit at all times in the house so we can just grab it and go in case of emergencies!