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#253251 - 11/13/12 02:38 AM Notes from Sandy
Paul810 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1424
Loc: NJ, USA
After 15 days I'm starting to get back to some sense of normalcy here. Here are some notes I made during and after Hurricane Sandy:

On power:
First and foremost, at the start of a major storm unplug your computer/tv/and other sensitive electronics!

My cousin lost one of the electric wires coming into their house (the ground wire of the three phase), which fried all their TVs, their microwave, their computers, their water heater, and their fridge. I'm not sure if it caused a surge or what, but it killed almost all the electronic stuff in the house.

Also worth noting, I had a friend that lost water shortly after the power went out, even though he is on city water fed from a water tower. Luckily they got water back shortly, but for a few days he was getting buckets of water from his pool to flush his toilets. Even if you don't have a well, you should plan to lose water with an extended power outage and be pleasantly surprised if you don't.

On generators:
My parents had a 7000watt gasoline generator with a transfer switch into their home. Great setup for short term, as it powers mostly their entire home (including the heat). For a longer term though, it's terrible. Running it from when you wake up to when you go to bed burned about 11 gallons a day. With the power out for 13 days they went through almost 140 gallons of gas. They had 28 gallons on hand, which meant, for the rest of the gas, I was siphoning some of our trucks. Ended up having to drain two K5 blazers that we use as plow trucks and our one gas engine 3500 dump truck.

Luckily I was able to get the gas, but it was a real annoying situation even without waiting on gas lines, hence the whole family now ordering 20kw natural gas/propane standby generators. They plumb right into the homes natural gas line (or a propane tank), kick on within 15 seconds of the power going out, and run everything (including the central air in the summer). No more time wasted finding gas and refilling generators, which could be better spent doing other things.

Now my neighbor had a little 2000watt Briggs and Stratton inverter generator, which was much more sustainable. He burned about 2 gallons a day running his fridge, a small tv/vcr, and the Verizon ONT box for his cable/internet (as well as charging his phone/laptop intermittently). Between that, some movies, and his fireplace he was warm, fed, entertained, and able to communicate

On communication:
Even with a generator, you might not have cable tv and internet. With Comcast cable we apparently have some sort of amplifier on the pole by our house. When the pole lost power we lost cable too (well, that and a tree took out one of the cable legs). Now our neighbor had Verizon Fios cable/internet, and he lost cable/internet when the power went out too. But he ran an extension cord to power the Fios box (ONT) on the side of his house and once he did that he had cable and internet. Worth noting, the ONT from Verizon has a battery backup, but it only lasts for a few hours, at which point the system draws about 40 watts to run and recharge the battery. When the backup battery is fully charged it only draws about 16 watts.

Luckily, we never lost landline phone service. Which, made me extremely glad I didn't go with Comcast's Triple Play cable/internet/phone! With the generator off, we had to use the old style plug in phones (no cordless), but that was a minor inconvenience. Cell phones were a different story. I've got Verizon and they would work intermittently. Texting often got through when calls wouldn't (though only text based texts, picture messages wouldn't work at all). Now my friends with Sprint, their cell phones didn't work at all. We couldn't get a hold of my cousin at all, as they lost land line phone, internet, and cell.

Now with no cable, no internet, and little cell phone service we relied pretty heavily on the radio. A crank radio that can do both FM/AM is an absolute must have. We also have a police scanner, which provided a lot of local information. We were listening to the local police and fire freq. and making a list of which roads were blocked off and which areas were hit the hardest.

A couple days after the storm we got some newspapers (oddly delivered by our mail carrier), which was nice to have. Not just for news, but for entertainment as well.

On Security:

General looting/stealing was the biggest issue.

After the storm the town used little Honda EU3000 generators to run the street lights. Well they chained them up with a light duty chain and during the night someone must have come by with a set of bolt cutters and liberated one or two of them. After that, they brought in larger trailer size generators for the street lights, I guess figuring they were harder to walk away with.

After hearing about that, I got some heavy binder chain and locks and chained my generator to a tree. I also took all my gas and diesel cans and locked them in the shed. I made sure not to leave anything out that could be easily walked away with.

Besides that, the other big security concern for me was the gas station lines. Some of these gas stations were on the verge of rioting. A buddy of mine that owns a gas station even had his life threatened.

Besides that, I thought it presented a pretty good opportunity for robbery. I figured people that were angry they couldn't get gas after waiting on line all day might decide to follow you and try to take yours. Not sure if that happened at all, but I figured it was best to avoid the gas stations as much as possible.

On pumps:
No electricity means the basement sump pump won't work. A lot of people lost the stuff in their basement because they had no way to pump out any water at all. All they could do was sit there and watch their basement fill with water. If you own a home, you should definitely have some way to get rid of water in a basement if the power goes out. Be it a generator to power your sump pump, a battery back-up for the sump pump, or a separate gas powered pump. If you've got the money, it's probably not a bad idea to have all three available to you. Even a small 1" gas powered pump is only a couple hundred bucks, is easily portable, runs on very little gas, and pumps about as fast as a typical sump pump. Combine that with a sump pump running off a generator and you can drain a typical basement pretty quickly.

On fuel:
Speaking of pumps, No Power = No gas pumps. Initially gasoline was the hardest to find. The few stations that had power to pump it would run out in about 4 hours. With the refinery closed, they then couldn't restock their tanks. Shortly after, propane became hard to find. No 20lb cylinders to be had anywhere. Curiously though, I could still easily get the industrial 33lb propane tanks used for running forklifts and such. I have to look into those and see if there is a way to use them somehow. I think they have a dip tube, so you can't use them directly in place of a 20lb consumer tank. However, I might be able to fill a 20lb tank off of them.

Diesel was probably the most available. Even after stations started running out within a week or so, you could still get it from construction yards and other people with their own private tanks (if you asked them nicely). I still had 1200+ gallons on hand in my yard (kept my diesel generator and another neighbors diesel generator humming along nicely). Another contractor friend of mine had about 5000 gallons left in his tanks. Also worth noting, the IRS suspended the diesel tax during the state of emergency, so you could legally run dyed diesel in on-road vehicles.

On tools and spare parts:
Have spare spark plugs, spare engine oil, and spare two-stroke oil on hand. Two stroke oil nearly disappeared from store shelves. Also have some carb/choke cleaner on hand, I ended up having to clean a few gummed up generator and chainsaw carburetors for neighbors.

Flashlights were vital. Make sure you have more than you think you need, make sure you have spare batteries, make sure you have spare bulbs. Even if you use rechargeable batteries, make sure to have a good stock of old fashioned alkalines. I ended up giving away a bunch to neighbors that didn't have enough spares or ran out. We didn't use many lanterns as we had lights inside the house with the generator, but neighbors that didn't relied heavily on them within the house.

Also vital were plenty of blankets and sleeping bags. While we had heat during the day, once we shut off the generator we had no heat at night. It's amazing how cold it gets inside the house. Most of my neighbors have fireplaces, so those that couldn't run their heat relied heavily on their fireplace for heat. If you have one, make sure it's in good working shape and that you've got plenty of wood/propane/whatever fuel you use on hand.

Caution Tape came in very handy. We ended up closing off sections of our street and some nearby streets with caution tape, as there were numerous live power wires/trees/telephone poles down and cars kept trying to drive through it. Normally the fire department would come and do that, but they were severely back logged and couldn't make it to our area.

Other tools and gear that came in handy after the storm were a pocket knife/multi-tool, long kitchen lighter/matches, rope, branch loppers, chain saw, bow saw, small house axe, 10lb sledge hammer with wedges, leaf rakes, brooms, leaf blower, work gloves, safety glasses, and a small ratchet set with spark plug sockets.

On boredom:
With no power, tv, internet, limited phone service, etc it could get awfully boring. Especially at night and for kids. Make sure you've got plenty of board games/card games on hand, as well as old fashioned paper books. These were getting traded and passed around the neighborhood to help keep everyone occupied. With the generator, myself and a few other neighbors/relatives also had the luxury of watching dvds. A lot of these got passed around too. Don't forget to spend some quality time with your pets too, as I could tell that my dog was a bit thrown off by the whole change in routine and needed a little comforting here and there.

On getting my utilities back:
I'm not sure if this is the exact order of how things are supposed to go down, but this how they seemed to happen here:

1. Fire department would close off dangerous areas/streets.
2. The fire department and utility crews with the fire department would work to keep main roads open and stop immediately dangerous situations (like shutting off power to downed lines that were burning the ground) During this time power is also killed to whole areas if the damage is deemed too great.
3. Utility companies, town public works trucks, and various officials would ride around assessing area damage after storm. This is also when we got generators attached to our traffic lights to get them functioning again.
4. Town DPW trucks and other sub-contractors would clear trees on main roads and cut dangerous trees on side roads where it was safe for them to do so.
5. Once the trees are moved, power company can then check individual poles and services on their end. They remove immediate electrical problems, thereby making poles safe for other utility crews.
6. Individuals are told to fix the service on their end where applicable. (Time to hire an electrician!)
7. Cable and phone crews can move in to restore their individual services.
8. Power company starts getting power back on to select areas, starting with least damaged areas centering near main roads. Last is side streets with heavy damage and poles needing replacement.
9. Town DPW returns to remove whatever trees and debris they cut, but didn't clear.

We didn't see a single power company truck working by our area for about a week, which led to a lot of people wondering where the heck they were. However, there was about 7 trucks working at the substation nearby. Not sure how all that works, but it definitely seemed like they had to fix that substation before they could even think about working on the lines heading to various neighborhoods. Our area was one of the last places to get power in town. We're on a dead end side street that needed to have three poles replaced.

On insurance and the like:
If you live anywhere near a potential flood area, get flood insurance!

I have four friends whose homes were basically complete losses due to flooding and storm surge. I have another who lost a lot of the stuff around his home and in his garage due to flooding, but thankfully his house was spared. One didn't have flood insurance and he is stuck paying for it completely out of pocket. Thankfully, it's a vacation home, so he still has his primary residence and his job (he's a self employed electrician). But, if that was his only home, he would have nothing right now. At least with flood insurance he would have something to rebuild with.

If you have a business, make sure you have Business Interruption insurance!

I have two friends who weren't able to run their businesses for two weeks. Both had Business Interruption insurance and both are getting checks from their insurance providers. While it's a bit less than what they would have made in the course of two weeks, it's something. One of them also called FEMA to see if they would provide any assistance for loss of work. He was told the only assistance they could receive was a small business loan.

On Evacuation:
If you are told to evacuate, take your pets!! Quite a few people left their pets behind, and now those pets have to be rescued. If you have a dog/cat, make sure you own a travel crate/pet carrier for them.

Also, when told to evacuate, take anything else you deem irreplaceable, like family pictures and paperwork. When you're told to evacuate, you don't know when or if you'll ever be able to come back. Therefore, you should plan accordingly.

To give you an idea on time frame, if you're not a permanent resident, this last weekend was the first time since the evacuation you could return to see your property in some areas along the shore. Even then, you're only allowed to bring in two suitcases with you to remove items. You get on a bus in the morning, it takes you to the area, and then you get bussed out at 3pm. These people can't even begin to truly clean up and rebuild yet, and it's been 15 days since the storm.

Count your Blessings:
All in all, I feel amazingly lucky that the worst of my issues were a few downed trees and the loss of a few utilities. Many lost their lives and many more lost their homes. The devastation in some areas is unimaginable. It's going to take years to get parts of the shore back to even a shadow of its former self. Places that I enjoyed visiting as a child have been wiped completely off the map. It's so unbelievably heart wrenching.

If there is one good thing from all this, it's that many of us were able to count on the help and love of friends, neighbors, and even complete strangers. I know in my area it's made us a stronger and closer knit community.

I wish all of you the best and I hope these notes prove useful to your disaster preps.


Edited by Paul810 (11/13/12 05:19 AM)
Edit Reason: security

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#253254 - 11/13/12 02:58 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
chaosmagnet Offline
Sheriff
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/03/09
Posts: 1875
I'm glad you made it through okay. Thank you very much for the report.

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#253256 - 11/13/12 03:02 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Teslinhiker Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/14/09
Posts: 1093
Loc: East Fraser Valley BC.
Thanks Paul.

This is the best report I have seen yet on this forum and others.

Lots of valuable info to be gleaned here and I am taking some mental notes. The info on the generator gas consumption is staggering. Up here with gas hovering around $5.50 per gallon x 140 gallons = $770.00 which would put a lot of people in some financial hurt along with other expenses incurred and I am sure that a lot of people down there had smaller or no paychecks due to the storm.

Glad that you and your family and friends have made it through this and once again, thanks for the excellent report.
_________________________
Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.

John Lubbock

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#253262 - 11/13/12 04:40 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
MDinana Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 2146
Loc: Deep south... Carolina
Phenomenal post. Thank you for it, certainly should be tagged or maybe put on the ETS homepage. Glad you made it through relatively well.

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#253266 - 11/13/12 05:07 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Teslinhiker]
Paul810 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1424
Loc: NJ, USA
Thanks guys!

I actually forgot one.

On Security:

General looting/stealing was the biggest issue.

After the storm the town used little Honda EU3000 generators to run the street lights. Well they chained them up with a light duty chain and during the night someone must have come by with a set of bolt cutters and liberated one or two of them. After that, they brought in larger trailer size generators for the street lights, I guess figuring they were harder to walk away with.

After hearing about that, I got some heavy binder chain and locks and chained my generator to a tree. I also took all my gas and diesel cans and locked them in the shed. I made sure not to leave anything out that could be easily walked away with.

Besides that, the other big security concern for me was the gas station lines. Some of these gas stations were on the verge of rioting. A buddy of mine that owns a gas station even had his life threatened.

Besides that, I thought it presented a pretty good opportunity for robbery. I figured people that were angry they couldn't get gas after waiting on line all day might decide to follow you and try to take yours. Not sure if that happened at all, but I figured it was best to avoid the gas stations as much as possible.

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#253285 - 11/13/12 04:12 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Arney Online   content
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2340
Loc: California
Excellent write up, Paul! Very informative.

Did you have to venture beyond walking distance of home much?

And what was your food/cooking experience--yours or your neighbors? You briefly mentioned propane, but not sure if you were actually using any propane appliances.

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#253287 - 11/13/12 04:20 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Am_Fear_Liath_Mor Online   content
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/03/07
Posts: 2873
Quote:
My cousin lost one of the electric wires coming into their house (the ground wire of the three phase), which fried all their TVs, their microwave, their computers, their water heater, and their fridge. I'm not sure if it caused a surge or what, but it killed almost all the electronic stuff in the house.


Thanks for the excellent descriptive post on the difficulties of living without grid electricity.

Did your cousin have an RCD circuit breaker panel built in? Sounds like one of these could have saved all his kit from being fried not to mention your cousin if he was touching a metal computer case or mowing the lawn with his electric lawnmower for example when this happened.

Quote:
With the power out for 13 days they went through almost 140 gallons of gas.


I think we can safely assume that this power outage will have certainly encouraged even more folks to become prepared and will purchase large powered gasoline generators in the future making the gasoline shortages even more pronounced come the next grid outage.


Edited by Am_Fear_Liath_Mor (11/13/12 04:38 PM)

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#253290 - 11/13/12 05:07 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
thseng Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 899
Loc: NW NJ
Thanks for the writeup!

My greatest impression from the experience was: If you don't already have it, you are not going to find it shortly before or anytime after the event.
_________________________
- Tom S.
Mora Knives & Adventurer Series Survival Gear

"Never trust and engineer who doesn't carry a pocketknife."

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#253297 - 11/13/12 07:00 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
LesSnyder Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1171
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
down here we have a pretty descriptive saying:

"run from the water"...storm surge and fresh water flooding kills

"hide from the wind".... evacuate, board up, or hunker down as your emergency plan dictates... keep a radio tuned for tornadoes that spin off

the rest is enduring the aftermath until normal returns...

lessons learned come a few at a time...if you have lived in an area for a while, try to pass on some of the lessons learned to others, especially new residents...

the internet allows you to reach out to a wider audience with your knowledge, and in return, learn from others..

these after action reports and lessons learned forums are a great source of information...

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#253300 - 11/13/12 07:56 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: thseng]
Paul810 Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1424
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Arney
Excellent write up, Paul! Very informative.

Did you have to venture beyond walking distance of home much?

And what was your food/cooking experience--yours or your neighbors? You briefly mentioned propane, but not sure if you were actually using any propane appliances.


Yes, I had to drive around quite a bit in order to check our rental properties, get gas and fuel from our equipment yard, etc. The first couple days were very difficult, most roads were blocked with trees and down lines. Traffic lights didn't work, leading to a lot of confusion (and accidents) at busy intersections. Street lights didn't work making it extremely dark and difficult to see obstacles at night. The highways seemed to be the best bet, if you could get to them. Even then it was slow going and parts of some highways were heavily flooded.

My neighbor completely gave up on using his car, instead deciding to use his bicycle. He would strap a gas can to the pannier rack and off he went. Not sure if he ever made it back with any gas, but I know he got around pretty well like that.


As far as cooking goes, we couldn't use our stove, which is electric and not plumbed into the transfer panel. Our cook tops are natural gas and worked fine as long as you lit them with the kitchen lighter/matches (as the ignition system relies on electricity to spark the gas). We made a lot of soups, stews, and chili. With the generator, we still had our freeze and microwave, so we made a few tv dinners too. One day we plugged in the toaster and actually popped a circuit breaker on the transfer panel. Never realized it, but that thing must draw 1500+ watts (12+ amps) at startup.

For the first couple days not a single restaurant was open. They had no power and then with no power their freezers and refrigerators went south, requiring them to throw out almost all their food. The first places I saw back in business were a pizza place one town over and a McDonalds. Wait time for a pizza was 3 1/2 hours takeout. The line at McDonalds looked like the gas lines.

They say to have enough food on hand for three days, that's probably the bare minimum. I would say have enough food on hand for at least 5-7 days. I think by the fourth or fifth day we were able to get pizza with a reasonable wait time.


Originally Posted By: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor

Did your cousin have an RCD circuit breaker panel built in? Sounds like one of these could have saved all his kit from being fried not to mention your cousin if he was touching a metal computer case or mowing the lawn with his electric lawnmower for example when this happened.


In the states, we're only required to have over-current protection on our circuit panels. Certain individual outlets are required to be GFCI outlets (RCD), but only in certain areas (like the bathroom, the garage, outside, within so many feet of a plumbing fixture, etc). A lot of pre-1970's homes don't have them. I'm not sure if my cousin has them, I'll have to look next time I'm over there.

Originally Posted By: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor

I think we can safely assume that this power outage will have certainly encouraged even more folks to become prepared and will purchase large powered gasoline generators in the future making the gasoline shortages even more pronounced come the next grid outage.


I thought that would have been true after hurricane Irene, when it seemed like everyone bought a generator. But then I found that a lot of people who didn't use them or only used them for a short while turned around and sold them on Craigslist/in the newspaper/ebay/etc. I guess they figured they wouldn't ever need them again.

So now, they all went back out and bought generators yet again for Sandy. It will be interesting to see how many hold onto them and whether or not Craigslist and the like will have a glut of used ones for sale.

Originally Posted By: thseng
Thanks for the writeup!

My greatest impression from the experience was: If you don't already have it, you are not going to find it shortly before or anytime after the event.


That's basically it. Five days before the storm it became difficult to find things like generators and pumps. Now, 15+ days later, they're still nearly impossible to find.

If you don't have it two-weeks before the storm, don't plan on having it during the storm and after the storm....unless you just happen to get lucky.

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