Monday, November 12, 2012

Notes from the Sandy Zone

The following was originally posted by "Crowgirl" on I am copying it here so that the info is kept available to all, after it slips into the site's archives. I have cleaned up the formatting somewhat, but otherwise haven't edited the post.

1) My trip to LI (parents were in the hurricane area)

I left here Thursday AM, after loading out the car with a lot of equipment, most of it newly purchased as I was planning on leaving it there and didn't want to sacrifice my own home preps.

I brought: 2 small generators (1800 and 2000 watts), 2 inverters, 2 deep cycle batteries, a battery charger, an extension cord (from house preps), a camp stove (from house preps), 2 power strips, 8 cans of camp stove propane, firestarters, matches, solar lanterns (from house preps), a ton of batteries, a metal cot (from house preps), a shotgun (from house preps), ammo, 2 cases of water, and 10 gal empty gas cans (more on that later).

Also cell phone, chargers, laptop, groceries, clothes and the usual stuff you'd take on a trip.

The ride down from VT was fairly uneventful except for the gas situation, which started to be noticeable 60 miles north of NYC.

I stopped once on I-87 for gas for the car. Then I stopped in Newburgh NY for a cell phone charger that I had forgotten and thank God I did. When I got off the exit I noticed that lots of people with cars with New Jersey plates were huddled around the gas pumps filling up cans. I stopped and asked the guys there where the northern edge of the "no gas zone" was. One told me "you're lookin' at it, baby".

I ended up filling the cans there rather than in White Plains as I had planned. If I had waited it would have been too late.

I topped off the car one last time halfway down 684 and there was nothing left at the station but super unleaded and the line was fairly brutal.

When I got to my hometown I drove right down the main street. Most of the lights were out. Many of the stores were boarded up with plywood against looters and unsavory characters were lurking around.

Trees were down all around, and I had to take a few alternate streets to get to my parents house. Arrival there was uneventful.

I was there for 8 days. The trip home was also uneventful. At the time I left the houses across the street still had no power and gas was still very limited in supply.


2) Notes on physical issues:

- You may have to head INTO a disaster area rather than out of one, because of family members (or bad luck). This was something I had never really considered. This is a more difficult situation than bugging out or staying put as you have to both pack and assume that nothing is available at your target destination (whereas if you bug out to a safe zone it may be and if you stay put you have all your stuff right there).

- Make sure your vehicle can handle the weight of what you are carrying. My car had so much stuff in it that it steered like a shopping cart with a bad wheel. I
never weighed it but I think I was close to the gross weight the car could handle.

- You will forget things if you don't prepack it and doublecheck it all. I did pretty well considering the circumstances (on top of it all a family member was ill) but forgot my toothbrush, a prescription, my cell phone charger, and some tools.

- Whatever you forget will be the one thing you need to get everything else working. The toolkit had some screwdrivers I needed to get the generator cover off. Fortunately a neighbor had some.

- Gas, gas and more gas. You can't have too much gasoline. If you don't use it or need it someone else will.

- In bad or questionable areas, or in good areas bordering questionable ones, looting will start very quickly after the disaster. What will be looted first are luxury items, such as electronics. The "cash for gold" and the fake nails place also got hit. Food stores won't get looted until later.

- In better areas looting will take a little longer, but will still happen unless it is defended against.

- It is mostly stores that will be looted. Unoccupied houses are at risk but less likely. Occupied houses were generally left alone. The looters are lazy and are looking for a quick hit with no resistance.

- The people on the roads during a crisis will be 2 of 3 groups. The first responders will be out, responding. The normal clueful people will be home waiting it out. And the thugs/morons/lookie loos will be out driving around and getting in the first responders way.

- A crisis will make people drive like they are auditioning for The Road Warrior movie. You need to be very defensive, because if your vehicle gets damaged you may not be able to get it fixed.

- You need multiple ways of doing anything. For instance, when paying for gas some of the stations only took credit cars, some only took cash. Bring both.

- You need backups for critical items. For instance, the built-in connection cord for one of the inverters fell apart in my hands as I tried to hook it to one of the batteries, and I couldn't repair it with what I had on hand. Luckily I had a 2nd inverter. "Two is one and one is none".

- Test out your equipment ahead of time. This wasn't really possible for me because I had just bought it all, but if you have the time don't get complacent and assume it'll all work together when TSHTF. What I encountered was the inverter cord falling apart, and the newfangled gas can nozzles being a) completely cryptic and b) not working to get gas into the car. We never figured out how these "green" nozzles worked. And on the working inverter the cable loop wouldn't fit over the battery post on one of the batteries.

- You need some sort of night vision equipment, even if it's the cheapie game-spotting kind. Blacked out suburbs are DARK. And they will have bogeys in them and you're going to want to see them without them seeing you.

- Have a bicycle. In addition to it being transportation, riding it around can help you quickly acquire information from a larger area than you could get by walking.

- Don't rely on cell phones for communication. They were horrible for the first 5 days. Even texting was bad. I finally received some messages 8 days late just before I left.

- If you have VOIP phones instead of the old-time land line, make sure you have a backup power source for the home router etc. If the line are up and the regional switching gear is intact and working but you have no power in your house your phones will be out when they could be working if you had a way of powering them. Old land lines had their own power source into the phone, the newer bundled VOIP setup does not.

- You are going to need a funnel. Never leave home without a funnel.


3) Notes on mental and social issues:

- In a crisis people become more of what they already are. Thugs get thuggier, selfish people get moreso, helpful people overextend themselves. Know who you are and who your family is, and multiply it by 100 to get a sense of who you'll all turn into if TSHTF. You will have to figure out how to deal with this.

- Living in close quarters when you can't go out will have you start grating on each other. Most people aren't around others 24X7. If TSHTF you might be and it can get ... interesting. Make sure you have a way of coping, like using earplugs or bourbon or something.

- People will start hoarding even if they don't need the items. Just for grins I stood on a gas line for about a half hour one morning to try and get a gas can filled up for the neighbors generator. The guy behind me on line in his car had gotten gas twice the day before. He had close to a full tank. I still don't know why he was there. It's almost like hunting gas became a hobby for him.

- Acquiring needed supplies in a crisis requires third-world skills. When supplies are scarce everything reverts to who you know and who your friends are. The hispanics and the indians in my town who came from countries that rely on this paradigm did really well with this. Mutual backscratching and a network of friends kept food and gas flowing to them without them having to stand on lines. At one gas station they got a 12K gallon delivery at midnight and opened at 7 AM in the morning with 8K gallons. 4K gallons went *somewhere*.

- I'm convinced that when TSHTF for real the hispanic gardeners are going to be the only ones left standing LOL. They came from hardship conditions so they aren't soft, they work their butts off, and they have the skills needed to thrive in third world conditions. They somehow managed to always have gasoline and were zooming around the neighborhood with leaf blowers when everyone else was still trying to figure out how to get gas or make coffee on the barbecue.

- Expanding on the previous point: the FSA (Free Shit Army. --Dave) is too lazy to survive and will eat each other. The white collar class will still be trying to figure out what the rules are and how to cope with it all and won't do well. The blue collar people with practical skills will partner with the gardeners and will do ok, but only if they have skills in demand such as engine repair, welding, etc. Lazy blue collar workers or unskilled people won't cut it.

- Speaking of practical skills: Get some if you don't have any. Today. Of the 6 neighbors I worked with trying to get the indian people with the disabled family members down the block set up with a generator only 2 of them were of any use. One was familiar with generators. The other wasn't but knew how to hook a generator to a natural gas furnace. This cooperative effort kept those people from freezing to death but this luxury of multiple people with complimentary skillsets was pure luck and should have been able to be done by one person.
You need to understand HVAC systems, electricity, small engines, plumbing, etc. Know your home systems and that of people you will interact with.

- Most people will be appallingly unprepped. The old lady across the street didn't even have any matches. The people I loaned the generator to didn't have a working flashlight. I could go on but you get the picture. You need to either prep extra for these people or be prepared to deny them your help. And if you do the latter they may come back with reinforcements and take it anyway. It's far better to give them a box of matches, look forlorn and say "here, it's my last one, please use them carefully".

- Good neighbors will be your allies. Even ones that are unprepped may have either information or abilities that will help you all out. The guy down the block from my dad rode his bicycle all over and brought back information that was very useful. The ones up the street knew an electrician who could be brought in to help with generator hookups.

- a place that looks unarmed probably isn't. I found out from one of the neighbors that there were a lot more guns in the neighborhood than I ever suspected.

- People's slowness in getting a grip on the situation will drive you insane. For those who have been prepping for years, a crisis is much more "ho hum" and we snap into action, knowing what to do. Its very easy for us to forget that most others who we will interact with have NOT been mentally chewing on it for a decade and will come to reality much slower than we'd like.

- People slow to come to grips with the situation will look at your take-charge attitude and abilities as you being a bull in a china shop, and bossy. I had to really dial it back and gently lead them into understanding the new reality rather than barking orders at them like a Field Marshall, which is my MO in a crisis.

- Normalcy bias is a powerful thing, even in people who prep or at least somewhat get it. For instance, my mother was making tuna salad on the Friday after I got there and asked me if I wanted celery in it. She then said she was out of celery but "could run down to the store to get some". I had to remind her that the store was closed and out of power and that the traffic on the roads near the store looked like the chariot scene from "Ben Hur". This happened several times while I was there.

- Elderly people will have more trouble adapting if they haven't worked on staying flexible. My parents friends refused to come stay at our house, preferring to stay in theirs despite it being 40 degrees indoors. Their son finally forcibly removed them after coming in from another state.

- There is definitely a 'grace period" after a disaster where people are nice and cooperative with each other. It's about 72-96 hours. After that point people start getting pissy because they're cold, tired, uncomfortable, inconvenienced, etc. At that point you need to be careful how you interact with them.

- Proud parents or family members who you are helping will brag to everyone within earshot about how much you brought and how great that is. You do NOT want this to happen so warn them right at the outset to SHUT THEIR PIE HOLE. For a short term disaster this wasn't a problem but in a long term one it could have been fatal if what we had was all we were going to have for a long period of time.

- If you're female, you especially need to get a grip on practical skills. The women in the neighborhood during this were far more clueless and afraid than the men were, and the ones that had no man to rely on were especially lost. You may not always have the luxury of a guy around who knows how your furnace works. You need to be able to do it yourself.

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