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Lessons Learned From Superstorm Sandy

November 12, 2012 by  

Lessons Learned From Superstorm Sandy
Some victims of Superstorm Sandy resorted to dumpster diving.

In an emergency evacuation, there will always be people who stay behind to protect their personal belongings. People who ignored evacuation warnings had to be rescued and some lost their lives in one of the worst storms in the history of natural disasters in the United States.

The biggest challenges were hunger and cold because of electrical outages. More than 8.1 million homes and businesses lost power.

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, city leaders across the country are asking how their city would respond to a similar disaster and examining their preparedness and self-reliance needs. Sandy would have resulted in much more damage to property, loss of lives and overall disruption of basic infrastructure and utility services had rapid response, timely evacuation warnings and accurate decision-making not been implemented.

People affected by Sandy reported the following frightening issues:

  • Neighborhoods were completely homeless.
  • People had no place to go.
  • People had no power.
  • Many vehicles were under water.
  • People were waiting in gas lines only to find gas rationing at the stations.
  • Relief help was nonexistent. The Federal Emergency Management Agency promised to get to victims as soon as possible. The Red Cross was delayed in giving help.
  • People were caught without shoes and had very little warm clothing.
  • Older people trapped in high-rise apartments with no power in the dark could not leave because of electrical wires broken and the threat of electrocution.
  • Subways, buses and public transportation were all shut down.
  • People were walking to get food and supplies.
  • Some had no cash and could not use their credit cards.
  • There was no potable drinking water, because it was contaminated.
  • There was a shortage of food in the grocery stores.
  • People with food stamp cards could not use them because the grocery stores were accepting only cash due to the lack of power to run the cash registers.
  • People were afraid of looters, so some stayed behind to protect their property.
  • Some people watched helplessly as their neighbors were killed or drowned.
  • Many people had to be rescued from their homes.
  • There was only spotty cellphone service and nowhere to charge the cellphones.
  • Some people were told that they could not return to their homes because of the extensive damage and contamination.
  • People who did return reported that the water had ruined everything. Some people’s belongings had been looted.
  • Insurance companies were overwhelmed.
  • People’s work schedules were completely disrupted. Even getting to work was a huge problem.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson to be learned from the storm is: Don’t mess with Mother Nature (just get out). But Sandy taught us other lessons, too.

Buy Flood Insurance

Many people did not have flood insurance and, as a result, are financially devastated. That is why it is so important to check your insurance policy to make sure you are covered by storms related to Mother Nature. It is worth the extra money to get a better policy that covers weather-related incidents and flood insurance.

Plan An Evacuation Route

Carefully plan your evacuation in advance. Figure out where you’d go if you had to leave your home in an emergency (the home of a friend or relative, a shelter or an evacuation site). Map out how to get there and share this information with all close family and friends. Appoint an out-of-town relative or friend as a contact person your entire family can reach if you become separated. Make sure every family member has the phone number memorized and understands what to do in an evacuation or any other true emergency.

72-Hour 1-Person PackPack A 72-Hour Bug-Out Bag

Keep an easy-to-carry backpack full of the most important essentials that you would need if you had to evacuate your home in a hurry. Prepare one for every member of the family. Leave room for important items such as your wallet, credit cards, checkbook, laptop and hard drive with all the cords, as well as your cellphone and charger.

The following items should be included in your grab-and-go backpack:

  • Bottled water
  • ION (stabilized oxygen) water treatment to kill bacteria in contaminated water.
  • Non-perishable food such as meals ready to eat, just-add-water and easy-to-fix meals.
  • An alternative lightweight portable cook stove for heating food such as a Jet-Boil.
  • Solar-powered or battery-powered flashlight with backup batteries.
  • Solar-powered or battery-operated radio with extra batteries.
  • Emergency Mylar® blankets as well as lightweight blankets.
  • Personal medications.
  • Personal hygiene items.
  • First-aid kit.
  • Several hundred dollars in small bills and coins.
  • A change of warm clothes and shoes.

A backpack for a baby should include diapers, baby wipes, baby food, shoes, clothing, medicines, small toys and a blanket.

ION Stabilized OxygenION (Stabilized Oxygen Water Treatment)

I would not be without ION in my bug-out bag. It is non-toxic, has a long shelf life, kills all harmful bacteria and will treat 110 gallons of water safely. You can use rainwater or take water from a stream and treat it. If you are getting sick, you can mix 20 drops of ION in an 8-ounce glass of water and drink it. It will knock the flu or diarrhea bug out of your body quickly. I take ION on all my trips to Mexico or other countries where the water is questionable. I put it in all liquids such as soups, juices, drinks and water. It keeps us from getting sick. 

Important Photos And Documents

Have another container with easy-to-grip handles that hold family photos, CDs with photos, scrapbooks, important documents and anything else that is irreplaceable.

Buy A Portable Generator

A portable generator is nice to have on hand in case you have to keep your refrigerator, freezer or any other appliance going. You can charge your cellphones and laptops if you have power from a generator. Don’t use gasoline motors in enclosed spaces because of carbon monoxide gas.

Prepare For Your Pets

In the aftermath of Sandy (as is the case in all major storms), many pets were lost, displaced or killed. Most people consider their animals as members of the family. They cannot bear to leave them behind. Many residents would rather stay behind with their pets than to leave them behind. Plan ahead for their safety by assembling a bug-out bag for your pets. Include the most important things you would need for them in an evacuation — things such as pet food, water, a leash, a collar, a blanket and a portable cage. Research all pet-evacuation centers in your area just in case your pet has to go to a designated pet shelter. Make sure your pet is properly tagged so it can be returned to you in case it is found stranded somewhere.

Prepare To Take Care Of Yourself And Your Family

Help may not arrive for at least three days. That is about how long it takes to get help in an emergency situation. Having a two-week supply of essentials will make life a whole lot easier. Think through the entire situation and plan your strategy. Find out if any of your neighbors are senior citizens, disabled people or families with young children. If so, get to know them. The lives you save might be theirs. With extra emergency supplies on hand, you can help others instead of waiting for help.

–Peggy Layton

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

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  • Jon

    It is sad, of course, to see so many people hurt. But the plain fact is, that most of them were not prepared for trouble and/or placed all their faith in the government or other institutions to bail them out. Being prepared is not cheap and seldom easy. But those who don’t prepare to support themselves and families during times of difficulty deserve to die. It is the choice they made.

    • OLD MAN

      No one “DESERVES TO DIE” but these people who are ambivalently and cluelessly waltzing their way through life are certainly putting themselves at much greater risk of loosing their lives. It tends to leave those of us who are trying to prepare for the worst and hope for the best to feel that what ever their fate is they brought it on themselves and may indead “DESERVE IT”.
      Because of their ambivalence we who try to prepare are at greater risk because of their desperation when they are confronted with the event.

      • granny mae

        Old Man, I agree with you. No-one deserves to die but a lot of them deserve what they get ! I will be willing to bet that in a year or two down the road most will have gotten through this mess and have put it out of their mind and still will not be prepared for another emergency. They will think it was a once in a lifetime happening and it will never happen again ! There is no reason for anyone not to prepare to some degree for the worst to happen. I have a lot of family and many of them suffering from a lack of enough funds but all of them are prepared to one degree or another. They can all survive at least for three weeks. They won’t be surviving in their normal everyday mode but they will survive in health and not die ! People must not expect to prepare for emergencies all at one time. It doesn’t happen that way. you do it one step at a time with a firm and deliberate goal in mind and you learn to choose what is necessary and what isn’t. Necessities first and wants and nice to haves next. What are necessities? Medicine for the sick, water that is drinkable, warmth and shelter, and food ! To me the last of the absolute necessities is food but it is necessary to live , so it must be included. Medicine first because without it most would die right away so figure out how to get it keep it and use it first. Second is water, a supply for emediate use is necessary but you can’t haul around all the weight and bulk of stored water with you, so what do you do? You must have a way to purify and clean dirty water so you can drink it ! Unless you are in the desert you should be able to find some water of some kind to drink. Making it drinkable is the next thing. There are many products out there on the market that will serve the purpose just remember that you may not have to just kill the bacteria in the available water but you may have to be able to filter it too. If you have a lot of little junk floating in the water you won’t want to drink it or feed it to your baby. There are some great sports bottles available that will not only purify your water but also filter it as well and taking along the bottle of ion is a good idea too, especially to use to keep well. Depending on where you live you will need to keep warm or as cool as possible. Two things for that purpose is a good blanket for warmth. A home made one could be your best bet because you can make it as lite weight as possible and also as warm as possible. There are several ways to do this. One is to make a home made quilt from scraps of material for the top but the backing should be made of a silky material such as synthetic satin (satin sheets from second hand store) or even an old comforter made of satin material. That material takes the warmth of your body and reflects it back on to you. I know I have done it! For the inside of the quilt you could use an old worn out blanket or sheet or old baby blankets sewed together etc. Use your imagination but try to keep it as lite weight as possible. The second possibility is to make a huge case like a pillow case, sewing up three sides and leaving one open. Slide an old comforter or blanket inside it and then sew ties on the open end and tie it shut. To keep the inside from slipping around you can tack it in various places with yarn, embroidry thread or crochet thread to stabelize it. Also go on sites like Emergency essentials and order a couple foilized emergency blankets from them they are not expensive. I sugest getting the one with the hood. For hot climates U suggest making sure you have an umbrella with you. The bigger the better. It is used for shade and also to keep the rain off. This can also be used for keeping the snow or rain off you if you find yourself caught out in the weather in any weather. Just do not open your umbrella in the wind or it will be destroyed and you have lost a very important piece of your equipment ! Having hand warmers and throwawy heat packs is a good idea too along with some matches or gas powered lighters for making fire. If stranded on the highway do not leave your car ! Stay with your car for shelter but make sure if it is snowing that you keep the snow away from your tailpipe or window. It may sound stupid but I keep a piece of pvc pipe on the floor of the back seat just in case I am stuck on the freeway and there is a bad snow storm. That pipe is going to get me much needed air when the car is snowed in. I also suggest painting the top of the pipe or even all of it with orange paint to make it more visable to rescuers. As for food I suggest a few MRE’s to carry you over for at least 4 days and after that some dried foods that are light weight to carry and only need milk or water to fix. From there you can add what ever you want but this will keep you alive and well in an emergency. Most of this you may already have in your home or you can pick it up one thing at a time and store it with your BOB. Some things can be stored all the time in your car, such as blanket or pvc pipe. Some of these things can be had for free by checking out the dumpsters near you. NOT FOOD please ! I suggest that people keep their eyes open for things that you can make use of. It doesn’t have to be new. No-one knows how long you have had something or where you got it unless you tell them. A good standard answer for such questions is I don’t remember, which in my case is usually true ! We have things all throughout our homes that can be used in BOB’s all we have to do is store them there and they are ready to go when you are. When it comes to foods for storage you probably already use a lot of storage food and you don’t realize it. Things like Rice-A-Roni or hamburger helper or any of the side dishes we buy in the grocery store are good for storage, you just make sure you use them and rotate them as you go along. Canned milk or powdered milk, dry soup mixes and dried fruit or roll-ups, prepackaged cereal in the bowl, Ramen noodles, in the cup, can all be used for emergency use. When there is a bad storm headed your way you make sure you have all your important papers in a plastic bag or tote, your BOB ready, candles or flashlights ready and the car gassed up and some money in your pocket. At least enough money for gass enough to take you out of harms way.

      • grannymae1

        My computer is telling me I have become too long winded so I will get off here, but let me say in closing, Everyone can and should be able to take care of themselves. Start now to get ready for the next emergency, and search out your supplies one thing at a time if you must. I have stored water in empty liguid drink bottles that I have washed out and stored them in a tray in the closet, some on the floor of an unused shower, and so on. Use the mind that God gave you and get started. Look in the sporting goods section for emergency food bars or make your own granola and so on. Most times it doesn’t take money it takes thinking of ways to repurpose other things. What would you do if you ran out of diapers for the baby? How could you cover that situation? I guess a good thing to have on hand would be some big safety pins just incase you needed to repurpose an old T-shirt or towell etc. See what I mean? You could make arrangements to cover that today before there was an emergency, when the baby is older and potty trained then you could use such things for something else ! It is all in getting by. How did grandma and great grandma do things before we had all the conviences that at time seem to be inconviences today ! Make arrangments to shelter in home if possible, that means to think of what you would need and how to prepare for such a time. In the case of sheltering at home I might suggest that you have on hand some huge plastic tarps or rolls of heavy plastic and lots of duck tape ! You will find many uses for both ! I feel our difficult times are just getting started so fet ready while you can and don’t put it off ! Peace and love to all, granny

  • Chief

    Great Ideas here, for those capable of making such preparations. Some can barely even afford to live day by day, let alone allow for extra ANYTHING. But still, a great idea for if many would do it that ARE able to then it would be that many more could help out a couple others and not be drawing off the few supplies that are avaliable. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE is the message.

    • grannymae1

      Chief, You need to change that way of thinking! Being prepared is not getting something extra! You have everything you need to survive from day to day use it. When the weather man says a bad storm is coming , and he will tell you sometimes a few days and sometimes a week ahead of time, then you believe him. If you live close to the water leave! Your not big or bad enough to fight mother nature so don’t even try, get the most important things and get out of Dodge ! When you come back there may not be anything left and you can’t stop that by staying there ! I live on SS and I take care of myself, my husband and my one son, grand son and sometimes my granddaughter and her husband and their baby. So when I say you can get ready don’t try to tell me you can’t I know you can and you do it one step at a time and sometimes one thing at a time, but you can’t get ready if you don’t get started ! A lot of times it takes a person to take stock of their spending habits. Stop eating out, stop smoking, no more drinking, and maybe you need to switch to a less expensive brand of cnned goods or frozen good or flour etc. You have a choice of getting use to less expensive things now or starving and loosing everything later ! Your choice. Where there is a will there is a way ! You don’t have to pack in tons of beans, most people don’t eat that many anyway, but you have to make an effort to find things that will keep and stock them in your home. Then you use them and rotate them. I have spent years getting ready so I’m prepared more than most. I have 50 gal drums of water stored along with some water inside the house. I have storage food put aside and then I have had a garden and stocked from it. I learned a long time ago that people come across food all the time and just pass it up because they can’t use it all at the time and they have no clue as to how to save it! I have had bushels of pears given to me, apples, pumpkin, squash, and so on. I have even had meat from a friends freezer given to me when they were cleaning out their freezer to make room for a new supply. The meat was still good but it would not last much longet so I thawed it out and canned it and it is still good. I* use a dehydrator and put up many things from it. It is easy , takes no time and not much in the line of equipment. You could even use your oven if you had a mind to. So my feeling is people can feel sorry for themselves and make excuses now or they can shut up and get down to business now. At any rate when the next crisis comes we should all be ready, we are certainly getting enough warnings of it coming ! Peace and love granny

  • TPM

    I find it hard to believe that so many people were so ill prepared.

    Keeping a supply of food and water on hand, and any meds you might need is critical.
    Add a ($20) butane burner and some ($2) cans of fuel for cooking, some battery operated ($20) lantern(s) a ($30) radio and extra batteries. Hey folks, this isn’t a major expenditure.

    The Boy Scouts profess “Be Prepared.” That’s not just a motto. It’s a way of life.

    • grannymae1

      TPM, I agree with you, there really isn’t any excuse for people not to be prepared to one degree or another. I suggest that people make a list of the things they think they will need and then shop the thrift store, flea markets and yard sales for such things. Those people having such sales advertise the prepardness things they have for sale so people know that they might find what they want at their sale, however I also suggest that you don’t charge an arm and a leg for such things. You don’t know when you might just be helping to save someone’s life that is down and out ! If you know of someone that might be havng a little difficulty and you have something to spare by all means make them a donation, you will feel so good when you do ! We can all help each other get ready and it sure would be a lot better than anarchy in the time of crisis ! Peace and love granny

  • Carlucci

    As an insurance agent, it is important to note that flood insurance is sold as a separate policy. Homeowner policies usually do not cover flooding unless the “flood” starts inside a home from a plumbing issue like an overflowing toilet, bathtub, or sink, or a broken supply line to a toilet, an overflowing clothes washer, leaking water heater, old rusty galvanized steel pipes that leak, and/or a dishwasher that is draining improperly. It is always a good idea to read your homeowner policy to determine if it is an “all risk” policy or a “named peril” policy. A rule of thumb is coverage is determined by how a homeowner policy is written. Another rule is to never leave major appliances like a dishwasher, clothes washer, or clothes dryer operating while you are away from the house. (Most people think that’s a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at how many homeowners do this).

    Flooding (rising water) from weather related incidents is covered by a separate flood insurance policy. Flood insurance is offered and underwritten by FEMA, and sold through insurance agents.


  • Ol504Troop

    Again, FEMA’s, and to a lesser degree, the Red Cross’s imcompetence has become apparent. They are a large, inefficient organizations, hampered by the ineptness of beuracracy. After Katrina, our National Guard unit, which operated very efficiently under the circumstances, gave our after action assessment to the government. Some of the suggestions: 1) -Designate schools, with their classrooms and gynasiums capable of holding hundreds of victims, lavatory and shower facillities, and cafeterias as emergency shelters. Stock them with blankets, food rations, water supplies, and generators and make it known to local authorities and residents to gather there after a disaster. Most schools are well built, and stong enough to withstand most disasters better than homes, their locations are known to local residents and have adequate parking. With large numbers of victims in one place, coordination of relief efforts-feeding, clothing, and medical attention- is simplified. 2)- Designate National Guard armories, schools, and other local government facilities as Command Centers, where relief agencies and workers, with their equipment, can be staged -prior to large storms if possible. 3)- Plan for search and rescue efforts using grid patterns and marking searched buildings to prevent missed or overlapping searches. 4)- chart search progress and share information with FEMA and other agencies on where efforts need to be directed.
    These findings were reported to FEMA and other agancies in 2006. NOTHING was done to take any action on those findings, and now the victims of SANDY are paying the price.

  • deepizzaguy

    As a victim of Hurricane Katrina the lesson learned is to be prepared for a disaster.

    • pweiters9

      1/13/12, If the megastorm taught you anything, it would be the mass chaos & ineptitude of gov’t officials. Public outcry prioritized relief over the NY marathon for scarce resources.

  • texastwin827

    I recently spoke to a young women, living in NY. She said, while they did tell them to stock up and fill their bathtubs with water (but not why) they got little info from the media as to what they could expect, afterward.

    To me, that’s inexcusable. Anyone who has ever been through one of these storms, on the Gulf Coast, knows what the aftermath will be, even if we don’t know it’s severity, beforehand, and to what extent the damage to the infrastructure will be. If it’s severe, there can be people without power from a minimum of 2 weeks up to 30 days for those in the more rural areas.

    Before one even comes in, here on the TX Gulf Coast most weathermen do a show at the beginning of hurricane season, on what to expect and what you need to have, to be prepared.

    I understand that the NE states don’t have these storms often, so it’s likely they don’t get any early “briefings” like we do, however, there was nothing that prevented the media from doing one, just days before the storm came in, especially since they expected it to be the “perfect storm” and serious.

    Even with out of state power companies (and Alabama Power has 1000 people up there…and are kicking butt, I might add..and the people in NJ love those Bama boys) the damage was so severe, that some are still without power, right now.

    As for those who didn’t evacuate, when told to….we have those kind of people here…and every time a hurricane comes in, two things happen…they want rescue units to come get them, during the storm OR they perish…sometimes, their children do too. There is nothing, material, ever worth the lives of your family.

    • grannymae1

      Amen girlfriend ! I am having a hard time understanding why all these people haven’t taken head from the storms of the past elswhere. Katrina was all over the television for weeks. The stranded people were seen for days and weeks, the dead bodies were seen for weeks and the problems of taking care of those dead bodies later in the heat was seen for weeks, but no-one other than us around the Gulf seemed to take notice ! WQhere was everybody? This blog has been jhere for a couple years that I know of and still we see people that don’t have a clue about getting prepared for disaster. They don’t think it applies to them and they turn off the TV and their brain. If you ask me it is insane not to be able to take care of yourself especially when you have prior warning. Unfortunately it will be this way forever. To bad ! I will keep encouraging people to do what they can and to know they can do more than they think they can but I sure can’t do it for them ! peace and love

      • grannymae1

        Sorry about the typing, my eyes are getting a lot worse and my fingers hit the keys they want I guess ! Sorry

  • jopa

    There was a lot of warning but so many of these folks have been through so many storms over the years they never realized how bad this one could be.Many failed to heed the warnings to evacuate, stock up on the essentials and be prepared to be without power for up to two weeks.These are the people crying the loudest for the gloom and doom they could have avoided.Then when they get their government sponsored insurance flood relief check they purchased for just about nothing they are going to rebuild in the exact spot and wait for the next mega storm.The whole East Coast is saturated with all these homes that are sitting up on stilts.If you have to put your house up on stilts you may be a little too close to the water dummy.

    • pweiters9

      11/13/12, Eventually insurance cos will do ,1) hike premiums for those living in shore towns & 2) discourage rebuilding in these zones once they’re wiped out. I like the ocean, too, but not that much.

  • Toy

    Federal Emergency Management Authority: Fit for purpose?
    How much money has passed through their hands and what have they done with it?
    Spent it all on Katrina? Building concentration/holiday camps, for dissenting people/trouble makers, etc.?
    Any answer would be interesting


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