Lessons Learned From Superstorm Sandy
November 12, 2012 by Peggy Layton
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.
Pack 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 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.