04 October 2011

(2/3) Hurricane season is (nearly) dead; long live snowstorm season

So there are a few issues that need unpacking from yesterday's post. The big question is how to put together your magical one week's worth of emergency supplies if you're dirt poor. But before I answer that, I have to unpack another question: what kind of emergency are we talking about here?

There are weather emergencies, there are civil unrest emergencies, and there are "PGW blew up my gas main" emergencies, all of which result in problems ranging from short-term loss of utilities, to the urgent need to leave and abandon your home. Civil unrest, while very popular on Wall Street these days, is still really unlikely in this country. Protests, demonstrations, and parades happen all the time, but they don't generally result in catastrophic situations that compel people to evacuate their homes. And when they do, really there's very little risk that the incident will happen in your neighborhood, on your block. Cities are big; a lot of people live in them; individual risk is low. So myself, I don't have a bug-out bag sitting by the front door. You need a big bag to carry the standard 72 hours' worth of food and stuff, and I have a small home. But to keep my peace of mind, I have all my important documents sealed up in a big ziploc bag in a very convenient place in case I need to skedaddle. I don't live in the wilderness, so I don't see how I would benefit myself by packing a tent and survival supplies. And anyway, if the situation is so far gone that I can't walk out of the city with a sack lunch, my documents, and cash to take care of my needs, then I think a 72-hour pack won't be sufficient -- we're talking bunker, not bug-out. Takeaway: Can you prepare for it? Yes. What should you do? Plan an escape route by foot and have cash and important documents ready to go.

"PGW blew up my house" situations are similarly really unlikely. Worse, though, unlike civil unrest problems, you may not get any warning at all. And if you're not home when it happens, then oops! All those important documents you have stashed in one safe place for quick retrieval when you have to skedaddle? Confetti. So this is where a safe deposit box comes in. However! I'm not saying you should put your original documents in the box. Nope, put copies in the box. Because what if your bank is closed when the shit hits the fan and you need to motor? Keep the originals handy, then use the copies from the box if you need to replace them because your home blew up. Takeaway: Can you prepare for it? Yes. What should you do? Keep your title and insurance documents organized, and keep up-to-date copies in a safe, offsite location.

So finally, how to deal with weather emergencies. First step is to consider the likely scenario. In town, a very short-term utilities outage. In the sticks, maybe a seriously long outage. I live in town, and to be extreme I plan for a week's outage. I don't have much space, so I'm not interested in turning my house into a pantry. And services to the city are restored quickly, so the supermarkets will be re-stocked in pretty short order, even if they're cleared as if they've been attacked by a plague of hurricane-panicked locusts.

In the sticks, you have some possibilities to keep in mind. If you have space, maybe you should plan for a month or even two without power. But consider: if your neighborhood is so far gone that they can't restore your utilities after a few days or a week (slow link), maybe you'd prefer to evacuate after a period of time and live temporarily with relatives or friends. So consider keeping a supply of what you'd need for whatever that period of time is for your household. A week? Two? A month or six months? Up to you.

Which is basically what I do in the city anyway. I keep enough on hand for one easy week or two rougher weeks. If the situation is so dire that, after two weeks, my utilities aren't restored and my supermarkets and city services aren't back on line, I've got more to worry about than whether I'm running out of candles.

Next: Wait! I never answered the question about how to prepare if I'm dirt poor!

What's in your bug-out bag? How many weeks -- or days -- can you comfortably stay at home? How will you survive the zombie apocalypse? Please comment. Thanks!

Concludes Wednesday.

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