While people watched the skies for funnel clouds late last week, few people expected the storm rolling through the mid-Atlantic to produce widespread power outages. Saturday morning, the reality set in for millions in the Washington D.C. area — trees down, homes and vehicles damaged, the threat of week-long power outages and public water systems compromised.
Of course, there are lessons here.
Municipal water filtration systems may not have adequate capability to provide sanitary drinking water for any length of time. You may need a means of purifying drinking water with boiling or filtration methods. Without power, you will need propane or wood-fired boiling capabilities. So, being on a public water system may guarantee you can flush your toilet, but it doesn’t mean you will have water to drink.
Within 24 hours, refrigerated food will begin to spoil, so you do not want to risk food poisoning. Shelf-stable foods, such as fully cooked canned meats, and dried rice and beans, are excellent and inexpensive options to guarantee a week’s worth, month’s worth or 6-month’s worth of nutrition for your family. Also consider peanut butter, jelly and crackers for the kids for a short-term crisis.
Having a generator can provide valuable peace-of-mind, but consider what happened to some people in the Northern Virginia area this past weekend: People were unable to find gas stations with electricity to pump fuel, and so, generators sat unused. Buying a generator is smart, but thinking through how to power the generator is smarter.
You will inevitably know less-prepared people seeking help. We personally regard charity as a responsibility of the better-prepared individual, and that means doubling up on all food and water preps.
So, consider the stories on the news, recognizing this was a relatively small event, affecting a small percentage of the metro DC population. Extrapolate for larger grid-down events, such as hurricanes, EMPs, solar flares, etc. Take note of the microcosms of panicked behavior and how, on a larger scale, that may play out. Then, build your plan for the next crisis. To ensure you’re prepared, throw the main breaker on your house and live for 24 hours. There are bound to be issues that you haven’t considered. The list can become endless, so limit it to the essentials: potable water, shelf-stable food and a way to cook it, and warmth in the winter (shelter).