Hurricane Sandy & Camping at Home

What inspires me to write is Life (well, other things too, but this time it is Life). Life Observed.

I watched as reporters spoke about Hurricane Sandy that was approaching the entire east coast of the US. They showed models of where and when it would hit. They said that when it made landfall it would be joined by a big arctic front from the north and another big storm coming in from the west. They said it would be FrankenStorm, the Perfect Storm (how is it that a storm that will wreak all sorts of havoc is "perfect"? go figure), an uber-storm (really really big). It was going to kick *ss when it hit. The coast would be devastated. Power would go out for millions of people.

So what did LOTS and LOTS of people do to prepare? Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

I'm not going to go into what happened on the coast itself, I want to look at the people in apartments, townhomes and houses whose homes were fine but they lost power. There are still people without power, nearly a month after the hurricane. How many stories did I see about people with not a drop of water (not even a few 1 gallon jugs from the grocery store for crying out loud), no lights – no candles or matches or batteries for their one flashlight, no way to cook and no food they could just 'open and eat' (like peanut butter or Spaghetti-Os – don't knock them until you haven't eaten in a couple of days. Bet you think they're great.).

So what does this have to do with the students (current and non-current all the same) that have UGs, that have UGs that are built but not finished, that have finished ones but nothing in them, or finished 800 years ago and god only knows if the food in the buckets packed in 1989 is still good? Or what does this have to do with students with no UGs?

It seems to me that there are people who did build UGs way back when and they stocked them up with food and stuff and then figured, "I'm good". So they have this false sense of security. Sure they have a UG but could they live in their above ground house for 1 month with no power? In other words, no need to go "under", there is just no electricity, stores, gas stations and the handy stuff that comes with electricity.

Have they gone thru the buckets packed up in '89 and '90 to see if the stuff is still good? (I can speak into that – I'll share a bit of my 'discoveries' on really old food storage :o) Sure, they have a way to cook and provide light in the UG. But my question is, can they live in their current apartment/townhouse/home their home for a few days without power? For a month and a half with no power? (That's what some hurricane Sandy folks are trying to do.) I'd bet money there are those who couldn't do it because they have no way to cook, heat or have water or light in their home.

Then there are those with partially finished UGs and they figure they'll wait until it is finished before bringing in the bed, sox and underwear. We've been told to be ready by December 20th. So where is all the stuff they are going to stock the UG with? In a storage facility? A shipping container someplace?

And there are those, whether with an old UG, new UG, partially finished UG, have everything in place so that if they go into their UG on December 20th, they are all set.

I think some people have a mindset where it is either:

"I am living in my (electric) home and everything will always be OK with my electric lights, electric stove, electric furnace, electric hot water heater, etc"


"I have to live in a UG because the ***t has hit the fan"

And they can't wrap their mind around having to do Little House on the Prairie (no electric ANYTHING), basic camping, in their home in the city/suburbs or in their apartment/townhouse in the city, or in their house on 5 acres in the country.

But what if there is an event or series of events that don't necessitate going into your UG or shelter?

There is no power, no gas stations, no Wal-Mart, no Albertsons Grocery. There are those around the world with ham radios (aka shortwave radios) but no TV or internet as we now know it, and only intermittent radio.

How set up is your house? Let's say we run a test and the magic genie comes and cuts off the power at the meter. Could you last a week living in your home AS IT STANDS IN THIS MOMENT, with no shopping trip first thing in the morning? Could you cook? Would you have enough water for a month (which is what a lot of hurricane Sandy people are approaching)? Do you have non-electric lighting for your house? Yes, you have lanterns in your UG, but you are not going to pull stuff out of there.

You absolutely do not use the last of your gas to go and pilfer stuff from your UG. "Oh, but I need my Porta Chef stove and some fuel and some lights and some of this and some of that, and my Katadyn Ceradyn water filter so I can drink the lake water", so you rob your own safe house.

Then what happens when you really need the UG and you have 3 hours notice to get there and lock down? And you have taken a whole lot of the most critical things out of there to use in your house? There is not enough time to gather all that stuff up, and replace all the consumables you used like fuel and candles and batteries, and get to your safe place in 3 hours. You're screwed.

So how long could you hold out at home? What about your animals? A week? A month? 2 months? But Teri, you ask, are you saying I should have DUPLICATES of some of my preparedness supplies? So both my UG and my home are prepared? YES! I say, You've GOT it!!!

You don't have to double up on everything, OK? Let's say you have 2 years worth of food. Keep 2 or 3 months worth at home and the rest in the UG or UG/other place. You would need a way to cook in both places. Maybe look at it like the UG is the RV camping trip and the 'shelter in place in the home" (with no power) is like the Tent camping trip (or maybe you are blessed, so both the UG and the home can be like RV camping :o)

What about people with no UGs? Are they all going to die? I don't THINK so!!

We've been told if you don't have a UG find a strong room in your house with no windows (I know firsthand that during some snow storms (and during tornados) your windows can explode. THAT will get your attention! What can these people do? What have these people done to give themselves the best chance of staying out of a Red Cross shelter, cot to cot with 300 other displaced people in some gymnasium? They can do the same thing that someone with a UG does – make their home set up for 'non-electric camping' (these people will just have more stuff at their home or stashed).

If you have a basement (even if it is the kind with windows near the ceiling) you can buy some plywood and screws, and have the wood cut to a size so if you need to, it can be screwed over the windows on the inside.

If you don't have a basement (they are rare here in WA State and common in the mid-west) you could pick a bathroom or other room with the least amount of window area and make covers for that. Better than doing nothing, aye? And lay in all the supplies you can think of, along with some supplies for patching the home/apartment in the event it sustains damage – tarps, staple gun and staples, duct tape, roll of clear plastic, the type of thing that would be handy if a window broke, the roof leaked, etc.

Bottom line, if you've had a UG for 20 years and food you got in 1989 or 1990, go through it to see how it fared. Don't get a false sense of security because you have a UG – make sure your home is set up for long term camping as well as your UG. If you're new to the UG scene – good on ya! as they'd say down under. But you still want to set up your home.

The folks who prepared their homes before hurricane Sandy hit, before it ever came onto the radar – they weathered the storm at home quite well, and were SO thankful and happy that they did what they did. What was a nightmare to some people was an exciting adventure for them, an empowering event, because they took care of themselves and their families. Bet they slept great.

Next week I'll do a short article on What I Found in Those Buckets From 1989 (and How That Popcorn Popped).


Teri Simpson
Optimum Preparedness


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