emergency preparedness

7 Things I Learned From Hurricane Sandy

November 1, 2012 at 10:58 am , by

Still no power in my neighborhood in Manhattan—including cell service. But I’m lucky I can walk to my office uptown, which does have power. I feel like I was very well prepared for Hurricane Sandy, but I still figured out a few things I could do better next time.

1. Take your batteries out of their packages before the storm. I had plenty of spare batteries, but when the power actually did go out, the big flashlight I had within reach became dim very quickly. I sorta panicked. I found the new D batteries, but they were in that hard plastic clamshell packaging that you need a chainsaw to open. I found some scissors and hacked away at in the near blackness, cursing loudly and nearly cutting my finger off in the process. (Reminder: make sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked!) I suggest putting all your spare batteries, sorted by size, in zipper bags in a kitchen drawer.

2. Keep an old-fashioned phone that plugs directly into the wall. The only reason I keep paying for my land line every month is for occasions like this: storms and power outages. My plug-in cordless phones don’t work without electricity, so I keep an old plug-in corded model in a kitchen drawer near the phone jack. As soon as the power went out I plugged that baby in and called my sister. Since the cell signal also went out in my area, it was my only link to the outside world and I was grateful to have it.

3. Buy a headlamp. A relative gave me one in my Christmas stocking last year, but I’d forgotten about it. I discovered it right before the storm and was so glad I did. It was comfortable and perfect for reading after dark. Also for getting down the pitch-black stairwell of my building, hands free.

4. Don’t panic about the toilet. I had filled numerous buckets for manual flushing, but I was afraid I wouldn’t have enough if the outage lasted long. My brother gave me a great tip: If your toilet no longer has water, you can line it with a small trash bag, use it and when necessary, tie it up and put it in the trash. For some reason, that gave me great comfort.

5. Wash your produce before the storm. I had gone to the farmer’s market on Saturday and bought a bunch of lovely fresh fruits and veggies. But I didn’t think to wash them and put them away ready to cook. My gas stove is still working but my bottled water supply is precious. I didn’t want to waste a bunch of expensive (and heavy to carry up nine flights of stairs) bottled water to wash my Brussels sprouts. I should have planned ahead.

6. Clean out the freezer. I removed most of my perishables and threw them away yesterday before they started getting stinky. But I didn’t think to remove the frozen spinach. And let me warn you, frozen spinach leaks giant puddles of green water. I sopped up pools of it this morning. Even if perishables feel cool, it’s best to throw them away. Bacteria can grow at relatively low temps, so don’t take a chance with dangerous pathogens.

7. Buy your favorite comfort foods. I heard from so many friends on Facebook about the foods they were cooking before and during the storm and how much comfort they brought. Believe me, no one was craving steamed broccoli. It was all about pasta, cheese, bread, cookies, cupcakes. I was glad I’d bought my favorite spicy organic ginger cookies. They soothed my nervous tummy. I had plenty of wine on hand, too. A crisis is not the time to go on a diet; you can do that after the power is restored.