9/13/2005

Are YOU ready for disaster? Scenario 1 - Severe Winter Storms

Lot's of good tips -- law

Scenario 1 - Severe Winter Storms

Description: A series of severe winter storms tear through the region, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and disrupting rail and highway access. Retail availability of food and water supplies ranges from limited to nonexistent by day 4.

Scenario profile:
Family separated: NO
Immediate evacuation required: NO
Post-event evacuation required: Low probability
Services interrupted: YES (electricity, retail goods)
Mean time to restoration of services: 10 days
Period of initial isolation: 5 days
Communications: possible disruption of phone, cable TV service
Secondary risks: Structural damage or failure due to snow/ice load

Requirements for survival:

Environment: YES - heat
Electricity: YES - charge batteries, run small TV
Water: NO - water service uninterrupted
Nutrition: YES
Food preparation: YES
Lighting: YES
Passive communications: YES
Entertainment: YES
Active communications: Medical emergency only
Food preservation: NO - +20F outside = back-patio freezer
Clothing: NO
Transportation: NO
Shelter: NO - but see note on emergency repairs below

Whether you live on the Gulf Coast hurricane-impact zone, or in a northern state subject to severe winter storms, weather can present a serious threat to your safety. Humans are relatively sensitive to heat and cold outside a fairly narrow range, and few people realize how much energy Western society devotes to keeping us in our comfort zone.

In this scenario, you nearly always have the benefit of sufficient advance warning to get your family safely home before things get ugly. The safest course of action in this situation is to hunker down and make the best of things in the safety of your home.

When it's 20F or less outside, even a well-insulated home will cool off quickly if the central heating system goes offline. As a commenter observed in the discussion of Part 1, gas-fired central heat doesn't do you a whole lot of good if the blower and control electronics don't have power. Be prepared to provide adequate heat to at least one room in your house. Consider consolidating everyone into one or two rooms with heat source(s) and closing off the rest of the house.

The tools and materials to make emergency repairs to your shelter are critical in this situation. When it's pounding down freezing rain outside, night is coming, and the wind is whistling through a broken window, you will not have the option of waiting for the handyman. Have a plan for repairing broken windows and/or doors, and assume that you will not have the use of power tools.

Electricity. Americans are addicted to it, your correspondent included. Most people immediately think "generator" when the topic of emergency electric power comes up. The fact is, you already have a generator parked in your garage. Your family car, coupled with a modestly sized DC-to-AC inverter, is capable of supplying enough power to make a huge difference in your standard of living while grid power is offline. Generators and DC-AC inverters will be discussed in detail in Part 4.

Daily Kos: Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 2 of 4 - Plan to survive!

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