Sunday, November 04, 2012

Getting ready for the next one.

Sandy's visit through the area has taught me a lot.  I thought I was prepared; and for the most part, I was.  But things can always be improved upon - some points for me to remember, that I think are worth sharing:

1) You can't have enough ice.  If you don't have / want / or use an emergency generator, you can't have enough ice.  I bought four huge bags last Sunday, the day before the storm hit.  I could have used twice that - and I should have been making my own, filling plastic containers with water and sticking them in the freezer. As it was, after the third day, I had begun to run out of ice and all the perishable items in the refrigerator had to be tossed.

2) Generators.  Lots of folks purchased generators after their experience with Hurricane Irene last year. That was fine until the gas ran out, then they were in the same boat as me.  Most of the gas stations around here had plenty of fuel, but also lacked the electricity they required to pump it.  I have ordered an 1100 Watt AC inverter that was mentioned in SolderSmoke and I am going to purchase a couple deep cycle marine batteries and a charger.  Once I start using them after a power outage  they may not last for long, but at least I will be able to power up the freezer and refrigerator for a while.

Related to this - if you know that a big storm or blizzard is headed your way - gas up those vehicles!  All of them!  You don't know how long gasoline might be in short supply afterwards.  Go and Google "long New Jersey gas lines after Sandy" if you want a dose of stark reality.

3) Candles. You can never have too many.  I thought I had an adequate supply; and I did.  Our power was out for close to five days.  If it had been out much longer, I would have started to reach the "uncomfortable zone" of running out.  Oh, and if you're like me, make sure your emergency candles are the unscented variety.  It might have lifted someone else's spirits; but I didn't need the house smelling like a flower shop.

4) Flashlights. Forget the big honker ones that use "D" batteries.  I bought some "D" batteries and flashlights, and they are a waste as far as "bang for the buck" goes.  I have purchased two LED camping style lanterns that use four "D" batteries each and they will last a lot longer while providing tons more light than normal flashlights.  For regular flashlight usage, get the small handheld LED flashlights.  I had two of them and am going to get more.  Each of these babies used three "AAA" batteries which are still plentiful in the stores (I mean really, most people use "AAA's" for their remotes, right?).  They were used throughout this crisis and they were as bright on the final day as the first.  Also, those headband LED lights?  Some may consider them "dorky", but I am going to purchase a few.  They will be invaluable for the times you have to do something in the dark that requires both hands. (I.E. - shaving on the morning darkness with one hand holding the safety razor and the other holding the flashlight was less than ideal. Trying to move ice around from cooler to freezer with one hand - less than ideal).

5) Firewood / Fire logs.  I had a small supply left over from the last heating season. I should have laid in a bigger supply.  I didn't run out; but was running uncomfortably low, and it was starting to get chilly here. I would wake up in the morning, and go look at the thermostat to see that the house temperature had fallen to 56F (13C) overnight.

6) Charge up everything!  All my handhelds, HF radio batteries, cell phones were charged to the max ahead of time, I also broke out my solar panel and had it ready to charge up 12V gel cells if needed as this wore on.

Food and water were no problem  We had the stove top available for cooking. The electronic ignitors didn't work; but kitchen matches did the job (I have multiple boxes of those).  We had an AM / FM radio for news/entertainment.  That was a necessity - however, I want to purchase one of those offered with the built in hand crank generator.  This will cut down on the amount of batteries needed and many of these models also have USB ports so that you can use the hand crank generator to charge up your cell phone, kindle, Nook, Kobo, etc.

What did bother me when we would listen to the radio; and the announcers would say, "To report (such and such) please go to this Website ........"  How the heck am I supposed to go to the Internet when there's no electricity?  Also, going through my e-mails after the fact yesterday, I saw there were calls for ARES radio volunteers at the Middlesex County hospitals.  The requests came via e-mails.  How was I supposed to have seen those?  I am one of the last persons in the world NOT to have a smartphone and my "18th century" cellphone handles e-mail, well, ...... let's just say "crappily".  Maybe that's just a personal problem and I need to get "with it".  Not going to sweat that one for now.

The KX3 was invaluable and a God send - thank you Lord, for Elecraft!  But seriously, any battery powered HF rig (PFR3, ATS, MTR, Yaesu FT-817, etc) is so essential if for nothing more than to ward off boredom.  I would come home after work, eat dinner and then .......... nothing.  Too early to turn in, I took afore mentioned LED flashlight and headed down to the basement shack and spent the night on the bands.  I worked a fair amount of DX and even had a QSO with DL3GA who commented that "It is nice to hear a station on the air from New Jersey". Hey, how many times have you heard THAT before?  Maybe, never? (LOL!)

But I was also able to keep in touch with a lot of my QRP friends, including Jim W1PID who would check in with me every night.  Just those brief, continual QSOs did a lot to improve my psyche and moral, knowing that there were folks out there that I personally knew that I could stay in touch with.

This is by no means an exhaustive treatise on being prepared for an emergency - it was one of some personal observations.  But do yourself a favor.  If you're given enough notice that a big storm / blizzard / whatever, is coming your way - get ready and try not to wait until the very last moment to do so!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


  1. Good morning Larry, thanks for the very exhaustive run down of how one needs to prepare. Up this way it's never thought of as we have never had such a storm as you did......but that could be our worst enemy thinking it could never happen here. The only thing close was the big power outage across the eastern seaboard including us. It was a god send that the Toyota plant in the area back feed the grid with their generator and we had power in hours. Others it was over 2 weeks in some cases. Thanks for the run down and some great ideas as well.

  2. Steve Grimaud4:13 PM

    Glad to hear much of your work ahead of time was worthwhile.

    I'm curious about what size and wattage your solar panel(s) is(are). I have a 32 AH gel cell battery and am considering what I'd need to charge it.

    Thanks for the blog.
    Steve (W3SWG)

  3. Larry, what inverter did you order?

  4. Larry,
    As you know I was out of town for this big event, but did purchase a generator after last year.
    It was a larger than needed for a reason.
    My wife and daughter ran the chest freezer and a small refrigerator, kept power to the sump pump and ran a small lamp.
    They cycled the generator twice a day for 3-4 hours each 24 hours.
    By doing this we lost no food and were prepared if the sump needed to run. We used about 8 gallons of gas during the 4 + days without power. Not a huge gas consumption. By purchasing the larger generator it ran very efficiently with the light load.
    I would avoid a generator just based on this last situation.

  5. The inverter I purchased is the one I saw touted in the SolderSmole blog:

    As far as my solar panel goes, not excatly sure of the wattage. I purchased it surplus from Circuit Specialists a few years ago. It was manufactured by Siemens for Western Atlas Corp. Western Geophysical Exploration Products Line Acquisition Module charger. It charges my 12V 7Ah gel cell fully in about a day's worth exposure to the sun.

  6. Hi Larry,

    Glad you made it through the storms all-right. Not a good way to start off the winter. If you can find one, get a diesel generator as then you can run the thing off vegetable oil if you have to!