Lessons In Self-Sufficiency Learned From Hurricane Irene

Insteading's Michele Decouteau shares lessons her family learned from riding out Hurricane Irene on their New England homestead.

Hurricane Irene came sweeping through our southern New England homestead last Saturday night and like many of our neighbors, we lost power, phones, and internet access. As the storm cleared on Monday, there were a number of lessons we learned about being prepared for disasters and weather challenges.

1. Friends: It is good to have nice friends. Friends helped in so many ways. Most of our friends also lost power and we used our cell phones to share information and to maintain contact. Others who did have power offered showers, laundry facilities and hot meals.

2. Prepare: Think about disasters before they happen. Being prepared with bottled water, food that could be eaten without heating, and having fresh batteries in the flashlights helped us shelter in place. We also had non-electronic entertainment available and amused ourselves with crafts, games and books. FEMA and the Red Cross have great lists of three day emergency kits. They do a good job covering what you need.

When you expect a disaster, charge all your electronic devices such as cell phones and laptops. Get a car charger for these devices if possible. In a pinch, you can use your car to recharge your cell phone if you have no power.

3. Gas: Make sure you have plenty of gas in your car and extra available for chainsaws and generators. Even if you don’t have a chainsaw or generator, it is nice to offer gas to your neighbor to who does and gets the trees off your deck or runs their generator to run your sump pump.

4. Hot food helps: We pulled out the backpacking stoves to heat water to make hot cocoa and instant food. Having a hot meal helped not only fill our bellies but calmed everyone down. Food that can be eaten with minimal cooking is easy to have on hand. Next shopping trip grab an extra can of ready-to-eat soup or pasta and instant oatmeal or noodles. They don’t take up much room in the pantry and can make a big difference to everyone’s peace-of-mind when disaster strikes..

Think about your BBQ grill as a back up way of cooking. If you have an extra tank for your grill, make sure it is full so you can use to cook. Clearly in the middle of a hurricane you can’t use your grill, but if you don’t have power the next day, it is handy.

5. Toilets: With the power out, our water pump didn’t work and our toilets didn’t refill. We used rainwater from our rain barrels to refill. What we discovered is that our old toilet took four and a half gallons of water per flush. After having to haul that amount of water from the back yard, we all want to get that toilet replaced soon. Our second bathroom had a newer toilet that took a mere one and half gallons per flush but uses an electronic pump to pump the waste up the hill to our sewer connection.

The power is on and now starts the clean up and restocking. Winter will be here and snow and ice will be here before we know it…and we’ll be ready!

 Image Credit: Flickr – NASA Photo and Video

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