Friday, November 2, 2012

Alpha Move: Be Prepared

I’m kind of shocked at the number of people on Staten Island who are shocked that they aren’t getting any help, three days after Sandy hit them.

Maybe it’s because I grew up on the Gulf Coast, but I thought everyone knew certain basic facts about hurricanes and other natural disasters. One of those facts is that after every disaster, some people are surprised at how long it takes for help to arrive. This, in spite of the fact that it happens after EVERY disaster. You’d think people would figure it out.

As an Alpha male, or an Alpha in Training, YOU are the Captain of your family’s ship. That means the buck stops with you. Your family is looking to you to make sure they are safe, and you’d better do it because FEMA sure isn’t going to.

First, and I mean no disrespect to the people of Staten Island when I say this, if you live on an island, WHY ARE YOU STILL THERE during and after a hurricane? If your house is 10 feet above sea level, and the National Hurricane Center is predicting an 11 foot storm surge, the math isn’t that hard. The best way to survive a natural disaster is to not be there when it happens. West Coast residents have to deal with earthquakes, which give no warning before they hit. But everyone knew a hurricane was coming. They were warned that it was going to be bad. They had plenty of time to find somewhere else to be. And again, I’m not saying this to pick on these victims, just to point out that you shouldn’t make the same mistake.

I’m also amazed at the people who are running out of gasoline three days after the storm. That means they are either driving a lot, or they didn’t have the foresight to fill their tank the day before the storm. Look, storms knock out power. Sometimes it takes a while to get the power back on. You can’t pump gas with no electricity, so fill up ahead of the storm.

The other thing you should do is be prepared for whatever natural disasters affect your area. If you don’t live near the coast you may not have to worry about hurricanes. But winter storms can cause similar problems with widespread power outages, and inability to travel. Basic preparation is the same, whether you expect hurricanes, winter storms, or the Zombie Apocalypse.

There are certain basics that you just have to make sure you have on hand, all the time. They fall into a few basic categories:

WATER: My house has a well, so if the power is out, the water is out. Even in a city, if the power is out long enough the water will stop flowing. Water is bulky and heavy, so it’s not easy to store. But at a minimum you want a three-day supply of drinking water on hand. Figure a minimum of a gallon of water per person per day. Get a couple of those blue five-gallon water containers at Wal Mart and fill them up. Put a teaspoon of unscented chlorine bleach in each jug to kill any germs. Change it out every three months anyway.

That’s just for drinking. You’ll need water for flushing your toilet, too. One way to keep a good supply of non-potable water handy is to fill the bathtub before the power goes out.

FOOD: At a bare minimum, keep a two-week supply of non-perishable food in your house all the time. If your family eats canned and dried foods, this can be as simple as keeping stocked up on the stuff you normally eat. If you don’t eat processed foods, you might need to keep a survival kit of canned goods. Anything you buy at the supermarket needs to be rotated on a regular basis. Canned food doesn’t keep forever.

Make sure you have a way to cook this stuff after the power goes out. I come from a long line of campers, but if don’t already have a camp stove, get one.

This seems really obvious, but you’d be surprised: make sure you have a way to OPEN CANS without electricity!

For longer term storage there are better options. Do a web search on food storage, or ask a Mormon neighbor to help you out.

FUEL: Before a storm hits, fill the car with gas. I make it a general rule to never get below half a tank, but then, I’m paranoid. Make sure you have fuel for your camp stove. (Propane is the most convenient and probably the safest.) Have flashlights and extra batteries. If your house (like mine) is all-electric, figure out how you are going to keep warm in the winter. A fireplace or wood-burning stove can keep a room or two warm. There are propane camping heaters but they are meant for small tents. Kerosene heaters put out a lot of warmth but liquid fuel can be dangerous indoors. Whatever you use, keep adequate fuel available.

MISC: Paper towels, toilet paper, sanitary products, any medications you take on a regular basis.

DEFENSE: There always seems to be looting after a storm. Most of the time the looters are rummaging through empty homes and stores, but not always.  If you follow the minimal advice I’ve given above, you’ll be in better shape than 90% of your neighbors. What are you going to do if they decide to partake of some freelance socialism and redistribute your wealth? As Captain, you need to be prepared to repel boarders.

There are lots of opinions on this, and mine is far from authoritative. But this is my blog, so I’m going to tell you my opinion. And in my opinion, if you are only going to have one weapon for home defense, it should be a pump-action 12-guage shotgun. Better: in addition to the shotgun, have a rifle in the thirty-caliber neighborhood, and a handgun in a minimum of .38 caliber or 9mm. Both the rifle and shotgun should have short barrels. Tell the sporting goods store you are going to use them for hunting deer in heavily wooded areas, and you’ll get something appropriate.

Stay away from scary-looking black military-style weapons. You want something that could be used for sports like hunting or target shooting. The reason: if you should ever have to defend your family with one of these weapons, you will eventually be sitting in a courtroom while an assistant district attorney shows them to a jury. You want the jury to see you as someone who was driven by circumstances to pick up his hunting gun and defend himself, not as a vigilante survivalist who was chomping at the bit to kill someone.

That list should get you started, or at least get you thinking along the proper lines. Remember that after any significant natural disaster, it’s likely to be a minimum of three days before any kind of help arrives at all, and up to two weeks before the situation stabilizes and serious reconstruction starts.  

Homework assignment: For the next three days, take note of everything that you eat, drink, consume, or use. Ask yourself if you would miss it in the aftermath of a storm. If you would, make sure you have it on hand in your “hurricane kit.”


  1. Add to this good list, having a supply of cash on hand.

    We were without power in CT for 7 days last November in the storm outages. We had a fair amount of stuff, and the grocery store opened up on emergency power... so you could buy things... but no electronic funds... cash only.

    Small grill + dutch oven = Cook all kinds of one pot meals.

  2. Great post. As a family who camps, we have a lot of this stuff at the ready. I typically keep about 5 gallons of gas in the garage for various lawn equipment. Need to pick up a fire arm at some point, but think we'd be ok in an emergency for a short while at least. Good stuff!