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!

Larry Makoski, W2LJ, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Jersey, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

8 Responses to “Getting ready for the next one.”

  • Lawrence LaBranche KI6ZQY:

    Have you thought of APRS? You could of send and receive bulletins and messages. If an APRS bulletin was sent requesting volunteers, you could of received it.

  • Bob - W2TAC:

    Larry,
    I recently installed a 14 KW propane fueled Kohler full house generator. I have a 500 gallon underground propane tank since it is my normal source for heat, but you could get an external propane tank of whatever size you think would work best for you. See http://www.ehow.com/how_7626875_size-propane-tanks-generators.html.

    I spent a lot of time researching generators. I suggest Kohler over Generac.

    I always enjoy your blog. Hoping you and your neighbors recover soon.
    73,
    Bob – W2TAC

  • Marty AG3EK:

    I’m I the only one that can’t understand why gas stations don’t have generators? Especially if it was big enough to keep their coolers and ice makers going in addition to the pumps. It’s not like they have to worry about storing fuel to run it or anything.

  • Chuck Heath, K6ZIZ:

    Hello Larry – glad to read you and the neighborhood are moving forward. As a professional who designed, specified and installed solar electric systems for more than 15 years, a few comments.

    Always have a 12V mobile rig in the house available as a base station, with battery backup. A mag mount antenna and cookie sheet might be handy too. Solar charging is great – we’ve used it exclusively for 23 years.

    Living completely off-grid we use a lot of propane. By owning our own tanks, we save about 1/3 over the retail rate (2 – 1000 gal. tanks). This runs our heating, cooking, 3 – backup generators, propane freezer, etc.

    Generators running 1800 rpm are not only quieter, they last longer and use less fuel than 3600 rpm units. Kohler, Onan and a few others are top-notch. So is Honda.

    All of our generators are LP (propane) fueled – not as efficient as diesel, but we chose to use just one type of fuel at our homestead.

    Inverters come in many flavors – but a pure sine wave unit is gentle to your computers compared to so-called “modified sine wave” units, which are usually square wave with lousy filtering. For more details, see http://www.homepower.com. It’s been my “bible” since 1987. Most states offer rebates for systems that feed your excess solar power back into the grid, but it’s an extra cost to have a large battery to run the home when the grid goes down and safely disconnect it from the grid.

    I really like your thoughts on LED flashlights and other suggestions too.

    Cordially, Chuck Heath, K6ZIZ, at the end of a one-lane dirt road in N. CA.

  • Paul Griffith KE5WMA:

    What I’ve learned from living on the Gulf coast: Forget bag ice, melts too quick, a frozen 1-gal milk jug of water will last much longer and can be used for drinking water when it melts. I move the refrigerator contents to an ice chest so I save as much cold air as I can when getting something. After 3 days, empty the refrigerator of meat, seafood, and milk. If it has spoiled, it will stink up the freezer/refrigerator which is very hard to get rid of (experience from Katrina).

    No D-Cell lights for me, everything AAA and AA now that we have some LED lights.
    I use a 12V USB cord to charge my phone from a 12V battery pack (car jumper).

  • Larry W2LJ:

    Thanks, Paul for the tip on the milk jugs for ice. I am going to follow your lead on that one.

    Larry W2LJ

  • Chris KQ2RP:

    Good advice Larry. Still w/o power here in the NW corner of the state at least until Friday they say… My advice is a little different on the flashlights – go with a headlamp. It keeps your hands free and the light goes where you turn your head. Allows me to spin the VFO on the 817 (battery powered) and keep a hand on the paddle. Or, lug the log carrier up from the basement and carry beer at the same time… :-)

  • Chris KQ2RP:

    Sorry – skimmed over the part where you mentioned getting headlamps. BTW – I have a Black Diamond Icon (a little pricey but worth it) which has 2 different types of LEDs – one is high powered and can throw a spot on a house a football field away. The low power ones are good for regular / broad use. Each has three brightness settings. Batteries were not fresh when the power went out and are still going strong.

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