By: Lin Stone
Back in 2007 all 77 counties in Oklahoma were declared disaster areas because of an ice storm. Just twelve hours after the storm hit, it was estimated that 650,000 homes were still without power and lights. Weathermen said more storms were moving in and the situation could get much worse. For thousands of people the ice storm was a catastrophe; they were not prepared.
Two months before the storm hit us one friend of mine challenged his church members to live on what they had at home for the next thirty days. Turn off your electricity, turn off your gas, lock up the keys to your cars, and survive.
They thought it would be fun; they agreed to try it. In just a matter of hours there was a squall of frustration. Man was not meant to live without electric power and our other luxuries, they cried.
Oh yes, going back to candlelight and beyond is a rude shock to the luxury-dependent soul. But you know what, Abe Lincoln did it not so long ago; people on some of our American reservations are still doing it. Millions of people in third world countries are also still living without these luxuries and do so continuously.
As one sister in the south seas said when we came to visit -- I have a humble home, but if there is ANYTHING you want, just ask me and I will tell you how to live without it. -- We can learn much from the attitudes of people like this.
Plan for the Worst
Icy Step Number One
The fact is, suddenly living without our luxuries doesn't need to be a catastrophic experience that destroys us if we are prepared. All my life I've been training myself to survive, under any, and all conditions.
When my family woke up to the sound of cannons going off all around us we were astonished. Quite literally it sounded like there was a horrible war raging outside. Before we got out of bed we realized that we were powerless and heatless to boot; without electricity our gas furnace would not function. That was the only gas outlet in the house. Already it was freezing cold inside our home.
After glancing outside to marvel at all the damage already done I heard my wife speaking on the cell phone to someone, lamenting our lack of luxuries. You know, I wish we had invested in one of those little one burner stoves.
I've already got one, I interrupted her.
I mean one of those stoves that works on a little cylinder of butane.
I nodded. I've got one.
Then, why aren't we using it? she demanded.
I can have bacon, eggs and biscuits ready for breakfast in 30 minutes. I can feed breakfast to everyone on this block in 40. She thought I was joking until I brought it all out, steaming hot.
Well, aren't you the crafty one! she marveled. You used the barbecue grill. But, why didn't you use the butane stove you said we had?
NOT START ANY FIRES INSIDE
This isn't even starting to be an emergency, I reminded her. Sure, we have the power off and gas gone, but it is expected back on at any moment. Sure, it is freezing outside, but because the house is so well insulated all we've needed to do so far is put on an extra coat and a ski mask.
We still have running water, but if it quits running, I have enough in the back room to last thirty days before we have to resort to emergency rations. Our refrigerator is full of ready-to-eat food, our pantry is stocked with enough food to last more than thirty days, just by using our mechanical can opener.
In the back room I also have enough survival food to last us a year. Our neighbor on the right has all the tools needed to protect us from the elements even if the roof comes off. Our neighbor across the street can take care of downed power lines, broken water lines inside the house, and take care of assorted other disasters. Our streets are still passable but if they didn't remain usable we have a neighbor right across there with eight horses and said he could remove all of us to a point of safety.
Enough, she cried. What's for lunch?
Steak, potatoes, salad and fried biscuits, if you want them.
She nodded knowingly. Ah, you're going to break out the butane stove.
I was disappointed in her response. We still have a barbecue grill outside. On it I can fix ANYTHING a French chef can bring to life in a Paris kitchen, including cabbage cake. If the grill were gone it wouldn't take me much longer to bank up a cowboy fire and from it I can fix almost anything you can name.
She grinned. Including cabbage cake?
I had to hang my head in shame. To cook a cabbage cake over a cowboy fire I'd have to break into the pots and pans in the back room. That would be cheating. Most people don't keep the arsenal that I do, just in case we ever do have an emergency. Now, make that an order for chocolate cup cakes, and you're on.
As the first day without lights or gas wore on I was constantly reminded how addicted we are to our luxuries. Numerous times I walked into a dark room and automatically flipped the light switch. Ah, without power the lights don't come on, I thought. Then automatically, I turned on the range to heat some water for a hot cuppa, and it hits me again. No power, remember?
That was amusing enough, but what was my next move? I started to put the cup into the microwave so I can heat it up. DUH!
Well, okay, let's turn on the TV and see what the weather channel says is coming up. Oh, FOOT! NO ELECTRICITY. Well, I'll turn on the computer and that won't work. Okay, but I have a portable computer.. Well, so I do, but I can't get on line, because DSL only works when the electricity is on.
People who know they might lose the comforts of heat for the duration should prepare a room in advance where all the family can gather. This should probably be the room nearest to the bathroom and other facilities. Otherwise, it should be a room that you can close off and contain what little heat you have available. Remember that every time you open the door you will be letting out any heat you have managed to build up. Bring in your best cell phones. Let friends and neighbors know you are safe, then turn your phones off, or leave only one on.
Bear in mind that over half your body heat goes out the top of your head. Cover thineself, with a fur cap if available. Cuddle your little toesies up with house slippers and draw on your winter mittens.
When Esquimaux get cold they bring another dog into the igloo to warm up the long winter night. If your dogs or pets are outside animals you should consider bringing them in sooner than you need them, and provide them with a good hot bath -- prior to breathing the same air they inhabit.
One of our friends put her outside dog in the garage and provided heat out there, leaving the door slightly ajar so s/he could get in and out. When Pat went to check on the dog at midnight she found the entire garage floor covered with dogs of all shapes and sizes. On top of anything in the garage that was above the floor was a solid carpet of cats. Pat didn't recognize any of them. Where did they all come from? How did they find her garage?
"There must be a kind of messenger service in the animal kingdom that says, PAT HAS A WARM SPOT OPEN, COME ON DOWN!"
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Icy Step Number Two
ALL OUR PETS NEED US
I glanced at the fish in the aquarium and wondered how much longer they would last without air bubbling inside. A solution came to mind from the time I was interviewing a fish farmer and his power quit. I stuck the fish net into the water so I wouldn't chop up any little fish and used my hand-held egg beater to chop air into the water. Turn it sideways for maximum. Non-electric appliances are great!
Like my one burner stove, like my arsenal of pots and pans, my food storage, my water supply, my safety kit, YOU can be ready for ANY emergency, and you need to be. Someday, someday soon, your life may depend on it.
The truth is, all we need to do is plan ahead how we might deal with an actual emergency. When one does happen, LEARN FROM IT. Write down all the problems that immediately popped up and keep a record of any solutions that came to mind then, or came to mind later.
So, what needs in an ice storm do we have to prepare for, so far?
If you have a 2,000 square foot roof 1 inch of ice will weigh 867.041
2 inches of ice will weigh 1734
No wonder those trees are breaking! You might think that your roof was built to withstand five inches of ice, but how old is that roof? Have you had termites at work on a critical joint? And, if you haven't swept the roof off for winter there may be debris up there that catches even more ice at a critical junction. When your roof gives up it is almost a given that your ceiling will fall through as well.
NEXT. After every kind of
weather emergency, the loudest lamentation is for documents and
pictures that have been damaged or lost. Safe deposit boxes don't
cost that much, but few people use them. Water tight, fire proof
safes can be bought at home supply stores. Few people use them. At
the very least, put these in plastic containers that can be sealed.
Strangely enough, even though
there is an ice storm raging outside we go right on needing water.
If the weatherman hints at an ice storm approaching, draw as much
potable water as you have containers for, with drinking water in one
spot and usable water in another. Leave air space for expansion.
Leave your containers open until they reach room temperature, then
close them. Doing this will help you maintain heat longer even if
you lose your source of heat.
NEXT, Get out your candles. Get
out your matches. Have a candle and a few matches right near your
resting spot. If you get advance notice that the electric is going
off then go ahead and light a candle or a lamp so that the sudden
darkness won't cause any confusion. While candles are a good source
of light remember that you can cook over them too if need be.
DO NOT START ANY FIRES
NEXT, have a fresh supply handy of any daily medications your doctor deems essential to your good health. Food that you want to stock in your WARM room should preferably be the kind you don't have to cook. Cornflakes and other dry cereals, cookies, crackers, sliced ham, sliced luncheon meat, sliced bread, and don't forget the jam and peanut butter; these should be your staples unless you know better. If you have it, bring in lots of canned juices, raisins, prunes, dried fruits (being sure to eat slowly and consume water heartily) soups, fruit cocktail, and powdered milk. Anything you really like to eat should be in that room before you are forced to stay in it.
NEXT, if you still have time to get them -- or if you can borrow something from your neighbors -- you should have a battery powered radio, a crank type flashlight or at least one with a supply of extra batteries, An instructional manual on Emergency Preparedness, a Fire Extinguisher, bottled water to drink, sleeping bags and blankets -- add pillows if you like that sort of thing -- moisture proof matches or butane lighters.
Don't forget your need for a
mechanical can opener.
Yeah, it is going to get boring in there if you aren't ready for it. For the children: Coloring book and crayons. A spare Palm Game with extra batteries wouldnt hurt. A children's song book might save the day.
For adults: books to read & needlework, puzzles, etc.. How long has it been since you played a friendly game of checkers? Don't forget to bring in your Scriptures as this might be a real good time to get reacquainted with your Heavenly Advisor.
Your SANITATION KIT
Most of us don't even think about this subject but it will quickly become one of your uppermost concerns if your water lines and sewer lines freeze up. Your sanitation preparedness kit should consist of at least a tall, plastic bucket, soap, plastic bags and ties, Toilet paper & paper towels, disinfectant and at least an improvised toilet seat, feminine hygienic needs as necessary for each female member of your entourage.
Put a standard first aid kit close to your fire extinguisher. If you have it, your first aid kit should be supplemented with a first aid manual or at least have a scout handbook. Add aromatic spirits of ammonia and water purification tablets, table salt, baking soda, matches or butane lighter, aspirin, eye drops, safety pins, adhesive or paper tape. Bandage materials should include Telfa pads 4" X 4" Triangle bandage 37" X 37" X52". Splint aids can include popsicle sticks, shingles or thin board. If you run out when you need it, use a heavy newspaper and strong string.
Now that you are prepared inside, call any elderly friends or those who might be in need to see what advice you can assist them with.
Overnight, ice storms can load up the power lines until they sag or break. Light poles can snap unexpectedly. Forgetting that their purpose in life was to protect nearby homes from icy winds and steaming sun trees can lash out in destructive paths, taking down power lines, porches and even roofs.
One thing about an ice storm, when the limbs fall it is usually straight down. Stay out from under the tree and you should be safe. That's the rule. Rules were made to be broken. Many times, on their way down, the tip of the limb will strike another limb (the power lines, the edge of the house, etc..) and this immediately changes the direction of the limb as it falls so that we know not where it will strike, nor even which end of the limb will land the farthest from the tree.
Too quick for us to even shout a warning, our next door neighbor darted under her huge tree to yank a limb off her insurance agent's car. Sure enough, there was a cannon shot above her and another huge tree limb crashed towards her. She scooted for her life towards us. The limb should have surely struck her but the tip struck another limb on the way down and it swung end for end, missing her head by many feet instead of knocking her dead. She emerged, laughing at the surge of adrenalin that makes a mockery of danger.
As you cruise down the most damaged streets it is easy to see that much of the damage coming from trees should have been foreseen and taken care of prior to the storm. Limbs stretching over the roof can be trimmed back, before winter sets in. It is easy to see houses that are in danger of roofs being crushed, homes being smashed. Instead of waiting for insurance carriers to pay off when the damage is done (in this storm, or a later one) these trees should be noted, marked, and taken care of as quickly as possible. Perhaps local agents should be protecting their companies by noting the homes they have covered so that rates can be raised or at least ultimatums made. Considering how much damage can be done to the community it would be even better if County Agents began issuing citations.
In reviewing the chaos of our last ice storm I noticed that in some areas more than half the limbs that fell had worm knots exactly where the limbs cracked off or the trunks split. Can these be spotted? Quite often.
Firemen and utility crews can be expected to work like
heroes during any of our familiar weather emergencies. When disasters like
this strike our power companies have proven plans in place to deal with the
situation. If just one area of the state is affected then experienced
workers are rushed there from inside the state.
Neighbors too can be expected to come over with offers to help, especially if they've already had some training, or if someone offers to let them perform useful labor.
CAUTION! If you don't trust a neighbor's expertise, beg off from any help they offer because your insurance company probably won't cover foolish mistakes.
The trouble with ice storms is, how do you KNOW how bad the effects will be until they actually happen? Sometimes it seems that God is determined to make fools of even the best weathermen on the planet. They predict solid ice and the temperature goes up to balmy. They predict light frost and trees are snapping to the ground everywhere.
Your best protection is to always be ready for the big one. Just being ready to cook over a candle could save your life.
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