Harnessing (and Creating) the Community to Work Together in a TEOTWAWKI Situation, by Meir L.

I have recently been reading SurvivalBlog.com, and as an avid hiker/backpacker/adventurer, I am very interested in what this site has to offer. I have been reading the different TEOTWAWKI posts, and I have read different TEOTWAWKI situations, learning and understanding more and more about survival. I enjoy giving back to the community, and I have been searching for my own TEOTWAWKI situation that I can use to help myself and other people learn from it. I realized that about 1 year ago, a really serious TEOTWAWKI situation happened to my community (and family).

I am a religious Jewish 18 year old living in New York. My family and live in Far Rockaway, approximately nine blocks away from the beach. In other words, we are very close to the ocean. About one year ago, we heard on the news that a really big hurricane (Superstorm Sandy) was heading our way. Since we live very close to the ocean, you might think that we get hit with hurricanes all the time. The meteorologists seem to think that also, and about once or twice a year, we get a warning to evacuate. The truth is that we have been getting these warnings since I was born, and NOTHING has ever happened. A few examples are (as quoted from the NYC OEM web site):

Hurricane Felix lingered off the East Coast for nearly a week in 1995, menacing the northeastern U.S. before it finally drifted out to sea.
A weakening Tropical Storm Bertha brought heavy rain to the City in July 1996.
Hurricane Edouard veered out to sea after tracking toward New York City around Labor Day 1996.
In September 1999, Tropical Storm Floyd brought sustained 60 mph winds and dumped 10-15 inches of rain on upstate New Jersey and New York State over a 24-hour period. Flash flooding from this tropical storm — one of the most powerful to affect New York City in a decade — forced hundreds of people to leave their homes in counties just outside the five boroughs. Floyd caused New York City’s schools to close for the first time since 1996 and led the city to open emergency storm shelters as a precautionary measure.
In August 2011, Hurricane Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm right before it made landfall in New York City. In preparation the City issued the first-ever mandatory evacuation of coastal areas on August 26, 2011. The evacuation encompassed 375,000 residents living in evacuation zone A, the entire Rockaway Peninsula, and 34 health care facilities located in evacuation zone B. The City sheltered 10,000 evacuees at 81 shelters.

There have actually been more, but since they didn’t affect the entire New York metropolitan region, only Far Rockaway, they didn’t count them. I remember Hurricane Isabella some time ago. But the bottom line is that most of these hurricanes are just fluff and nothing really happened despite all the warnings the news gave us.

As a result of all these factors, whenever a hurricane happens, no matter how intense the warnings are, almost nobody evacuates (at least in my community.) Just to slam the message home, in 2011, the year before Sandy, when the news people, the government, and local organizations told us how “this is the craziest, most intense storm to ever hit the Rockaways…..etc.,” some people did evacuate, and still nothing happened. So in October, 2012, when SHTF, nobody expected it, nobody evacuated, and everything went crazy.

Religious Jewish people in general usually live in the same community, go to the same events, and go to the same Shuls (synagogues). The Far Rockaway Jewish community covers an area of roughly two square miles. The community next door (Lawrence), covers approximately that same, and so on. You can probably walk from Far Rockaway to Manhattan and every few miles walk through a Jewish community. Because of this, when Sandy hit, we were all helping each other out.

There amount of good will was astounding. Just to give a tiny example, we have an online classifieds in the Five Towns (Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Inwood, Woodmere, Hewlett) and Far Rockaway, and to show you how the community got together in order to survive this episode, I will post a few samples of the posts:

“1 pair of Beige and 1 pair of Navy Blue Dickie Pants, New with Tags Size 7 regular. 1 pair each of Black George New with Tags Size 8 Regular. 1 pair of Black George Slightly used Size 8 Regular. Prefer these go to family affected by Hurricane like so many of us.  We also have some polo shirts in similar sizes if interested.”
“If anyone needs some lightly used baby clothes or lost baby clothes in the storm. Sized 0-6 months (boy). Please email or call” 
“you can have wireless internet access at XXX XXXX XXXXXXXX anytime. its wireless network is XXXX. password:   sandy 2012. you can come in or park near driveway and it will work. also for those who need showers come on over until 1 am. you can just come to warm up and relax if that’s what you need
Ally and Sean”
“I have room for 3 people leaving to Brooklyn this afternoon.”
From Achiezer (Local organization):

We are compiling lists of those that are in the immediate need of clothing. There is a clothing gemach (lending/free organization) that has already been set up at XXXX Reads Lane in Far Rockaway. Anyone who requires may go there for clothing for men, women, boys and girls as well as coats and shoes. If anyone would like to donate clothing to members of the community, please email XXXXXXXXXXXX@gmail.com
If you have no choice but to remain in homes in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns and do not have food for Shabbos (Saturday) or during the week, please call our hotline and prepared foods will be made available for you. (Please keep in mind that many people do not have access to email. Please share this information with anyone you know.)  Fully catered meals are being made available to anyone in the Far Rockaway/Five Towns communities who require.  Please email XXXX@ACHIEZER.ORG or call  XXX-XXX-XXXX to let us know how many meals are needed.  The MET Council along with the JCCRP have opened up a respite area in the White Shul as well as the Young Israel of Bayswater starting at 7pm for Far Rockaway/Bayswater residents.  Anyone who would like some hot food or a place to charge your phones may go there starting tonight.”
“I have a few bags of challah (bread) rolls and some bread for someone that needs it. I can house a single or couple; sorry I don’t have room for kids. If you need a shower; change; place for charging cell phones, computers, etc.  If you need (a) Shabbat meals(s) let me know.”
“Dozens of beautifully catered shabbos packages for any families that would like for shabbos are being distributed RIGHT NOW. These include challah, grape juice, matzo, bottled water, gefilte fish, chicken cutlets, kugels, assorted salads, cakes, cold cuts, soups, as well as cold cereals and other items for your children. There are dozens of people arriving there with hundreds more meals being setup.
The distribution is being handled at Shor Yoshuv, 1 Cedar Lawn Avenue, in Lawrence. There is no charge for these meals, and due to the email/cell breakdown we ask you to spread this service to anyone who may benefit from receiving these meals. If you know of someone who is unable to drive to get these meals, please let us know and we will have it delivered.
If anyone in Bayswater requires, please go to the Young Israel of Bayswater where there is also distribution taking place at the headquarters of the RCSP.”

Please read the following few final updates regarding shabbos plans for this weekend. We believe you will find this information both helpful and useful as shabbos approaches.

“From Achiezer Community Resource Center
1)Gasoline Update:
We are tremendously appreciative to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder who today brought Senator Schumer to our temporary community center to pledge their assistance. Together they are working on a major effort to bring and make available a supply of gasoline to our neighborhood. We should start seeing a major improvement in gas supply before the start of shabbos.
2) Security over shabbos:
We know that many are concerned about the safety of our communities over shabbos. Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has arranged that there will be a major increase of police presence in the Far Rockaway area over shabbos. A call was also made to the NCPD to arrange increased patrols for the Five Towns area. The RCSP is also hiring additional patrols for the Bayswater area over shabbos.
3)Volunteer help:
We have numerous volunteers available to help you clean out your homes, pump out your basements, and whatever other needs may arise. Call the office in the morning, and we will be happy to set you up.
4)Shelter for shabbos:
If anyone still would like to be put up for shabbos in either Queens in Brooklyn, it is not too late. We have numerous homes available for complete families. Please call our office at  XXX-XXXX, or email XXXXXXX@achiezer.org
5)Financial assistance:
Rabbi XXXXXXX XXXXXX from Agudath Israel of America and a group of community trustees spent hours at our office today preparing this special fund. If anyone would like information about emergency assistance, please email us at XXXXXXXX@achiezer.org, or call us at our hotline for further instructions.
We thank you for your incredible patience, and we will do everything in our power to try and alleviate the stress from what is undoubtedly a most difficult period in your lives.”
“I have power at XXX Grove Ave . you are welcome to power up your devices, and shower (after I am finished). There is a limited amount of refrigeration available since I have a lot of stuff from neighbors, but we can squeeze some more in if necessary.”

I think the foregoing messages illustrate an ideal way for a community to react to a TEOTWAWKI situation. This response was only possible after many years of coordination of the community members. We have our own volunteer ambulance service (the city one takes too long), a volunteer police department, a community patrol, etc.  There was incredible damage throughout most of Far Rockaway and the five towns, and many people’s houses were unlivable, besides not having heat in the early winter. Electricity was a rare luxury in few houses. There was no phone service, cell or land line. I think this should be classified as a TEOTWAWKI situation based on these facts alone. I know that a lot of the people who are reading this are from out of the city area, and are probably thinking that this is normal, should remember that this is a city area where there are not really any communities and most people do not know there neighbors. This would have normally resulted in chaos and mayhem. To show you how this is true, look at the next door community where there is no real community infrastructure in place. A few blocks from where I live is a lower to middle class community, and there was rampant looting, shootings, and burglaries. The local Best Buy, Costco, and strip malls were all looted. Our community was mostly untouched.

As a side point, there were signs in this community that read “you loot, we shoot.” Shows you the value of firearms in this type of situation.
It is worth it to organize and establish a community within your midst just to help each other out in this situation, besides all the obvious benefits. A few ideas are thus:

  1. Create a list of the different streets in your neighborhood
  2. Invite all those who live on those streets to partake in events, house parties, etc.
  3. Create an online classifieds that will bond the community members together. Craigslist is too shady and full of scams for many people to be involved.
  4. Create multiple volunteer organizations
  5. Welcome new neighbors to your area. This usually creates a feeling of togetherness.
  6. Assign communal posts. A few reasons for this: you can keep everything organized, it takes away pressure from you doing everything, and causes people to be more invested in your new community