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Four Letters Re: Hurricane Sandy After Action Reports

Dear Editor:
I live in southeastern Connecticut. I am far from wealthy and I live in a section of town while certainly is not what one may consider a ghetto, neither is it in any way “nice”. I would not label myself as a prepper nor a survivalist, instead I have common sense. I have a good stock of food and water, preparations and gear in case I have to leave, not for some cataclysmic disaster but because I live in a world that has hurricanes and natural disasters.

Our Governor here in Connecticut recommended that my area evacuate. I did not. Though I am on the coast, my apartment is at a higher elevation and sure enough I did not suffer any of the flooding many others are dealing with. I watched closely every weather channel report, internet weather and government report and I was fairly certain that I would be okay where I am and sure enough I was. I did lose power however, though only for a day.

The reason for writing this and passing it on is an observation of what preparing really is. I have a basement apartment. Because of it’s construction I can hear most anything going on outside. The winds died down around 3 in the morning. At 4 a.m. I could hear multiple voices and footsteps in the leaves. the voices were hushed and the steps…hard to explain, gave me the impression of sneakiness. Before I continue I wish to point out I am Christian. While I believe in defending myself, my friends and family, I also believe in following Christ’s footsteps in word and deed. Having said that, I went and got my shotgun and placed it out of sight but next to the door and my hand right beside it and calmly opened my door in time to see a twenty something male and four others round the corner and stop in surprise at my smiling face. We all looked at each other for a few seconds and very calmly and in a measured voice I asked them what they were up to. Their claim was that they were just checking out the damage. “While in the dark at four in the morning?” They didn’t say anything. 

“Well you know, it would probably be best if you moved on, you’re on private property here and I don’t think it’s safe for anyone.” All with a tight smile and friendly voice. And my hand out of sight on my shotgun. 

“We don’t want any trouble.” 

I responded: “Neither do I.”

At this point I let them see the shotgun. I didn’t raise it, point it anyone, just swung it over to rest next to my leg. “Look, your in someone else’s yard, in the dark after a major storm. Somebody might think you’re looting and who wants that sort of nonsense, just go home before we are all in trouble.”
“Sorry mister” and they were on their way. I watched them round the corner and as far as I could tell meandered down the road. I sat out on the porch until  sunrise with that gun across my lap.
I saw a policeman yesterday, an acquaintance. Around 6 a.m. on that same morning  of my little run in, a few streets over at the cop had a call. A man confronted a group of young men in his front yard. He came out of his house with a bat and took a swing. He got beaten pretty bad and sent to the hospital. I wonder if he just came flying out of his house set upon violence and such. 
Part of my common sense is that I go for walks in my neighborhood.  Have been since I had to move here. I make sure everyone see’s my face, I often greet people with a smile and a hello. It is a rough neighborhood. A couple of streets over there are drug houses. I walk there too. I am easy to recognize. I am over a very large man both in strength and overweight (thus the walking). I figure people are less likely to mess with a friendly person they recognize. Plus I get to see who’s around. 
I am pretty sure I recognized on e of those guys. the cop questioned me closely about it. I think I recognized him from walking the neighborhood. Probably said hi or waved at some point. 
“A soft answer turns away wrath” and I firmly believe that, I cant see Christ accosting someone in His yard with threat of violence. I cant see Him judging, in fact He made it clear for me that I should not judge. Yet He also gave me a brain. He gave me a temple of the Holy Spirit, my body, which I need to protect. He was once accosted by a mob, before it was his appointed time and the Bible says He walked through them and they could not touch Him. I do believe the Bible raises a clear admonition to defend oneself  So If my pretty smile and soft words did not diffuse the situation that shotgun had a buckshot in the chamber and the safety was off. I was fully prepared to pull that trigger. Yet I did not charge out on a warpath. Like I said common sense. But the soft answer did turn away wrath. Thank God.
We do in emergency what we do in practice. I have had the good fortune to have excellent teachers of self defense with my fists as well as with firearms. I also have rooted myself in His word and teachings. It pulled me through. I made sure that when the time came my skills were sufficient and I could rely on them. My faith was also strong enough that I could rely on Him. Some call that prepping, surviving. I say it’s just common sense. 

I went to work the Monday of the hurricane as it wasn’t going to hit us until late afternoon. My boss sent us home at noon time. Gas stations were packed, grocery stores were packed, there were even long lines at drive up fast food joints! Can you imagine? Training of our skills, and more importantly of our spirituality, can not be a last minute rush job. It needs to be done everyday day upon waking up and upon going to bed. It needs to be done with supplication and prayer. What we do in practice is what we do in danger. I’ve read that so many times. My teachers have drilled that into my head and now I truly know it. I wonder about the guy that got beat. Was he just scared that something bad was going to happen to him and his family? Was this just a result of fear? I do not know. I know I was not too worried about the hurricane. I had done my homework, had food, water, candles, books, ammo. I did not fear for my family or friends, I trusted that they were in Christ’s loving hands. And while my adrenaline was pumping for sure during the moment I can’t say I felt fear in the confrontation, though I admit afterwards my mind kept mulling over what could have happened, how badly it could have gotten. I would say I felt fear after. Okay, I admit, I had a shaky feeling all over for about an hour. But not in the moment. Was it God’s strength? My preparedness? I think it was both and it makes me sad for all the people I see that get into these situations that lash out in anger brought on by fear.

I maintain I just use common sense. But common sense says to prepare, to train your body, your mind, and most importantly your spirit. So I guess I am a prepper. I prepare myself for life.
Christ be with you, – S.H.

A quick note to put my 2 cents in, if I may: I was a regular guy who thought a bit about prepping for years, but didn’t really do much of it. After the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue took office, I began to develop a collection of firearms and ammo, with the belief that guys like him will actively seek to make such things harder to get. Then, I happened on the show “Doomsday Preppers” on television. I know the show seems a bit “Made-for-TV”, if you will, but it did spur me to some action, including reading SurvivalBlog, daily. I can’t get my wife and kids to drop everything and move to Idaho (yet), but I was able to sell them a bit on the notion that we could do some preparatory things and be smart, even if they weren’t ready to start canning and burying supplies in the woods. In the last couple years, I’ve got them all shooting a bit, and we’ve made sure there’s some food in the house for events like this. Then along comes Sandy…..

We live in Southern Ocean County, about a mile from the water, on a pretty good hill in a residential subdivision. I work as a public utility superintendent in a town in Western Monmouth County, central New Jersey, 45 miles north of home. I hate the notion that I could be at work in this type of event for several days, that far away from them. But it is what I have to do, for now. I have a small 12-volt battery setup with a solar charging system, useful, bought it because of what I’ve read and learned on SurvivalBlog. Also the tricks I’ve read about here- buying solar landscape pathways lights, stockpile flashlights and batteries, I bought a generator and some gas and made sure I taught my 13 year old son how to do everything in my absence. Gave Momma the keys to the gun safe, discussed safety and security with everyone, and went to work Sunday evening. Did not get home until Wednesday night.

Our house was without power for only 48 hours, and flooding was not an issue for our property. But it was enough to get them all on board, moving closer to accepting what Dad’s been saying. Power is still out in large areas of New Jersey, and things are getting ugly- Looting and robbery in millionaire’s neighborhoods as we speak (it’s now Nov. 2nd, Friday night.) No phone, no power, no way to call the police….Sorry!!

Lessons Learned/Reinforced:
   1. Have food and water for as many as live in your house, plus the in-laws, plus your kid’s friend who stayed for the entire event. What is happening now is everything is clear, stores are re-opening, but have no stock, shelves are still bare. And people are nuts- Fully stocked stores are only 50 miles away, and unprepared folks are panicking as if they’re going to die in line at the grocery store, pulling guns on line at gas pumps, etc. So if you want to be prepared for a week-long emergency, you need 2 weeks’ worth of food. And gasoline for the generator, firewood, etc.
   2. Have bottled water- I work in the water utility business, and I’m telling you these systems are more fragile than you think, and are susceptible to all kinds of malfunctions even in normal times. Have at least a case for each person in the house at all times, so you can survive a week, brush teeth, make a pot of coffee, etc. I’m talking about minor stuff, not even nearly for TEOTWAWKI [1], for $25 you can get 5 cases of [bottled] water. Everyone needs to do this. No excuses.
   3. Maintain a secondary system of power, heat, etc….Generator, fireplace, whatever, have multiple options if possible. Right now in New Jersey, there are two kinds of people: prepared people, and miserable people.
   4. Security- You cannot call the cops, and they’re not getting there anyway- You’d better be able to shoo away the vultures, so to speak. As I mentioned, there are gangs going door-to-door in very affluent neighborhoods, some of the wealthiest in America, simply kicking in doors and taking stuff- if you can’t stop them, they’re doing it. These are neighborhoods where people like Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi live, where they never fear for anything, because “They don’t have those sorts of people there”. Roads and bridges washed out means no access to services- Hundred of homes have burned down while fire crews watched helplessly from across the washed out roads, and Coast Guard and NJ State Police are patrolling Long Beach Island as looters try to get there by boat under cover of darkness. Thieves are ingenious and crafty, and we must be as well.
   5. The big lesson of all 4 of those points is this- The government is a mess, and cannot help you. You must be prepared to sustain yourself and your loved ones. Even if, like me, all you have so far is a means of keeping everyone alive and relatively well for a week long power outage, it’s a start. We will learn and continue to build upon this small start, but my family was extremely happy that when the lights went out and Dad was gone, they had food, water, a generator, security, etc. Dad felt a lot better knowing when I could not call them, and could not get to them, they had supplies and were going to be ok.
In the big picture sense, the New Jersey and New York are NOT prepared for these events like the Carolinas and Florida. This will be a wake-up call for many, and it will ruin many others. I hope the riots aren’t too bad, but I do believe they’re coming. Thanks for SurvivalBlog, it is a tremendous help to many of us in lots of ways! – M.B.

Good morning. Here’s Storm Update #4 from Princeton and Atlantic City, New Jersey areas.
Saturday Morning. No power at our home in the Princeton area. Lost another neighbor yesterday. The one with the rental genny, family of five, they left for their mother’s home in Pennsylvania. Last night was cold, and I imagine dealing with one space heater in a bedroom was not comfortable, coupled with the shower situation. We are all on well water here. So, if the genny isn’t hard-wired into the system, no power for water. If I had to figure the circuit connection on the fly, I’m guessing I could MacGyver it – though it would obviously not pass inspection and there would be a risk factor – but they had other options and this is not Mad Max world. Again, my wife and I offered our home, but they politely declined. Another neighbor to text when our utilities are restored.
Yesterday, we gave both of our daughters a break. My wife initially planned to drive them to a horse stable about 10 miles way – this is where my youngest helps around the barn, mucks, cleans gear, and brushes/feeds/grooms the horses. In exchange, she gets to ride – though we do contribute small payments to the owner (a middle-aged woman who has managed horses her entire life), who more often than not refuses to take our money. After the stable, there would be a play date with another family – they were on the way back to our home. I had the discussion with my wife about gasoline for the SUV. I’ll take the hits here for having a guzzler, but when it comes to driving my most precious possessions in the Universe, I got my wife the biggest four wheel drive vehicle I could with height clearance, a massive engine and room to spare for all of us and the dog. To my surprise, my wife acknowledged the gas concern (over the years, she has an amused, but accepting tolerance for my prepping), but she felt the benefits outweighed the costs. I agreed, and noted that our use had already lowered the gas level so we would have to find a refill.
Back to the stable, with 20+ horses needing daily care, the owner had a back-up generator for water, but this was unnecessary as power was restored two days ago. Well, upon arrival, the owner informed us that the utility company had cut the power to restore other areas of priority. Her genny at the main farm building (a good distance away) was pulling water slowly, and the she was busy ferrying water in her pick-up truck and caring for the horses. The kids helped for a while, but no riding. When they arrived at our friend’s home, they were greeted by the sight of 34 trees on the front of the property (more than 15 wooded acres) blown over by Sandy. My theory is that a mini-twister must have touched down, but perhaps it just took hours of sustained high winds. Power was out there too, but they had a great time exploring the grounds. I should mention that the mom is a scientist who regularly spends months in the Amazon jungle. I trust her with my family.
While my wife was out, I rigged up power to our water softener system, and ran it through a regeneration cycle. Our well water is super hard – lots of minerals, but fine for drinking. The water softener has other effects for soap, laundry, the pipes, etc.  Next, I hopped into the garden, grabbed two leeks and an onion, dinner was going to be a stir fry. The genny also needed refueling. One issue, no matter how careful I am when pouring the gas/funnels, I cannot seem to shake the odor of gasoline. Yeah it would be nice to have a pump, and perhaps I will rig one up when I have spare time. For now, the family tolerates it, and after scrubbing, the aroma eventually fades. Aslan, our pooch, also got in a great run in our backyard with a neighbor’s dog. They were visiting their home across the street to check status, and then returning to their parents in a section of Princeton that has power.
My wife and kids returned, and I later reviewed pictures of the fallen trees. After raising the garage door for my wife (no power and it’s heavy even with the spring tension), I noted that the SUV’s gas gauge showed just over half full. I was also thinking about the empty gas cans from the genny usage. The report was that gas lines were still absurd. Our town was e-mailing updates and our friends in the area had formed a close network that was using Twitter to communicate open gas locations. The Airport was offering [AVGAS] gasoline for genny use only with (lead and other additives in the fuel) for $6.00 a gallon! Knowing that I might have to fill the SUV, I opted to stay with regular gas stations – for now.
My wife and I agreed that late tonight (Friday still) might provide a decent window for short lines, so long as the stations stayed open. Short story – I left the house at 10:00 pm and found one of our local stations, waited in line for an hour and twenty minutes. It was unreal, and so was the “look” of the people filling up. As I got closer, I could see folks pulling all manner of gas containers from their trunks – from one gallon grime-encased plastic to ten gallon suitcase sized plastic that was difficult to lift. I half expected to see milk jugs. When I finally got to the pump, I was told either the car or the gas cans, but not both. They were running low. I told the attendant to fill the SUV. In the interim, I removed four five gallon safety cans and one five gallon plastic container from the trunk, and got ready to fill them. He came back and looked on dubiously. I followed my gut. I said, “I’m a local, come here all the time. You must be part of Horhay’s extended family or a friend.” He nodded affirmatively and said, “Family.”  I continued, “Here’s money for the gas, we’ll round it up, you keep the rest. These cans are powering the genny for our home.” With that, I started filling, and he left for another customer – they had six pumps going. By the way, I paid $5.00 per gallon of regular. Free market economics at work: supply and demand. I peeled off $200.00 in twenties – these are the largest denomination that I keep on hand – this was for 25 gallons in the cans and 12 gallons in the SUV.
On the way home, I got a text from our neighbor friend April – she was looking for gas for her car but had bypassed the crazy long line at the same station I had just left. I advised her immediately – she’s young – I told her to get back in that line ASAP and wait it out. Back home, as I skimmed online news after midnight, I saw that the Governor has enacted gas rationing, aka Jimmy Carter style. Beginning today, there is now an odd/even license plate system for filling up. The last number in the plate has to match the odd or even of that day of the month in order to be serviced. That’s going to go over well. Forget commuting to work, and traveling up and down the state for family, unless you have enough gas to get back or can wait a few days for a reliable station.
Turning to the Jersey Shore, mom has gone dark. She was supposed to make her way from Pennsylvania to the hotel near our home in Margate, NJ. We have called her mobile phone and the house line several times with no response. I’m not worried yet, but this morning I will track down the hotel and see if she checked in. One of our local crew who lives in Ventnor City (shut down for infrastructure, but residents allowed back), the town next to Margate, described the area in a text message this way, “It’s the Twilight Zone down here.” He sent a picture of our garage – the waves had knocked the doors out and sand/seaweed/muck was piled high. No one was at the house, and he couldn’t get in to see the first floor or basement. He is going to visit our house again today and see if mom is around. On a separate note, I saw a post on Facebook from another Shore friend, stating that she reported potential looting. There was a private truck driving around her neighborhood and loading up with appliances and similar items at the curb. One Facebook commenter told her to relax, this was acceptable. She replied, “Yeah, but not at 11:00pm, and they were driving way too slow and using a flash light to shine in peoples’ yards.” She notified the police. I have not received an update on this yet.
One final comment for the preppers of the world: The Oyster Creek nuclear power plant confirmed near-total cooling pump failure, and power failure. The back-up diesels saved the day on the spent fuel pool. Salem I, which had the emergency steam release, has been quiet. No further news that I can find. In a real long-term grid down scenario… there are more than a hundred nuclear power plants/reactors in the US alone. And so I ask, with all seriousness, are we doomed under such circumstances regardless of our plans?
I understand that other parts of NJ and NY are in far worse shape than here, and that a Nor’easter might be approaching early next week. However, I keep thinking that things will change in the Princeton area with the flip of a switch, i.e., power restored. But until then, we are in crisis mode, and there are strange concerns occupying my mind while this lasts.
This is neither exciting, nor fun. But I will remain upbeat for my family. – Bill H.