Two Letters Re: Hurricane Sandy After Action Reports

I am a native New Yorker who has lived in the city for more than 30 years. As much as I would like to live elsewhere safer, I still very much love the city and have to remain here because of work and my mother. The recent devastation left by Sandy wreaked havoc in the city. You can read about plenty of details on the hurricane from the news and other posts so I’m just going to keep this post short based on some of the problems encountered that were unique to an urban environment. In addition to the basic necessities of being prepared, I would like to add some further precautions that can be utilized to help minimize some future problems that can occur in a highly populated city such as New York.

• Electronics/communications: Many people who were in downtown Manhattan had no power and these days, we are tied to our cell phones, laptops, etc. They had to travel uptown in desperation to charge their lifeline. Without a cell phone, there would be no way for many people to contact anyone. Having an extra external charger would’ve been handy along with another charger that utilizes AA batteries as part of their emergency kit will make a good last resort back up.
• Money: ATMs were down in certain places and because there was no power, restaurants and stores only accepted cash. If you had no cash and the ATM wasn’t working or was empty, you weren’t getting anything. Always have some cash on hand.
• Gas: This was a big problem since many people from surrounding areas had no gas due to power outages and so people from New Jersey, Long Island were driving to NYC to fill up. People waited more than 3 hours in line for gas. There was a lot of tension and anxiety caused by a gas shortage. Many gas stations were eventually closed when there was no gas left. My girlfriend had the foresight to remind me to fill up on gas before the storm hit so this should be a good lesson to fill up and stock up in advance of a possible disruption.
• Transportation: The lifeline of New York was cut off since trains were flooded along with extensive damage to the rails and tunnels. There was major traffic lasting hours since it created a bottleneck effect at the bridges that were open. There was also chaos at shuttle bus stops everywhere. Many buses were full and simply bypassed many passengers who were waiting for hours to get on and the city put restrictions by creating carpool lanes into Manhattan with a 3 passenger minimum. Any less and you would have been turned away. This turned what normally would have been a 30 minute commute into a three hour commute. Having a bike or being able to walk for long distances would eliminate the dependency on cars and public transportation.
• Of course, other typical events related to post disaster scenarios occurred (especially in poor neighborhoods like Coney Island) such as: food/water shortages and looting.

A great tragedy occurred in this great city. I hope that people here will start to wake up and become more self sufficient. Those who were spared have been given another chance to do better for themselves and their families in the future. For those who were directly affected, we all pray for your quick recovery. May peace be with you all – A.I.K.

Dear James,
Greetings from New Jersey and thank you for your fantastic blog. My power was not restored until Sunday after losing it one long week ago.

Survival preps, i.e. food, water definitely not a problem for me. Between frozen food,cans and home canned then long term food in Mylar and pails, I can go a year or more. This hurricane is a great “dry run” and those that endured devastation, my heart and prayers go out to them.

On the other hand, so many don’t even have the simple things a day or too. Simple things like filling the car or truck fuel tank before the storm, or getting a few more batteries. As the storm hit, I sat back, having gotten my sick elderly mom from the New Jersey shore, made contact with friends and relatives to try and get out of harm’s way. The power went out very early and within lays a comfort level knowing you can provide for you and your family.

Sitting around the table listening to the hand crank radio under the glow of the Coleman lantern. As the wind howled communications failed. Cell towers along the coast ceased. Roads closed throughout the state. Those with cell phones had no way to charge them if cell service was available.

As our procedure, the emergency two way radios were put into use. At midnight I heard the call signal and a brief verbal check in. We would monitor and contact every 8 hours. Communications are very important. Even someone’s a quarter mile away might as well be in Europe during an emergency, without communication, and a source of immediate back up or help if needed.

As the storm hit us harder, we lost contact with friends and family throughout the night. Communications can not be stressed enough.

The next morning, reports of devastation along the coast, of millions of people without power, without water and food. I’m sure not everyone believes in prepping for a year or more, but please, some cannot even feed themselves for two days without demanding that Uncle Sam must help them.

Within the day, people realized that without gas, you can’t drive or run generators. Without generators, no gas at the gas stations. Yes I personally saw lines at the few gas stations with gas and open over a mile long. Society was breaking down after just 24 hours.

Milk could not be delivered, no diesel for the trucks. Milk could not be picked up at the farms, again, no fuel. I ask, doesn’t anyone prepare?

During the day Tuesday, I get a radio message, rumor has it there is some looting, and its time to lock and load. So be it.

During the frost two days, you would hear generators running day and night. I thought to myself they must have huge amounts of fuel. In order to conserve, I would run it for few hours, shut it off and run it again. One by one, you heard the generators go silent. By conserving, 50 gallons would last for a month or more.

As for eating, oh my, we ate terrifically. Long slow cooked meals and knowing, it would be a long time before we ran out. And yes, there would be lots of rice and beans in the future, but not yet.

As of today, sunday, there still is no fuel available. Food distribution is at a stand still.

What have I learned. Fuel s critical. If you don’t have it, you won’t get it.

Cell phones become useless when the power s down. Alternate communications are a must. With that a thought. If the government became abusive, how would you spread the word? How would you get pictures out so others can see? Internet was not available locally and can be shut down at will by the government.

Have backups. My transistor radio stopped working. The crank up took its place.

Be ready to move fast. New York City was locked down. Tunnels and bridges closed. Have a way to travel and avoid check points.

People have lost everything and many more are suffering. Learn what you can from these warnings.

God bless America and pray for out country on Tuesday. – Rich S.