(Photo: Damage from fire as result of Hurricane Sandy)
One thing I believe in is learning from history and when we witness history in the making, we have added benefit if we maintain a proper perspective and pay close attention. What has happened since Sandy reminds me much of Katrina and New Orleans back in 2005, though not as extreme, and there are lessons to be learned.
It's been three months since Hurricane Sandy devastated portions of the East Coast and we read in a report today that there are still many without heat, water and electricity to their homes, not to mention other essential repairs needing to be made. There are, according to the report, still 3,500 families living in hotels being paid for by FEMA (tax payers) and they have no idea how much longer they will need to do so. How prepared were these people for any type of disaster? I'm sure there was much variance throughout the population, but you can bet that it ranged from ZERO preparations all the way up to being able to provide for oneself (or family) for as long as needed...as long as fuel is/was available. Being without basic utilities and services in the coldest months of the year is less than ideal--believe me!
So, what can we learn from the experiences of both those who survived and those who did not? Learn what natural disasters YOUR area is prone to and prepare accordingly. One thing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (my faith) has taught for many years is to have at LEAST a year's supply of food, clothing, fuel (where able and allowed) and provisions for emergency shelter. I chanced it for several years of my life by not following that counsel, but am glad to say that in "cramming for finals", I now have what I consider to be adequate provisions and preparations for what I might face in my part of the country. When one starts into the process of emergency preparedness and self-reliance you quickly learn of all the "holes" that need filled and it can be quite overwhelming. However, if one embarks with a little bit of methodology an adequate 3-month supply can be acquired rather quickly and without a major change in buying habits and without incurring debt (AVOID DEBT AT ALL COSTS). Whenever you go grocery shopping, buy a few more cans of something whenever you see bargain prices. Things such as stews, soups and other "meals in a can" will store much longer than the stamped dates on them if kept in proper conditions. The important thing to remember about accumulating a 3-month supply of food is to "buy what you eat and eat what you buy". Clothing is easy as you only need to reinforce some of the things you are lacking to supplement what you have already to prepare for extreme weather conditions and minimal wearing out of things such as socks, gloves, etc.
Storing fuel can be a little more difficult, but you need to be sure that the fuel you are storing is fuel you will be using and try to figure out how to live off of one or two types of fuel rather than trying to store a little bit of everything. Do you have alternative ways to heat your home? Cook? Fuel for transportation if walking/biking isn't a realistic option? The most important thing to remember about storing fuel is to DO IT SAFELY AND AWAY FROM YOUR HOME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Emergency shelter can be as simple as a small tent and as big as a camp trailer or even a second home in a secure and accessible location if you are so lucky to have one. Just make sure you're making considerations in all of these areas and you will find much more piece of mind.
None of us know what the future holds for us, but we can reasonably predict some of the worst-case scenerios and prepare for them accordingly. The worst thing we can do is look at the victims of these natural disasters and think to ourselves, "Boy, that's too bad. I sure hope they can get themselves picked back up soon". Look at how dependent so many have become on the help and assistance of others. Should we reach out and help them if we are able? YES. However, we must also prepare ourselves in such a manner that we anticipate no help being available to help us if/when our turn comes. That way we will be temporally and mentally prepared to go it alone and if, by chance, others are there to help us it will be that much more to our benefit...not to mention that we might be able to use some of our own resources to help others harder hit or less prepared than ourselves.