Saturday, November 17, 2012

Weathering the Storm

This post has been a long time coming.  For the past couple of weeks, I have watched in horror as the good people of the East Coast have battled the effects of Hurricane Sandy.  Seeing images of people standing in lines a mile long with a 2 gallon gas can in their hands and "Closed" signs posted at FEMA sites just as a nor'easter was blowing in on an already devastated coastline made me tremble.  It also got me thinking.  What if.....what if Sir Knight and I lived in an apartment in lower Manhattan.  What if we were limited to electric heat, city water and city sewer?  What if that was our family shivering in the cold with no help in sight?  What would we do?  Would we have options?  Would it even be possible to prepare?  Or, would our fiercely independent, survivalist family be consigned to the fate of our neighbors -refugees- waiting for help from an overtaxed public service agency while praying that our utilities would be restored before we froze to death.  Truthfully, the answer is not a simple one.

Ultimately, it is impossible to prepare for every scenario.  No one person has the finances, the time, the space or the knowledge to forestall every single disaster.  No matter how many barrels of food or water you have stored, if a hurricane sweeps your home off the foundation and swamps it under 15 feet of water, your preparations will have been in vain.  But, you can have a back-up plan.  You can plan for an extreme disaster with a "bug-out" location.  You can make arrangements (ahead of time) with family or friends to go to their house if the worst happens.  You can store supplies at your "bug-out" location so you are not a burden when you arrive.  If you live on the coast in hurricane country you need to have a "Plan B".

If the worst doesn't happen but you are left without utilities or any way to buy groceries for the foreseeable future, you CAN weather that storm.  I know you have heard it over and over, but you can stock up on food NOW.  You can store water.  You can PLAN for disaster.  Admittedly, when you live in a tiny walk-up apartment, you have your work cut out for you, but it is possible.

After talking about it at length, Sir Knight and I are convinced that living in an apartment in the middle of Manhattan during complete societal collapse is nearly impossible.  However, it IS very conceivable to prepare for short term or even somewhat extended emergencies in the middle of the city with limited resources.  Here are some ideas we have come up with....

Lighting:  This really is pretty easy and standard.  Make sure you have flashlights and a stash of batteries.  Batteries will store for the better part of 10 years, making them an excellent choice.  LED lanterns (battery operated) are an optimal choice.  They can be hung, held onto or set on a table and provide excellent lighting.  Of course, candles are an option, however, they don't put off very much light, and, with an open flame, are considerably more dangerous than their LED counterpart.  Oil lamps (kerosene) are also a good choice, but you must watch them around children as they are highly flammable.  If you plan on using oil lamps, it would be wise to stock up on 1 gallon containers of lamp oil and stash them here and there for a "rainy day".  Also, you need to have extra wicks and chimneys.

Heating:  This seems to be of huge concern in an entirely electric home, but it is NOT insurmountable!  There are now ventless propane heaters and fireplaces.  These require NO vent to the outside.  Not that I am recommending this for anyone else, but, if I lived in an apartment with no wood burning fireplace (which won't do a great job anyway) and only electric heat, I would certainly install a ventless fireplace in my living room.  I'm pretty sure it would be against code, but I think I would rather be a scofflaw than freeze to death.  I would store a couple of propane tanks (100#) in a closet and install a CO2 sensor (the stoves come with an automatic sensor and shut-off valve, but an extra CO2 sensor is cheap insurance).  The 100# tanks are about as big as two people can handle, so I would invest in a furniture dolly, cover the tank with a blanket and trundle it upstairs to my apartment.  Sir Knight and I figure that two 100# tanks would last between 3 and 4 months, depending on the size of the apartment and how warm you like to keep it.  This would work.

Ventless propane fireplace - heats 1000 square feet
Water:  Of course, the obvious solution is to have bottles of water stashed in the closet or under your bed, but there are other options also.  Water bladders that lay in the bathtub are quickly filled (while there is still water pressure, or if there are storm warnings) and hold A LOT of water.  You could also just fill your bathtub full of water but you would want to boil it or purify it before you drank it, but if you were using it to flush the toilet, it would be perfect.  Another clever solution is to purchase a 55 gallon (or smaller) food safe barrel, place it next to your couch, fill it with water and drape a round tablecloth over it.  It would create an instant side table as well as providing a goodly amount of water in an emergency.

Food:  Although we live in a "shouse" with 1200 square feet of space, we have NO built-in storage.  Because of that, we know a little about storing food in plain sight (but nobody sees it!).  Most every table in our house is actually storage of some kind or another.  Trunks are a perfect storage vessel.  The trunk in our kitchen (which we use as a tea table) is 34" long x 20" wide x 22" tall.  It holds 264 soup sized cans.  264!  That is a lot of food!  Most pantries wouldn't hold that much.  We use another trunk (the same size) next to our couch, as a side table, with another, smaller trunk on top.  It looks nice and provides HUGE amounts of storage.  You can store canned goods, bags of flour, beans, rice or water in these trunks - out of sight but at the ready.  We also store large quantities of flour, sugar and rice in galvanized garbage cans.  These hold vast amounts of provisions without being conspicuous and can fit it in nearly any corner.

Industrial 12" racking placed against the bedroom wall
Covered with curtains to tidy it up
Trunk/Tea Table - holds 264 cans of food!
More hidden storage
Perfect storage for flour, sugar, rice, beans - just right in a corner
And yet another hidden storage idea
Medical Supplies:  Again, we hide them in plain sight.  Our coffee table in the living room is nothing more than a box on wheels.  Inside, we store bulk medical supplies.  If medical assistance was not readily available, we would tend to ourselves and others.

Bulk medical storage
....doubling as a coffee table
The reality is that we can not and should not expect the government to mount their white horse and come to our rescue.  The truth of the matter is that the government's white horse is really a broken down old nag.  The weather might be bad and FEMA might have to shut down and go home.  They might not be able to get water to you for a couple of days.  They might choose to warehouse you in an unheated building and pass out wool blankets with their MRE's.  Is this how you want to weather a storm?  Me neither.  We are grown up adults who are more than capable of taking care of ourselves and those within our circle of influence.  Man-up people.  It's time to weather the storm.


  1. unvented propane heater idea is very good

    glad you said your shouse was 1200 sq ft we live in a 1300 sq ft house feels small at times you are more creative than me but you gave me some good ideas

  2. Enola,


    I second the notion on the propane heater idea. (if it gets too cold, maybe I can burn down the meth lab down the street from my house)

    I live in hurricane country and many (not all) of us are well prepared for hurricanes. For myself there is no bugging out. Unless its a Category five and my roof is blowing off, then Im outta here if my house is going to disentegrate.
    All the points you made in the list above Enola are right on the money. One people dont realize is the heat.

    Hurricanes occur in the summer months down here. After a massive low pressure weather event passes through there is a equally massive high pressure event. Think triple digit temperatures with 90 percent humidity (107 degrees) with heat index combined temperatures feel like 117 degrees!

    Get a generator that can handle small window air conditioning units (and buy a small window air conditioning unit, install it after a hurricane and use it)

    I figure if I ever were to relocate to the "American Redoubt" I would have to build a "sun room" onto the house and wear a Parka in June. Im so used to baking in the Texas heat. In the winter months (November through March) You can see me sitting on my warm concrete porch in the sun in the mornings warming up like a desert lizard.

  3. It's time people remember that the best helping hand is at the end of their own arm!

    1. The best Helping Hand is the God of the Holy Scriptures. Without Him we can do nothing!!

  4. Enola,


    I hate to take up more space on your blog, but there is one topic I think should be addressed and that is "Sanitation"

    The Romans figured out that running water will keep sickness away. The knowlege was lost for centuries. Cholera, dysentary and everything else plagued humanity throughout history.

    I think probably the biggest thing we may be overlooking in most preps is what to do with human waste when there is no running water.

    I reccomened that everyone research were they live and figure out the best course of action on this subject. If your house is on the grid and there are no more flushing toilets, you may have to use a bucket and bury your waste in a trench in your backyard and cover it with quicklime.

    Things will get ugly, nasty and dirty. In a few weeks of a complete grid collaspe/Hurricane any other catastrope, the first deaths will occur to the young and old from dysentary and maybe cholera.

    Its a subject that no one wants to discuse or think about, but it wont go away. Just ask the people in Haiti about it.

  5. For emergency lighting you don't mention candles. I have used kerosene, oil, and gasoline lamps as well as candles for years. I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that candles are best for most situations.

    Hangtown Frank

  6. Three years ago I was in the beginning stages of prepping and my husand and I went through our first bout of unemployment which lasted over 3 months in the middle of winter. I shut off all electrical use expect one of the computers so my husband could look for work and the water heater so my husband could take a shower. Lights out was 10:00pm I had 4 months of stored food. I used one of my dutch ovens to cook with and I used tea lights as my fuel source (I had alot stocked up). The tea lights provided us with ongoing hot water to drink, they cooked our food and kept the kitchen warm. Burning 5-6 tea lights at a time inside a cake pan with a cooling rack on top for the pot or cooking dish to sit on. It got us through a very cold and lean time. I have since increased greatly in my preps. I now have a Mr Buddy (will buy another one this year), turkey fryer, Lots of rubbing alcohol as fuel (I made my own homemade stove out a coke can), wood pellets as back up fuel, large pots for a hot water supply, canned fuel (designed for chafing dishes) and alot of propane along with an adaptor so I can refill the one pound propane containers for my Mr Buddy and Yes, hundreds of tealights, countless batteries and many flashlights and laterns.

    Side note: we ate very well during that time and never had to make the choice between paying a bill or buying food. We also had goose down comforters for our bed that I had invested in eons ago and they kept us very warm at night.
    So we didn't suffer at all. We depended on Jesus alone to take care of us.

    As we all know dark times are coming - what form they take, we don't know. Please do your best to prepare as best you can, even a little preperation is better then not being prepared at all. Please consider the humble tea light, they are portable, inexpensive and last 4 hours.

    God promised to take care of those that love Him, He has certainly shown Himself faithful in my families life and is a continuing source of our provision and protection. May God in Christ Jesus be with you all.


  7. We are senior citizens living in major metro area of Cap'n Crunch state. I have figured out the storage of water and food and preparation of food. What I have not figured out is the preparation of that food when everyone else needs food. Outdoor cooker says prepared food to the Hungary in the area, fireplace says heat and resources, rocket stove and food smells likewise. Propane campstove inside dangerous because is CO.
    Enola, anyone else, could you give me some ideas as to how this might work. We are too old to head to the boonies where all this would be less an issue.
    For those who might suggest micro greens expand how this could include full diet under give circumstance.
    Thanks for your ideas.
    City Dude

  8. after the 1993 ice storm that hit the south we installed a ventless gas log system into our fireplace...easy peasy! and if propane become too expensive or we cannot get it we can always convert back to wood burning with just a few tools at hand. a gas grill is great to have even in cold weather for cooking everything from the pot of coffee to meals. we live in tornado country as well as suffer the effects from hurricanes as well...we store things like you do-closets, under the bed, in the tool shed, in the workshop..that way if we get hit with a storm directly stuff stored is not in one place. we have made sure that we have tools like chainsaws, carts, dollies, and plain old fashioned hand tools as well. we might also suffer if the new madrid fault line decides to move big we have taken precautions with that in mind as well. always, always have a variety of plans to aid you in times of trouble.

  9. @ City Dude

    A propane cooker used inside the house is not a Carbon Monoxide risk if it is only used to cook the meals.

    I have a propane stove and cook with it, sometimes for hours (oven) in a basically unvented kitchen. I also have CO monitors in every room of the two story house I have. I've never had an activation even after several hours of dehydrating foods or cooking sequential turkeys for the local Shelters.

    CO poisoning is a minimal risk in the case of propane cookers as long as they are used for the purpose of cooking. Additionally, my BIL in Reno uses a duel head radiating heater in his garage, which is well buttoned up, all winter and his CO sensors have never activated (they are smokers who only smoke in the garage) although some may leak out of the unsealed bottom of the door.

    Given that, using a propane stove indoors is not a great risk. As a retired fire/medic, I've never been to a CO poisoning from propane/NG but I've been to dozens of indoor charcoal pits used to heat fatalities. While I can't really minimize the risk, I can say that used with prudence for its job of cooking only, a propane stove has very acceptable risk reward properties.

    On another point, a fine way for residences to store water in a WATERBOB which fits into the tub and stores a little under 95 gallons of potable water (in my tub anyway although I have a well, stream and gennie).

    The WaterBob is ideal for the urban resident with a tub and would have been very useful in Sandy as one could fill prior to the storms arrival.


  10. Highly recommend the hand crank flashlights and radios that LLBean and Radio Shack sell since they need no batteries. And the radios have a built in flash light, outlet for charging a cell phone and are all band radios.

    Sometimes we have found the Mason Jar Screw On Burners with 9" wick Oil Lamp Candles on eBay for 2 for $6 and these fit on pint and quart Mason jars and can be used with lamp oil, olive oil and even kerosene.

    We own a multi fuel Coleman heater and some of their multi fuel lanterns which are wonderful since the lanterns put out heat as well.

  11. For those who own & use mason canning jars, one possibility is to fill with water & process whenever enough for a canner load are empty. A friend of mine does this, & the jars take up no more space full than empty, & she always has plenty of water stored, & sterile water at that, which could be really useful in an emergency. Because my husband has a chronic illness & needs to drink clear liquids frequently, I am putting up more grape juice & cranberry juice than I used to do. The jars are inexpensive at yard sales & thrift stores, & the grapes are from our vine.

    As far as sanitation goes, for disease prevention, solid human waste needs to be buried, preferably at least 18 inches deep, & NOT upstream from any water sources. Urine is not an issue, & can be rather easily disposed of on any compost pile (adds nitrogen), or used around the perimeter of the garden to deter pests (if from an adult male - ie "marking").

    We have the hand crank flashlights & radio. The radio also has a solar panel.

    Increasing the insulation in the house helps lower the bills now, & keeps us from freezing if the power is out in the winter.

    We have a couple of fondue pots & dozens of votive candles to go under them. They work very well to heat or cook anything from a canning jar - soup, stew, beans, etc. I have also been watching for the fancy "chafing dishes" at thrift stores - the ones with the candles underneath to keep the food warm. Either one will boil water for oatmeal or instant mashed potatoes, or milk for cocoa, etc. I have a lot of candles, & a lot of quilts. I also have a steam juicer, which by design is a modified water distiller. (Love it when a product can work twice!) - M

  12. What, no self defense preps? What about looters breaking your door or coming in the windows. I know enough suburban types who will be easy pickings if the police are too busy. Thugs can break a window and be in your stuff in minutes. Having self defense plans will allow people to feel confident when police can't help. Have one person take watch and rotate. Walkie talkies help also if cell phones are out. You can live without food for some days, not so water. Get a Berkey water filter. Nothing says confidence like lots of ammo! Alex

  13. A kerosene lantern cranks out a surprising amount of heat, and you can warm up canned stuff over one(I did this during an ice storm about a decade ago). So do candles. I keep a load of candles in the freezer-keeps them from getting squishy in summer, and I know where they are at. LED flashlights can't be beat when it comes to battery life-some will run days continuously. Candles are safe to store, no fuel to degrade over time.
    In a urban area, water will likely be a major problem. personally, I think if you're in a densely populated area, you're up the creek you need a shovel for. I'd consider leaving. If I was in the suburbs-no, I'd stay, but if you're in a human-Habitrail apartment with very limited storage space(consider the fact you are in a building with a lot of other people who may not use safe heating/cooking/lighting methods), I'd likely go. Depends on how long I thought the city was going to be non-functional.
    What about one of those portable ventless gas heaters? I've never used one, but I've looked a few of them in stores. Most can be used with several size propane tanks, from the plumber's torch size on up.

    If the city is out of commission for a while, it will get gross-n-nasty *fast*.

    1. The ventless propane heaters are terrific! I have a portable Mr Buddy and love it. There are many on the market. I bought mine for $72.00. There are of course larger ones but I like the portability of mine. It puts out alot of heat.


  14. Enola, thanks for this post. I was horrified to see in the early days of "recovery" people complaining they had no food, no water, and no lights, yet it was within the 72 hours that FEMA advised being prepared for! My husband and I took it as a good lesson on (a) nobody much listened to FEMA? and (b) where were their 72 hours kits?, and (c) we need to "up" our own preps just in case.

    You see, in 2008, we got hit with an inland hurricane - a "derecho" I think it was finally called - and a big wake-up call went out. So although we prepped before that, we learned a lot about weak points and where to add.

    And I lived in Florida for 40 years. I learned about hurricanes and prepping for them and even using propane to cook with. The post above about propane not causing CO2 poisoning is correct but you are safer still IF you vent a bit. Even in winter you can crack a window or a door. You don't have to have them wide open, just a bit of air flow. We went through a terrible freeze in 1989, called the Christmas Freeze, which resulted in a lot of citrus being relocated much south of us. No electricity. Our fuel oil heater worked, but with no blower, well, not much. No stove. No refrigerator. We used a "camp heater" (I don't remember exactly what it was) for warmth an hour or two at a time, put on all the clothes we owned, and cooked over a charcoal grill outside since we had nothing else. Believe me, after that, we prepped.......

    Later, before I moved up here in 2004, Florida went through 3 hurricanes practically in a row, and again I learned more. I also learned what I *could* do without. These have all been very good lessons.

    Keep on, Enola! Love to read your thoughts!

    Kathleen in IL

  15. I'm from FL, and when those three hurricanes came through, our greatest asset was a 2 burner propane fish cooker and some cast iron pans. Granted, it was a little warmer outside than when Sandy hit, but it's still something to keep in mind.

  16. Having lived in Manhattan for 12 years would like to point out what I consider the #1 factor in preparedness - Situational Awareness, or as they say in real estate terms, "location, location, location". New York is a port city, and Sandy is not the first or last hurricane to hit it, just the worst in a very long time. The island of Manhattan ranges in elevation from 0 to 285 feet above sea level. Having grown up in hurricane country, when it was time to commit to a long-term apartment I was comforted to know there were 285 feet of granite between me and the water. Big cities are also places that foster subcultures, networking and tightly-knit identity groups. Just as country folk know their neighbors and pull together in a crisis, it makes sense for city dwellers (in an apartment building, for example) to pool their limited space resources and prepare as a unit, rather than individually.

    1. And, it just so happens that the housing at higher elevation, with easier access to the mainland, is also far less expensive than the "prime" real estate at sea level.

  17. Hi Enola, I don't know your email but I wanted to warn you. The government just gave china a large portion of Idaho is a payment for some of the debt we owe to them. This administration is also planning on selling off much of Ohio and Pennsylania next to the chinese. Please look up Project 60 and Agenda 21. Obama just signed an executive order to allow the conviscation of personal finances from our bank accounts. This is a very scary time we are living in. You are so blessed to have a home that is paid for. I still have a mortgage on my house. We are no longer safe in our country. We have been hijacked. Americans are being mislead and brainwashed by the media. The media is omitting alot of information and are tantilizing people with stories of adultry, it's stupid. People need to stop believing lies and wake up or they will find themselves being forced into gas chambers at a point of a gun.
    Asian have no value of human life it's not in their culture. I know, I'm half asian. All of us must warn others word of mouth. We will soon lose our freedom on the internet; Obama just signed an executive order for that too under the guise of cybersecurity. Soon us patriots will be silenced so we will have to be prepared to be low tech in our communications. Oh, God help us. I never ever thought I would be spending my old age living under communist occupation. Are we ready for families to be taken in the middle of the night to never be heard from again? Yes, I'm scared.


  18. Enola,


    I just read the above comment about China taken over Idaho. If that ever happens, you guys can come to Texas and live in my house for free for as long as you want. (I will move into a nearby relatives house) all I ask is that you'all dont eat all of them TV Dinners in my freezer.

    I would just love to watch the Chinease Army (PRC) come parachuting into the Texas skies...I would be out front in the Ducked Taped Lazy Boy Recliner with a Beneli 12 guage automatic bird hunting gun having a grand old time taken "potshots at parachuters"

    It will look like 'Dukes of Hazzard" meets 'Red Dawn"

    (I love being a redneck)

  19. LOL, Captain Crunch, I think I love you.

    Dixie Girl