Above: How the U.S. Navy told its service members to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. Contains good advice everyone can use.
Hurricane Sandy left an indelible impression on the northeastern United States. The survival lessons it forced people to learn could be applied to nearly all natural disasters. Here are three key takeaways from the tragedy worth considering.
Survival Lesson #1: Don’t Stay Behind
When an evacuation order is issued, get out.
Natural disasters need to be taken seriously. Choosing to “ride it out” is another term for “needlessly endangering lives.” Those lives include first responders, families of first responders, neighbors influenced by the “ride it out” decision, family members, community leaders shepherding others out of harm’s way and scores of other social networks of actual people.
This article from the New York Daily News details the experience of a family riding out Sandy in Breezy Point, Queens, New York:
The winds roared and the waves lifted off the bay in giant balled fists and smashed onto the golden shores of Breezy Point, Queens, where Jack Nacmias braced with his wife, adult kids and 96-year-old grandmother-in-law.
“Oh my God, I wish I had evacuated,” he called to say around 8 p.m. Monday. “It’s just insane here.”
And then his transmission ended with the words “Holy s—!”
He called me again at dawn to say, “Actually, I wish I would have evacuated my family and stayed alone. There was a point there where it was so scary that I looked at my family and said, ‘What have I done?’ ”
That thought came when he was in the cellar and all his “Anderson double-pane basement windows” shattered and breached “like the portholes in the Titanic, and water just gushed in so fast and so furious that my cellar began to fill up all around me. The fuse box sizzled. The power died. The water rose from every which way in the pitch dark. I backed up the stairs where Granny, and the family were and the water started following me up the stairs like a roaring monster.”
That’s a hard survival lesson to learn in-person. Don’t.
Survival Lesson #2: You Need a Bug-Out Bag AND a Long-Term Survival Plan
When the evacuation order came down, prepared residents grabbed bug-out bags and hit the road. However, by definition these were only good for a few days.
That might have been enough to last until returning home. But what if that home isn’t there? Or utilities won’t come back for days or weeks? Not only that, what if another storm is on its way?
That’s the reality many Sandy survivors continue to face. A nor’easter dumped snow over areas already impacted by Sandy.
The survival lesson here is that preparedness isn’t an either/or proposition. It’s not a matter of making either a quick bug-out bag or a full survival kit. It’s being prepared for short- and long-term survival.
What that long-term survival plan looks like depends on your situation. Here are some tips for making a home disaster plan.
The Build the Perfect Bug-Out Bag book is also a key reference for short-term evacuations.