Sandy Says: Prepare Already!

Storm Clouds Mattnolt Scx Hu

I was shocked to hear that a mere mile from me, a friend lost power last night and won't have it back until Thursday. Why am I surprised? Because I'm in Toronto, not New York, DC or New Jersey. Were we even supposed to be on guard?

Apparently so. And now my friend is at home with a two-week old baby and no power (as if the early days of your first child aren't hard enough).

I'm a bit of a stockpiler, but with a view to living, not surviving. So I have an excess of wine, Annie's Macaroni & Cheese, Boursin, lip balm, token children's gifts, Tide, and cute napkins.

I think I'm probably in decent shape, should a storm arise. But am I really? Will my rechargeable double A batteries work to power my flashlight in a power outage? Uh, no. Will my water work? Probably not. (Good to know my SodaStream will, though.) Do I have enough water bottles to last more than three days? Barely. Can I cook on my gas stove if there's no electrical spark to light it? Must find out. Do I have replacement batteries for the battery-operated candles I bought on a whim? Nope. How about enough real candles to last more than three nights? Just. And really, do I have enough wine? No.

Clearly, I need to tighten up my show. A bit of research tells me that this could be a very big job, and if I follow all the advice out there, I'll be ready to live off the grid for generations to come.

A back-up generator - even powering just a few things in the house - would solve almost all of the problems. Last summer at my parents' house, a storm knocked out the power for 36 hours. Luckily, their next door neighbour had installed a back-up generator that ran on the gas line, and powered the refrigerator and freezer, the pump to keep the water in the house going, two power outlets, the lights over the kitchen island, and one set of lights in the bedroom. They were set. We were over five times a day charging things, getting milk out of the refrigerator, and getting water. I'd like to be set.

With those basics covered, everything else falls into place. We can cook on our stove, lit with a match, or on our Weber Grill. Tap water in Toronto is good. (Let's not get carried away with Very Worst Case Senarios.) All we'd need are:

  • Backup items of food (peanut butter, crackers, honey, cans of soup, cereal and oatmeal)
  • A few big bottles of water (just in case)
  • A family bed (finally!)
  • Batteries to power the flashlights and battery-operated candles (and rechargeable would be fine, with a generator)
  • A rechargeable lantern to light up the dining table, or family room

If this costs $3K, I'm in. If it costs $13K, I'm out, and back to square two. At least I know I need to buy a few bottles of water for backup. And start collecting quotes.