Ten low-tech responses to storms and emergencies

Woman on bike in rain

You can still get there on a bike when fuel is scarce or too costly, or when storm debris blocks roads.

We live in a world dependent on electricity and we forget that being dependent on something — however wonderful that thing is — makes you vulnerable.

Even getting a back-up generator isn’t a painless solution for household resilience. A medium-size generator can cost $50 or more per day in fuel to run. And just hope that your local gas stations don’t lose power or sell out to panic buyers before you get there. In the long run, generators are dependent on fossil fuel inputs and fossil fuels are finite resources that are getting scarcer and more costly.

That’s why it’s a good idea to hedge your bets on the future with some low-tech options to keep your lifestyle gracious and enjoyable in disasters both natural and man-made.

And, in light of Frankenstorm Hurricane Sandy, I thought I’d share a few prep tips for your consideration. If it’s too late for you for this storm, get them in place for the next one, and for a future that’s sure to be more vulnerable to electrical disruptions and fuel scarcity as these kinds of storms become more frequent and the cost of fossil fuels rises as they deplete.

NOAA Ambient Radio 10. A hand-cranked or solar radio and flashlight
What could be better than getting an upper-body workout in while tuning in to crackly airwaves for life-and-death information? The Ambient Weather WR-111A Emergency Solar Hand Crank AM/FM/NOAA Digital Radio, Flashlight, Cell Phone Charger with NOAA Certified Weather Alert & Cables is just the ticket to get storm warnings while pumping up your biceps. But if the world goes down in a fiery mess and there’s no more Top 40 hits, at least you can crank your way out of the dark.

vintage books1 9. Books
With Twitter and texting it may seem that real old fashioned books are kinda passé. But nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are books still cool, they’re cooler than ever, and when there’s no juice to power your smart phone and no signal to drive your Internet addiction, there’s still Austen and Dickens and poetry and comics and getting lost in the other worlds of words and stories and pictures. So keep up your reading and build up a home-based library.

Swiss Army Knife 8. Hand tools
There’s nothing more annoying than trying to get a job done only to find out you don’t have the tools because they’re all…dependent on electricity. That’s why a good household is shored up by at least a basic selection of hand tools, including a man-powered drill (ahem), as well as a manual saw, planer, wrench, hammer, pocket knife, etc. Then, keep these puppies cleaned, oiled, and easy to find.

Joy Brewing 7. Booze
No one should be forced to endure an apocalyptic situation — whether a temporary power outage from a storm or from The Long Emergency — without a steady supply of intoxicating beverages. This is just basic. So learn to brew beer, save every third bottle of wine for a rainy day, and discover the merits of hooch. The key here is rationing. Hurricanes and currency crises alike close the local bar. Be the local bar and live like a king or queen.

Kelly Light 6. A Storm Kettle
Eating your FEMA rations or your basement stash of bean soups cold sounds to me like a foodie’s worst nightmare. Or worse, being unable to heat water for tea or coffee. That’s why every prepared household should have a Kelly Kettle on hand. Favored by generations of Irish fishermen, these whiz bang storm kettles were designed in the last century — when they knew how to build things right — to boil water in minutes with only twigs and dry leaves. Get one, and never eat cold grub or drink yesterday’s lifeless coffee again.

Bear Grylls Flint 5. Dry matches, storm matches, and flint
All the twigs in the world aren’t going to light themselves unless, perhaps, they’re struck by lightning, which doesn’t sound like the best strategy for rousing ancient fire. Instead, make sure you’ve got a variety of matches on hand, from kitchen matches to a supply of storm matches (good for windy and wet situations). But above all, have a flint. They make a great boyfriend present and you’ll seem like the coolest chick in the world if you’ve got your own, too. For the ladies market, someone ought to manufacture one in a turquoise case with pink polka dots or something. HOT!

Coffee Grinder 4. Manual coffee grinder
Convenience, convenience, convenience. That’s essentially the moral imperative of the mid twentieth century onward. If it’s easy, do it. If not, fuggedaboutit. We push so many buttons that, if Darwin’s right, humans are apt to devolve into an amoeba with index fingers before long. But nothing makes you more vulnerable than the delusion that the whole world can be controlled with the tip of your finger. To get your mojo back, you need to start doing things again. And if you’re a java lover, grinding your own beans is a great place to begin. Since coffee may not grow in your part of the world, I’ll just assume you have a ton of beans stockpiled. Then, the truly resilient way to grind it is by hand, with a manual coffee grinder. It’s romantic, fragrant, takes mere moments, and doesn’t lose its power in an electricity outage.

Walkie Talkies 3. Walkie Talkies
Provided they can be charged (consider a solar charger), low-tech walkie talkies are far more resilient than cell phones. And some, like these babies, can transmit up to 37 miles. When cell connections are lost, these are going strong. It’s a great way to stay in touch with nearby family members and friends during both short term outages and a lower tech future.

candle 2. Hurricane lamps and candles
Candles and oil lamps are so romantic. But more than that, there’s a world of difference between the cold dark and even the littlest bit of light. Both lamps and candles can be had for a song at thrift stores and yard sales. But if your tastes are more refined, seek them out by local handcrafters, or an online artisan marketplace like Etsy. Always be well stocked with oil (you can recycle some used vegetable oil and bacon grease) and buy candles whenever you have spare change, whenever you’re at a craft or artisan event, or at the farmers market. Trust me, never be without light and flame.

bike 1. Bike
No, you can’t go biking in a hurricane. But it’s a good way to get around afterward provided there’s no serious flooding. It’s easier to move past downed limbs, closed streets, or other obstacles on a bike. And a bike is essential in the accelerating energy decline as gas prices rise and then, perhaps become unreliably available. Get a sturdy, non-racing bicycle now along with a repair kit and extra tires, tubes, patches, a pump, etc. It’s a great way to be a conservation steward today, and critical to being able to get around going forward. It’s not dependent on fossil fuels, and that makes it key to your resilience in all situations.

Also remember blankets, board games, and nuts (they’re good protein, no cooking, and salty!)

–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List

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Comments

  1. John Andersen says

    Much of this requires a level of fitness many don’t have anymore. Daily push-ups, sit-ups, and walking as transportation will help someone to reach that necessary fitness level.

  2. Ix says

    “They make a great boyfriend present and you’ll seem like the coolest chick in the world if you’ve got your own, too. For the ladies market, someone ought to manufacture one in a turquoise case with pink polka dots or something. HOT!”

    Sweet jebus, I guess women writers can be sexist too. :(

    • Lindsay Curren says

      Man, do you have no sense of humor? This isn’t the politically correct press and doesn’t aspire to be. Sheesh.

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