A couple weeks ago, Hurricane Ida slammed Louisiana, leaving power outages, broken roofs, and death in its wake. Our own Johnna Crider lives there, and went without electricity for days in the sweltering heat and humidity. Her neighbors and friends were all in the same boat, both literally without power and figuratively feeling powerless.
Fortunately, people and companies stepped up to help. Dozens of companies were in on the action, but I wanted to call one out in particular for trying to help Johnna. I know a lot of Tesla fans on Twitter don’t get along with Mike Levine, the head of communications for Ford North America, but he worked with us to get an F-150 Hybrid with Pro Power Onboard down there. Even then, Johnna refused to accept the help at her own residence, instead asking for the truck to be sent to a nearby restaurant that could serve as a shelter and source of food for her neighbors.
I hate to say it, but I’m not nearly as community-oriented or selfless as she is. I’d want to help me and mine first.
Fortunately, the power in Baton Rouge came back on before Ford could get a truck to her neighborhood, and Johnna got her power, communications, and perhaps most importantly, her air conditioning back.
In the wake of disaster, it’s easy to think of all the things we take for granted. Electricity, natural gas, internet connection, and even basics like food, water, and shelter can become a problem. While these disaster situations seem unavoidable (no, we can’t nuke the hurricanes), their effect on us can be mitigated through preparedness.
The Ideal Answer Is Often Out Of Reach, & It Needs A Backup
Before anybody says it, I know about the best possible answers to this. Ideally, we’d all have an excess of solar panels on our roofs (over a house we own), battery storage, a Starlink antenna, and then comfortably ride out big storms in our super tough disaster-proof houses in disaster resilient communities. For some of us, this is a reality. For the rest of us, this can be either difficult to achieve or out of reach entirely.
We all have super busy lives, and a seemingly endless demand for the limited money we all earn. Even worse, many Americans can’t come up with $400 on short notice if an emergency came along, because instability in the economy and our lives has sadly become the norm for many people with lower incomes. People in that position would probably be better off to spend what little they have left over every month to come up with emergency savings than to spend the money on emergency supplies, because unexpected costs come up a lot more often than hurricanes.
Even for readers with great income and financial stability, you likely know that getting a solar roof and battery packs isn’t something everyone can do, even when within theoretical financial reach. Many financially stable people prefer to rent rather than own. In high-density cities, people may live on top of you, making a solar roof a physical impossibility.
We need to keep in mind that solar panels and solar shingles aren’t disaster-proof. You could very easily be stuck in a home with an intact(ish) roof with a bunch of broken panels or stripped-off shingles after a big storm comes through. This could leave you without power just the same as anyone else.
So, we need to discuss alternatives, but that doesn’t mean that we must rely on foul generators to keep the family comfortable and keep the food from spoiling.
Before We Get To Electricity, Let’s Talk Basics
Life without electricity, especially in hot and/or humid areas, can seem pretty bleak, but we have to keep in mind that people lived in these areas for thousands of years before Bobby Boucher’s mom invented electricity. In the Americas, people lived in even the hottest places for at least 12,000 years, and in other parts of the world, we’re talking 100,000+ years. While it’s unpleasant, most of us can survive the heat and humidity just as our ancestors did.
What we can’t survive without are more basic things, like food, water, and at least basic protection from the more extreme heat and cold that we get in some places. 120° (F) heat in Phoenix or 40° below (C or F, that one’s the same) in the Rockies or Canada can kill you just as dead as Gulf Coast flooding.
In other words, before you spend money on solar panels, portable batteries, or other gadgets, be sure you’ve got the basics covered. Unless you’re a droid, you can’t eat electricity.
Sadly, most polls show that only somewhere around 4-6% of the US population is prepared to survive for three days after a disaster. Mormons, who represent about half of that percentage in the United States, are told to prepare for disasters as part of their religion, so that means only 2-3% of the rest of us are prepared, even for a minimal three days.
I could go on at length about what you buy to get prepared for disaster, but I’ll let you check out Ready.gov’s supply list. The basic idea is that you want to keep a backpack for each family member in your closet, and possibly have an extra one in your car and/or workplace, too. In this backpack, you need basic supplies to survive for three days. If you end up riding out a disaster at home, the pack will be there. If you must evacuate, you’ll be able to grab it and take it with you.
People often call this a “kit,” “72-hour kit,” or “bug-out bag.” Whatever you call it, be sure to make it your own, and tailor it to the needs of your family and where you live. Beyond having a kit, be sure to check out Ready.gov’s other advice on a variety of preparedness topics!
In Part 2, I’m going to cover some of the cheap options that are available to add some clean electricity to your preparedness plans without breaking the bank.
Featured image: My portable solar panel system, which will be covered more in Part 2.
Don't want to miss a cleantech story? Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.