I think I would look good in waders.
November 1, 2012 10:19 AM   Subscribe

I realized during Sandy that 1) we don't own any sort of radio; 2) I don't have a UPS for my desktop Mac; and 3) there are surely other things/tools/resources we probably should buy now to prepare for the next big storm. Can you make any recommendations?

1) No radio
We should get a portable radio with a dynamo crank, probably a built in flashlight and/or siren, and some sort of charging solution for phones. Probably waterproof, too, right? Can you make specific recomendations for a unit to buy? The more bombproof, the better; cost is more or less no object, but I expect it to last for years.

Some of these kinds of units are listed here on Amazon, but I don't care where we get it.

I'm not thinking we need two-way, or shortwave, or policeband or whatever--but I'm happy to learn otherwise.

2) No UPS
Again, here's a bunch on Amazon. I really have no idea what I'd need--but this would be solely for a mid-2009 Mac Pro and monitor, and I guess I'd just need enough power to shut down safely.

3) Anything else?
We have a good flashlight, but should get another and ensure the batteries are healthy. Anything else we would need?

We live in a rental apartment in a city, so we're not going to buy a generator, or a canoe.

Not really looking for info on general storm preparedness--just for the stuff/tools we can buy now (or whenever inventory is back!) and then have on hand for the next October freakstorm. Go-bag kind of stuff.
posted by Admiral Haddock to Home & Garden (48 answers total) 81 users marked this as a favorite
I didn't know which electric company served me; finding that out was useful. (They bill through some other name no one recognizes.)
posted by vegartanipla at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2012

You want a fire extinguisher if you don't have one already. You mention living in an apartment, so I don't know if you're in a building, but if the power goes out and you're past a certain floor, so does your water. Which means if a fire starts (torn wires, candles, whatever) you need a way to put it out.
posted by griphus at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

This is a useful list to start from, although it's tilted to the tech side of things.
posted by nonane at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2012

LED lanterns were wonderful during the blackout. My husband swears by his LED headlamp. We ran a woodstove, but otherwise I might have broken out the handwarmers.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:29 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cash. During the big black out in 2003, we realized we had no cash, and we had no access to ATMs because there was no power, and there were things we could have procured had we had cash.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:31 AM on November 1, 2012 [12 favorites]

Candles, matches/lighters, at least a few gallons of water (for drinking), a good plug for the bathtub (to store water in for flushing toilets), a few days supply of canned foods that don't need refrigeration to store or heat to prepare. A good swiss army knife with can opener, cork screw, etc. Sufficient blankets so you can sleep warm with the heat off. A car charger for your cell phones (assuming you have a car). Some cash, in case ATMs aren't working.
posted by HuronBob at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

A good cooler can keep your food cold for much, much longer than a closed refrigerator.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:33 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

From the food perspective: Apocalypse Chow is actually good about how to build a small emergency stash of food for a few days and how to cook it. It is not made for serious preppers but written for people who need to deal with days without electricity.
posted by jadepearl at 10:34 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

This UPS has worked fine for me, 2007 iMac and a bunch of peripherals. It has saved my computer from a number of power failures! Note that once you shut down your computer, you can use the UPS as a phone charging station for however long it retains its charge.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 10:34 AM on November 1, 2012

And, it doesn't hurt to have a rifle or shotgun and ammunition safely locked away in a closet. Because, you know, zombies (and other issues that could be brought about by general chaos, even if the dead don't rise).
posted by HuronBob at 10:35 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

I always always recommend headlamps instead of flashlights - why waste the use of a hand to hold a flashlight when you can have light directed in whatever direction you look, handlessly? Black Diamond makes excellent ones, and even the ones not rated water resistant can survive a quick fall into a bucket of water.
posted by elizardbits at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2012 [9 favorites]

Seconding that a LED headlamp is super useful. You can combine it with a milk jug for ambient lighting.
posted by hooray at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Watch out for the ones that use small, nonstandard batteries. Mine all use AAA and are therefore much easier to keep powered.
posted by elizardbits at 10:38 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Headlamp recommendation. I've been using these things at Burning Man since 2006 in what one might call "adverse conditions" and they've yet to fail me. Far, far, far superior to flashlights - you get your hands free and the light goes where your eyes go. Get one for each person in your household.

Eton makes the best radios out there at the moment. Here's their emergency radio.
posted by mykescipark at 10:40 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

A very low tech suggestion: a tent to be placed on top of your bed, small enough to conserve the heat created by your body. I got this from a pamplet issued by Catholic Charities to help the poor survive in winter after their utilities shut off for non-payment.
posted by francesca too at 10:43 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

You might also want to see if you can take a CERT class. The knowledge gained from going through a few experiential scenarios and learning more about how your local emergency responders are likely to be behaving in a large-scale disaster is worth any number of hand-cranked radios stuffed in a closet 'cause you got 'em as public radio pledge drive bonuses...
posted by straw at 10:45 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

In my old job as a server admin, I found the Mac Pro and display (or the equivalent from 2008) have a huge power draw. If you get a $100 Office Max or Staples UPS, you'll plug the UPS in, turn it on, turn on the Mac, and the UPS will overload. If you're serious about this, you'll need to spend a little more. I installed these in our server closets and these in offices. More money, but the Mac Pro draws a lot more power than iMacs and other desktop computers, so a ramped up UPS is a requirement.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:46 AM on November 1, 2012

This is my radio, which I clung to during our power outage during Sandy:
Etón American Red Cross ARCFR160R Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger . The cell charger doesn't work well for me but the flashlight/radio are great.

Mophie Juice Pack - I use this just day to day anyway and it came in extra helpful for the storm


Headlamp - good for hands-free stuff, LED Lantern for reading

I always have this mini flashlight on my keychain. I'm paranoid that someday I will be on the PATH when power goes out and I'll want a light to get myself out the tunnel.
posted by lyra4 at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

The San Francisco Office of Emergency Preparedness has a terrific website that gives detailed information about this very question.

It mentions earthquakes as one of the disasters, which may not apply to you, but the basic idea is the same, you need 3 days worth of supplies AND duct tape and batteries!
posted by jasper411 at 10:53 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Is it possible to park your car anywhere near a window or door to the apartment? If so, an extension cord and a power inverter (example) can provide enough juice to run one or two appliances - maybe a light and medical equipment, or if you have a hefty enough engine and inverter, your refrigerator to keep food from spoiling.

Though obviously you can't drive the car around while you need power, so it works better if you have two cars. In some ways it's a more reliable solution than a generator because you have to make sure to keep the generator well-maintained and in good working condition year-in and year-out in preparation for that one time you need it, whereas if you drive with any frequency you're keeping your car's engine in order all the time anyways.

And even if the extension cord directly into the apartment isn't workable, you can have the pleasure of standing in the parking lot with your blender on the hood of the car, making margaritas Jimmy Buffet style while everyone around you is wailing and gnashing their teeth.
posted by XMLicious at 10:58 AM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

A camping stove. A simple one with at least 2 burners that uses cheap small propane tanks (keep at least 2 or 3 on hand). Matches or a lighter. You'll be able to boil water, heat up canned goods. A MUST.
posted by HeyAllie at 11:00 AM on November 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do they still make hand-cracked radios that store energy in a clockwork spring?

One problem with a ton of hand-cranked dynamo lights/radios/etc is that they rely on rechargeable batteries to store the energy you're putting into the system, and these batteries, if drained of all charge (as can happen when the radio is sitting in a closet for long periods between emergencies) can fail rendering the device useless.

I have a hand-cracked dynamo radio and couple flashlights I bought five years ago that are now completely non-functional because of this.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:11 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

emergency preparedness in some ways depends on the level of emergency scenarios that you're anticipating. A lot of the discussion so far presumes that you will continue to be able to live in your current dwelling (rather reasonable most of the time). If you have to evacuate and then this is what I would (and have) pack in that "for real" go bag that you alluded to in the post.

(survival \ urban camping)
LED headlamp
separate flashlight
paper map of your city
first aid kit
any prescription meds that you are taking
sleeping bag
two changes of regular clothes
rain layer (if climate appropriate)
cold layer (if climate appropriate)
water bottle
microfiber towel
one roll toilet paper (kept in a ziploc bag)
some non-perishable food
small assortment of ziploc bags for waterproof storage and organization
deck of cards or travel chess\checkers set
a book
spare batteries\chargers for all electronics

(basically whatever you might take for a regular day\weekend camping trip but assume that if you are evacuated in an civilized manner that shelter and food will be provided once you complete evacuation transit)

(general identity\bureaucracy management)
photocopies of important identity and property documents (ie. passport, driver's license, insurance papers, recent bank statement, property titles, birth certificate, university transcripts, resume, etc.)
flash drive with scans of above as backup
pens, sharpie, pencil
post it notes

this is mostly if your house or the bank with the safe deposit boxes that store your documents is compromised you will at least have access to some of this backup stuff.

Also, if you are not a citizen, have the number and address of your local home consulate.
posted by bl1nk at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2012 [7 favorites]

* Mini-flashlight for keychain
* A pocket flashlight (tiny and powerful)
* LED headlamps for all
* LED lanterns, one per room
* Stash of appropriately-sized batteries
* I'd be very, very careful with candles. LED lanterns are much safer

* Camping/outdoors stores may carry a variety of freeze-dried foods. Not cheap, but three days of meals is smart.
* Think about what kind of shelf-stable things you can incorporate into your current pantry: Nutella; granola bars; peanut butter; crackers; chocolate bars (or other sweet); tuna; dried fruits/nuts; jerky. Tortillas last, even in a power-free 'fridge. Prepping does not have to be big and scary.
* Bottled water, of course, but also powdered drink mixes to break up the monotony.

* Did you have a way to boil water during your recent outage? I put a kettle on the woodstove for hot water, and considered storing some in thermoses. A way to heat water would also be helpful with hot water bottles to take to bed, or emergency hot chocolate/coffee.
* Warm, packable sleeping bags; long underwear (loving Patagonia's Capeliene line); warm socks; heandwarmers, as mentioned above; sleeping caps (I know, I know, but they work).

I found an old Grundig radio at a yard sale, and it ran on batteries so I could get updates. My public radio station is terrific about weather/closings/emergency information. Worked for me.
posted by MonkeyToes at 11:16 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

A corded phone can be real handy if you have a landline since the more common cordless phones won't work in a power outage. That coupled with a phone book stowed away somewhere safe to look up numbers for the Electric Company/Government office/etc. can be very handle if Internet service is out and you have run out of cell phone battery.
posted by mmascolino at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2012

Do you have pets? We have a pair of portable, disposable litterboxes (there's a piece of paper 2/3 of the way down in the pan that covers the litter; you peel it away and, voila, litterbox. Also they stack). On top of them (inside the lip of the tray) we store a small (8#) bag of food and a pet thermos (the screw-on top is a bowl for water that you carry in the thermos; there's a second bowl that snaps on the bottom that can hold food) and the cats' most recent rabies certificates (which also have their vet contact info on them, conveniently), and a "pet first aid kit." We put all of this on the unreachable top shelf of a high closet. It takes up hardly any space on the shelf. If we have to evacuate, we just grab that and the cat carriers and the cats are all set to go for at least a few days (litter will run out first!) and have food and water bowls they can use. If, as is more common, we get snowed in for a few days, we have back-up food in case we run out. Also I always know where their current rabies certificates are!

You have to remember to rotate the food every so often, but generally I accidentally run out cat food once a year anyway and I decide to use the back-up bag rather than going out for cat food at midnight in the pouring rain and replace it in the morning, so it works out for everybody.

I'm not all that sure how a pet first aid kit is different from a people first aid kit, nor do I really know how to do pet first aid, but whatever, it cost $10 and I'm sure it would be of use to somebody.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think it depends on what your specific situation is -- house vs. apartment, suburban vs. urban, well-funded infrastructure vs. basketcase local resources -- but I actually don't think you need a lot of STUFF.

The sky's the limit on things one can buy in order to be "prepared". Few of them are absolutely necessary.

Here's what my parents taught me about Hurricane Preparedness as a kid:

Durable Equipment to buy now and always have for the future:

Extra batteries for the kind of flashlights you have
A headlamp is actually a pretty cool idea.
Battery powered radio -- or hand-cranked, but keep in mind that power is going to be down for days or maybe weeks, not years.
Nowadays extra charge thingies for phones would probably be a good idea.
Non-electric land line phone.
A good tub plug is a nice idea, as are extra blankets and/or a heavy coat you don't pack away during warmer months, just in case.
Old towels and empty pots/containers for leaks.
A gas can if you are car dependent
A bike or other human-powered transit if feasible
A battery powered or non-electronic alarm clock

Expendable Supplies that aren't good to buy years in advance, but that you should stock up on in the lead-up to the storm:

Bottled water (goes bad after a year or so)
Food (ditto)
Handiwipes (will dry out eventually)
Hand and toe warmers if you live in a cold environment and a storm could potentially mean extreme cold
I like to keep paper towels handy
It's also a good idea to check your batteries every so often to make sure they're not expired.
My parents always had a can of sterno, but frankly I have no idea how to use sterno and it seems a bit pointless for an apartment.

The nice thing about being prone to hurricanes, blizzards, and other storms is that you typically have the ability to prepare in the immediate run-up to the storm. This is when you buy food, water, candles, a lighter, etc. It's a lot less practical to have weeks worth of all that stuff on hand at all times, to save you an hour or so of just going to a supermarket. Yes, shopping pre-storm is going to be stressful and they're going to run out of things and you'll end up with cinnamon raisin bread instead of sourdough, but, well, it's a disaster, c'est la vie. It's much better to buy durable equipment ahead of time, because it's going to be harder to get out to REI and there might be shortages of items like radios and flashlights.
posted by Sara C. at 11:29 AM on November 1, 2012

MonkeyToes: "handwarmers."

I once accidentally bought the body version of these (shown at the above link in the "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" section) and hoo boy those things stay HOT for hours and hours. They're too big to fit into a glove or mitten, but just right for sticking in your bra or pants (assuming you wear a bra and/or pants). One of those babies kept me toasty at an all-day outdoor event recently. I imagine it would work really well to stick one in the foot of a sleeping bag or under the covers if you had to sleep in an apartment without heat.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 11:29 AM on November 1, 2012

For a different spin on emergency preparedness, your local REI may still yet not have held its zombie preparedness class (free) so you can sign up for that. You can also check your local REI location's page for events and see if it is listed among the offerings there if you don't see your location listed in this REI blog page.
posted by Seboshin at 11:32 AM on November 1, 2012

A couple of big empty buckets with lids, like joint compound buckets. Home Depot sells some orange ones. They can be used as an emergency toilet when you no longer have water for flushing.
posted by mareli at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2012

If you have a car, then I suggest getting a gas container and storing gasoline.

After the "derecho" storm that hit Washington D.C. this past summer, power was out for a good chunk of the metropolitan area for about a week, including gas stations. Any gas stations that did have power had a line of cars that extended all way out of the parking lot and down the street. It was a surreal experience seeing how people were being super obsessive about gasoline. Everyone wanted gas for their cars or power generators. No one saw the storm coming, so no one had a chance to fill up on gas, including us.

Next time we intend to have a some extra fuel ready on hand. If you decide to go this route, be sure to read up on gasoline storage.
posted by nikkorizz at 11:40 AM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

A camping stove. A simple one with at least 2 burners that uses cheap small propane tanks (keep at least 2 or 3 on hand). Matches or a lighter. You'll be able to boil water, heat up canned goods. A MUST.
posted by HeyAllie at 2:00 PM on November 1 [+] [!]

Warning: Do not use in enclosed spaces. Carbon Monoxide is bad for you.

Also you should consider keeping some batteries on hand. The new Sanyo Eneloop rechargeables will retain 80% of their charge while sitting for up to 3 years. This kit includes AA, AAA and adapters for C and D sizes.
posted by Gungho at 11:49 AM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Rental Insurance.
posted by quodlibet at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

Anything else we would need?

A good relationship with your community.

Some of the suggestions above are certainly well-meaning, but in an urban setting may not be all that relevant. Flashlights and candles, sure - buy a bulk box and throw them in the back of a cabinet. I tend to buy staples, so I've always got a few days worth of rice, flour and sugar around, not because it's disaster prep but because that's how I live. Have a lighter around, that's a good idea. I own a prybar, but if I didn't have a garage I wouldn't. You probably don't need one.

In lieu of a UPS, that's your problem to own and maintain, just have offsite backups; that way they're somebody else's problem. Clean shutdowns aren't as big a deal as you think.

Be a good neighbor and have smart friends, is my advice.

When we have a bad storm or a blackout here I stopper the tub and fill it with water so I can flush the toilet and drink until I'm sure the supply is good again. It's almost always unnecessary. If you're in a city the best thing you can do is to try and build a really good relationship with your neighbors. That's what makes cities and communities robust.

When it's a blackout or a bad storm, I just walk around my block and knock on people's doors, making sure they're OK and telling them to come over if they're in pinch. I say, I've got candles or blankets if you're stuck, just come over to ask. People almost always answer that with gratitude, maybe some relief, and sometimes will tell you whatever it is they have that they can spare, too. The best part of this is that when the disaster passes, the community remains, and is stronger for it. And you'll learn who the seniors and single parents are, who's infirm or could otherwise use a hand, so if things really start going to shit you can check on them again later.

My limited experience is that, to be blunt, survivalists are assholes. People who've read too much Soldier Of Fortune magazine tend to buy into the lone-wolf narrative so badly that when it comes time to buckle down and do the hard work of helping each other instead of playing warlord-for-a-day, they get flaky and unreliable. Wolves are pack animals, and so are people. If you're a lone wolf, it's not because you're stronger or more courageous, it's because all the other wolves think you're too stupid or dangerous to be around.

So when the time comes, the best survival advice I have is to share what you have and don't be that guy. That's what got us all here. That's what works.
posted by mhoye at 12:22 PM on November 1, 2012 [31 favorites]

Please do NOT use a camping stove, propane stove, charcoal grill or kerosene-anything indoors: all of them put off fumes that can (and every winter, do) kill --- ditto drop the idea of parking your car outside your window and hooking your appliances to it, unless the running vehicle is WELL away from every door and window and vent in the building. And no candles should be used anywhere where they could get knocked over, or run into by a kid: you're far better off with either dynamo- or battery-powered flashlights of some sort.

Another place to check for a suggested list of emergency supplies is the nearest LDS church, since they suggest having a years' worth of supplies on hand at all times.
posted by easily confused at 12:39 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are getting some great advice in the thread already. Here is San Francisco I've made 2 "go backs" for my family. The first is for survival, the 2nd is for comfort/long term problems.

I used two backpacks from tech conferences and have filled them up. I've put a cardboard label on a string on each with #1 and #2 and a listing of what is inside.

Bag #1 is life boat food, water, first aid kit, EYEGLASSES, leatherman, can opener, $200 cash with some in $1 and $5, head lamp, glow stick, lighter, radio, batteries, garbage bags, map of the city, space blanket

Bag #2 is better first aid kit, more food / water, 2 MREs, more flashlights, batteries, baby food.

I'm planning on putting together another bag of warm clothes and possibly shoes for the family to live with these bags.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:51 PM on November 1, 2012

You might want to look at Buddy Heaters (use with a CO detector! This is not optional!).
posted by MonkeyToes at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2012

Yes, of course I should have stated the obvious - do not light or use the OUTDOOR CAMPING STOVE indoors.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:43 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

To go along with the camping stoves—or when you can come up with enough electricity to power a microwave—a more old-fashioned version of the handwarmers/chemical heat packs mentioned above is the hot water bottle.

Also, speaking of backpacks, an inexpensive approach to getting a crapload of them for convenience in hauling all of this stuff out of storage is to buy used ones at Goodwill/Salvation-Army-type stores. Those are usually old kids' school backpacks but you can use velcro or safety pins to close them if you're just using them for storage instead of walking around with them. (Also super handy for storing winter/summer clothes in the opposite season, BTW.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

On a bit of a tangent, a nifty little post-disaster survivalism game that might put you into the thought process is the web-based NEO Scavenger, previously featured on the blue. (Just released a new beta version today, evidently!)
posted by XMLicious at 4:51 PM on November 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your Mac will survive being shutoff unexpectedly.

What you'd actually need for an extended power outage or random terrible storm:
- a way to make light
- warm and dry clothing
- a way to boil some water, or otherwise sterilize it
- enough food
- something to do

...in that relative order of importance.

This isn't really weird stuff for most Americans. It's *basic* camping gear and a moderately stocked pantry. If you've got dried nuts, a bag of tortilla chips, and a few meals worth of canned goods, you've got the food part down. You could go (potentially) overboard and have enough bottled water around in the back of a closet to drink for a week.

From my experience, you can use a camping stove inside just the same as a natural gas stove; if you're in an enclosed space and worried about it, crack a window.

If you don't want to store water, keep a five gallon bucket or three around somewhere. If a big storm is coming and you expect losing water is reasonable, fill the bucket(s) up while you still have clean water.
posted by talldean at 6:33 PM on November 1, 2012

So, my advice is to treat a disaster as a 5 day backpacking trip. Start with the 10 essentials, have headlamps, comfortable hiking shoes, and enough freeze dried food to last you the time it will take to hike out on foot of a disaster area. A nice add on is water treatment kit. You can't plan for everything but you can plan to get the hell out of dodge if things go sideways and motor transport isn't an option.
posted by iamabot at 6:33 PM on November 1, 2012

You should definitely prepare for your local disaster risks in addition to prepping to bug out-- my flood/typhoon/tornado risk is low, but volcano/earthquake risk is relatively high (over my lifetime) and tsunami is not totally out of the question. We're all vulnerable to a grid failure, either due to a cat in a transformer or a solar flare. Assume that any kind of severe black swan will eliminate or overwhelm the city's, state's, and Feds ability to help you where you are. Get away on your own.

Also, think about your local climate and weather-- sunblock and snow gear, raincoats and portable water, because you never know when the swan will visit.

On the topic of UPS, the big drain is usually the ancient CRT monitor. If your mac can do a clean shutdown from keyboard shortcuts, then don't connect the monitor to the UPS. And everyone's right, the Mac will do fine without battery backup. The better effect of a UPS is that it conditions power, and will eat a giant surge before your Mac does.
posted by Sunburnt at 8:41 PM on November 1, 2012

On the camping stoves: Yes, don't burn things indoors without having a chimney.
AND: You should already have a carbon monoxide detector in your house or apartment, just like you should have a smoke alarm. They're cheap, buy one if you don't have one.

If you can't boil water, you can sterilize it as a last-resort with plain chlorine bleach. We keep a jug of bleach around in the back of a cupboard, maybe you have room for that too.

Printed materials with basic first aid instructions, etc.
Put yourself mentally in the place you'd be in with no power or water or heat. Now, what do you want to look up online? Look that up now and load all that info into several pages you can print out and stash. (For example, how many drops of bleach do you add to a gallon of water? Look it up now.)

In addition to a printed map of your area, you may want a topographic map or other maps (eg the NY Hurricane Zone map) so you know which route to take to higher ground, eg.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:10 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I do indeed have a Steripen water purifier from camping, as well as a Jetboil thermos/stove and a headlamp--though I realize all are in storage somewhere.

On the radio, I've been leaning towards this Ambient Weather model, both because it is the highest rated on Amazon right now, and because it has a user-replaceable rechargeable battery. Again, happy to hear other suggestions. I know Eton is popular, as well, but they don't have the replaceable battery, as far as I've seen.

As for the UPS, I'm not generally afraid of losing power, but I have a Time Machine volume that is almost always writing to disk (physical platters, not SSD). I'd rather not lose those backups, which I end up using a surprising amount. I'd be happy to hear that people don't worry about pulling the plug on a disk as it writes data, but that is contary to my understanding. I'm not worried about the Mac itself--just the data on the drives. Yes, I have other backups. Many thanks to BP for his model recommendation. I hope to get a new MacBook in the next few months--I may skip the pricy UPS for the desktop and shut down the Mac Pro in favor of using the MBP in any sketchy power scenarios.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:29 AM on November 2, 2012

Get away on your own.

This cannot be stressed enough. Savings stashed away in an emergency is a thousand times more valuable than the best Apocalypse Survival Kit ever thought of. It doesn't necessarily need to be cash -- think about your needs if you were out of immediate harm, but needing to feed, shelter, and clothe yourself in an undetermined interim period where you might be outside your comfort zone.

You should plan for the possibility that you will have to evacuate before the storm, or in the immediate aftermath of a less predictable catastrophe. Money for gas. Money for a last minute flight, train, or bus. Money for a hotel, possibly in a situation where there's price gauging or you have to stay in a nicer hotel than you'd normally pick based on availability. Money to rent a car in a strange place if you evacuate by air. Money for food in restaurants or convenience foods on the way. Savings to live on if you can't work and end up missing paychecks (or if paychecks are delayed due to the disaster).

Access to savings and general financial resources was the difference between being OK in the long draining Katrina aftermath or having your life ripped apart for years, and I can see it already being a thing in New York. I have a friend on facebook who is doing 3 hour commutes to work on foot because he's paycheck to paycheck and can neither afford to miss work nor to take taxis.
posted by Sara C. at 6:41 AM on November 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

Watching some recent videos out of NYC, alternative human-powered transportation (bicycle) for sure. You can carry way more groceries on a bike than on foot, and you can carry it over fallen trees.
posted by anaelith at 8:08 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

On radios consider a couple cheap transistor radios. You can get them for a couple bucks and they'll last for weeks on a single 9V or couple AA batteries. They are cheap enough that you can stash them around and you will still have news if your fancy $50 radio stops working.

Also, and this is going to sound obvious but it's amazing how many people forget, there is a radio in most every car. It'll last for hours even if you don't start the engine.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

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