Solutions for Self-Reliance

How to Survive a Crisis like Sandy in the Future (don’t do it alone!)


Good news.  The Robb homestead, unlike a large portion of the northeastern seaboard, didn’t suffer much damage.

We were lucky.  Sandy was massive.  Even though we were FAR from the epicenter of the storm, our area had lots of blackouts, road closures, and fires (transformer explosions).  Fortunately, our home only lost Internet access (although cell phone access still worked) and our driveway had a surprise for us when we woke up:  three large trees were astride it, including a precariously balanced “widow maker.”

As much as I wanted to clear it myself, our town’s crew was faster.  Using a crane, they safely cleared them away by noon, proving yet again that a responsive, mutually supportive community is hard to beat.

In terms of electric power, our home didn’t need to use our backup generator.  Regardless, it was comforting to know it was there and that it would be something that the entire neighborhood could rely upon for support.

Reader Richard, from Virginia, did actually use his backup power system.   His system (which he is in the process of expanding), is a little different than mine.  He uses a bank of batteries that is charged by solar panels.

In addition to an inverter and control system (via Outback Power) to switch and manage the power deliveries to the home in case of a cut off, here’s his description:

a battery array with sixty 3.2 volt 200 amp hour lithium ion battery cells in a 48 volt 800 amp hour configuration that gives me 38.4 KWH of energy storage. Not pictured are the subpanel with all of the house loads that are connected to the system (everything except the air conditioning, the electric dryer, the garage heater, and my welder), or the junction box for the generator. I finished the installation last night – just in time to have my batteries fully charged for Hurricane Sandy. I am my own grid and can island my home in the event that our utility (Dominion Virginia Power) grid goes down.

He’s got some very cool new additions to this system in the pipeline that will allow him to focus more on production than backup storage.  I’m sure we are going to hear from him again.

Surviving Alone

The pictures of the damage Sandy did to the New York area, particularly the damage due to the storm surge, are sobering.

It’s particularly terrible if you realize that New York runs on a rabbit warren of underground infrastructure and most of the damage is being done below the ground (salt water + pipes/wires/etc. is a bad combo).  It’s going to take quite a bit of time before things return to normal.

One thing most people don’t know about New York, and other cities in the developed world, is that nearly half of the households have only a single occupant (single households are 26% nationally, up from 13% in 1960).

Living alone is tough.  It’s particularly tough during a crisis like Sandy.  You need to have people that check in on you, that make sure you have enough to get by.  People that will help you clean up the mess and financially survive the aftermath.   People that have skills and resources that compliment your own.

It’s pretty clear that this trend towards living alone isn’t going to last long.  There is too much turubulence in our future and an increasingly destitute government is not going to be able to meet the vacuum in demand for support.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to this problem.  I do know what I have done.

I expanded my home.

There are currently eight people in my home, in three generations.   It’s working out great, and it served our needs particularly well during Sandy.

So, if you can do what I did, do it.  If you don’t have a family, assemble one if you can.

Also, use opportunities like Sandy to connect to the people in your neighborhood. Reader Steve used the recent installation of his whole house generator and the approach of Sandy to build a cell phone network for his extended neighborhood.  He found, as you will find, that with a crisis in the foreground, people that normally would be negative on working as a community, are willing to cooperate.

In general, events like Sandy are a good demonstration of how generous people are, and how willing they are to work together when things break down (they don’t run around shooting each other as some people think).

Your Guide to Resilience,


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