After Hurricane Sandy, Sound Advice to Get Back to Normal
Some of the most hardy people in NJ were harmed by Hurricane Sandy, and now that the cleanup has begun, you need to put things into perspective, deal with what you can control, allow public services to deal with what you cannot and move forward toward normal. So many people are stressed out about things they cannot control such as when are the lights returning, where to get fuel, the children are out of school, etc. which are things you cannot control. After living through this, one must learn from the experience and make sure they are prepared for the next time if there is one.
You can control many things such as whether you have a generator (at least 5000 or more watts), have enough extension cords, have wiring to go into the basement or wherever you have your water and heat powered by the generator as well. During Hurricane Irene, it was warmer and we found out that well water is nice until you have no power, because you have no water pressure as the pump requires electricity. We made sure next time we were prepared by hiring someone to wire a 220 line into the basement and rig it so we can switch this on to the generator. It worked very well during Sandy and we had running hot and cold water.
When the weather began to turn colder, a friend created a bypass using a three pronged extension cord and a new outlet with a box that I purchased over the weekend from Home Depot. Since the four outlets from the generator in the basement are powering everything in the house other than water, by creating this new connection and bypassing the red boiler switch, I can power my heating system through the generator too. When the power returns, I plug the extension which was wired into the new outlet and turn on the heating circuit in the fuseboxand wallah, the heat is now on the main circuit. This can be used now for future storms and is an elegant solution requiring no knowledge of electric wiring.
There are things I have learned either through thinking creatively outside the box or by having things suggested to me by others. Believe it or not, you may have more control over your situation than you may realize. Here are a few things I have learned about that I would like to share.
1. Your homeowners insurance is likely more comprehensive than you realize. While the coverage does not extend well to trees, you are covered for fences, other outside property damage and even the food in your fridge that went bad. Your insurance servicer is there to help you get through this and they willl cover many of these necessities. Some will even cover your hotel if you are displaced depending on your policy. Place that claim now so you can restock. If you are short on cash, use a credit card and pay it off when the insurance check arrives.
2. Your generator may have more power than you give it credit for. Our generator was purchased 12 years ago from costco and last year was the first time we really needed to use it. As of yesterday, it powered the following using many extension cords and connections such as:
a. Heating system
b. Second refrigerator
c. 42 inch television – Even though the cable was out, I purchased a powered antenna from Target that picked up 37 stations. We almost felt normal with it on and powered it with an extension that powered the television.
d. Two lamps in the living room.
e. Cell and computer charging.
f. Home office in Scotch Plains is totally powered as of now by generator. This includes light, lights in the garage so people can see where they are walking (contractors string of five lights found at home depot) and of course a chiropractic table. Heat was provided by the connection made this past weekend by Lou, Connie’s husband.
3. Do you own a business, how about the building too? Did you know that if you have the write insurance underwriter, you may be covered for the days you were closed which will help you pay your employees even though you were physically shut down? I recently found out I may be covered for this even though there was minimal building damage (some roof tiles were torn off).
4. Change the oil in your generator every 50 hours. If you are still without power after 10 days, the oil has likely thinned and is dirty. Changing the oil is easy to do, with a drip pan and many smaller generators require only 1 quart of oil. Not doing so will destroy this machine which is keeping you comfortable. If the weather is warm, use 30w, if colder than 40 degrees, use 10w since the oil will become thicker and it will be harder to turn the engine (I made this mistake so you do not have to).
5. Make a plan for next time with a check list. Get your generator tuned up and make sure you run out all the fuel and put fuel stabilizer in the remaining cans.
6. Buy more gas cans. In a couple of weeks, they will be in plentiful supply so having three or four 5 gallon cans ready for use before a storm is a good thing and is one thing less to worry about, since we sore massive fuel disruptions. If you want them now, you can get them through ebay.com for under $30 shipped.
It is always better to be prepared for the next possibility of disaster than to be totally stressed out because you did not plan for things that are in your control and having services especially if the home is undamaged will have you more comfortable if another storm comes along again. Having the right plan will put you better in control in case the next event happens.
Many people are now talking about whole home generation where a gas generator powers the home automatically if this happens again. Believe me, this is on my short list of things to do for both our home and office in Scotch Plains as well as our North Brunswick property.