Hurricane Irene – Lessons Learned 2011

Originally at Simple is Working – 9/2/11

I know, I know Hurricane Irene is long gone and here I am just getting around to looking at some of the lessons that I learned as a result of Hurricane Irene. My experience and practice is that this one of those things that you write stuff down during the event, take a few days to digest what happened and then write the after-action report. You need to look at what happened objectively and really think about what worked and what you need to improve.  So here goes:

Attitude is everything!

If you have a positive attitude and roll with what is thrown at you during an emergency (as much as you can), you will get through it a lot better someone who has a “oh woe is me” attitude. Yes the emergency will disrupt your normal routine and if the power is out, you will not be able to do many of things you are used to doing – watching TV, using the computer, playing video games, having lights, running water and many other modern conveniences that we take for granted.

Actually, we believed that we were going to loosing power and were not surprised when it happened.  We live out in the country and expected to be without power until Friday. We expected to be without power and when we lost our power from late Sunday afternoon, until Tuesday morning we treated it like we were camping out – only at home.  Yes being without power was an inconvenience and we did lose some stuff in the refrigerator and freezer, but it wasn’t anything that can’t be replaced and really wasn’t a big deal – not even worth an insurance claim.


Just because something doesn’t work the way you expect or want it to, doesn’t mean you can’t get it to work.  It means that you have to keep trying different things until it does work or figure out a different way to do something.  See my

Emergency Hand Water Pump – How Did It Work?

this is just an example, but there were other things that didn’t work, you can’t let them get in the way of what you need to do. Improvisation and the ability to keep trying are part of getting through an emergency.  No somethings are not easy and you will get frustrated or feel overwhelmed, when that happens take a step back (if you can), think for a minute about other alternatives you have available to you. Would one of those work better than what you are doing now or is what you are doing the only thing that can be done right now?  Think before you act, sometimes it will save you a lot of time and effort later.


This is the key to any emergency (preparation), are you ready for the unexpected or in the case of the hurricane the expected. We had plenty of food stores (beyond the refrigerator or freezer), it wasn’t going to be cold (an important consideration in Maine), filled-up all the primary vehicles, checked the propane for the grill, drawn extra water from our tap into old water bottles, double-checked the “go bag” in the back of the Subaru if we had to leave, picked up potential debris in the yard and the multitude of other things to get ready for Hurricane Irene. The one thing that we were not sure of was an alternative water supply if the power was out for an extended period, so I rigged up

Emergency Hand Water Pump – Part 1

no things didn’t work perfectly and I had to be persistent in finding a solution, but now I have a lot better system in place.

What would I do differently

for a short-term emergency lasting 2 weeks or less?

  • Put extra water in the bath tubs before the hurricane hit and fill more water jugs to have about at least a 48-72 hour supply of drinking water.
  • Buy more batteries (D cell batteries still can’t be found almost 5 days later), our battery operated lantern needs 6 and most of the flashlights take AAA or AA.  Also look at rechargeable batteries besides the 4 AA that I have.
  • Another thing is to look at a solar charger to re-charge batters, ebook reader, or even laptop (it might be expensive and one of those back burner things).
  • Putting extra water bottles in the freezer to help keep it colder longer.
  • Cleaned and seasoned the cast iron skillets beforehand – they were rusty and needed to be cleaned before using.
  • Get more propane cylinders for the cook stove and lamp.
  • Need pails for water besides the cooking pot (already got those)
  • Generator – neither one of us is really keen on this one, but it would have its uses as long as there is gas available (but that gets pretty expensive after a while).  One of the neighbors has a spare generator and has offered to let us use it if we need to – just have to ask, so we will try one out next time and see if works or not for us.  I am just very leary around electricity.
  • Get one more battery operated lantern, the Coleman propane is not really that good for indoor use.
  • Can more, freeze less.
  • Wait until after hurricane season to do a bulk meat purchase – you can save this stuff during winter, but not in August/September.
for longer than 2 weeks – more than I want to think about.

Overall, we didn’t have any major problems with Hurricane Irene, no damage to the house or garage, no trees down, the only thing we lost was electricity for a couple of days. Irene was more of an inconvenience than anything for us, not like others who are still without power, had significant property damage or worse.

She did show us some areas that we are really strong in (working as a team) and the weaker areas, some of which are listed above. Overall, Irene was a good wake-up call and should have shown you areas that you need to improve your preparedness for emergencies.

I really prefer to me as self-reliant as possible during an emergency and don’t want to rely on others anymore than we have to, just old fashioned that way I guess. Think about it – if a hurricane or some other emergency hit your area next week, are you more ready than you were before Irene? I hope so for your sake.

If you have any other suggestions for me, I would appreciate them.  Thanks  🙂