Secure everything, assume nothing, take nothing for granted

The big lesson learned from Sandy is take nothing for granted. For several days prior to the storm’s arrival, we checked everything; refueled and started every generator, checked the oil, water and battery electrolyte, set up fuel deliveries ahead of time for the worst case scenario, checked all the backup transmitters and STL’s, and so on.  The one thing that I didn’t consider was a storm surge so high that the propane tank would float away.  After all, those tanks are heavy.

However, a brief examination of elementary physics reveals that even when full, a propane tank will float:

One gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds if it is fresh water or approximately 8.55 pounds for salt water (depending on where it is from).

One gallon of liquid propane weighs approximately 4.1 pounds, thus it is about half as dense as water.

Most propane tanks are not full, being at most 80% liquid volume. It is always the thing that you didn’t think of.

We seem to be suffering a 500 year storm about once a year or so around these parts.  I expect that things will only get worse.  With that in mind, it is perhaps time to re-think our disaster preparedness and recovery plans to incorporate every worst case scenario we can imagine.  Everyone knows, but it bears repeating: Radio is the last link that people have when all other technology fails.  Thus, when it comes to storm preparation, there is no such thing as too much.  Thus:

  • Secure everything
  • Assume nothing
  • Take nothing for granted

Our assumptions about power utility and telephone network reliability and restoration may be wrong.  Our assumptions about access to remote sites, our ability to use vehicles, availability of gasoline and other fuels may be over optimistic.  Our assumptions that basic food stuffs, clean water and secure resting areas may also be wrong.  Get those items wrong and it does not matter how much equipment redundancy is built into facilities.

For remote transmitter sites, access can be a major problem after a storm.  In low lying coastal areas, flooding will be an issue.  In those situations, having backup transmitter sites would be a key feature of any disaster plan.

All good disaster plans also have the human component; clean water, food and safe, secure resting areas for the staff.  As always, when the SHTF and there are no options and no ideas, there is the Bear Grylls survival method:

Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls

Which we really, really don’t want to do (from the TV show Man vs. Wild on Discovery).