This post has been a long time coming. For the past couple of weeks, I have watched in horror as the good people of the East Coast have battled the effects of Hurricane Sandy. Seeing images of people standing in lines a mile long with a 2 gallon gas can in their hands and "Closed" signs posted at FEMA sites just as a nor'easter was blowing in on an already devastated coastline made me tremble. It also got me thinking. What if.....what if Sir Knight and I lived in an apartment in lower Manhattan. What if we were limited to electric heat, city water and city sewer? What if that was our family shivering in the cold with no help in sight? What would we do? Would we have options? Would it even be possible to prepare? Or, would our fiercely independent, survivalist family be consigned to the fate of our neighbors -refugees- waiting for help from an overtaxed public service agency while praying that our utilities would be restored before we froze to death. Truthfully, the answer is not a simple one.
Ultimately, it is impossible to prepare for every scenario. No one person has the finances, the time, the space or the knowledge to forestall every single disaster. No matter how many barrels of food or water you have stored, if a hurricane sweeps your home off the foundation and swamps it under 15 feet of water, your preparations will have been in vain. But, you can have a back-up plan. You can plan for an extreme disaster with a "bug-out" location. You can make arrangements (ahead of time) with family or friends to go to their house if the worst happens. You can store supplies at your "bug-out" location so you are not a burden when you arrive. If you live on the coast in hurricane country you need to have a "Plan B".
If the worst doesn't happen but you are left without utilities or any way to buy groceries for the foreseeable future, you CAN weather that storm. I know you have heard it over and over, but you can stock up on food NOW. You can store water. You can PLAN for disaster. Admittedly, when you live in a tiny walk-up apartment, you have your work cut out for you, but it is possible.
After talking about it at length, Sir Knight and I are convinced that living in an apartment in the middle of Manhattan during complete societal collapse is nearly impossible. However, it IS very conceivable to prepare for short term or even somewhat extended emergencies in the middle of the city with limited resources. Here are some ideas we have come up with....
Lighting: This really is pretty easy and standard. Make sure you have flashlights and a stash of batteries. Batteries will store for the better part of 10 years, making them an excellent choice. LED lanterns (battery operated) are an optimal choice. They can be hung, held onto or set on a table and provide excellent lighting. Of course, candles are an option, however, they don't put off very much light, and, with an open flame, are considerably more dangerous than their LED counterpart. Oil lamps (kerosene) are also a good choice, but you must watch them around children as they are highly flammable. If you plan on using oil lamps, it would be wise to stock up on 1 gallon containers of lamp oil and stash them here and there for a "rainy day". Also, you need to have extra wicks and chimneys.
Heating: This seems to be of huge concern in an entirely electric home, but it is NOT insurmountable! There are now ventless propane heaters and fireplaces. These require NO vent to the outside. Not that I am recommending this for anyone else, but, if I lived in an apartment with no wood burning fireplace (which won't do a great job anyway) and only electric heat, I would certainly install a ventless fireplace in my living room. I'm pretty sure it would be against code, but I think I would rather be a scofflaw than freeze to death. I would store a couple of propane tanks (100#) in a closet and install a CO2 sensor (the stoves come with an automatic sensor and shut-off valve, but an extra CO2 sensor is cheap insurance). The 100# tanks are about as big as two people can handle, so I would invest in a furniture dolly, cover the tank with a blanket and trundle it upstairs to my apartment. Sir Knight and I figure that two 100# tanks would last between 3 and 4 months, depending on the size of the apartment and how warm you like to keep it. This would work.
|Ventless propane fireplace - heats 1000 square feet|
Food: Although we live in a "shouse" with 1200 square feet of space, we have NO built-in storage. Because of that, we know a little about storing food in plain sight (but nobody sees it!). Most every table in our house is actually storage of some kind or another. Trunks are a perfect storage vessel. The trunk in our kitchen (which we use as a tea table) is 34" long x 20" wide x 22" tall. It holds 264 soup sized cans. 264! That is a lot of food! Most pantries wouldn't hold that much. We use another trunk (the same size) next to our couch, as a side table, with another, smaller trunk on top. It looks nice and provides HUGE amounts of storage. You can store canned goods, bags of flour, beans, rice or water in these trunks - out of sight but at the ready. We also store large quantities of flour, sugar and rice in galvanized garbage cans. These hold vast amounts of provisions without being conspicuous and can fit it in nearly any corner.
|Industrial 12" racking placed against the bedroom wall|
|Covered with curtains to tidy it up|
|Trunk/Tea Table - holds 264 cans of food!|
|More hidden storage|
|Perfect storage for flour, sugar, rice, beans - just right in a corner|
|And yet another hidden storage idea|
|Bulk medical storage|
|....doubling as a coffee table|