Emergency Unpreparedness


My Sunday evening TV watching was suddenly interrupted around 9 pm by a weather alert.
Instead of paying attention to the Sunday Night Football action, my eyes were diverted to a severe weather message slowly crawling across the top of the screen. Extremely high winds, power outages, and heavy rain were heading right for New York.
Then, my phone rang. It was my mother. Channel 7 (ABC) reported possible tornadoes and people should seek shelter in their basement to be safe. When I turned back to the TV, the crawl at the top of the screen indicated a tornado warning for Suffolk County. If you weren’t aware, Massapequa is right on the Suffolk County border. Unless Nassau County has a force field, Suffolk County weather will also affect us here in Massapequa.

Natural disasters like tornadoes often just just how unprepared are to handle emergencies
(Photo by Storm Talk/CC BY-SA 4.0)

I was not overly concerned about waking up in Staten Island after a tornado tossed my house like in The Wizard of Oz. However, high winds usually equate to downed power lines. I sprang into action to locate our flashlights and was astonished at the results.
We are completely unprepared in the event of an emergency.
I thought for sure we had flashlights in the hall drawer, but the only one I could locate was three inches long and didn’t have any batteries. I had plenty of “C” and “D” cell batteries in my inventory, but no flashlights to be found. In the past, our flashlights sat unused for months at a time. When we did need them, the batteries were either dead, weak or leaking precious fluid.

To prevent that from happening in the future, I took the batteries out of all the flashlights. Unfortunately, I know where the batteries are, but not the flashlights.
There’s a small emergency flashlight inside my night table, but I don’t think I could assemble it in the dark. It uses AA batteries that need to be installed in different directions—one with the point up and the other down. I can barely figure that out in the daylight.
The only candle I could locate was from the front porch. At least we’d be mosquito-free in the living room. I have another candle in a glass jar in the bathroom that has a pine scent. Unfortunately, I can’t hold it in my hand and transport it unless I use an oven mitt. Where can you get candle holders like Ebenezer Scrooge used, so I could transport light where I need it?

Invest in a generator, you say? I’ve already got one, my friends.
After Sandy ravaged Long Island in 2012, I invested in a Honda EB 5000 X. Unlike those whole house generators from GENERAC, it doesn’t automatically turn on when the power goes out. It uses a pull rope to start, like a lawnmower.
We run it every now and then to ensure it will work when we really need it. But before you pull that rope, all the switches and settings need to be correctly aligned or it just won’t start. I finally wrote the ignition sequence down and taped it to the Generator’s side so future generations of my family can start the damn thing.

I guess this should be a wake-up call for me. Any unexpected power outage after 5 p.m. will have us scurrying around in the darkness like Mr. Magoo and muttering, “I thought you knew where the flashlights were?”
By 10 pm, the storm had blown through, the lights were still on, and the severe weather message crawling across the top of the screen had vanished. I decided right then and there to organize an emergency kit inside a small backpack. I’d get some new flashlights, pair them up with the correct batteries, grab a few candles and matches and even throw in some glow sticks. Then I would hang the backpack in the hall closet, so everyone knows where it is.
Maybe tomorrow….

Paul DiSclafani, a Massapequa resident, is a Press Club of Long Island award-winning columnist (2018, 2020) and an Anton Media Group contributor since 2016.

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