3 Survival Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy

3 Survival Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Above: How the U.S. Navy told its service members to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. Contains good advice everyone can use.


Hurricane Sandy left an indelible impression on the northeastern United States. The survival lessons it forced people to learn could be applied to nearly all natural disasters. Here are three key takeaways from the tragedy worth considering.

Survival Lesson #1: Don't Stay Behind

When an evacuation order is issued, get out.

Natural disasters need to be taken seriously. Choosing to “ride it out” is another term for “needlessly endangering lives.” Those lives include first responders, families of first responders, neighbors influenced by the “ride it out” decision, family members, community leaders shepherding others out of harm's way and scores of other social networks of actual people.

This article from the New York Daily News details the experience of a family riding out Sandy in Breezy Point, Queens, New York:

The winds roared and the waves lifted off the bay in giant balled fists and smashed onto the golden shores of Breezy Point, Queens, where Jack Nacmias braced with his wife, adult kids and 96-year-old grandmother-in-law.

“Oh my God, I wish I had evacuated,” he called to say around 8 p.m. Monday. “It’s just insane here.”

And then his transmission ended with the words “Holy s—!”

He called me again at dawn to say, “Actually, I wish I would have evacuated my family and stayed alone. There was a point there where it was so scary that I looked at my family and said, ‘What have I done?’ ”

That thought came when he was in the cellar and all his “Anderson double-pane basement windows” shattered and breached “like the portholes in the Titanic, and water just gushed in so fast and so furious that my cellar began to fill up all around me. The fuse box sizzled. The power died. The water rose from every which way in the pitch dark. I backed up the stairs where Granny, and the family were and the water started following me up the stairs like a roaring monster.”

That's a hard survival lesson to learn in-person. Don't.

Survival Lesson #2: You Need a Bug-Out Bag AND a Long-Term Survival Plan

When the evacuation order came down, prepared residents grabbed bug-out bags and hit the road. However, by definition these were only good for a few days.

That might have been enough to last until returning home. But what if that home isn't there? Or utilities won't come back for days or weeks? Not only that, what if another storm is on its way?

That's the reality many Sandy survivors continue to face. A nor'easter dumped snow over areas already impacted by Sandy.

The survival lesson here is that preparedness isn't an either/or proposition. It's not a matter of making either a quick bug-out bag or a full survival kit. It's being prepared for short- and long-term survival.

What that long-term survival plan looks like depends on your situation. Here are some tips for making a home disaster plan.

The Build the Perfect Bug-Out Bag book is also a key reference for short-term evacuations.

Survival Lesson #3: Looting Has Gone Social

Looting is an unfortunate side effect of any disaster, and it isn't always sinister. Many instances of looting involve people getting supplies for family – without paying for it, of course.

The darker side of looting involves thieves sifting through damaged homes. Reports indicate these criminals are using social media to coordinate their activities. This article from the Daily Mail details some of the organization:

Several brazen thugs have robbed their neighbors and their local shops of everything from basic food stuffs to expensive electronics and they are taking to Twitter to broadcast their spoils.

‘Check out this laptop I scored,' SevenleafB tweeted earlier today. ‘It's easy just reach out an grab it.'

It appears the looters are organizing through the hashtag #SANDYLOOTCREW.

It's a double-edged sword. These tweets make it easier for law enforcement to track looting, as well as for citizens to become prepared. This photo from the Huffington Post says it all:

Survival Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

Would You Shoot a Looter?

Scott Wagner wrote extensively about survival guns in the new Gun Digest Book of Survival Guns. His tips covered many survival lessons, and Living Ready wants to know how you would apply them. Would you shoot a looter? Leave a comment below or join the discussion at GunForums.com.


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  1. Questions/comments some have asked:

    Why weren’t most of these folks prepared? Most victims of Sandy are urban types with little if any experience and no training to suggest they stay prepared all the time.

    Why didn’t they evacuate? If you haven’t been through a hurricane it is hard to imagine the danger in your personal circumstances. Most in the NY/NJ area have not experienced one in memory. Most associate high wind as the major threat when it is flooding 90% of the time.

    Actions against looters and intruders? The right to self defense is inherent in our existence. What is not is the training and preparation needed to know and understand the use of deadly force, the five W’s of weapons and the knowledge of likely consequences of using them? Again, many are urban types or have lifestyles that make these foreign concepts. Some have political beliefs that make these necessities unattractive and as a result they are not likely to know much beyond what they see on TV, little of which is true.

    As a Marine for 30 years I was stationed in areas where natural disasters are likely. Earthquakes and fire in CA, hurricanes and storm surge in NC and Fla., tornadoes in others and so on. How to respond isn’t always simply a matter of common sense alone. I stayed during hurricanes at first, not wanting to leave our home and neighbors unattended in case of emergency. As time went by I learned to prepare our home to survive as best as we could and for the aftermath but evacuated when possible, not always with success. There are times when leaving can be worse than staying and it’s impossible to know what a storm will do ahead of time. My personality since childhood has always been towards being prepared and my training as a Marine reinforced that. Preparation requires a mindset that takes a willingness to spend what’s necessary, dedicate the resources, time and effort to that preparation. Emergency generators, lights, radios, water and food, cooking and environmental needs for emergency are far beyond the daily need. Discipline and awareness are key. If small children or elderly are involved the task is complicated several times over.

    It takes thought, effort, time and more to be prepared and starting a couple days before the storm is too late. Preparation is an ongoing process that demands serious consideration but it’s better than leaving your fate to chance. Preparation is almost second nature to me, now, but it took lots of time and effort to learn what I know today and I’m far from an expert.

  2. The reality of the situation is that in a lot states (those that are civilized) its illegal to shoot anyone that is not endangering your life and this means that if you look out your window and someone is stealing the radio out of your car and you shoot him you will be charged with murder and most assuredly convicted.

    Encouraging people to kill other people without regards to the consequences of the law will not only land the killer in prison but will bankrupt the killer with lawsuits that will ruin the killer financially for the rest of his life. Was it worth the price of a car radio?

    One must also realize that if the person is young the jury will tend to sympathise with the shooting victim. Penalties from such cases usually are also much more severe than if the person was an ex-con that had a long criminal record. So again it depends who the victim is and also who is sitting on the jury and what section of the country it happened in. Red neck states believe in killing everyone because money is their only real God but liberal states often take a dim view of such Roman Colosseum behaviour.

    • Bhp0 is the face of liberalism. Arrogant, contemptuous, superior, elitist, and attack personally anyone with a differing opinion. Roman collosseum ? You mean like Chicago? The murder capital of the country. The bastion of liberalism, and home to the icons of liberalism like the Obamas, axelrod, emanuel, wright, the dalys and on and on. Bloomberg just prohibited donations of food to the food banks for the poor. Why? Bloomberg can’t verify the fat, salt and fiber content. When people are going hungry, this is how the elitist libs show their compassion – no food for women and kids and babies….

  3. The folks back east see the “perfect storm” coming and for most it never occurred to them to get out? And if they decided to gut it out, it never occurred to them to have a few extra cans of food handy, some water, full gas tank, maybe some extra gas cans ? With no power, no heat, and water pipes freeze, how many considered how they stay warm? Apparently not many. They are lib states, entitlement states, so maybe that explains the lack of preparation, afteral, the government will ride in for the rescue. FEMA’s performance was worse than for Katrina, but the media ignores that story. Some FEMA offices had to close “due to weather”. Obama flies in a photo op, Cristy kisses his hind end for 4 fours, and Obama flies off to campaign. What has Obama done or even said about the disaster? Yet all those libs want a bigger govt footprint, afteral they did such a miraculous job so far didn’t they. About 100 dead so far. How many more in the weeks to come? Obama and the libs more concerned about being able to vote than feeding and sheltering those folks. Shoot looters ? With what ? These are lib states, they can’t own a gun !

  4. Would I shoot a looter? It depends. What is he looting? My house? He’s a dead man. My business? Yep. Somewhere else? Probably not.


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