posted on Jan, 11 2009 @ 01:34 PM
In about five threads of late we have seen the subject of surviving in cities being raised, life has taught me that I believe most cities are simply
not suited to long term survival, and in some cases even short term as well.
In this thread I would like to debate the pros and cons, and also ask people to post reports and sitreps from cities that have been affected by
problems in recent years.
I would like to open the issue with an article from YT a lady survivalist from the desert area of the US, She was living in New York in 2003 when they
had the power outages, here is the lessons she learned from even a short term outage.
part 1: general vibe & timing
Not to get too political or off-topic here, but I think it's relevant to mention -- if you weren't living in NYC when 9/11 happened you can't
really have any idea of how pervasive the after effects were on daily life. Even years later.
So when the blackout happened in NYC just 2 years after 9/11 many people I saw were having emotional flashbacks (as was I). The scenario was similar:
no one knew what was going on, trains were down, driving was impossible, all electricity was down which meant emergency facilities (such as hospitals)
were challenged, no one was prepared...
and you had thousands of people walking home... over bridges, through dirty subway tunnels... walking for literally hours to get to somewhere... just
to know what was going on.
That alone made some people edgy and less able to act as they should. On the flip side I believe that this dynamic is largely responsible for people
being so chill and willing to help each other during the blackout instead of looting or fighting. Most people just seemed to be relieved to learn it
wasn't another attack, so by evening it was a block party atmosphere. Everyone buying popsicles and ice cream from the bodegas before it melted.
Hanging out on stoops and at bars socializing. I don't remember seeing much police presence at all, except for a few officers parked at the foot of
the bridge. Once I got to my neighborhood I relaxed more, as I think most people did. There seemed to be a lot of folks dumping their bags, changing
clothes, then just hanging out.
I don't know if that would've been the case in another city or during another time. I mean, contrast that with the blackout of the 70s. In other
words, YMMV with a future blackout.
I also think the fact that the blackout happened in summer made a big difference. It was hot and sticky, but still relatively comfortable walking
weather -- clear sky, no rain, no snow, with long hours of daylight. There were concerns about how the heat and lack of a/c would affect the elderly
and people of poor health, but otherwise the summer timing made things easier. I think the situation would have been much different if the blackout
happened in the middle of winter, causing people to walk home in freezing temperatures, biting wind and possible ice in the dark... with the majority
wearing only dress shoes and thin socks (office attire), many without adequate gloves, hats or scarves. I think there would have been much less
partying and many more cases of injury and illness then.
part 2: getting home
I lived in Brooklyn at the time of the blackout, commuted daily via subway to my job in midtown Manhattan. That was about a 40 minute trip door to
door. Walking meant about 2 hours down Manhattan, then crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge, then navigating the odd un-gridded streets up to the
familiar neighborhoods, and another 1-2 hours home. And doing on that in throngs of people. I think it took 5-6 hours to get home, I'm not positive
because I didn't have a watch and cell service was out (so no clock on the phone).
5-6 hours is a long effing walk when you're wearing dress clothes and carrying a heavy bag, even if you have flat rubber soled shoes. Add in the
initial stress of WHAT THE FLIPPING HELL IS HAPPENING! OH NO, NOT AGAIN!, plus a sucky work environment as your command center (see below), and my
body was pretty fried by the time I made it home. Something to keep in mind: the stress of an emergency situation will take a toll on your body, even
if you have things under control and know you're not in danger. It'll amplify somewhat tiring activities to very tiring activities.
water and um, what happens when you drink water...
I bought a bottle or two for the walk, but I also had to keep in mind that there would be no place to pee along the route if I had to. I've since
bought a pee funnel and made a belted potty bag to hold it along with other related items. But honestly, it still would've been difficult to find a
place to whiz even standing up in that urban environment, particularly with all those people around. This may sound silly to worry about, but when
you're faced with a situation where you need to be drinking a lot of water due to heat and exertion you also need to think about where you're going
to get rid of that water. I found that at the time I had to take in less than I wanted or needed because of that issue.
While I had made some good planning post 9/11, one stupid thing I overlooked was knowing my walking route home. I thought it would be straightforward
so I didn't really get into the detailed street-level mapping. I was like, "X bridge or Y bridge, cross Z neighborhood, yada yada". Well, thinking
you know the neighborhoods because you know your way to/from various subway stations is not nearly the same thing as being able to navigate a totally
different part of town by foot. The only times I actually entered and exited the bridges was either by subway (useless knowledge on foot unless
you're actually walking on the tracks) or by cab (also useless unless you were the one driving or you were freakishly paying attention to everything
the driver did).
So trying to figure out exactly what streets led to the bridge entrance by foot in Manhattan, then where the bridge dumped me out in Brooklyn and how
that led to my neighborhood was confusing. I had lived in NYC for 9 years by the time of the blackout and still found myself completely disoriented
getting off the bridge. If it weren't for the cops helping to direct people and my travel companion knowing the area I would've been pretty screwed.
It would've taken me much longer to determine my location and navigate home if I had had to do it on my own. When you live in a city where the
primary form of transportation is so passive (you're not choosing the street-level route or actively driving) your knowledge of certain aspects is
limited. So lesson learned there.
part 3: safety
Due to the positive vibe mentioned above safety against theft, looting, and attacks weren't a big concern. I mean, no more so than any other day in
the city. I was living in a large house/apartment with 2 other women in a warehouse district and once night fell we didn't do anything particular.
Just locked the doors and windows as usual. I probably wouldn't have been inclined to go walking around by myself though.
One thing worth noting...
The somewhat friendly day hike home took on a completely different challenge at night. One of my roommates decided to hang out at the bars with some
friends instead of coming straight home, or at least coming back to her own neighborhood. Because you know, during the day it just seemed like a fun
party, right? What's the hurry? Yeah, she realized that wasn't the smartest idea when she tried to leave for the walk home after dark. With no
street lights, few people out because everyone else had made it home and inside by then, of course no flashlight or emergency kit, as a small woman by
herself. Well, she was pretty freaked by the thought of walking it alone. She ended up crashing at a friend's and coming home the next day.
part 4: emergency prep (and lack thereof)
lesson1: yay for go-kits...
I was working in a crappy office at a crappy job and NO ONE in the office, not the managers or executives was remotely prepared. I was the ONLY person
in the whole office of about 50 people who had a flashlight or a radio (thanks to 9/11 lessons, see below). The bathrooms, halls and stairways were
completely black and therefore hard to use (especially the bathroom). I shared what I had, we had the flashlight (a tiny penlight thing) working on a
rotation system so people could find what they needed and use the toilet or stairs.
On a side note, one of my roommates was in the subway tunnels when the blackout happened. They had to walk through the dark, wet and filthy subway
tunnel until they got to street level. She didn't have an emergency kit or even a flashlight and said neither did anyone else. Everyone was using
their cell phones for light, keeping them open and on during the walk. So that's a helpful tip if you're stuck. But also a reminder to pack a
lesson 2: employers suck...
In addition to learning that preparing and go-bags were actually important (yay me!), I also learned that you can't rely on your employer to step up
in an emergency. My advice would be not to count on a corporation or individual supervisors to have any plan for evacuation or protection, nor to
provide any leadership. Be prepared to take care of yourself, get your own info, find your own escape route, make your own decision when to leave.
This is particularly important if you're a temp or a freelancer, putting you in an unfamiliar environment with people who have nothing invested in
The management was terrible. Not only were they totally unprepared as mentioned above, they had no plan for emergencies and had never bothered to show
anyone the evacuation exit or do a drill. On top of that they just left early on without telling anyone, while the employees were still trying to find
out what was happening, if we should leave, or it would be safer to stay in the building. In other words they took no responsibility for their staff,
didn't notify anyone they were leaving (which would have let us know the office was closed for the day and we should leave), and left everyone to
fend for themselves without a concern. I think it was a full hour before someone realized the execs had left the building and we learned that it was
just a blackout.
(I can't remember why my radio wasn't helpful at the time. If the local stations had also been affected by the blackout, I couldn't get reception
in the building, or news hadn't yet been announced.)
lesson 3: know the emergency stairs...
The emergency exit stairs were very confusing and for some reason totally black (way to go with the backup lights, guys). There was no clear
indication of the door that led to the street level. We opened the wrong door out onto a dead end balcony twice, and finally learned that we had to go
some totally unintuitive route that seemed like you were either backtracking or getting trapped outside on a midlevel floor. If that had been an
actual emergency, like a fire, we would've all been royally screwed.
lesson 4: bad company means a bad experience...
Once I got walking and was nearing home the experience was pretty easy going, but the first few hours were really miserable. I was stuck in an office
surrounded by people I had nothing in common with, who I didn't really like to begin with, who weren't prepared, and frankly were totally socially
awkward in a crisis situation. Like making offhand remarks such as "gee, I bet a lot of people are dying right now in the hospitals without the
power", but in a casual heartless tone like they were talking the weather and didn't care. No one was offering comfort or support even on a generic
friendly level. No one seemed to know what to do. No one seemed to be grouping together. It really sucked and added to the stress. It made me realize
that having decent company makes an emergency or unknown situation more manageable than being by yourself or with poor company.
EDIT: re: food... we had a gas stove so cooking was unaffected by the blackout. The only thing I had to worry about was spoilage from the fridge being
out. I have a gas stove in my current apt. too and I have to say I've been grateful for it -- the electricity goes out here pretty frequently.
. Post subject: Re: Is there a member here who...
Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2008 3:09 am
part 5: go-bag
I was also the only person in the office who had any kind of emergency bag. After 9/11 the Red Cross had several public service announcements
encouraging people to make emergency kits to keep at work and in their car (for B&T commuters). I had put one together based on some of their
suggestions along with additions of my own.
I kept it in my day bag (messenger bag) at all times since living & working in NYC meant I was away from home for up to 10hrs a day, sometimes more.
And the crappy office meant there were no drawers or cabinets at the work stations to store personal items. One thing the Red Cross had suggested was
to keep a pair of comfortable sneakers or walking shoes in your office desk drawer should you have to evacuate, since many women wear heels or shoes
unsuited for long walks. Unfortunately I couldn't do that, but I'd suggest that people keep a pair in their desk or in their car. Plus a pair of
snow boots in the winter.
My kit was in a small zippered makeup bag (about 8" x 2" x 3") and contained the following (from memory, so I might be missing something):
- dust mask
- battery powered radio
- flashlight on a string
- glow stick
- battery blinky
- protein bar
- note pad and pen
- subway map (served as a crude street map for all 5 boroughs and let me plan alternate routes if one of the lines went down)
- $40 in small bills
- 1-2 days worth of critical meds
- 1 or 2 tampons (coz really, no one needs that added stress)
(many of the items were in ziplocks to keep them dry and/or dust free)
The point of the kit was to provide you with a day's supplies, just to get you out of the emergency area and home. Which is what it did. I pretty
much had what I needed except a bottle of water (there was no real practical way to always keep that on hand).
Author is YT from the US and a contributor to Zombie Squad forums