I’m waiting in Boston for the inevitable arrival of Hurricane Irene, and after I collected provisions for a possible loss of electricity and water supply, my thoughts turned to how I connect with the outside world and get some work done if things go down. As someone who makes a living exchanging information and ideas, the possibility of being cut off from lines of communication sets off my anxiety.
Here’s the “kit” I assembled in response:
- A portable Radio Shack AM/FM/NOAA radio, with new backup batteries;
- Clock radio, with a new backup 9v battery;
- My ancient cell phone, a flip-style dumb phone with an antennae;
- Laptop with a typical Mac battery that will poop out after a few hours;
- iPad with 3g connection & battery that should hold out for 9-10 hours;
- iPod with a bunch of music and audio lectures stored;
- Kindle e-reader with the portable clip-on light I bought at Barnes & Noble yesterday. and,
- Extra notebooks and pens.
Basic human needs
Yup, this is the list of a professor and information junkie. But perhaps it also betrays my avoidance of dwelling upon our collective helplessness in facing the powers of a hurricane making a beeline this way. Even with a weaker hurricane, we are reduced to thinking about survival. The possibilities include:
- Physical harm
- Structural building damage
- Basement flooding
- No electricity
- No water
Much of this is now in nature’s/God’s/Irene’s hands at this point. In the event of losing power and water, I’ve tried to accumulate enough provisions to last for several days. (Corn nuts or Jack Links “prime rib,” anyone?)
As I attend to my own situation, the threat of severe weather means different things to different workers. For those in the weather business, this is game time — the playoffs if not the Super Bowl. The same goes for workers in many public safety fields.
If you have a business in a store front that may be in harm’s way, there is considerable anxiety about damage. If that business is seasonal, there’s a likely loss of income in the midst of a difficult economy.
Retail workers at supermarkets, convenience stores, and hardware stores are dealing with lines of customers, many of whom waited until the last minute to get storm provisions.
Merely contemplating the loss of water over an extended period of time has triggered a sort of psychosomatic thirst for cold, clean water. As I filled up water bottles and containers, I found myself gulping down glasses of H2O.
One of the water bottles I filled was a thank-you gift for donating to the Mercy Corps, an international non-profit agency that supports disaster relief, sustainable development, and health and nutrition programs for those in dire need. The twist was not lost on me: All I had to do was turn on the tap to get as much clean water as I needed. Hundreds of millions of people — the very folks supported by the Mercy Corps — do not enjoy that luxury.
The possibilities I’m hoping to avoid — which at their very worst likely would be measured in months — are lifelong experiences for so many others.