What I Wish I Had During the Hurricane

Hi there – for the past few months many of you know that I’ve been busy on my DIFFA project – creating, and raising money for, a design installation for DIFFA’s Dining by Design fund raiser next March.  But, like everyone else in the New York area, I was thrown off by Hurricane Sandy.  Thankfully, while we lost power for six days in our Tribeca loft, I’m happy to report that my husband, my cat, and I are all safe and sound.
Like many other people, loss of power got me thinking about things that I should have had on hand in case of an emergency like this.  Some of the following ideas are practical, but others have come from the designer part of my brain.

Things that I plan to keep in the house:


For light and power:

    • Head lights –The new fashion statement in Tribeca! Think miner’s light or old-fashioned doctor’s light. Great for reading and seeing what you’re doing. I found ours at Home Depot.


    • Rayovac makes an array of LED lanterns.  You load them with D-batteries and they provide hours of bright light.  Take a look on Amazon. They’re also sold at Home Depot. Great bonus: three levels of light.


    • REAL beeswax candles – I discovered that they really do burn longer.    The hurricane lamp in the photo is called that for a good reason; this elegant and useful lamp was purchased at the Ackland Museum of Art in Chapel Hill, NC and is made by lsa-international.com.


    • An old-fashioned battery-operated radio – get a small good one with an antenna; it uses very little battery power and has amazing sound. Like those old-fashioned photos with the family huddled around the radio, there Charlie and I were, huddled by ours each evening to hear what was going on in the city… our only link.


    • A friend of mine used her outdoor solar-powered Christmas lights to light the staircase and a path to the bathroom at night. Every morning she’d take them outside and re-charge them.


  • Battery-powered candles – you can buy them at Target and I see them sold everywhere at Christmastime.  Not as bright as real candles, they’re obviously much safer, and do make good night-lights.  And you can use them any time you want candle-like lighting.  Usually they take AAA batteries.


    • Good things to have on hand:  flat rubber stoppers to keep water from leaking out of the full tub.  Most house well pumps are electric.  If you know you may lose power, start filling tubs with water!  Here in the city, water pressure only pushes water up to about the 6th floor.  So those folks higher had no water.  If you can find some stackable, collapsible water holders and store them, it becomes a very necessary item to have on hand!


  • Three-quart plastic buckets.  At least one for every toilet and maybe a few others to keep water in.  To ‘flush’ a toilet, you fill a bucket with water and throw it in – and don’t pour gently.  This creates enough force to create a ‘flush.’  Of course you know you should keep bottled water in the house.

Refrigerators and freezers:

    • If you have advance warning that a storm is coming, fill some large plastic food containers with water – leave space at the top for water to expand when it freezes and place them in the freezer.  You can also fill pitchers with water and put them in the fridge.  Water exchanges heat more slowly than air (think of the ocean in early summer – the water’s still cold!) and will help keep your food fresh.  Our frozen food lasted well, and after the third day, the milk was wonderfully cold.


  • Something to check out: solar-powered generators at camping-supply stores and sites.  Look at REI.com. Even if you can just power the refrigerator, you’re ahead of the game.

Other nice things to have:

    • Hand warmers, also called grabber warmers (skiers use them), cleansing towelettes, Wisp travel toothbrushes, dry shampoo, paper plates and napkins and plastic flatware.


  • That good ole’ corded phone that plugs right into your wall jack.  Since this doesn’t work if you use cable for your phone line, you might think of having a landline just for emergencies. You can get the least expensive service available.  When the ole’ cell phone doesn’t get a signal, you just can’t beat communication the old-fashioned way!

Of course,

nothing beats a real generator, and I have been looking into possibilities for a client whose house on Long Island was flooded during Sandy.  I’m intrigued by using solar power with battery storage because my client won’t have to worry about running out of gasoline or propane.  Because we’re almost starting over, I’ve been researching techniques and exploring the kinds of materials we can use to make the house more flood-proof and more power-efficient.  I believe we need to re-think the use of standard building materials, and find ways to make houses resistant to water and salt damage.  This is a new opportunity for me as a designer and I find I’m learning new ways to create living spaces for people that are not just beautiful but safer, too.

I’d love to hear other great ideas on “stocking up for the next one,”  so do send me your comments!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone happy, healthy wonderful holidays and New Year.

– Charlene