The lights coming back on around New York, as people dig out from under the damage of Hurricane Sandy. Interestingly, a lot of that light is coming from private generators. Rather than waiting for the Power Company to get the electricity back on, individuals have taken control and bought their own generators.
Personal generators are not much of an option in Manhattan or other areas that are dominated by apartments. Of course, New Yorkers are notoriously impatient. You never know how crazy a New Yorker can be, but hopefully none of my fellow apartment dwellers have tried to put a generator in their apartment, store gasoline in the hall closet or try to funnel the fumes down their bathtub drain. Hopefully! Yet, a part of me is waiting for the first local news story about the fire department saving Alec Baldwin, or one of his Greenwich Village neighbors from carbon monoxide poisoning.
But for the generator fortunate in the suburbs and villages outside of Manhattan, they have become popular figures indeed! Generator parties where the neighbors may be getting their first hot meal... and a chance to have the kids watch their favorite videos... are a little slice of heaven. Of course, the generator family is learning about the limitations of their "disaster recovery plan."
Unless you make a pretty massive investment, most generators provide a LOT less power than you're used to, and that means prioritizing your power needs! Is the kid's video more important than recharging cell phones? Just how many neighbors do you let "borrow" power? Maybe you light the house with candles so that you can microwave tonight's meal? And one of the biggest limitations, the power only lasts as long as the gasoline does. Since water and gas are the two things you need most when there's a disaster, will you start stockpiling gas between disasters... and is it a good idea to have a big store of gas near your house... forever?
If it's for your home or your business, disaster planning requires a lot of thinking, and tradeoffs. When you buy your next house will you ask: how big is the living room, how many bedrooms and what's the size of the emergency water tank?