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I always look for back-up options -- things I can rely on should everything go horribly wrong in a hurry. Blame it on my being a project manager. Or having lived in New York through 9/11.

While Superstorm Sandy cut a destructive swathe through the Northeast and dominated headlines in the week just past, there were odd, tiny parallels in O’ahu events that set me thinking about what basic tools and technologies I can rely on -- and, conversely, what my Achilles heels are -- when things get messed up on a large scale. As a newbie here on O'ahu, I need to figure out my back-up plan.

As cities like New York and Hoboken and Atlantic City in N.J. prepared feverishly for the storm’s arrival, O’ahu’s tsunami warning sirens blared on Saturday night (10/27), sparking some evacuations, traffic snarls and long lines at gas stations. Unlike Sandy, O’ahu’s tsunami, fortunately, never arrived.

On Wednesday (10/31), New York CIty’s crippled public transit system was struggling to recover from Sandy’s devastation. Some roads were unpassable, main traffic arteries were completely clogged and lines for gas were so long some cars ran out while waiting. That afternoon, in O’ahu, an accident in Aeia involving a refuse truck on the H1 freeway brought traffic to a standstill, with vehicles backed up all the way into the city well past rush hour.

These disparate events are in no way comparable. But here are the thoughts they sparked on how I can have some essentials when things go pear-shaped.

Transportation -- When disaster strikes, gridlocked or blocked roads and a mad rush for dwindling gas supplies almost always follow.
I turn to: A bicycle -- two legs and two wheels then become the symbols of mobility and independence. If the roads are passable, an electric car powered by solar panels on my home could give me enough juice to get out of Dodge. (If I need to get off the island, I'll head to a marina!)

Electricity -- A black-out is the must-have of any FUBAR situation.
I turn to: A photo-voltaic system on my home, with batteries to store power. Many O’ahu homes are already sporting these sleek panels. Should the power grid go down due to flooding or a storm, chances are a large number of those homes will still have working solar panels. Maybe I need to stock up on a few portable solar panels too!

Water -- Isn’t bottled water the first to go when people go on a panic-buying binge? And don’t count on water treatment plants to work when big floods and power outages occur.
I turn to: Water-purification tablets in my rain-collection barrel! Good thing I live in Nu’uanu, one of the wettest parts of the island.

Food -- Hmm...maybe that’s why everyone here buys so much Spam!

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Tags: disaster recovery, emergency, power outage, solar

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