If you were willing to overlook the 90° heat, the gridlocked traffic, the lack of water, the absence of cash, the 40-flight treks down office-building stairs, the day-old clothes wilting on your back and the food turning into inedible goo inside your refrigerator, the blackout was a lot of fun. Really.
Nearly two years after the horror of 9/11, many found it downright bracing to pull together in an emergency that was just an accident. If 9/11 taught us how to survive while grieving, the blackout taught us how to survive without grumbling--or without too much of it at least. Should you find yourself in a blackout--or want to be prepared for crises that might leave you stranded without services--here are 10 rules for getting by when lights go out, stores shut down, and banks are closed.
1. CARRY CASH Well, don't carry it, but keep it around. A couple of hundred dollars--some at home, some at work--can be priceless when ATMs go off-line and no one is taking credit cards. A roll of quarters for pay phones also helps. It's hard not to spend it when you know it's there, but the cache of cash you don't touch today can be a lifesaver tomorrow.
2. STAY WET Buy bottled water, and put it away. No matter how much you think you'll need, you'll probably need more, so go for multigallon jugs. After the power fails but before water tanks run dry, it's also a good idea to fill your tubs. (Just remember to keep the bathroom doors closed for safety if you've got young children or pets in the house.)
3. STAY DRY You know all that stuff you try not to eat too much of--peanuts, granola bars, crackers, cereal? Stock up now, and set it aside. Well-packaged dry foods can have the life span of trees--and they don't give a hoot when the fridge goes down.
4. POWER UP Batteries, batteries, batteries. And don't forget batteries. Lay in a supply now of all you will need to run flashlights, radios, handheld fans and anything else that takes portable juice. Remember to reverse the position of batteries stored in flashlights to prevent them from accidentally switching on and losing power. If you don't have a portable radio, buy one, but first check your clock radios and plug-in CD/radios since some of them also have battery capability.
5. CHANGE YOUR DIAPERS Keep an extra supply of diapers, formula and baby food around. (And remember to update your diaper stash as your baby grows. It happens fast, and a year-old baby in a 3-month-old's diaper is not a pretty picture.)
6. STAY CLEAN Any survival kit should include a toothbrush, toothpaste, antibiotic ointment, bandages, baby wipes, tissues, tampons or sanitary pads, shaving cream, a razor, mouthwash, deodorant and anything else that keeps you feeling human. (A pair of sneakers can also come in handy. And don't forget prescription medications and an extra pair of glasses.)
7. MOOD LIGHTING Keep candles and matches handy, but use them judiciously to avoid fires. It's best to rely on flashlights.
8. KEEP IN TOUCH Have at least one phone that plugs straight into the wall jack without the need for a power outlet.
9. GAS UP Get into the habit of not driving around with less than half a tank of gas. In a crisis, that half goes quickly.
10. TAKE DEEP BREATHS, AND TRY TO LAUGH It can't hurt. --By Jeffrey Kluger