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The High Cost of Ignoring Disaster Preparation with Eileen Coale – Episode 064

After a significantly diminished Hurricane Irene brushed up against our east coast, many people wanted to snicker about what they considered overblown hype in the face of the storm. Past hurricanes such as Camille, Ivan, Frederick, Rita, and Katrina made Irene pale in comparison.

And as our guest on Off the Grid Radio said today, when the hurricane finally reached her, it had downgraded to a tropical storm. And yet, by mid-week, there were still over 400,000 people in Virginia without power, over 563,000 in New York sitting in the dark, and the slow response to power outages in New Jersey has left thousands of residents disgruntled and even angry. In Maryland, where today’s guest on Off the Grid Radio is from, 820,000 people were without power in the aftermath of the storm.


Off The Grid Radio
Ep 064
Released: September 2, 2011

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Off the Grid News – the radio version of – a very special edition today. I’m Brian Brawdy, as always along with Mr. Bill Heid. Bill, three words for you – Irene, Irene, Irene.

Bill: Do you know what I mean? Do you know what I mean? Do you know what I mean? I have to tell you, Brian, I was impressed that CBS flew you out for the interview and you did very nice work there.

Brian: Thank you very much.

Bill: That was good. But then on Saturday, I’m on my treadmill, and I’m getting ready for Saturday night – whatever that is. It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I think 4:30, trying to get my workout for my diabetes and all that I have to do. Normally, I don’t have the news turned on so I couldn’t hear anything because I probably have some crazy sermon or something playing. All of a sudden, there’s your mug on FOX. I quickly shut off Spurgeon or whoever it was I was listening to …

Brian: Thank you, my friend.

Bill: And wanted to know what you had to say. I was shocked to see that you were on FOX – shocked and happy to see your deal. You were getting people prepared for the hurricane.

Brian: Bill, as you know, I got my start in this industry in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I was a reporter for CBS and went down to Gulfport, Mississippi and regions around Biloxi and the like to cover the aftermath. As you know, as my friend, it left an indelible mark on my mind and on my soul. To see what happens when a wall of water, driven by those winds … I remember, it was just five years later – we said this weekend “what a coincidence” – five years to the weekend that I was reporting on Hurricane Katrina, here comes Hurricane Irene. People forget, Katrina when it came on shore was only a Category 2. It wasn’t like Katrina was a Category 5. There were people for months after that storm that still didn’t have power. So, yes, when CBS or FOX or Good Morning America calls, it’s pretty much left over from the days where I was surviving in the aftermath of Katrina.

Bill: You were known as the go-to guy, really, in the hurricane.

Brian: Yes.

Bill: You saw a lot of crazy stuff – I know things that we’ve discussed, things that you saw human nature take over and do that I think you never really expected either, did you?

Brian: I was prepared, Bill, as you know for what a 35-foot wall of wind-driven water would do to the infrastructure. I anticipated what the buildings would look like –the trees, boats, cars thrown all willy-nilly. Candidly, I wasn’t ready for what the casinos looked like there. To see monstrosities that large lifted off their moorings carried miles inland and when the water pulled out it pancaked anything it found. I wasn’t prepared for that. I also wasn’t prepared for, as you said, the human nature of it. What happens when people lose their food? They lose their power. They lose the ability to get fresh drinking water. Remember when storm surge comes in, in that region or any region that’s affected by the initial impact of a hurricane, it brings salt water. Salt water, as you know, compromises all the fresh drinking water wells. They’re destroyed. You can be like “let me see if I can filter some of that salt water out of my well” – never happens, they’re destroyed. So for me, what caused me to have the job or the life that I do now is, watching the people fight over power. I interviewed a gentleman who had been robbed of his generator. I watched people that had no power, no water, no food – by the time I had gotten there it had been a couple of days – they had nothing. All the creature comforts had been taken from them in one Category 2 storm that everyone saw coming, Bill. You can’t say “well, Brian, it was a tornado. You can’t expect them to have been prepared for it because it came out of the blue.” That’s not true at all. As you remember …

Bill: Some people just won’t leave. No matter what.

Brian: They won’t leave. And they won’t listen. They won’t listen. What was it, three or four months later, Jeremy, there was the hurricane that came into Florida? Still people waiting for food, still people waiting for water, still people wondering “wow, the power really did go out …” They don’t leave and they don’t listen. They don’t listen. Look this morning – I know you have a report from the Department of Energy you’re going to read for us. How many people do you think anticipated that today, Bill, today we would still have 3.3 million people – is that what the report says?

Bill: Yeah and states like Connecticut with 33 percent loss of power of all of the citizens. Virginia with 14 percent, Rhode Island looks like 32 percent. Maryland at 13 percent. There’s a lot of folks still without power.

Brian: 400,000 people without power in Virginia; 563,000 people, Bill, in New York without power. I know people say all the time “Bri, you get on your soapbox and you talk about the power source or you talk about the power hub” or some of the other things that we have here that allow us, when the grid goes down, to tap into those energies. But if you’re one of the five or six hundred thousand people in New York that are going into your second day without power, you’re hurting.

Bill: Oh, you’re hurting. And without lights, at a minimum, things seem less civilized.

Brian: Without lights? How about as the temperatures climb there now in the aftermath of the storm, without fans, without the ability to keep your food. Suppose you need medication and you’re one of the 563,000 people in New York, 369,000 people in New Jersey, that have no power? You’re not running a refrigerator. It’s not like you don’t get to watch TV. There’s some real heartache going down when 48 hours later, arguably, within a couple of hours – 3.3 million people still without power. With some exceptions though – our listeners.

Bill: Don’t you think, in a way, whether you can say that … I don’t really think … there’s a debate right now that people are saying “the storm was hyped up.” I think that the … everyone had to say “this may come and whack you” because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

Brian: Sure. And they’re not giving the meteorologists a lot of credit. They pinpointed within 10 miles, Bill, where the eye was going to come on. You can’t tell what the wind speed is going to be when it gets there. But can you imagine? Within 10 miles they knew where the eye was going to come ashore? Two days out.

Bill: That’s pretty accurate. Then not being able to pinpoint exactly how much rain or exactly how much wind – I think it’s incumbent upon the government, meteorologists – whoever has the data – to say “here’s the precautions that we probably ought to take.” I’m probably a Ron Paul guy – I’m probably going to say I’m not sure we need FEMA to tell us this, I think we’re probably good with meteorologists and with our state officials but that’s – whatever it is, it is, right now. You just need to pay attention to what people are saying.

Brian: And prepare. Like I said on the CBS spot, I said “if you have a plan then there’s no reason to panic.” Our saying that we use all the time, Bill, “if you panic, you perish.” If you have a plan and some of the gear, you can survive almost anything. I know it wasn’t a popular position to take – you saw the spot, when she’s like “Brian, you’re not saying that people shouldn’t evacuate …” I go “look, human beings have survived for eons. If you have a plan and you have a certain amount of gear to help you keep that plan in effect, you can survive anything – almost anything.”

Bill: You do need some gear though. Let’s be candid, whether you would get that gear from us or whoever, you’ve got to stock up. The people that have a plan do tend to make it and maybe are even able to help others.

Brian: We’re going to run to a quick commercial break in about two minutes and then I’ve got someone that you’re going to love to talk to – it’s someone that did have the presence of mind to not only enact a plan but to get some pretty cool gear to be able to help her do just that. I want to say the name, because it’s someone you know, but we have a caller calling in, in the beginning of the next segment, that’s using her PowerSource 1800 to actually even keep her cell phone charged to make the call, Bill, into the show, because power is out and she doesn’t even have a land line phone.

Bill: … doesn’t even have a cell phone.

Brian: Doesn’t even have a cell phone. If it’s cool with Jeremy, he’s giving me the thumbs up – let’s go ahead and run to a quick commercial break and then when we come back, Bill, I want to get you introduced to our caller and then get some feedback from you because you’re living on the Mississippi River – you know what it’s like to have Mother Nature affect your plans as well. Ladies and gentlemen, come on back to this very special edition – the Hurricane Irene edition of Off the Grid News.

[0:08:44 – 0:13:00 break]

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, as the announcer says, this if Off the Grid News with 3.3 million people at our recording, Bill, absolutely looking at a different paradigm. Woke up this morning, thought they could flick a switch, thought their fridge was going to run, thought they’d have communications – a whole host of things. 3.3 million people taken back to the Stone Age because of Hurricane Irene and because of not having a plan in advance to what happens if the power goes down. You have a beautiful cabin on the Mississippi River. You’re no stranger to Mother Nature reaching up and smacking us around.

Bill: Yeah, you could lose your power. You could lose – at some point, when the rivers start to get high around here, you cut the power – cut bait and head for the hills is what you do, candidly. [laughing] Sometimes we see things coming here, sometimes we don’t. We usually pay attention to the Army Corps river gauges and they tell us when that water is coming. We have a plan for when that does occur. We know exactly when the water is a certain level, when to take action and get the heck out of Dodge, and we do so because we just know, this set of circumstances arises it’s going to be wet and there’s no reason to hang out and experience that. It could be a beautiful day one day and then, like the ocean or any large body of water, you say “this is one of the most beautiful things …” You’ve been down to the cabin, we hang out down there. You say “this is unbelievably gorgeous” and then the winds come up, the water rises and it’s a vicious pounding. Everything in its way gets waved and crushed and smashed. We saw some of that, didn’t we? Over the last weekend.

Brian: Absolutely.

Bill: We saw just what it does. Maybe Irene wasn’t as potent as it could have been but still a lot of damage.

Brian: When you think about it, 3.3 million still without power. A lot of the damage came after the fact – the winds. I think we’ll find when this report flushes itself out that some of the people are without power now because of the rising water levels. I read something this morning where the greatest flooding in Vermont in a century … as we talk a lot about Tier 1 survival, we talk about impact survival, how to survive the initial onslaught of the emergency – whatever that is. But then there’s the sustained or secondary survival level where you need continual …

Bill: You need two plans then, you’re saying? Basically you need two plans.

Brian: I think so.

Bill: Our caller today is …

Brian: Had two plans …

Bill: Our caller had two plans and the original “sustain the impact of it” but now is living a more long-term version of it without power.

Brian: You’re going to be very surprised – as soon as I say her name …

Bill: It’s almost like a birthday party – a surprise party.

Brian: Yeah, this is like a roast – a Comedy Central roast for Bill Heid – he doesn’t know … or “This is Your Life.” Jeremy’s too young to remember “This is Your Life. We have Eileen on the phone who does a good bit, as you know, of the writing for us and making sure that things are right. Eileen, say hello to Bill. Good morning, how are you?

Eileen: Good morning, Bill, how are you?

Bill: Eileen, you know what? I am high, dry and using power on the grid as we speak but tell us about your situation. You’re less fortunate. How did it all go down? You had emailed before, saying what was expected, so I knew what you guys were bracing for. But then how did it actually go down and what are you doing now? You still don’t have any power, right?

Eileen: We still don’t have any power. The good thing about a hurricane is a couple of days after the weather is usually gorgeous. The downside of that is that I’ve had to close all my windows because otherwise I would be drowned out by all the generators from the houses around me because they’re all running generators. We are still without power a couple of days after Irene has hit. I believe it was only a tropical storm when it hit here. I don’t even think it was a Cat 1. I’m not sure how that went down. But we lost power early Saturday evening and I knew we’d be out for a while because we usually are around here when it goes down. The storm really picked up overnight – midnight it peaked. We had our plan in place. We knew our number one concern was going to be with the heavy rains. We have two sump pumps in our home and we knew they would get overwhelmed and be a danger of flooding. Back in Hurricane Floyd, in 1999, when our kids were really small, we had to form a bucket brigade with the kids in the middle of the night for a couple of hours to bail so that our sump pumps didn’t overflow into our carpeted basement and really cause some damage. Our plan this time was that we were going to – we have a PowerSource 1800 and we knew that our Tier 1 – our priority one was we’ve got to get those sump pumps clear and the water levels down enough until the pressure equalizes so that we don’t have the flooding. We started doing that sometime overnight Saturday night into Sunday, I’m not even sure. We were up most of the night, taking turns. We have four kids and our two older kids are 19 and 20 so we tag teamed that. People would get sleep while other people would keep an eye on the sump pumps and then they’d wake my husband or me if it looked like it might flood and do we want to turn on the PowerSource 1800. That’s what we did. We did that a couple of times during the night. Our sump pumps suck a lot of power. We knew that they would probably really tax the PowerSource 1800 and it drew the battery down pretty far but that was OK because we didn’t flood. The next morning – the sun came out on Sunday around 2:00 in the afternoon. I immediately got that solar panel up, right away.

Bill: Stop for a second, Eileen. You actually made it through – your unit kept your basement from flooding?

Eileen: That is correct.

Bill: That’s awesome.

Eileen: it is. That was the biggie. There’s two biggies in our household – keep the basement from flooding and then the next thing for me is to keep our extra freezer running because I keep them stocked full of a lot of healthy, grass-fed meat so that represents a substantial investment. I can’t tell you how many times the power has gone out and I’ve lost hundreds of dollars worth of food in that freezer. We actually used a little bit of juice left in that PowerSource 1800 to shoot some current into that freezer to have it run through a couple of cooling cycles to keep the chest freezer cold. That worked great as well. Sunday afternoon the sun came out around 2:00. We immediately got that – I believe it’s a 90 Watt solar panel – up with the PowerSource 1800 and got that charging again so we had more electricity as we needed to. That was our workhorse, that was the heavy weight. Then our second priority was – I also have a PowerPack 600 – that was fully charged and ready to go and that one we used to charge all the cell phones and keep them charged and topped off, which we’re still doing. Then the other thing was I have some of your light bulbs – the Solutions from Science LED light bulb. We had one lamp on the central table in the dining area that’s a family hub in the family center of the house. We put that light on with the PowerPack 600 once it got dark. Let me tell you, it made it feel so normal. You didn’t have the candles and the oil lanterns which I always worry about fire and I’m a nervous Nellie so that was great to have a light that was a real light. We sat around the dining room table after the sun went down and we played board games – we’ve done this now for two nights in a row – and just had a great time. We had our PowerSource 1800 running the heavy stuff and still charging and that’s running my refrigerator today and then we had the PowerPack 600 for the lighter duty things. I’ve actually even used it a little bit for my laptop.

Brian: Eileen, the next time CBS calls me I think I’m just going to send you. That’s everything I did as a survival expert – “let’s get Brian on camera … let’s fly him.” You’re perfect. You talk about keeping the family together, keeping everyone from panicking by playing board games. You raise a very valid point about not using candles because of the fire hazard. I will tell you, I was in the green room getting ready to do the CBS people and the local – I won’t tell you what station – but the local news affiliate – you know how these news anchors try to sound cool and he goes “well, don’t forget to … we can’t overstate the importance of candle.” The meteorologist that he’s taking the toss goes “candles? What, are you kidding me?” The camera goes back on the anchor’s face because the anchor was mortified that he would be challenged. He goes “do you know how many fires start because people burn candles when they don’t have power and their house burns down? Candles? Don’t listen to him – you don’t want to use candles in an emergency situation.” So when you said that you’re a nervous Nellie, don’t be – any survival expert worth their weight will tell you candles are a last ditch effort if you don’t have your power.

Eileen: Yeah. And I’ll tell you what, when the power goes out around here – and as I said, it seems to go out a lot – my family will tell you that I am not the nicest person to be around. For some reason, that one event just pushes all my stress buttons. This time, my family’s like “wow, mom! This didn’t seem to bother you nearly as much …” I’m like “yeah, because we have backup. We have systems in place. I’m not worried about losing $500 worth of grass-fed meat. I’m not worried about the basement flooding …” It’s just amazing the peace of mind that it’s given me. I also have to say I slept better too. This is kind of funny – you all had kindly sent me a sample of the Solutions from Science gel mat. You sent me the small one, not the big one. I had asked my kids to test it out because their bedrooms get a little hotter than mine do and they said “no, no, we don’t want to test this dumb thing out.” I said “fine, fine, I’ll use it.” Well, now with now AC the past few nights – it’s Maryland – granted the nights stay cooler but it’s also pretty humid. I have been using this gel mat and it helps me fall asleep right away because it’s so cool and it keeps me comfortable. Of course now my kids are like “can we try that gel mat?” I’m like “nope. Sorry. You had your chance. It’s mine.”

Brian: [laughs] That’s right! Eileen, listen, we’re going to have to run to a quick commercial and we don’t want you to use all the juice in your phone talking to us, but can we get you to stay for one more segment? We’ll run to a commercial and come back?

Eileen: Sure thing.

Brian: Fantastic. Thank you so much. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break. Come on back. Irene coverage here at Off the Grid News.

[0:23:51 – 0:28:06 break]

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to a very special edition of Off the Grid News Radio. I’m Brian Brawdy, as always here with Mr. Bill Heid. We have a very special guest today, calling in via a phone – but a phone, Bill, powered by the PowerSource 1800. We’re talking with Eileen who is one of the 3.3 million people on the east coast today without power.

Bill: Still no power and it’s just great that there are people that have taken some precautions. Eileen, you’re certainly one of them. We were talking on the break a little bit about what you had said earlier with the carbon monoxide – with all of the gas generators outside that most people up the street probably have. It’s rackety, they’re hard to get started sometimes, they’re a great last resort – there’s no doubt about that. But carbon monoxide is another issue and we had just looked up on the internet, in 2008, Hurricane Ike, there were at least seven deaths associated with people running – it’s like candles, Brian – you’re running stuff, sometimes you lose track of what you’re doing, you place it in the wrong place and there’s tragedy associated with that.

Brian: And you think of it – we talked earlier, Bill, that Bill O’Reilly, for those of our listeners that watch “The Factor” and “The O’Reilly Show” and Mr. O’Reilly saying “run out and get a generator.” I can tell you that carbon monoxide – it’s odorless, it’s tasteless, it’s colorless, you can’t see it, it’s heavier than the air – it will find you and it is absolutely deadly. Absolutely deadly. People go “well, you can’t smell it … how do you …” It will kill you in a heartbeat because of the way that it interacts with the blood in your bloodstream. When people say “you know what? We should run out and buy a generator” – great, until the local gas station is out of diesel or out of gas, until your propane tank is drained. What are you going to do then? People say “run out and get a generator” – what if everyone in the neighborhood around Eileen is busy running their generator? Coming across the wire right now, “parts of New Jersey will not have power restored until Friday.”

Bill: Whoa.

Brian: So what are you going to do? What if there’s a run on gas? What if a street is out? What if the gas station doesn’t have any power? How are you going to get the gas to fuel your generator if you don’t have a solar generator?

Bill: In Bill O’Reilly’s defense, I’m not sure he knows all of the options that are out there.

Brian: Fair enough.

Bill: He probably lives in a nice country home where he has a lot of his own backup and … his situation is probably very different. But I think just hearing Eileen say that all those folks that had those running, I started thinking of – I know when I try to run mine, which is in the wintertime – ice storms here tend to knock the power out a lot – I have a heck of a time trying to get mine started. Now with my rotator cuff, it’s even a bigger hassle because I’m pulling …

Eileen: Bill, if I could jump in here, a while back my husband bought a generator. He didn’t want to spend a lot of money so he bought one for $150, which tells me it probably isn’t very good quality. We’ve never been able to get the darned thing started. So what’s the point in that?

Bill: A guy should almost – that’s a good point – a guy should almost start – if you do have a gas generator, there’s another preparation thing – you probably ought to be starting that thing up once a month and just running a little gas. Your gas will turn to a sludgy, varnish kind of stuff unless you treat it. You ought to be starting it up and running it – if you do own a gas generator – start it up and run it every month, just so it stay tuned, cleaned and ready to go in case you need it.

Brian: I can almost picture in my mind, Bill – Eileen and her husband having a race. He’s out trying to crank on the gas generator and Eileen goes “excuse me, nitwit,” walks right by him, puts the solar panel in direct sunlight – point, plug, power up – and Eileen’s sitting there going “tick, tick, tick …” Who’s the guy who pulled the sword from the stone? Who’s the guy …

Bill: Arthur and Excalibur.

Brian: “Hey, Arthur, how’s that going? Getting that generator started, Arthur?” And she’s back powering her fan.

Eileen: Here’s the other thing about generators and maybe it’s just a pet peeve of mine, but in terms of being a good neighbor – now, perhaps my neighbors needed to run medical equipment, I really don’t know, but they’re running their generators – one of them behind me – all night long. People have their windows open because it’s hot and they want to get a breeze. Well, that’s pretty darned noisy when you’re on 1/8 or ¼ acre home lots. So in terms of being a good neighbor, I’m thinking it’s kind of inconsiderate to be running that generator all night long unless you have a really good reason for doing that.

Bill: let me jump in and say this, Brian’s analogy earlier, where if you’re in a crisis situation – let’s take you running that generator all night long in New Orleans during Katrina – that’s a strong message for someone to come and steal your generator. One of the nice things about solar generators is obvious, it’s a stealth operation. But if you’re advertising – Brian, you tell me what you think, you covered that – if someone ran their generator all night long and there’s roving gangs, which there was. No one can say that there wasn’t because you experienced that. What are they going to do when they hear a generator going? They’re going to say “there’s cash flow for us.”

Brian: Bill, I interviewed a guy who was robbed at gunpoint for his generator. What storms also do is hurricanes hurt human beings with the initial impact but they also hurt after the fact because there are some people out there in our society that are going to do what they have to do to survive. “You’ve got a generator, I don’t; I’ve got a gun, you don’t.” Do the math. And if you’re of that mindset where you’d have no problem robbing another human being, sure, you listen for the generators. That’s when they would go through and after a 30 minute trip into the ‘burbs, you now have four generators. You’re sitting pretty, someone else has been robbed, but you’re absolutely right. I know it sounds like a commercial but I’ve always been a fan of the PowerSource 1800 since the day you and I first met. Or we talked this morning about my PowerHub and PowerHub Plus because it’s quiet. There’s no gas, no odor, no noise, no bling. You’re not advertising to a would-be robber in your neighborhood that you’ve got a generator inside. You don’t have to worry about the carbon monoxide. I’ve yet to find a downside to having a solar generator given the list of things I saw happen in the aftermath of Katrina.

Bill: We’ve never talked about the fact that you never – this is turning into a little bit of a segment on the generator – but you never have to buy gas, ever. It’s not like “I’m going to be inconvenienced this time, during the storm,” we’re talking about ever.

Brian: Yeah, ever. And I will say to you, a lot of times I’ll meet people on the street, Bill, and they’ll go “well, what goods a solar generator when it’s cloudy and a hurricane’s out?”

Eileen: it charges up fine. I had no troubles this week.

Brian: There you go. Not only that, Eileen, I was going to say Shephard was reporting on FOX – 30 minutes after the winds moved through, guess what New York City had at Battery Park? 30 minutes after the winds moved through …

Bill: Sunshine.

Brian: Sunshine. So you leave your generator plugged in. As Eileen said, “we left the PowerPack plugged in. We had everything plugged in.” Then after the storm she relied, waited for the sun to come out – that’s a plan. Listen to her talk again, and Eileen, if you could comment again on the peace of mind. Or maybe we should interview your kids and your husband going “you slept great, you weren’t crazed, you weren’t …” I can’t imagine you being hard to get along with.

Eileen: Oh, the stories they could tell you. I turn into a horrible human being when there’s no power.

Brian: OK, could you pass the phone to one of them please? This is radio. Any kid running by, just hand him the phone and come back to us …

Eileen: Nope, not going to do it. Not going to do it.

Brian: Smart woman. But talk to us about the peace of mind of knowing that the sump pump was going to work and you were going to be OK.

Eileen: That’s the biggie. That’s the biggie – it took my stress levels way down to where they normally would be in a power outage because I knew that we’re not going to have flooding in the basement, we’re not going to have mildew and must and all those yucky things that you have to deal with later if you’ve got a flooded basement. For me, again, the biggie was so many times I’ve lost a freezer full of food and I was bound and determined this would not be the case this time. We planned ahead and – we actually have two freezers in the basement and both of them were half full, because I have my little system of when I bought this half a cow and that half a pig … anyway, I put it all into the chest freezer because it would all fit and then I stocked the upright freezer with ice and I did that earlier in the week, four days before anybody else thought of ice, so that I knew we could operate out of coolers if we needed to. Then everything was in the chest freezer. It was full so I knew that it would take a minimum amount of power to keep it cold – a full freezer is better to keep cold longer than a half-empty one.
We had all this in place. We knew how we were going to use the power. We knew our priorities. We knew that if the worst thing that could happen would be if the basement got flooded, that would be the biggest impact in terms of dollar damage, inconvenience and possibly a health issue. We knew that if it completely expended the PowerSource 1800 battery on just that and we got no further, that was OK because that was the most important. Then onto the second priority which was the freezer which kept running. Third priority, with the PowerPack 600 for lighter duty stuff, it’s been great at keeping the cell phones charged and the LED light and the laptops. I think I even let one of my kids plug in a Nintendo for a little while. So, yeah, again it was about the triage, it was about having the plan and knowing that we’ve got the worst case scenario covered. OK? Good. Now we’ve got the second worst case scenario covered and so on and so forth.

Bill: So then you probably, with respect to your basement, my guess is you probably paid for it – over one weekend you probably justified your cost because you think about a PowerSource and you think about what meat you had – what would it cost to have a cleaning recovery team come in and clean your basement, if you can get one because guess how many other basements would be flooded? Number one …

Eileen: And insurance won’t cover that. Insurance will not cover flooding in most cases. We have opted not to get flood insurance just because it’s so seldom that it happens. If a hurricane comes through once every eight years, maybe. Your homeowner’s insurance typically won’t cover that so we haven’t covered it. Again, that would all be on us. That would be a couple of thousand to clean up and re-carpet the basement and maybe rip some sheetrock if it’s mildewed the sheetrock. So, yeah, you’re talking a lot of money. Then, again, the amount of food in the freezer is substantial – I’m guessing probably $500 in there right now. So, yeah, the costs can be tremendous.

Bill: So flood insurance – PowerSource ends up being your flood insurance in this case.

Eileen: It sure did for us.

Bill: Well I’m glad you guys are OK. That’s a wonderful thing that you made it through. Not only that you made it through but it seems like everybody had some family time – this is the kind of stuff that Brian and I talk about on this show, is people making the best out of a situation like that. It sounds like you’ve really done the best with what you’ve had, so congratulations.

Eileen: We have and they’re saying now it could be as late as Friday till we’re restored. Hopefully it’ll be sooner but it could be, in fact, that long. So we’ve got the plan. We’ve got the sun out, solar panel charging – we’ll be fine.

Bill: I’m glad you had a plan. There’s another one coming, by the way. I don’t know what it’s called – what is it called?

Brian: Is it Kitschla? Did you see that, Eileen?

Bill: There’s another one lining up …

Brian: Yeah, Category 3 just east of Cuba or it will be east of Cuba.

Eileen: I’m a little nervous about that because I’ve got a big birthday party coming up. I’m turning 50 and I’m hoping – it’s right around the time that big party would be so I’ll be a little bit annoyed if a hurricane ruins my birthday party.


Brian: Then we’ll root for it not to come near you, how would that be?

Eileen: That would be great. [laughing]

Brian: Alright, Eileen, we promised we wouldn’t keep you more than two segments because we don’t want your phone to run out of charge, but thank you so very much for sharing your story and don’t forget – give your daughters the 800 number here to the studio if they want to call and give us some dirt on you.

Eileen: Will do. [laughing]

Brian: Alright. We hope you guys are well and we’ll speak to you soon. Ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to run to a quick commercial break and then I want to talk with Bill Heid when I get back. Bill, a lot of people in Maryland, according to the wire right now, upset with their local BG&E – not just Hurricane Irene but now the local utility company is coming under fire for not getting power restored fast enough. Ladies and gentlemen, come on back. This is a segment you’re not going to want to miss.

[0:40:54 – 0:45-10 break]

Brian: Ladies and gentlemen, as the announcer says, welcome back to Off the Grid Radio. We’re here with a very special edition today, talking about Hurricane Irene. More importantly, Bill, the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. There’s 3.3 million people thinking the hurricane would blow in, there’d be a little bit of wind, it would blow out and they’d be all set. But at the time of our recording, 3.3 million people on the east coast still without power – except those that had a plan.

Bill: Except those that prepared for the worst. Even President Obama told everybody to prepare for the worst. A few people did, a few people didn’t. Some people – I have to tell you, I’m always amazed by these guys that – did you see these shots on the cable networks of the Jersey shoreline? These people – it’s like they’re walking, some guys were coming up – two guys were getting ready to jog and they were jogging up and they got up to the boardwalk there and they were shocked and amazed that there was inclement weather. It’s like “where in the heck …” I’m watching this on TV and I’m thinking “where have these guys been?”

Brian: The only thing that’s more laughable to me, and I get to slam them because that’s my job, former and current, but these TV reporters. We get that when you stand out in the wind it’s going to be windy. “Breaking news – if you stand out in the wind, it’s going to blow your clothing around.” [laughs] I just chuckle at the number of TV reporters that need to put themselves – you can barely hear them, they’re getting pelted by wind and …

Bill: Don’t you think they want … you’ve been in this industry so you’re looking for drama. Then what’s interesting is if you go set up – and let’s say you’re one of the guys that’s in 50-60 mile an hour winds and it’s Jim Cantore – he always is … they always show him with his windbreaker being blown asunder and such and his hair wet. But what about one of these guys that gets stationed someplace where it doesn’t really do much and then they have to say “I’m standing here in two inches of water, Chris, and it looks like it’s clouding up.” They have to try to make something out of nothing that’s there. They’re still there to do a show.

Brian: They’re still there to do a show. Now they’re kneeling in water, acting like it’s up over their kneecaps. They’re version of Dorf on golf. I will tell you, Bill, it’s the drama. What is that show, Jeremy, “TNT knows drama.” No, watch CNN’s coverage. CNN knows drama. Any of your major news outlets – “this is going to be a devastating storm and we’re awaiting its arrival …” – almost like they’re hoping that it’s worse than it is.

Bill: Well they have to be somewhat serious because we can lose some human lives so there’s that element of that, but then when it doesn’t present itself, sometimes it just seems a little whacky.

Brian: Not only whacky, but it’s a disservice, Bill. How many people now are going to go “they’re meshugana. I’m not going to listen to the media.” Then when “the one” hits and we lose lives because people have grown apathetic because of this media coverage, and it didn’t materialize, there’s a lot of people going “I’m not going to … who cares if the mayor evacuates me?” Who cares if Governor Christie says “don’t be stupid and stand on the beach.”

Bill: Are you saying maybe if this other one comes up that there’s going to be a lot more people this time. Let’s say there’s another hurricane that would hit the east coast, heaven forbid. Because it wasn’t as big an impact as maybe what they said, that a lot of people now will just say “this is crazy. Why would I want to go …”

Brian: “Why would I leave? Why the hype?” It was more hype than hurricane but you still have to tell people the storm is on the way. I even said in the green room at CBS – they go “what do you think?” I go “it’s all hype. It’ll be a tropical storm when it gets to Manhattan.”

Bill: Think of the fallout though. I think no one wants to take what President Bush got on Katrina so if they’re going to err on the side of preparedness, I think that cities, states, municipalities – everyone’s going to say “take cover.” But there’s some real costs associated with closing down this part of the city or doing that or telling 3 million people all to cross a bridge at the same time. That’s like going in a movie house and yelling “fire,” right? In a crowded movie house. Isn’t that saying “you guys should all cross that bridge right now.”

Brian: That’s why I tell you, the two things I don’t trust are politicians and the power grid. You look at the people that could have told more about the ice storms in the northeast last year, the snowstorms where there was some pretty big-name government officials that were not responding to the snowstorm fast enough. They’re out in front of the cameras now going “run away, run away.” Reminded me of Kevin Bacon in “Animal House,” “… all is calm! All is calm!” and then he gets run over by the marching band. Yeah, a lot of politicians scrambling for the cameras this weekend.

Bill: A lot of them scrambling and a lot of our celebrities were scrambling too. I heard Shep one time – I actually called Jeremy because you weren’t around, you were actually doing some TV – I called Jeremy and I said “Jeremy, I just heard” – because I have XM or Sirius and I’m driving around getting some gas to mow my yard. Shep Smith says something to the extent of “according to the information we have, Hurricane Irene appears to be bearing down on Snookie and her friends.” Here’s a business opportunity for anybody that wants a business – start a website that shows if all of our celebrities are OK. Not us but our celebrities.

Brian: Maybe celebrities and their pets.

Bill: Let’s talk about this new piece of equipment that we just are doing. Tier 1 survival could be “is Snookie OK?”

Brian: In Snookie’s mind it’s Tier 1.

Bill: That’d be Tier 1. Are our celebrities healthy and OK? I’ll take a hit but I don’t want anything to happen to Britney Spears or someone.

Brian: God save the queen and god save Lady Gaga. Alright, so that would be a great time, right now, to announce – because I’m very excited about this – you know me, when you find a solution, to quote John Candy, “when I find something that works, I stick with it.” Over the last two years, Bill, we’ve been talking PowerSources, we’ve been talking PowerHubs, PowerHub Plusses. We still – I got an email today before I came in, that piece of paper that I showed you, a guy going “I need even more power. What are you going to do?” By the time our show airs, the word is going to be out there about the Power Station 4000 Flex. I am tremendously excited about this. Go ahead and give us a little riff on the 4000 Flex because it’s going to revolutionize what people think about getting emergency plug-and-play backup power and not having to spend six figures to do it.

Bill: I think it’s rather an innovation in the industry. Usually what is required is you either – you’ve got a little plug-and-play unit like we just heard Eileen and it saved her basement or you say “I’m totally off the grid and I’m totally covered. I’ve spent $80,000 and I’ve got this grid tie system.” What we’ve gone ahead and done is created what you had termed a flexible system or a flex system that allows you to target certain parts of your house and wire up certain circuits – certain outlets, if you will, that you would like to see to be able to simply hit a switch to be able to say “OK, we’re going off grid with our Tier 1 stuff.” It allows you to create your own grid, your own Tier 1 survival power system. It’ll also allow you to stay on the grid if you want to watch the Bear-Packer game that we do here on your big plasma TV and that requires a lot of power and you don’t want to harvest the sun’s power for something like that, you can go ahead and do that too. This is truly the first flexible system of its kind that I’m aware of. It can also do 220, run well pumps and do all kinds of things. We can ship it anywhere in the world and it can adapt to any kind of power system. We can provide power literally anywhere in the globe in this fashion. It’s an innovation. We’ve got to thank our buddy Dave Fink for his innovations …

Brian: Two years, as you know, Bill, in research and development. Dave worked around the clock to help develop a thing, as you say, that’s flexible in that regard because maybe it’s most important that you have your TV on so you can know what happened to Snookie when the storm hit. Maybe – and this was brilliant on your part, I really mean this – I never would have thought of spending thousands of dollars – I have friends that have done it and it didn’t correlate in my mind – thousands of dollars on exotic saltwater fish then the power goes down and your fish all die.

Bill: I have friends with big aquariums so that’s a huge deal. It wouldn’t even appear to be of something of interest to someone that doesn’t like that kind of thing but you can spend – Eileen we were talking – what’s it cost to clean your basement? What’s it cost to lose $30,000 worth of fish? Oh, boy, what people can spend – especially a lot of friend in Florida that I have, had big aquariums and with a lot of fish that they’ve spent a lot of money on.

Brian: Think about your cat, your dog – think about pets that you may have. What happens if a storm blows through and then it’s 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity and you don’t have a fan for your pets? When you said that to me, it made – again, that’s what I liked about the flex is that our listeners will decide what power concerns are their Tier 1. You and I don’t get to vote on what their Tier 1 is. They may say “you know what? The heck with the fish, I need my medications cooled.” Or they might say “I need medications, fish. I don’t need a big screen plasma TV. I need my little XM radio to keep in touch.” That’s the beauty, I think, of the PowerStation Flex 4000 is that you make the call – the old phrase – you make the call. You decide what outlets are going to be powered in your own home. You decide how to use those natural energies of the sun to keep your Tier 1 requirements up and running regardless of what happens to the power grid.

Bill: I agree. It’s pretty cool, too. We’re talking about bringing the grid back up. If anybody that’s watched the videos that have been on all week showing – there’s a really interesting scene where Dave shows you how to bring your own grid back up, where you flip a switch – let’s say the grid goes down – you go downstairs or wherever you decide to place the unit – you flip literally one switch and you bring the grid back up. You don’t have to wait till the equivalent of Friday, whatever it is, your grid comes back up because you’ve decided when you want your grid to come back up.

Brian: That’s absolutely true. It’s one switch. You don’t have to be an electrical engineer. We went ahead and retained the electrical engineer. We went ahead and retained the guy, two years of research and development, that went ahead to make it that simple for you. You make the call, you decide in that emergency situation, what you’re going to power. To me, if there’s a unit out there like that, I don’t know of it. When we say it’s truly unique, a technological advance that’s bar none, I don’t know of another one like it, that’s why I’m so fired up about it.

Bill: And we put the website – Jeremy, tell me if I’m wrong – that people can go to to check it out. If you haven’t seen the videos that we’ve been sending out all week, you can go ahead and go to and watch the videos. We’ve sent one out on Tuesday, one out on Wednesday, one out on Thursday, about the new system. We’ve had people, as you said, asking us for two years – since we started the business there’s always the need for more power. Here’s our answer and we think this is quite a thing, quite an innovation as I said.

Brian: What we’ll do is we’ll also invite our guests to come to Facebook. If you look for us on Facebook – – maybe we can put up a link, Jeremy, so people that want to get the website can log on right there. Bill, we’re going to have to run, unfortunately. Any closing thoughts before we give it a wrap?

Bill: No. There’s more hurricanes coming and around here you can see, Brian, as we walked into the studio today, fall leaves are here which means it won’t be too long even though it’s a nice day here today in northern Illinois – ice storms, snowstorms are right around the corner. In the line of what you’ve always said about being prepared, now’s a really good time. Go to the ant, go listen and you do your work in the summertime so you’re ready when winter comes. Winter always comes in one way or another.

Brian: And threats to our grid – solar flares, terrorist attacks – you and I have been talking about it for years. You never can tell. But what you do know is that if the grid goes down, you’re responsible for yourself and your family. You don’t get to point a finger – all these people upset this morning – 3.3 million people going “BG&E … Long Island Power …” – you can point the finger at them but ultimately you have to be the one that crafts a plan and then enacts it or your family could be without. Ladies and gentlemen, as always, thank you for listening to Off the Grid Radio. We really do listen to your questions, your comments and your critiques, so please keep sending them to [email protected]. As I mentioned, you can find us on Facebook – and follow us on Twitter @offgridnews. Thank you so very much. On behalf of Mr. Bill Heid and everyone here at Off the Grid News, I’m Brian Brawdy.

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