Loaning Preps to Non-Survivalists

By Mamabear

25 September 2003

During Hurricane Isabel (Sept. 18, 2003), our family was well-equipped with creature comforts such as a refrigerator/freezer, freezer, real lamps, sump pump, small room air conditioner, TV, DVD, VCR, laptop, boombox, and radios. This was because we had alternate energy (marine batteries/inverters) that supplied us with power thanks to the excellent Rubicon articles on these subjects.

We were without electricity for 36 hours. After our power was restored, I succumbed to a bad case of the Do-Gooder Savior Syndrome: I wanted to help my less-fortunate friends who were still without water, gas, and electricity after 5 days.

My husband’s work acquaintance was one of those people still in the dark (both literally and figuratively). We schlepped over our entire stock of alternate energy preps to her house out in the country: 3 marine batteries, 3 inverters, utility cords, multimeter, and even distilled water for the batteries. She and her family (hubby and twin 8-year-old boys) had no electricity, no water (her well is 250 feet deep), and no gas.

We rigged everything up for the wife (her husband was at work) and showed her how to compute the watts so she wouldn’t overload the 1000 watt inverters (Rubicon Home Power, Part 1).

As we left, I had a warm, fuzzy feeling about my good deed. How could anyone NOT see the benefits of having emergency preps on hand after this live demonstration?!

My Savior Syndrome was further strengthened by her phone call that evening telling us it was great to have real lamps, not just the single Coleman LED lantern they had been using.

As hubby and I hit the sack, I heard the weather report calling for flood warnings and heavy rains for our county that night. I had a twinge of uneasiness about that, but shook it off.

I was awakened at 0430 by the sound of the wind tearing at the window screens and heavy rain beating against the side of the house. I realized that I didn’t have a single battery/inverter on hand because they were at our friend’s house. I cursed my shortsightedness and went back to sleep.

When we woke up, we found out that there had been a tornado close to us, 4 inches of rain, and that many people were again without power. We still had ours, thank heavens….

At 0700 the acquaintance called to ask me if I knew why the ‘power would just shut off’ from the battery/inverter. I had a bad feeling about that as I asked what she had been running, and what the voltage was on the battery. She said her sewer had backed up and they had been running a wet/dry vacuum, but that it was within the power limits for the inverter.

She went to work and I went to her house to check it out. When I walked in, I saw a great, hulking, malevolent piece of equipment squatting in the basement, still hooked up to my inverter. The wet/dry vac had a huge label on its top that read:

1/2 HP 120 Volts 11.0 Amps

I didn’t need my calculator to tell me that the vac was pulling wayyyy more than 1000 watts. (Volts x Amps = Watts).


I left her a polite note and then took a battery/inverter rig home, praying that her power would be restored that day.

A few notes and lessons that I learned from this:

(1) You have to question why someone living in the country with a 250-foot deep well doesn’t have at least a generator.

(2) Never give ALL your preps away. How dumb was that? What if a major terrorism event had occurred that night? I would have had NOTHING for my family. This woman wasn’t even a close friend, just a work acquaintance.

(3) I will never carry my preps to anyone. She was pretty far away – had I needed to retrieve my preps, it would have been a two-day walk there and back, four days total. Plus, carrying 3 marine batteries on foot would have been lots of fun!

(4) If I ever feel the need to share again, it will only be with adjacent neighbors, and I will not LOAN out my preps. I might allow them to run a long extension cord from my house to theirs, but I will never just give my stuff away again.

(5) When you give things to people, they are sublimely unaware and uncaring of the blood and sweat you may have put into acquiring that piece of gear. And really, why should they care? They were in need, and someone came along to bail them out. In addition to the straight dollar cost of the preps, what they also cost me was time - time spent away from my family at my job. I can earn more money, but I will never be able to recapture the time lost from my family.

(6) I need to curb my do-gooder impulses. Knowing I have this streak in me might make it easier to resist it the next time TSHTF.

Thankfully, her power was restored that evening.

It may be surprising, but I’m actually very grateful to this acquaintance for teaching me several very valuable lessons. Other people may not feel as I do about loaning items out, but I sure revamped my thinking on it after this episode.

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