Self-Sufficiency

Self-Sufficiency and Resilience – Plans upon Returning to Australia

 

Back in January of this year I wrote a post about Self Sufficiency, Independence and Lifestyle Planning . In it, I explained how I wanted to become less reliant on the current industrial system and to take more control of my own life. I’ve achieved a lot since then, but knowing that we were moving back to Australia in less than a year meant that I put off some changes. Now that we are only about 10 weeks away from returning home, I thought it would be worthwhile revisiting that post; to envisage what I want our new lifestyle to look like and to outline some goals for the next few years.

1. Getting off the Economic Grid

In 2010 I finally paid off the last of my mortgages. Now that I’m no longer paying any interest, my cashflow is healthy and I’m saving a large percentage of my after-tax income. Knowing that we have to buy a car and appliances when we get back, my priority now is to save for those big-ticket items. The last thing I want to do is go into debt to buy depreciating assets.

Upon return to Australia, my income drops but Brendan will be back at work so it should even out. We don’t relish the thought of both being back to full-time work, but at least in the short-term we see that it is necessary. We both have secure jobs for the moment, so we plan to use this opportunity to save like crazy. Comparative to the rest of the world, the Australian economy looks reasonably healthy at present. But in this globally connected world I can see that a number of potential crises could impact Australia quite heavily within the decade. I still think the biggest risks come from the Australian Housing Bubble and the reliance of the Australian economy on China. I anticipate that any crisis in the European and American economies (looking more and more likely) will result in rapidly rising interest rates in Australia. Australian homeowners are already struggling with their mortgages while the cash rate is 4.5%. How will they cope if it increases to 9%? 

Holding cash in an economic environment like this just makes so much sense to me. We are using the current ‘recovery’ to prepare for the hard times we predict will come as the global debt bubble unravels.

2. Reducing Energy Dependence

Cheap energy will not last forever and my family and friends in Australia are already seeing rising prices, especially on the electricity bill. There are a few lifestyle decisions we’ve made which should help us to reduce our energy dependence once we are back in Australia.

Firstly, we are renting a detached townhouse just a 15 minute walk to the city centre. It has any excellent walk score which was really important to me. My daily commute to work will be about 4km each way, so I’ll easily be able to do that by bicycle and Brendan will be able to do the same to his work. By carefully choosing where we wanted to live we can reduce our dependence on a car. We will still buy one car, but I anticipate that it will remain in the garage for much of the time. Removing the requirement to buy a second car also saves us a lot of money.

In selecting what car to buy, we have been referring to the Green Vehicle Guide. It’s an excellent website which rates Australian vehicles based on greenhouse and air pollution emissions. It also provides statistics on how much fuel each vehicle consumes. We are very keen to find a fuel efficient, second-hand car.

We’ll also be using the Government’s energy rating guide when shopping for energy-efficient appliances. Our new home is centrally heated with natural gas and we are hoping that the smaller size will reduce our heating expenses. Otherwise, we plan to rug up in order to avoid using too much energy to heat our living space.

3. Improving Food and Water Security

My first priority once we’ve settled into our new home it to begin stockpiling some food and water for emergencies. Knowing that we can sit out a short distruption to services is very comforting. I would never want to put myself in the position where I had to rush off to the shops in a time of emergency to stock up on food and water. It also makes good economic sense to stock up on more than you need. Food is increasing in cost faster than just about any investment right now and certainly faster than the rate of inflation. When things are on sale, we’ll simply stock up and we’ll buy in bulk every six months or so.

I’ve already identified a food co-op not too far from my house where we can buy bulk-goods without all the packaging you get in the supermarket. It also looks like they stock fresh fruit and vegetables.

We don’t have a lot of room for it, but we intend growing some of our own food. The courtyard we have is not very big, but we’ve been surprised how much we’ve been able to grow in our small courtyard in California. Of course, the climate in California is much more condusive to growing food all year round than Canberra, but I’m sure we’ll learn as we go along.

4. Building Community

It’s important to me to get involved in the community when we get home. We feel like we’ve been in limbo for the last three years, but once we are back in Australia I hope we feel a bit more settled. We already have a lot of friends in Canberra, but I’m very keen to meet more like-minded people as well.

I’m especially excited about checking out SEE-change, the local Canberra community for creating a sustainable future.

I finally feel like things are falling into place. I’m now at the point where I can visualise our new life back in Australia and I’m even starting to get a little excited about the move.

Photo by : jef safi

The End of Retirement

A while back, I wrote about the coming en masse Boomer (1943-1960) retirement and how it is likely to affect the economy. Today, after reading the post and comments about The Grey Tsunami over at Down To Earth, I’d like to take that thought process one step further.

I’ve previously discussed how populations in industrialised nations are ageing. As an example, the number of people aged 65 or older in Australia will increase from 2.9 million to an estimated 7.4 million by 2049. The percentages are similar for most of the wealthy nations.

Additionally, mounting government debt poses a painful choice for developed countries; either a deep reordering of public expectations about everything from the retirement age to tax rates, or slower growth. In all likelyhood, it will be both.

Raising retirement age

The growth in the proportion of older people has major implications for the aged pension and for Federal and State budgets if taxation revenues were to shrink. If we were to ensure the proportion of five people of working age for every one retired was maintained, retirement ages would have to be lifted dramatically in the decades to come. There is no question that difficult decisions will be required.

To keep the economy moving in the face of a greying population, the Business Council of Australia (BCA) has recently called for the retirement age to be raised to 73 by 2049. I’ll be 72 in 2049, so this will very much affect the younger Gen X (1961-1981) and Millennials (1982-??).

The best way to deal with this issue ( from the government’s perspective),  is to raise the retirement age so you can’t begin drawing your old age pension till later …….preferably not before you die. This keeps you paying into the system longer without drawing any benefits.

Superannuation (401K) will not save us

It turns out Australians face a collective $695 billion “shortfall” between what they’ll have to retire and what they need. A professor at the National Centre for Social and Economic Modeling pointed out the following in an Age article:

  • The average super account balance for males aged 60 to 64 is $135,000.
  • For females it is $62,000.

But, apparently, the average isn’t terribly descriptive, because of a minority with very large Super balances. So, let’s check out the medians instead.

  • The median balance for men is $33,000
  • The median balance for women is a big fat 0.

So, half of women have no super. Please let that sink in. Here is the link to the article again. It’s still 0 when you read it a second time. Of course, this is misleading, as it includes those women well before retirement.

  • the median account for men aged 50-59 is $44,000
  • the median account for women aged 50-59 is $10,000

Retiring on $10,000 in the next few years isn’t an attractive proposition. But wait, there’s more. The professor reckons that “the old assumption that people would retire debt-free will not hold true for the next generation of retirees.” They have debt too. That means interest as well.

This is the reason that Governments of wealthy nations are worried. We can see this in Australia, where the Government is encouraging mass immigration and encouraging a new baby boom through the ‘baby bonus’.

The Solution?

So what happens if the government raises the retirement age to the point where it’s likely that you’ll die before you can retire? What happens if the purchasing power of your Superannuation (401K) is steadily eaten away by a sluggish economy and rising prices? Assuming you can keep a job, do you just keep working until you die?

Personally, I am not expecting to ever see a cent from the government for my retirement. I’m not even expecting to see any money from my Superannuation. After all, it relies on the economy growing steadily for the next 40 years and I have my doubts about that.

For me, the answer is to become as resilient and self-sufficient as possible. Realigning expectations to this reality, getting out of debt, reducing expenses, finding work that I love and will enjoy doing into my old age. These are all maxims of voluntary simplicity and I hope they will all serve well to deliver a dignified ‘semi-retirement’. The notion that we can all play lawns bowls and jetset around the world during our final years will not last much longer.

To end, I wanted to include some of the comments from the post, The Grey Tsunami over at Down To Earth as I think they amplify my thoughts on this topic.

What are your thoughts?

This is an important message. My husband and I are in our early 30’s, and we understand that here in the US, there will be no social security for us, and that the age of retirement for those who do receive a pension might well be 70. Simple living, with an emphasis on health in terms of meals and lifestyle are going to be the only comfort for us and others like us. ~ The Simple Poppy

This is one big reason why I am so glad I stepped forward into this life while I am young. This issue actually makes my DH angry, because he has believed for a long time that we will not get this money back. And here in Canada, it’s a lot of money. My goal is to have an entirely self-sufficient home, where we can live without electricity, gas, even plumbing if need be, and that it be modern and beautiful at the same time. My DH is making me a solar oven and a cob oven so that we will have two alternatives from the modern oven. Things in my home are getting slowly replaced- the essentials, so that if we don’t have money for them, we aren’t in the bind. We aren’t counting on a pension, we never were. We are preparing. I’m glad you raised this issue though- we need to all know we cannot rely on the government to take care of us, and take steps now. ~ The Girl in the Pink Dress

I’m 43, and hubby is 46. I was told by my financial planner not to count on any social security or state pension being available when it came time to retire. It was all up to me. So, we have a house with no mortgage, have no debts, and are saving, saving, saving and becoming self sufficient as much as possible. The government coffers are bare, and it is up to us to fill them ourselves if we don’t want to be working until we drop. ~ AM of the bread

The objectives of the welfare state were undoubtedly noble and humanitarian, but the results have been disastrous. As harsh as it may sound, I think it would have been better if entitlements like the aged pension had never been enacted in the first place. And I didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to help me arrive at this conclusion. Instead of incentivising self-reliance, hard work and financial responsibility, what we have now is a system which actively encourages dependency and tells us that becoming a ward of the state is something to which we should all aspire. Anyone listening to talk-radio in the lead-up to the recent federal election (in Australia) would have heard what this does to a person’s moral compass. Instead of expressing concern for the country as a whole and acknowledging that profligate spending is unsustainable and destabilising (see Greece), most callers were only interested in what was in it for them personally…and to hell with where this leaves their grandchildren and all future generations. Obviously the current system cannot be abolished overnight and the transition from welfare dependency to self-reliance needs to be fair and just, but the fabric of our society will be made all the stronger once the aged pension is all but eliminated (some kind of safety net will no doubt still be available). ~ Simone

A tribute to The Automatic Earth

The Automatic Earth is very different to most financial sites, because, quite frankly, most financial sites are about exploiting the misery of others for personal gain.

We are trying to help ordinary people rescue what they’ve worked hard for all their lives from the grip of the system, so that ordinary people get to keep some of it. Why should it all just disappear into a giant black hole of credit destruction? Why should the bankers get it all? ~ Stoneleigh @ Automatic Earth

Eating Locally this Spring

Photo by: Down to Earth

Spring has sprung in our garden. The tomato plants are taking over their world (they seem to be much bigger this year), the apples and oranges are maturing, the beets are ready to harvest and the squash are poking up from the earth. I love this time of year. New life in the garden makes me feel alive.

I’ve also been inspired to try some new recipes to eat up the bounty of our harvest. As I type, I have a ‘Whole Orange Cake’ in the oven. It’s called a whole orange cake because, you guessed it, it’s made from a whole orange! Just put the whole thing in the food processor and add a few more ingredients, transfer to a baking tin and bake for 40 minutes. This is my type of cake. If the batter is anything to go by, this is going to be one tasty treat. A big thanks to Rhonda at Down to Earth for the inspiration.

This week, I’ve also discovered a new edible in the garden. Garlic Scapes. They are the stalk that my garlic have sent up in preparation for flowering. I’ve left a few scapes on to flower, but the rest have been removed for a far more satisfying (to me) purpose.

Photo from: The Hungry Mouse

Last night I made this Garlic Scape Pesto from The Hungry Mouse. The finished product is delish (as long as you like garlic of course). It’s quite a strong flavour and sits somewhere between raw garlic and spring onions. We spread it over Brendan’s homemade pizza last night and it was fantastic. We only got one jar of pesto from our small garlic crop, but I imagine it’s going to make its way into a lot of recipes in the next month.

Photo from: The Hungry Mouse

My next challenge is working out what to do with the six punnets of strawberries I bought at this weeks farmers market. They are so very tasty, but there is only so many strawberries one can eat in any given week. I don’t have any pectin left for Strawberry Jam, so I’m thinking Strawberry Frozen Yoghurt and frozen Strawberry puree might be the best way to preserve the remainder. Any other ideas?

This afternoon I’m going down to the local library where our town is holding its first ‘Home Harvest‘. It’s a monthly homegrown fruit, vegetable, and flower exchange that’s been founded recently by a group of dedicated backyard gardeners and local foodies.

A homegrown food exchange is a way of sharing what we have and reducing waste when we grow more than we need. In these times of economic challenge, a homegrown fruit and vegetable exchange is good for the pocketbook and good for the soul.

I’m excited to see how it turns out. It’s really great to see initiatives like this popping up in the local community.

On Building Lifeboats #2

On my last post On Building Lifeboats, there was a comment that I wanted to address, and then my reply became so long I figured I’d just make a new post.

More gloom and doom.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. And I don’t think the way to convince people that change is needed is to tell them that it’s TEOTWAWKI.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.

I am NOT going to sit on my butt and let the world fall apart around me. But I am also not going to let any single one of my neighbours suffer while I have the ability to change it. I believe that when we must, and we will, we will work together as communities and countries to solve our problems. And it will be harder in some places than others. But we’ll get through it together – not by building lifeboats for a few.

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community

Rant over

I certainly do not consider ‘lifeboat building’ to be about getting myself prepared for what’s coming and leaving everyone else to drown. That is not how I think. I am all about community. There is no way we are going to be able to transition on our own. However, at this point in time, I believe our efforts are best spent on the people who want our help now. Once we get that critical mass moving, more people will become aware and then we will have more people to help them through it. We are starting a movement from the grassroots and have to build it up from the small group of people who currently see what’s really going on in the world. Unfortunately we cannot waste our precious time trying to convince every single person that they need to change the way they live. We just need to get on with ‘Being the Change we want to see in the world.’

Sorry if this sounded like a rant. But I just don’t buy another End Of The World scenario. We create our own realities – and the reality I’m creating is one of organic food, open spaces, and equality for those around.”

You are very lucky that you are making your transition a reality already. You are in an ideal place for it where you have a smallish community living in an area with abundant food and water resources. Not everyone will be in such a position.

I currently live in Southern California. There are millions and millions of people living here in the desert where all water is pumped in from the north. We are already beginning to see the effects of climate change and peak oil on Southern California’s water supply. The water to the farmers has been switched off. This region used to be the fruit and vege basket for North America and now it’s becoming a dust bowl. Watch some old movies of the dust bowl of the Great Depression. That’s what we are starting to see here in California.

The economy here is collapsing. Real unemployment in many counties is up around 25%. Nearly 50% for the youth. You’ve seen Greece on the TV. California (the world’s 8th largest economy) is in a worse position, but the majority of the people haven’t yet realised it. Quietly, over 1 million people have already left the state. The Government is trying to impose a massive ‘departure tax’ on people before they leave to stop all the money disappearing from the economy.

Mexico is less than 30 miles from where I live. The Mexican Government is heavily reliant on the proceeds from oil sales for their social services. Mexico’s oil exports are collapsing. The drug cartels are taking over. In the border town less than 30 miles from my home, over 600 people were killed in drug related violence last year. That violence is already spilling over into California. What happens when millions and millions of Mexicans decide they want to escape the violence down there?

We are already seeing anti-immigration uprisings in Arizona and Texas and there is state level conflict over the issue. California threatened to boycott Arizona over their anti-illegal-immigration stance. Arizona basically said, “Go ahead, 25% of your electricity comes from Arizona. Good luck with that.”

Things here ARE doom and gloom. Plenty of the places around the world ARE doom and gloom. It’s already here for many people. We won’t all be living in ideal locations with open spaces and abundant food and water as these systems collapse. There are simply too many people on this planet for everyone to get to live like that. I don’t think there is any way to sugar coat that fact.

Change is absolutely needed, but change can be incredibly positive, uplifting and creative. It can also be empowering.”

I agree that we need a positive message to inspire people to change their way of life voluntarily. A voluntary transition to a low energy lifestyle is preferred. When I talk to people I talk mostly about living simply, enjoying nature, growing food, walking lightly on this earth and spending time with family and friends rather than in front of the TV or at the mall.

No lifeboats. And definitely no self-appointed captains cashing in on people’s fear. Just community.”

We must build lifeboats. We must gather people around us to help. We must encourage others to see the benefits of lifeboat building and then show them how it is done. I don’t believe I’m cashing in on people’s fear. I don’t believe I’m being arrogant or appointing myself as captain…choosing who gets to climb aboard. That’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that life as we currently know it is going to change a lot in the next few decades. Some places will be affected more than others. It’s time to stop drinking at the bar, and start building lifeboats. I am willing to help anyone who wants to learn how.

I just wanted to finish by saying I really do appreciate all the comments I get on the blog. We don’t all need to agree on everything. That would be boring and we all need our own beliefs challenged regularly to ensure that we haven’t just latched onto an idea without thinking it through.

Leanne. Thanks for your comment. I hope you don’t mind me addressing it in this way. Your life in New Zealand is beautiful and inspiring. I would love to be living on your lovely property. I aspire to having our own piece of land in a small community one day.

On Building Lifeboats

Power went out at work yesterday and the computer servers are still down today. I’m not sure how many people have been affected by this. It’s certainly hundreds, maybe thousands. There has been so much lost productivity this year due to such events. I don’t bother complaining about how the systems seem to be becoming less reliable. It’s obvious why it’s happening. Everyone is too broke to be repairing stuff that needs to be repaired. This is only going to get worse, so it’s best to start accepting that this as an inevitable part of life from now on. We have to start building our lifeboats.

The concept of lifeboat building comes from Michael Ruppert’s brilliant documentary Collapse.

Imagine for a moment that you are on the Titanic and it’s already hit the iceberg. You realise that there aren’t enough lifeboats for everyone. With fortuitous luck, you also know how to build lifeboats.

There are also three types of passengers aboard the Titanic. You have the people who see that there is a problem and want to learn how to build lifeboats. You have people who are in a state of shock. They are either immobilized by fear or are panicking. Then you have the people who believe that the Titanic is unsinkable (for that’s what they’ve been told) and would rather go back to the bar and enjoy the dancing.

The question then is: Which group of passengers are you going to spend your precious time to help?

Whenever I get frustrated about the people who don’t ‘get it’, I remind myself of this story of the passengers on the Titanic and lifeboat building. I now focus my energy on people who are interested in understanding what’s going on in the world, those who see that something is not quite right. I don’t bother discussing such issues with people who are clearly heavily invested in the old paradigm. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially when they are family and friends.

If you haven’t already seen the documentary Collapse, then I encourage you to watch it. It’s brilliant.

Michael Ruppert has also just launched the Collapse Network. He’s trying to assist in Lifeboat building and helping like-minded people find each other. Even though it’s only just launched, you can already see how many people are already on ‘the map’ (including the skills they are willing to share).

Photo by: schoeband

What’s your Walk Score?

I’ve lived in quite a few different places in my life. Some places I’ve loved living, and some I couldn’t wait to get away from. The same goes when visiting cities here in the US. I’ve been to a lot of them, but only a few are memorable and enjoyable to visit. What I found interesting was that the places I really connected with all had one thing in common. They were all walkable neighborhoods.

What makes a neighborhood walkable?

  • A center: Walkable neighborhoods have a center, whether it’s a main street or a public space.
  • People: Enough people for businesses to flourish and for public transit to run frequently.
  • Mixed income, mixed use: Affordable housing located near businesses.
  • Parks and public space: Plenty of public places to gather and play.
  • Pedestrian design: Buildings are close to the street, parking lots are relegated to the back.
  • Schools and workplaces: Close enough that most residents can walk from their homes.
  • Complete streets: Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians, and transit.

© Urban Advantage and Roma Design

Walk Score is a fantastic website where you can check how walkable your location is. Walk Score is officially supported in the United States, Canada, the U.K., Australia, and New Zealand. At the moment however it seems most accurate in the US, because it doesn’t seem to pick up on transit options in Australia.

I’ve determined the walk scores of some of the places I’ve lived over the years. Not surprisingly, the places I hated living were ‘Car Dependent’ (Walk-score between 0-49). The places I’ve loved to live have been classed as ‘Very Walkable’ (Walk-score between 70-89).

I’ll certainly be checking the walk score of any potential rental properties when we start looking in Canberra next year.

Photo by: Daniel*1977

Short-Term Emergency Preparedness Kit: What to include

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called Are You Prepared? Short Term Planning. I provided some questions to think about in preparation for any disasters which might occur in your area, whether they be a common house fire or a natural disaster such as earthquake, tornado, hurricane/cyclone, flood or bushfire/wildfire.

I also provided some information on short-term planning  designed to help you prepare for emergencies. Today I wanted to share with you a list of items you might like to include in your short-term (72-hour) emergency survival kit. Although 72-hours is the minimum recommendation, it might be worth putting together a kit which will feed and protect you and your family for at least ten days. Ten days may seem like a lot but during Hurricane Katrina, many people waited a week for water and food to arrive.

You can buy ready-made emergency kits or you can put together your own. We already had most of these items because we go camping, so we’ve put together our own kit.

Consider placing all of the following items in your 72-hour survival kit:

  • Portable emergency radio (preferably one that can be recharged without power by hand crank or solar cells)
  • First-aid kit (including first-aid and survival book)
  • Water, water purification chemicals and/or purification filter (enough to supply 1 gallon (4 Litres) of water per person per day)
  • Waterproof and windproof matches (in water proof container) and butane lighter.
  • Wool blankets or sleeping bag plus a waterproof space-blanket.
  • Flashlight with spare batteries or a solar recharge flashlight.
  • Candles and light sticks.
  • Toiletries, including toilet paper, toothbrush, soap, razor, shampoo, sanitary napkins (also good for wounds), dental floss (good for sewing and tying things, sunscreen, insect repellent etc.
  • Food for three days per person, minimum. Use foods that you’ll eat and that store well such as nuts, sports bars, canned vegetables, fruit, meats, dry cereals or military-type preserved meals.
  • A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman Multitool with scissors, can opener, blades and screwdrivers.
  • Map, compass and whistle.
  • Sewing Kit with heavy duty thread.
  • Towel or dishcloth.
  • A camping ‘Mess Kit’: knives, forks, spoons etc.
  • Tent and/or roll of plastic sheeting for shelter.
  • Extra clothing, such as long underwear, hat, jacket, gloves, raincoat or poncho, sturdy boots etc.
  • Special needs such as extra eyeglasses, prescription medicine etc.
  • 25 kitchen-sized garbage bags and powdered sewerage treatment chemicals.
  • heavy-duty nylon string or light rope.
  • Record of important telephone numbers and bank numbers
  • Spare cash or checks (cheques).
  • A compact stove with fuel.

For more resources, FEMA has a good disaster preparation guide which includes videos.

I can also recommend the textbook When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency. With nearly 500 pages of in-depth information, this book would be a worthy addition to any home library.

Photo by: postaletrice

Beware the perils of caffeine withdrawal

I may have discovered the culprit for yesterday’s horrible relapse…..caffeine withdrawal. For some reason I thought I’d go off coffee cold turkey to help get over this illness. Turns out, that was probably a bad idea. By last night I was nauseous, light-headed, deeply fatigued and my head was pounding with a killer headache. It probably also explains my irritability yesterday.

My coffee intake has been gradually increasing over the last month to the point I was drinking three or four cups of strong coffee most days. Yes I know coffee in that quantity is not good for me, but I guess that’s how most bad habits start; They just creep up on you slowly until they get a bit out of control.

So after a bit of research this morning I discover I am among the estimated 80 to 90 percent of North American adults and children who consume caffeine products every day. Apparently about half that number will experience headaches and other symptoms from caffeine withdrawal syndrome. According to experts, withdrawal symptoms can start from 12 to 20 hours after your last cup of coffee and peak about two days later and can last about as long as a week. Ick! I’m not putting up with that for a week!

I’ve decided to forgo the cold-turkey approach to caffeine withdrawal. I am now going to sensibly wean myself off coffee over the next couple of weeks. Apparently it’s best to reduce caffeine consumption by a half to a whole cup per day.

It makes sense for me to reduce my dependency on coffee. After all, I’m trying to reduce my dependency on cheap oil and fiat money so I had better add caffeine to that list. Anyone else managed to kick the habit? Did you suffer these types of withdrawal symptoms?

Photo by : pfv

Are You Prepared? Short Term Planning

There have been many severe natural disasters in recent months. We’ve witnessed the utter destruction of the horrific earthquake in Haiti and then just this weekend a massive earthquake occurs off the coast of Chile, spurring fears of Tsunamis all across the Pacific Rim.

Hawaii woke residents with sirens, alerting them to the waves. A tsunami warning — the highest alert level — was issued earlier for the island chain. Boats and people near the coast were being evacuated. Hilo International Airport, located along the coast, was closed.

Residents lined up at supermarkets to stock up on water, canned food and batteries. Cars lined up 15 long at several gas stations. ~AP

When an emergency happens, do you really want to have to rush off to the supermarket, gas station or bank? What if you don’t get the warning that residents in Hawaii had? Personally I want to know that I have everything on hand to be able to evacuate immediately or be prepared to shelter in place until rescue crews have time to  get organised?

I’ve been extremely lucky to this point that I’ve not had to deal with any significant disruptions to any of the services that I rely on. It would be foolish however, to assume I will never experience disruptions. It’s easy to forget that if there is no electricity, there are no furnaces, air conditioners, gasoline pumps, ATM machines etc. Most municipal water treatment and waste removal services would soon shut down and emergency services would be limited. For those in extremely cold climates, pipes can freeze and burst within a day or two without a backup source of heat.

It makes sense to plan for significant disruptions in the flow of electricity, gas or goods which are almost inevitable at some point in our lives. Stocking up on a few extra supplies, learning some new skills and making a few emergency contingency plans doesn’t take much time or money and it’s cheap insurance. While we can’t plan for all possible scenarios it is prudent to plan for the most likely possibilities. Here are some questions to ask yourself during your planning:

  • What natural hazards are in my area? What is the likelihood of experiencing earthquake, flood, hurricane/cyclone or tornadoes?
  • Have I taken precautions to protect my home?
  • How long could I anticipate being without access to utilities and supplies?
  • If the electricity goes out for an extended period, how will I cook, heat and light my home?
  • Do I have supplies and training to deal with medical emergencies if medical help is unavailable?
  • If I must evacuate my home, do I have portable emergency supplies ready to take with me?
  • How many people do I want to store supplies for? What about friends, neighbors and relatives?
  • Do I have pets that I need to feed and care for?
  • Do I have children or elderly parents with special needs?
  • Do I require prescription medications I would need if the distribution systems went down for a period of time?

The following information on short-term planning is designed to help you prepare for emergencies when services are disrupted for periods of up to one week. Everyone should have enough food, water and emergency supplies to last at least 72 hours (3 days) and preferably two or more weeks.

  • Store at least one 72-hour emergency survival kit in or near your home and condensed versions in your cars. (I’m working on my own 72-hour kit at the moment. I’ll post what’s in my kit at a future date)
  • Determine a local meeting place with a large, open area where your household can gather if you are separated and do not have access to your home during emergencies.
  • Make sure all members of your family know how and where to shut off the water, gas and electricity for your home in the event of an emergency.
  • Stash spare keys to your vehicles somewhere on the vehicle and an additional supply of keys somewhere outside of your home (securely hidden).
  • Store at least a 2-week supply of food for your household.
  • Store a combination of water, water treatment chemicals and water purifying filters to provide for your household for at least two weeks.
  • Keep a survival kits in each car with a first aid kit, spare clothing and water filter, if not a full 72-hour kit.
  • Get proper first aid and CPR training for all members of the family.
  • Arrange for an out-of -state emergency contact to reach for co-ordination and communication. It may be easier to call long distance after an emergency  than trying to locate your family  if separated.
  • Locate your nearest emergency shelter. Practice the route to the shelter.
  • Ensure you have smoke detectors in your home. Change the batteries at least once per year.
  • Store important papers in one easily accessible location, preferably in a waterproof and flameproof box.
  • Discuss your emergency preparedness plan with all members of the household. Keep the discussion light and positive.

Photo by: millzero