emergency preparedness: in which climate change plus living in a remote community push this 60-year-old into more responsible adulthood

In all our many years together, Allan and I never had an emergency kit in our home, or anything even approaching one. 

In New York, I never felt the need. Everything was in such easy reach all the time. It seemed nearly impossible to be cut off. We lived through more than one major blackout, and a kit wouldn't have made any difference. Even 9/11 didn't lead me there. 

I've always viewed emergency preparedness as a hedge against anxiety and worry. If it helps you worry less, that's great. Use every tool you can find. But I'm not a worrier, and although I do have some anxiety, it's never about external events that would cause lockdown or evacuation.

When we emigrated to Canada, I saw the big public health campaigns around preparedness, asking everyone to be able to shelter in place for 72 hours. Still, living in a densely populated area full of resources, it never felt real. 

When we moved to an apartment in a high-rise tower with frequent elevator outages, I recognized that we could be stuck on the 19th floor for an extended period of time. I put together a kit of emergency food and water, a flashlight, and batteries. I'm pretty sure Allan thought it was silly.

And then we moved to a small town in a remote region. 

There are frequent power outages. 

There is one road connecting the community to the larger world. 

There is no cell service on the roads between communities. 

We're not in a wildfire area, as it never gets dry here. Of course that could change. But it is an earthquake zone and a tsunami zone. 

And it's on an island. Everything in town is trucked here via ferries from the mainland. 

Recently there have been massive flooding and mudslides in our province, caused by the atmospheric rivers that are part of climate change. Parts of highways have been destroyed.  Thousands of people have been evacuated. Regions have been isolated. And horribly, we all know this is only going to get worse. It's time to be better prepared.

For our drive from Ontario to BC, we bought an emergency kit for the car, and we keep it there permanently. But now I'm adding home kits, too, both for shelter-in-place and a go-bag. 

The home kit is easy. I just need to gather a few things we have anyway, so they're in one place, and buy more emergency food and water.

A go-bag requires a bit more effort. We've settled on buying this from the Red Cross, and adding a few things: cash in small denominations, blankets, a battery-operated radio (and batteries), a few other things. I'm also creating a list of things to take from the house, and putting the list in the kit: medications, dog food, extra leashes, and so on. During an emergency is not the best time to be running around your house trying to remember what you need to take with you.

I'm willing to bet that almost everyone who reads this blog already had something like this in their home, and are amazed and possibly horrified that we do not. But by the end of this week, we will. 


The Disaffected Lib said...

Hi Laura and Allan:

I hope you're high, dry and safe. What a week it's been.

The province probably still has a site where you can find checklists of things you should keep available to cope with extended periods of isolation in emergencies. Lots of tinned goods, lots of pasta, beans, grains and other dry foods. I seem to recall you have a wood-burning fireplace. Those can be handy if the power goes down.

Have you tried your hands at digging clams, mussels and oysters? They're bountiful. Ditto for crabbing. At places like Sayward you can fish salmon right from the dock.

For years I did long-distance motorcycling down the Pacific coast, sometimes to Cabo san Lucas, out to Quebec. I carried everything from tools and parts to tent and sleeping gear, cookstove, utensils and water bottles, and a really good first aid kit. Bedroom, kitchen,infirmary and garage all on one motorcycle. There are some sites that have checklists for that sort of adventure and you'll be amazed how much of that you might want to keep handy at home.

On this island it seems there are two kinds of households - those that stay prepared and those that don't give it a second thought. You've got carbs in the pantry and protein on the foreshore.

The authorities have just placed all of coastal B.C. under a flood warning. If you have to drive try to do it during daylight hours.

If nothing else, we'll have stories to tell, eh?



allan said...

I will say that being stuck on the 19th floor and having two dogs that need to go out would be no fun.

Amy said...

"I'm willing to bet that almost everyone who reads this blog already had something like this in their home, and are amazed and possibly horrified that we do not. But by the end of this week, we will."

OK, you will be surprised by this since you know how I am a worrier, but we have no such thing in our house. We have flashlights somewhere in the garage. That's about it. No extra water, no extra canned goods. Somewhere we have a first aid kit, but I am not sure where. If I mention this to Harvey, he will likely go to the store and set all this up because he is the real worrier and disaster planner around here.

But we don't live in a remote place. The grocery store is less than 2 miles away as is the pharmacy. I am glad you are more prepared, but now I bet the rest of your readers and you will be amazed and horrified that we are not!

laura k said...

Hi Mound of Sound. Until this moment I didn't know that Mound of Sound and Disaffected Lib were the same person! I guess I have one less loyal reader than I thought. ;-)

I hope you are also safe and dry, and were unaffected (or only inconvenienced) by the recent devastating flooding.

We know about the preparedness info online, and of course we know about the state of emergency, being good citizens of coastal BC. We haven't dug for shellfish, but we do now own a generator!

laura k said...

Amy, I am quite surprised! You don't have an emergency kit for the same reason we didn't -- but you are both a worrier and a planner, so I figured you did.

I wouldn't send Harvey out on a prepper mission, but I would keep a flashlight and batteries in the kitchen or your bedroom.

Amy said...

My guess is that Harvey DOES have a flashlight near the bed, and I know he keeps batteries in the kitchen. Who knows? Maybe we have an emergency kit, and he just hasn't told me. :)

MSEH said...

We don’t have go-bags, though I do keep intending to out one together but don’t… for the same reasons you hadn’t. I.e., Living in the city… The closest I came was when the civil unrest after George Floyd’s murder was happening blocks away. The box with our passports and other important documents was at the ready, the gas tank filled, flashlights out, etc. The pharmacy down the street was burned to the ground and cars without license plates cruised the neighborhood but we were fine. The Twin Cities are safe from tsunamis, hurricanes, and even tornadoes are rare. It’s human behavior that is the biggest threat. Thanks for the inspiration. Winter break project!

laura k said...

Amy, that would be funny. The best thing is that you don't worry about it!

MSEH, I'm so glad you all got through that safely. I wish everyone had. :( And I'm happy to have inspired your to-do list!

impudent strumpet said...

When you were looking into this, did you by any chance come across a way to keep a cache of water in the home other than bottled water?

I've always kept a couple of cases of bottled water in a cupboard as for emergencies and considered the matter closed, but I recently discovered the bottles were squishy and concave!

I googled around the idea, and apparently the bottles themselves go bad! And the assumption is that you'll constantly use them up and replenish them, but I don't use bottled water at all! So now I can't figure out how to keep an emergency water supply without constantly wasting water and bottles for no reason.

(I also learned that canned food goes bad and my little cache of canned pasta is probably inedible by now, but I'm less worried about that because I also discovered while trying to streamline my pandemic grocery shopping that I easily have enough food on hand when you count stuff that's in the fridge or freezer but that I could safely allow to reach room temperature - fruits & veggies, bread, etc.)

(I also had one of those solar/crank powered emergency radios, but it turns out the internal battery loses its capacity after a few years, so you put it in direct sunlight or crank it, and it doesn't hold the charge. Then I discovered that my old walkman from high school, which I still have in a drawer, is actually the highest quality radio in the house and, even if I didn't have extra batteries on hand, it will run on the batteries from any of the half-dozen remote controls I have lying around.)

laura k said...

I didn't see this anywhere, but the only way I can think of to avoid the plastic water bottle degrading would be to store water in glass bottles. You would probably have to buy some expensive branded water to get glass large enough. If you saved and re-used glass jars (like from pasta sauce) you would need a lot of them -- but it would be doable.

This is the CDC (US) on water storage. Not sure how practical it is. Replacing water every 6 months? Seriously, who is going to bother doing that?

Thanks for the tip re solar/crank radios. We have an old battery-operated radio that I used to use to listen to baseball games. I haven't found/tested it yet. If that doesn't work I'm going to buy another battery op. Solar power doesn't seem reliable for life in a rainforest.

impudent strumpet said...

Hmmm...thinking around the idea of reusing household glass, I think I'm going to do a science experiment with screwtop wine bottles, see what happens when I wash them and fill them with water and let them sit for a bit. They're a more conducive shape for pouring drinking water, and if some leftover wine gets in my water it's less gross than food and less likely to give me food poisoning.

laura k said...

Screwtop wine bottles is a great idea! If you have a dishwasher, putting one in for a cycle or two (if you can keep them upright) should result in sparkling clean glass.