Closer Than You Think

Want to know how to guarantee somebody – anybody – will instantly tune out any message about disaster preparedness? Talk about disasters.

Think about it – it’s pretty easy to find a million other priorities when the topic is disasters. I mean, really – what are the odds that it’ll happen to me??

For most of us hearing that there’s going to be a major earthquake in California in the next 30 years means one thing: I’m good, I’ve got 29 years before I have to worry.  C’mon. You know I’m right. It’s human nature to put off things that we think of as complicated, difficult, expensive….I mean, there’s all these more pressing things right? Somebody has to get the kids, do the laundry, mow the lawn, retread the tires, replace the screens, sort the trash, sniff the milk…the list goes on and on and on.

But what if it wasn’t that hard? What if you were already half or more of the way there?

Most of us are.

If you have kids, do you have contingency plans in case you’re late getting out of work, one of them is sick, or when there’s just not enough of you to cover appointments and activities? Of course you do. Every parent does. You therefore have the beginnings of a family emergency plan. The gap is probably that it’s not written down and all the options and preferences are probably in one person’s head….so write them down and have a discussion.  Done.  Really. It doesn’t have to be any harder than that.

You need an out of area contact that everyone in the family knows to check in with in case of an emergency. Because of the way the phone system works it’s likely you can call out of state before you can call in the same area code. So that person becomes the hub that you can all pass messages through.  Got friends or family living in another area – out of state? Sacramento or LA will even work. Make sure everyone has the number in their cell phones or written down and carried with them. Identify the need, see what you already have, fill the gap. Really, this is easy stuff right?

How about supplies? Most people have at least a day or so worth of food in the house. It might not be exactly what you want, but dry cereal is better than nothing in a pinch. How about stuff in the freezer and fridge? Well, it’s not rotten instantly – so don’t write it off immediately. No, I’m not suggesting you eat unsafe food – just pointing out that in a crisis we need to be creative, and that means noting all the resources at hand and figuring out how best  to use them.

Do you have a BBQ? Gas or charcoal, it can provide outdoor cooking and heating.  Just need to make sure you have fuel – maybe that’s the gap, get another tank or keep a spare bag of charcoal. Of course you need to make sure it’s safe before firing up the ‘que – really, there will be a lot going on so use common sense and play it safe, don’t use it inside, etc…you know, all the warning label stuff.

OK – the big one….water. It’s also the easiest. Either buy some bottled water or figure out a creative way to store and rotate it that fits with your household. We do a lot of gardening around our house and that means we use a fair bit of water – which can get expensive, and then there’s the whole conservation thing. We’ve done rain barrels and such, but that doesn’t really carry us through the summer – our yard just isn’t big enough for a large tank farm.

A couple of years ago my wife was complaining about how long it takes for the water to get hot in our kitchen and how much we waste while it runs. So it occurred to her that if she kept a bunch of gallon jugs handy she would have all that water for gardening. The side benefit is that after a couple of years of this we probably have 50 gallons of water that are constantly rotated. I set up a couple of shelves outside and when a jug gets full it goes on the shelf, when we need to water we grab an older one. Done. Water stored and rotated. And the bill went down. Win, win, win.

My point here isn’t to tell you exactly what to do and give a list of instructions – there’s lots of websites and books on that – the point is to get everyone to start thinking outside the kit. Buying  a ready made kit from a retail chain will ensure one thing: you won’t have everything you need and you won’t have enough of the useful things that were actually in the kit. You can’t just buy a bag of stuff, throw it in the closet and color it done. Your cache of stuff needs to reflect your life… put some thought into it and have some fun with it.

Disasters NEVER follow rules or predictions. Too many variables involved. So one kit does not fit all. Learn to incorporate the basics into your everyday life and adapt. You do this every day – whether you miss your bus to work or run out of a key ingredient in the middle of making dinner, you adapt to changing circumstances and carry on.

With a little advance thinking and really simple changes you will go from sorta ready to resilient in no time, because the ability to adapt is the ability to survive.

So, now it’s your turn – what creative things are you doing that make you and your family more resilient?

And one more thing: Don’t forget an old fashioned can opener. The manual kind, not the avocado green 1970’s electric kind.


About sfdemrob

Director of Emergency Services with a single mission: make the idea of community resiliency synonymous with San Francisco.

Posted on July 1, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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