Archive for the ‘Resilience’ Category

A Cast-Iron Garden Hand-Pump

handpumpAnother nice resilient piece of equipment. Assuming you’ve got some local water storage – hopefully big rainwater tanks – you need to be able to get to the water in case of long power shortages, where mains water is likely to be unavailable and power cannot be spared for electric water pumps.

Here’s what you need, a nice traditional Cast-iron hand pump. It’s only £35 and should last a lifetime. If you’re not planning on getting little kids to do all the pumping for you there is a matching stand available for another £35 which brings it up to a reasonable height.

Another one to add to the shopping list!

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How are you coping with the snow?

Whether you’re out building snowmen or huddling around a radiator, now is a good time to reflect on how prepared you are for these type of events. If you can’t get your car out, then consider how much food you have stored. How long can you stay at home without getting hungry? There are a range of things that we can and should be preparing for. luckily the Government has taken a lot of the hard thinking out of it by preparing the National Risk Register which shows how likely and how severe events can be. They have a great section on the Considerations for Families in a range of emergency situations. Even more interestingly, there are  Community Risk Registers  developed for every area of the UK – use Google to find your closest one. Ours is GM Resilience for Greater Manchester, and I’m hoping that the website isn’t an indication of how prepared Manchester is – half the links don’t work and the latest Community Risk Register is 2006/7!  

Actually I’m wrong – the link says 2006-7 but when you download the register (here) it is from Sept 2008. It has quite a comprehensive list of events, all ranked with their likelihood and severity.  The one that particularly stood out for me looked at fuel shortages, and has a 5% chance of happening within 5 years :

Significant or perceived constraint on the supply of fuel. E.g. industrial action by contract drivers for fuel.

  • Filling stations, depending on their locations, would start to run dry between 24 – 48 hours.
  • Panic buying would exacerbate the situation.
  • Replenishment of sites would take between 3 – 10 days dependant on the location.

They have also rated the chances of  a loss of water for three days (0.5% chance) or for a week (0.5%); loss of power across the whole region for a day (0.5%), or for three days – causing civil unrest! (0.05%)

I think it’s interesting to look at these from a personal preparedness point-of-view, and also to view them with peak-oil-tinted-spectacles. What happens when these things start to become regular, or prolonged occurrences? What happens when they all start to converge and occur at once? If they are planning for Civil Unrest as a result of losing water for three days, what do they think will happen if we all have no fuel, power or water for a week?

How much firewood should you store?

Good Size Log Store

Good Size Log Store

Huge numbers of people are putting in Wood Burning Stoves, Boilers and Ranges at the moment. They’re doing this for a number of reasons: to beat rising gas and electricity prices, to reduce their carbon footprint,  or to improve the resilience of their heating system in the face of peak-oil based supply issues.  The first challenge appears to be actually getting hold of a stove – apparently Dunsley have a 6-month backlog on orders for some of their stoves, And Stovax reported a 50% increas in orders in the last quarter of 2008. Once you have your stove though, how resilient is it likely to be? Unless you have your own woodland you are dependant on a supplier – so will there be enough wood for everyone who is currently putting in a stove or range?

The Guardian recently discussed the problems there are with firewood supply, and there are some of the facts:

  • Current UK consumption is about 1,180,000 tonnes a year.  Only 1m of those are produced in the UK, so we’re currently importing 15% of our firewood needs.
  • However, if you’re not fussy about what you burn, then there are 2.5m tonnes of burnable wood going to landfill every year – so if you see a skip full of random timber or broken pallets take it home and burn it – you’ll be helping the UK become firewood-independant.
  • Demand is increasing at around 25-30% a year, and resulting shortages resulted in price increases of up to 30% at the end of 2008.
  • The increase in demand is particularly resulting in an increasing supply of green, un-seasoned logs that will need to be stored for at least a year before being burnt.
  • There are wide price variations across the UK firewood is most expensive in the North and West, and cheapest in the South East.
  • The Government is working to bring another 2m tonnes of firewood to market by 2020. They say this will be enough to heat 250,000 homes (an average consumption of 8 tonnes/yr/house).

With the current supply chain under significant stress, the easiest way to ensure that your wood-fired stove or boiler continues to provide heat is to make sure that you have stored enough wood yourself. The general guidance is that wood should be stored for a year to reduce its moisture content from the 70-50% it is when felled down to an ideal <25% for burning. If you haven’t been through a full season with your wood-burner yet the general guidance is that an average house will consume 8 tonnes a year – around 12 m³, depending on your level of insulation, how hot you keep the house, whether it’s also heating your hot water etc. So – how much wood have you got stored? Two months supply? Less?

If your wood-burning stove is essential to your heating/cooking/hot water then you need to take wood storage seriously. Build a wood store – a shelter with a roof (clear if possible), open sides, and use pallets for the base and to divide sections to maximise airflow. Preferably split it into at least two sections so that you can have one section “seasoning” (drying) and one section that you are burning. Store the wood end-on to the airflow after chopping it to the right size for your stove. Make the stack as tall, long and thin as possible to maximise airflow.

Do that, and your wood-burning range can provide a really resilient solution to your heating, hot water and cooking needs.

Resources

Containers for storing food

foodstorageThere are a heap of problems to watch out for if you’re planning a large store of food:

– making sure that it doesn’t get eaten by a whole range of pesky critters
– keeping it dry
– keeping it safe from everyday accidents (getting knocked off the shelf, shelves collapsing, earthquake – that sort of thing)
– knowing what’s where
– making best use of storage space

This post over at powerswitch has some great ideas on storage and a link to this great site selling commercial storage containers these come in white food-grade (pricier), or cheaper blue. These stack, come with click-on lids, are designed for a tough life so shouldn’t break and spill all your valuable produce, and are probably pest- and waterproof if you get the ones with no holes.

Here’s how Adam uses his:

I use a simple colour code to remind me of the contents
White=food, drink, water.
Red=pre-pack parrafin, candles, oil lamps, oil cooker, and related spares.
Brown (ventilated)= clothes and blankets etc.
Blue=Tools, electrical and mechanical spares and supplies.

Another thing to add to my shopping list!

Resilience: Coping with the energy crisis at home (2)

This is the second post in my series looking at our personal resilience, and what plans we need to put in place to make sure that we are in a position to help our local community through any deep potholes on our otherwise Gentle Descent. These posts are not designed to provide long-term solutions, rather they’re looking at short, sharp, shocks to the system: the impacts of extreme weather & flooding, rolling blackouts, fuel shortages and the like.

In making your own plans it’s important to consider each end of the spectrum, from extreme heat to extreme cold, and drought to flooding. Remember, nobody seems to be giving a consistent 10-year weather forecast for the UK in a changing climate, other than to say “weather will be more extreme, more variable”. The lessons from recent incidents in the UK and overseas is that if you really want to minimise your impact on local emergency services, and be in a position to help, then you need to be able to look after yourselves for at least ten days. Here are our initial preparations:

Location, Location, Location

Are there any specific risks in the areas where you live, work, and play? Regular major floods? Hurricanes, threat of Earthquakes etc? If there are – and you can – MOVE. Life is tough enough without having to cope with all that extra worry! If you can’t move, then make sure your preparations also include thing to offset those risks – e.g. buy a boat! I won’t be going into too many of these specific risks as we’re going to make pretty sure we’re moving to an area without them. Check out your flood risk at the Environment Agency Flood Maps, and if flooding is a problem they have some great resources on preparing for floods. As a curiosity you can also look at your risk from rising sea levels.

Come up with a Plan (or several)

All the cool gadgets in the world aren’t going to save you if you panic, and don’t know what to do – so make sure you have some sort of plan, and share it with your friends. There is a pretty thorough discussion of this over at DailyKos – it’s a little alarming and serious, but worth a good look.

Water

More than anything else, clean water is our most vulnerable necessity. A small failure in any number of things can result in a failure of the water supply and treatment systems. How will we cope if the taps suddenly stopped delivering clean water? This is exactly what happened to 350,000 people after the 2007 UK floods, and it took 16 days to get the water back on. You need to make sure that your water supply system is able to cope with extreme cold, and potential contamination from low-level floods. If you need to make sure your water is clean, look at this post on providing clean drinking water post-peak-oil, and I’ll have a post shortly on rainwater storage and collection, to make sure you actually have some water to clean up!

More to follow . . .

That’s enough for today, the preparations I’ll look at in the next posts are: Sewage, Food, Medical Supplies, Communications, Clothing, Light, Heat / Cooling
Cooking, Tools, Fuel, Maps, Entertainment, Knowledge & Skills. Just a few more things to think about!

Resilience: Coping with the energy crisis at home

Resilience is one of the main themes in the Transition movement, focusing on how to ensure that your community is resilient and will be able to survive in a post-peak-oil world. In this post I’m going to take it to a more personal level though – looking at immediate solutions to ensure that we are still around to help our community achieve that resilience.

This post is therefore a little darker than most – it’s only just skirting the “head for the hills with a shotgun / close the door on the bunker” mentality that prevails over at Life After the Oil Crash. What I want to look at is how resilient our family is to the short-term shocks that many are forecasting we will see on our Gentle Descent. These shocks result in similar effects to the UK Fuel Blockades in September 2000 where after only four days of blockades the country had nearly run out of fuel, including for the emergency services:

“Some NHS trusts cancelled non-essential operations due to staff difficulties in reaching work, ambulances were only able to answer emergency calls in most parts of the UK and the National Blood Service reported difficulties in moving supplies around the country. The government placed the NHS on red alert. Supermarkets began rationing food due to difficulties in getting food deliveries through and there were reports of panic buying. Sainsbury’s warned that they would run out of food within days having seen a 50% increase in their sales over the previous two days; Tesco and Safeway stated that they were rationing some items.”

So the question is – how would we, as a family, cope with the impact of an extended fuel shortage – one that didn’t have a happy ending after six days? Or severe storms & flooding? Would some simple preparations now ensure that we would be able to help, rather be a burden to already-overstretched emergency services? This is a significant challenge I’ll have a look at in a series of posts over the next few weeks.

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