Posts Tagged ‘Disaster Readiness’

A dark post-economic-crash moment

Dmitry Orlov is at his cheery best again, writing an article called “Social Collapse Best Practices“. In it he describes the grim future awaiting America if Obama’s administration continmue to try and resuscitate Business as Usual. 

What should their realistic new objectives be? Well, here they are: food, shelter, transportation, and security. Their task is to find a way to provide all of these necessities on an emergency basis, in absence of a functioning economy, with commerce at a standstill, with little or no access to imports, and to make them available to a population that is largely penniless. If successful, society will remain largely intact, and will be able to begin a slow and painful process of cultural transition, and eventually develop a new economy, a gradually de-industrializing economy, at a much lower level of resource expenditure, characterized by a quite a lot of austerity and even poverty, but in conditions that are safe, decent, and dignified. If unsuccessful, society will be gradually destroyed in a series of convulsions that will leave a defunct nation composed of many wretched little fiefdoms.

Not the happiest picture! He then goes on to describe the advantages that the USSR had during its collapse.

Essentially, because supplies of food were already poor, people had already adjusted to growing their own and obtaining supplies from elsewhere within walking / public transport distance. His suggestion for the West is to prepare for human scale farming, in or near urban centres. Identify spare spaces (or spaces that will become spare when fuel becomes scarce – car parks, some roads, overpasses etc – and transport soil in to produce raised beds. He suggests this once-off transport of soil will be easier than ensuring regular transport of produce into the cities. 

Their population density – many generations to an apartment – while a negative in prosperous times can be seen as aiding their resilience.  The density lends itself to good public transport and larger scale, more efficient, heating. In addition, they did not face the spectre of eviction as the first consequence of economic crisis. He contrasts this to the unsustainable nature of American suburbia with its car and heating-fuel dependence.

He has an interesting take on security – the thing that results in so many Americans’ response to peak oil being to lock them selves in a cabin in the woods surrounded by weapons. He takes the pragmatic approach of making friends with the many out-of-work soldiers and police that will be around – the if you can’t beat them, join them, approach.

The interesting thing I take away from this is one of his early insights:

Here is the key insight: you might think that when collapse happens, nothing works. That’s just not the case. The old ways of doing things don’t work any more, the old assumptions are all invalidated, conventional goals and measures of success become irrelevant. But a different set of goals, techniques, and measures of success can be brought to bear immediately, and the sooner the better.

The message is – get your head, and house – in the right place before you need to. Then you stand a reasonable chance of getting through this, and getting your family and friends through it too.

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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?

Beautiful wood-fired stoves, ovens and ranges

A recent thread over at powerswitch unearthed a whole range of really beautiful – and practical – woodburning stoves. Here are some of the pictures, click on them to get more details.

Cucinotta Forno

Cucinotta Forno

Rosetta Maiolica

Rosetta Maiolica

Clearview Pioneer

Clearview Pioneer

 

 

 

 

 

While I love the look of the Cucinotta Forno, I can’t see it being practical to just have a wood-fired oven as a kitchen range. The Rosetta (and their larger Rosa) are still gorgeous, and seem more practical for a wood-burning kitchen range. The odd one out here is the Clearview Pioneer Oven – it could easily fit in a living room rather than the kitchen, but has a small oven – perfect for casseroles and baked potatoes – and a hotplate for a kettle. Might be a great choice as an introduction to wood-burning and an emergency cooking source. None of these have boilers though, so wouldn’t be ideal for our sole heating source.

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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