Last Saturday weather was a big surprise for most people in the Metro Vancouver/Lower Mainland areas: at around 11 am, we had a big wind storm that pulled entire trees from the ground, smashed branches, fences and even roofs: thousands were without power for a few hours and many stayed that way until today (Monday).
I was running a food preservation workshop (canning 101) and the power went off twice, but we were lucky and it came back in a few seconds, but it delayed all the workshop’s cooking and canning as it was irregular.
With so many homes in North America depending on electricity for the basics such as heating, cooking and even communication, it may be time to pay attention to some emergency/disaster preparedness tips.
Believe me: the weather may become even more chaotic with all the changes to the climate we humans are creating…better be prepared than scared!
Here are some quick tips to be prepared for the next storm (and they transfer to almost any disaster):
- Make sure you have an alternative communication plan with family and friends, in case a storm traps you (or them) isolated from each other.
- Have an escape and support plan at home, work and school: where will you go, who may support you, who may require your support? How would you reach there?
- Have an alternate source for heat, light and cooking: camping equipment is ideal, learn and practice how to use it BEFORE any storm: in the middle of one is not a good time!
- Have flashlights and batteries or alternative sources of energy in every important room in your house and let others know where they are. Test them regularly.
- Have a small AM-FM radio with batteries and learn how to use it: once a month you can have a “power-less” party with your family members or friends and try the skills you would need when the power is actually off: it is fun and prepare people much more than if you just buy the stuff and toss in a corner…
- Stockpile on non-perishable foods and have a good balance between foods that don’t need cooking and food that need: you can make your own recipes with “foods in a jar” recipes! Have a rotating system and label them so you make sure you are always consuming the oldest ones (stockpile only food you know your family eats!)
- Have a root cellar (even a small shelf will do for a small home) and keep raw vegetables and fruits that can be easily consumed raw and fresh
- Make sure you have enough drinkable water and change it often (every six month): although we have been lucky in this area, other regions experience water shortages and water contamination during storms and other disasters. It is also a good idea to have a big bin or barrel full of water at all times, and those who can install a rain-water harvesting system, even better!
- Know your neighbourhood and your neighbours: some temples and churches and even community centres organized meals and comfort for those without power last Saturday in Surrey (Well done for the Surrey Sikh community that included everybody!)…if nothing exists in your community, you may want to invite your neighbours to a meeting and arrange how you all want to make sure you care for those who live alone, are sick or disable, have small children or seniors who may require extra help
- Have a copy of all your important documents, some cash, important phone numbers and basics for food, water and a change of clothes in case you need to evacuate (that’s the case of some families whose homes were crushed by giant trees or in danger due to fallen power poles)
- For those with children: have board games, musical instruments and short stories/poems books, in case of a power outage at home, you may want to organize an informal “tent-party” and share an informal meal, play games or take turns reading silly poems or tales…
- Be extremely careful when handling fire/gas: when the power goes off, some fire alarm systems don’t work and that’s when most people use gas-fueled stoves or candles. Stoves and other burners may produce a toxic gas if you use them indoors and nobody will notice until too late…candles are obviously dangerous because they can cause a fire…