Emergency Preparedness: The Time is NOW!

There’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”
~ Different Seasons, Stephen King

Knowledge is the key to survival, the real beauty of that is that it doesn’t weigh anything.” ~ Ray Mears


While I’m comfortable in my home typing this, I’m fully aware that huge fires are destroying entire ecosystems, homes and many beings lives in Southern California. Thousands (more than 200,000 as I write this) have been ordered to evacuate and many have lost their houses, belongings and sometimes also farm and companion animals.

Only one month ago, many more lost their houses and some, sadly, their lives.

Only two months ago, we witnessed how hurricanes devastated entire islands and changed forever thousands of peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

Tomorrow I’ll be teaching emergency preparedness in a cooperative. Today, my ecopsychology instructor wrote to cancel the class because she was being evacuated from Ojai…

I’ve been teaching emergency preparedness for many years now, usually under the umbrella of a well-known response and recover humanitarian organization, but also on my own. In 2013, I also completed a certificate in Emergency Management.

Permaculture has an entire chapter on “Design for Disasters” and one of the elders I admire the most in permaculture (Rosemary Morrow) works in disaster zones and with people who have lost or are about to lose everything.

Now more than anything we need to pay attention and prepare. Most of us tend to think we are safe, that none of this will touch us…until it does, and then it is too late!

I am available to facilitate this for your family, church, temple, mosque, school, workplace, group or community of any size. I work by donation and only ask you to cover my transportation, meals and accommodation if needed.

Here a quick guide to start on your own:

  • Get together with the right people: if you are preparing this for your household, make sure every person who spends enough time there is present and has a role in this process. If you are doing this for your workplace, every worker needs to be present or at least represented, same applies to schools or communities of any shape and size.
  • Know that this is not a one-time thing: you may need to meet many times and review the plans at least once a year.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities: have “committees” for each phase and accountability to keep things happening.
  • Assessment: what are your current risks and vulnerabilities, the hazards around you? This applies to individuals, households, groups, institutions and communities. In this phase, the focus is to locate and acknowledge the risks and hazards and the vulnerabilities.

Hazards may be things like being close to a river, the ocean or a forest. It may also be living close to an airport, a nuclear plant or a dam.

Risks are the probabilities of accidents to happen (likelihood and potential impact), they depend on the historical data but also other factors like climate change, changes in landscape such as deforestation, etc.

Vulnerabilities may be people (the elder, the very young, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases or disabilities, etc.), but may also include animals (such as in farms), buildings (historical features) and ecosystems (such as bogs)

  • Assessment also includes strengths and opportunities: who knows first aid? Who is a nurse? Who is already prepared and may own an ax, a boat, a tent?
  • Think in the two extreme potential scenarios:

Leaving: some disasters may require people to evacuate. In these cases, the lighter is the burden, the better. What needs to happen with the buildings and belongings that stay behind? What needs to be carried and by who? What will happen to the animals, are there provisions for them? When thinking on what to carry, think paperwork that will allow to show who you are, get money when needed and claim any loses that may happen: ID’s, cash, credit cards, passports, insurance papers, pictures of the house, car and other belongings and pictures of your loved ones and animals in case you get separated.

Leaving tends to happen when disasters have the potential to put your life at risk, such as fires, floods and some hurricanes and storms.

Staying: some disasters may force you to stay put and survive on your own for a few hours or even days or weeks. These may include earthquakes, hurricanes and snow storms. If you are at home, you may already have most of what you’ll need, but if you are at work or school, you may be more vulnerable. In any case, think what you will need to survive without external help: you may need flashlights, a radio with batteries, some type of alarm to be found, non-perishable food, water, probably an ax to break through fallen walls and working globes to protect yourself from broken glass…wat else?

In any of the above cases, think what a person will most likely need and where she would be going or staying, what is already available there and what is not: if you are staying, water may not be reliable, you may not have heating or fuel to cook nor electricity to keep food safe or lighten during the nights.

Think about what your particular group of people needs: some may take special medicine, or need extra glasses, or require a wheelchair.

Include the animals: they will also need water, food and shelter, they may require transportation if evacuating and some restraining if going to a shelter.

  • Have a plan: what is your plan to check on other people’s being safe? What is your plan to let them know you are safe? Who will be checking on the vulnerable in your community and how? What’s your plan for reunion and what’s the plan if the disaster takes you while you are all away? Is there a plan for the kids? What’s the plan for the animals? How will you make a decision on whether to stay or leave?
  • Now that you have all on the table and have mapped all the risks, weaknesses, opportunities and strengths, define the roles and have a backup for each one, just in case. Have people assume roles that go with their abilities, skills, circumstances and levels of comfort, but have EVERYONE in a role.
  • The next step is practice and follow up: have drills, meet at least once a year to review the plans, make a plan on how to acquire what may be needed and allocate responsibilities: who will buy what, where will be saved? Who will maintain it? Does anyone need special training?

Some extra recommendations:

  • Have at least two people in your group, family or community to learn Psychological First Aid, check resources at the bottom of this post
  • Have at least two people with First Aid, if possible Wilderness First Aid training
  • Create activities to learn together and practice primitive skills such as how to make your own shelter, tracking in the woods, hunting and gathering (learn about local edible wild foods), etc.
  • Encourage people to go camping or attend gatherings such as The Art of Mentoring
  • Encourage people to learn permaculture


In Person at: http://ourecovillage.org/

Online: http://elearning.gaiaeducation.org/

Seasonal and at your pace: http://gaiacraft.com/category/courses/permaculture-design-certificates/

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