Stock your canned goods, and your candles, and your source of heat - but more importantly, have the 'what if' conversation while it's easy to have it in a calm, rational way.
By Jason Allen
Published February 03, 2011
With all of the talk in Hamilton recently of Snowmageddon, SNOMG, or Snowzilla, my thoughts were naturally turning to disaster planning and personal resilience... or as I like to think of it, hardiness.
Taking a step back from the relatively minor effects of a snowstorm in winter in Canada, one needs only to look at the latest drubbing an increasingly enraged Gaia has been laying on the people of Queensland to see the enormous disruption that can be caused by a planet steadily warming towards the tipping point.
So what kind of preparations have been made here at home? Well, in Hamilton, there has been a fairly standard urban disaster plan on the books, in its most recent form since 2006.
It outlines how various civic agencies will work together to coordinate the response to the 10 most likely disaster situations in Hamilton:
Now those of us who spend our precious free time reading about how the biggest challenges of our age will come from either sovereign debt default, global warming or energy shortages may be somewhat surprised to see that some of the most serious threats as seen by City Hall are in fact industrial accidents.
These are no small threats. Indeed it was just such an incident that secured a young Hazel McCallion's place in history, and her job prospects under the public gaze for decades to come.
And what are we to think of this at the most basic unit of hardiness, the household? Well, the federal government has some great resouces on their site dedicated to the subject. It's a great place to start.
I think, though, that the most vital preparation a household could do would not be gathering flashlights, candles, and canned goods, but instead to start having conversations about 'what would we do if?'
Sensible conversations around the dinner table, away from the hyperbolic warnings of Snowpocalypse on the TV, are probably the best place to start.
Tune out all the yelling in the background, and hash out what you would do as a family/household if there were a chemical spill from a derailment while you were scattered at home, school, and work.
Where would you meet? What numbers would you call? How would you communicate if an ice storm disabled the cell towers? What would you bring if you had to leave quickly due to an explosion, or high wind event?
The best preparation you can make is psychological, because if you have at least some sense of what you're going to do when disaster strikes, it's much easier to recall your plan than to make one up on the spot.
The next step is to start the conversation with your neighbors. Not in an 'are you ready for the rapture?" kind of way, but just so it's understood that you'll be looking out for each other.
For a few months over the summer, my retired next door neighbor was having me over two or three times a week to fix his TV reception, or his cordless phones, or his wifi. He and his wife led a very frugal life, and part of me was concerned about what would happen to them in the event of a major disruption.
Then one day he took me downstairs to show me something in the basement: on a shelf down there he had what must have been three months worth of canned goods.
It occurred to me that he would probably have been a child during WWII, on the wrong side of Hitler's 'Bombs not Bread' campaign. He has been through hardships worse than I hope I will ever have to endure, and in the end it will probably be me coming to him for help if the lights go out for more than a couple of days.
So yes, have your canned goods, and your candles, and your source of heat - but more importantly, have the conversation while it's easy to have it in a calm, rational way. "What would we do if?"
And if you're having the conversation in the run-up to a fairly minor 15 cm snowstorm, make sure you have it with the TV off.
This essay was first posted on Jason's website.
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