Hardy to Zone 6

What Would We Do If...?

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:

  1. Chemical Spill - Fixed Site
  2. Chemical Spill - En Route
  3. Water (health) Emergencies
  4. Health Emergencies
  5. Terrorism
  6. Civil Disorder
  7. Violent Wind Event
  8. Explosion / Fire
  9. Transportation Accidents
  10. Special Events

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.

Sensible Conversations

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.

Neighbours

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.

Jason Allen is a chronic hive whacker in the Kirkendall Neighbourhood.

30 Comments

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 07:36:17

Good read, Jason. Ficitious, post-apocaplyptic films are one of may favourites genres; they are so thought provoking and freak me out - so I am usually pretty stocked up with emergency supplies. I also find that those storage totes are the best solution for a household emergency kit. They keep everything dry and come in so many shapes and sizes you can usually find one to fit into any space.

Might I add one more suggestion for smaller scale emergencies that may only affect you and your immediate family? This is from a recent personal experience (when my brother's house was on fire): Keep an overnight bag/storage tote with basic toiletries and a change of clothes for each family member. Put it either in your car or at a family member/close friend's house. Make sure to have shoes and a few items for the kids. Update it seasonally. This way if you have to evacuate your own home suddenly due to a fire, flood, gas leak...you have something clean to serve your immediate needs. You may want to keep a copy of your household insurance policy information with these items.

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By Lerner (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 08:00:33

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 08:31:19

The increase of aircraft cargo and passenger night flights over the more densely populated areas of Hamilton, combined with the lack of any curfew, presents both a health and potential safety risk for Hamiltonians.

The health risk is the interruption to Hamiltonians’ sleep patterns causing by the overnight flights. It would be helpful for the City of Hamilton Public Health Department to study and report on this health issue.

The potential safety risk is the possibility of a plane crash over Hamilton at any time. However, a plane crash in the lower city at 3:00 a.m. would impact city residents at their most vulnerable time when they would be slower to react and at a time when police, fire and hospital personnel are at reduced staff levels.

More public discussion is needed on this health and safety issue.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 17:54:07 in reply to Comment 59180

RenWa wrote - "The potential safety risk is the possibility of a plane crash over Hamilton at any time. However, a plane crash in the lower city at 3:00 a.m. would impact city residents at their most vulnerable time when they would be slower to react and at a time when police, fire and hospital personnel are at reduced staff levels."

I'm sure hospital personnel are reduced a small amount but I don't believe police are and I know fire and EMS are at the same levels day and night. Although a major plane crash at any time would tax our emergency services to the limit, as well as almost every other city around.

Comment edited by Woody10 on 2011-02-03 17:56:08

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2011 at 09:15:34

If the Zombie Apocalypse started tomorrow, would you be ready? A few simple suggestions:

  • Buy food in bulk. It's cheaper, you have far better options than the supermarket, and it keeps you stocked up with staple goods if you need them.
  • Have alternative heat sources - solar, electric, gas, wood - could you cook a meal or heat your house if the utilities died? All else fails, do you have a camp-stove and fuel?
  • Do you have the tools on hand to make basic repairs if you need them? A hammer, screwdriver, wrench, and a bunch of glue, tape and fastners?

These will go just as far toward dealing with simple every-day problems like the cost of food or a furnace outage. We can't prepare for every eventuality, but a little bit of common sense goes a long way.

When the zombies do come, stay calm. Connect with your neighbours to share food and resources. And for God's sake, aim for the head.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 17:56:38 in reply to Comment 59185

Lol

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By AnneMariePavlov (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 09:19:07

Great article, Jason.

I just read this yesterday; quite a propos: http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2011/0...

And you know how much I love me a weekly dose of James Howard Kunstler, my favourite curmudgeon, and his thoughts on Peak Oil and the Long Emergency.

www.kunstler.com

I have been terrifying myself for years (thus you will see me soon on an epsiode of Hoarders, for sure!!!)

Comment edited by AnneMariePavlov on 2011-02-03 09:20:07

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2011 at 13:10:14

@Undustrial

I always hate Zombie Apocalypse movies, since they always kind of misses a major point:

When the Zombie Apocalypse happens, it won't be the Zombies that kill us. It'll be a race between starvation and freezing to death. But then again, I guess most of those movies are set in California where they have no winter.

(Yes, I know you used Zombie Apocalypse as a fill-in word for a disaster that leaves you stranded in your home with no utilities).

And I've got a gas grill, personally.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 03, 2011 at 17:36:19 in reply to Comment 59204

The thing about most zombie movies is that they make a point to kill off 98% of the human population in the first twenty minutes. Starving and freezing are far less of a threat when you're surrounded by empty houses filled with food and things you can burn. That is, the zombie movies where writers care about continuity (few, I'll admit).

It does raise a good point that more in the survivalist, peak oil and similar crowds often ignore, though. When an emergency hits it's not just going to be you, your family, or a small group of survivors. Even if half of Hamilton was killed off in an asteroid impact, there would still be hundreds of thousands competing for what's left of basic resources. Either we find a way to survive and share, or we risk turning on eachother in some very ugly ways.

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By FTLOG (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 20:32:55 in reply to Comment 59230

insult spam deleted

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2011 at 08:59:43 in reply to Comment 59239

Stop the Unabomber Campaign:

Please send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope with your home address. Preferably a large one.

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By FTLOG (anonymous) | Posted February 05, 2011 at 00:15:38 in reply to Comment 59259

insult spam deleted

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By Brains! (anonymous) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 13:47:16 in reply to Comment 59204

You want zombies in winter? How about Zombie Nazi soldiers in winter, in Norwegian with English sub-titles, how "cool" is that?

"Dead Snow"
http://thepiratebay.org/torrent/4796759/Dead_Snow_-_With_English_Subtitles

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By goin'downtown (registered) | Posted February 03, 2011 at 22:14:02

We sure went from being "prepared" to "macabre" in a hurry. Ewww. I'll just prepare for a smaller-scale catastrophe (as in the world not getting hit by an asteroid or attacked by aliens) that Jason's article refers to for now; that's probably all we can prepare for, anyways. Thank you, Jason, awesome article. Andrea, ditto for the advice.

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By Shempatolla (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2011 at 11:00:30

Sean of the The Dead anyone?

Awesome movie.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2011 at 20:07:48

Shawn of the Dead was good, but Dead Snow...that's just awesome. By the way, has anyone seen Versus The Dead, the Hamiltonian zombie flick that was released a few years back?

On a far lighter note, I decided to try my hand at slow-cooking some dry beans this morning. By tonight, they were soft and tasty, with less than three minutes of actual work on my part. No reason it couldn't be done with a hay-box or similar insulated cooker (often beer coolers are used). And if the disaster never comes, I'll just have no end of cheap beans.

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By zot (anonymous) | Posted February 05, 2011 at 03:01:19 in reply to Comment 59283

A basic tool that few of the folks I know own is a pressure cooker.

Does a great job on beans, but also on meats. Excellent for making cheaper tougher cuts into fork tender succulent goodness.

Reduces your cooking time by 2/3 or so which saves time and fuel, both of which are likely to be in short supply in a disaster situation, or just in day to day living when we are all busy and looking to save money.

Will also sterilize (not just pasteurize) contaminated water for drinking, and can be used as an improvised autoclave to sterilize medical equipment.

Good recipe site here:
http://fastcooking.ca/pressure_cookers/cooking_times_pressure_cooker.php

You can find them at Canadian tire, a 6 quart size is probably the most common place to start.
http://www.canadiantire.ca/AST/browse/8/KitchenBath/1/Cookware/PressureCookers/PRD~0420029P/Fresco%252B5.5L%252BPressure%252BCooker.jsp?locale=en

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By jasonaallen (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2011 at 21:12:36 in reply to Comment 59283

Of course with an all bean diet, you'll have no trouble keeping zombies away. Seriously, I have wanted to make a decent hay box for a while now. I suppose if you were to line a beer cooler with towels, you could get the same effect. My next project is a mini rocket stove from an apple juice can...I seem to have a large quantity of small sticks, and am keen to play with fire.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted February 04, 2011 at 21:25:07

Judging by the number (and OT nature) of comments this isn't something that weighs heavily on our hearts and minds yet, which is fine. I regret we're all caught up in the meaningless issues of the moment, which will usually stop-on-a-dime as the next distraction foments on-line.

Jason's suggestion is a good one and he is among thousands of other folks including myself, who have had these "what if" conversations with family, friends and neighbors although this is not something I choose to belabour. However, there are some things to consider when deciding with whom we will be gathering together -- Who Will Die First when SHTF: A WARNING

The most important thing I've learned through what if conventions is that the transformation is not something negative; because after the re-creation this will be a much better place to live and a more peaceful habitation for those with an inclination to give..

Comment edited by WRCU2 on 2011-02-04 21:34:32

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 05, 2011 at 13:58:45

Quoting RenWa."The increase of aircraft cargo and passenger night flights over the more densely populated areas of Hamilton, combined with the lack of any curfew, presents both a health and potential safety risk for Hamiltonians."

Exactly! If Lester B. Pearson Airport can put a curfew on it's night flights & landings So Can Hamilton! (Or are we going to Again try & compete with TO, by just allowing anything & everything at the expense of our citizens?)

It took the People or Planes Committee in Toronto decades to get some kind of an understanding & a curfew. I think we had better start asap, if we want to see changes to 'The Plan'. ( The Aerotropolis Megamoppollus Rex, stalking a corn field near you!)

I tried today (Saturday) to get on to a City Emergency number. Waiting time: Over 15 minutes on hold! I finally spoke to a person who said, "He'd pass that info. along".

Ahhhh... I see! No emergencies allowed on weekends! GOOD PLAN!!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 05, 2011 at 15:15:50

I'm eating the useless before I'd eat the dog! :D

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 06, 2011 at 02:38:46

History's pretty clear that cannibalism happens. Whenever things get really bad...a shortage of food and abundance of dead bodies are both big problems, and people jump the the obvious conclusion.

Pretty darned good reason to not let things get that bad, if ya ask me.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 06, 2011 at 13:55:49 in reply to Comment 59346

The :D meant I was joking..............................
or was I? :D

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By FTLOG (anonymous) | Posted February 06, 2011 at 07:12:35 in reply to Comment 59346

insult spam deleted

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted February 06, 2011 at 14:01:23

Toronto airport is just as busy at night as Hamilton. The curfew in Toronto is on passenger flights. Get your facts straight.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2011 at 02:30:55 in reply to Comment 59360

I used to live on the S.E. corner of Eglinton Ave., & Renforth Drive, which is less that 1/4 mile from Lester B.. I can tell you that things are much better now than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Planes are quieter, & some restrictions on landing & engine testing (which is the worst kind of torture!)have been imposed on the airport.

At one point, nearly every window in our house was cracked from vibrations of planes landing, but mostly engine testing, which shakes your house like a terrier on a rat, for maybe an hour at a time. Plates & pictures rattled on the walls, & furniture actually moved. It is impossible to sleep through that.

Standing on the ski hill @ Centennial Park, you will have a plane fly almost directly overhead nearly every minute during the day. Not pleasant!

On days with a temperature inversion, everyone's back yard smelled like jet fuel. A thick coating of gray gunk coated everything that was left outside, & you couldn't really hold a normal conversation in the back yard for the noise of planes, the 401 hwy, 427 hyw, Eglinton Ave. & a large number of roads built or widened to accommodate the airport.

Airport run off from de-icing poisoned the 2 ponds at Centennial Park, Mimico Creek, & Etobicoke Creek, until precautions were finally taken.

Lester B. P. has 3 terminals, & air traffic can be landed at the the northern most terminal (3?) which is toward the Malton Industrial area @ Airport Rd.& Derry Rd., during the night.

Toronto's airport is probably Busier than Hamilton's at all times, but it has more options, & terminals. It also has many more people living very close to it who have a right to have a reasonable quality of life & be able sleep at night. So do people in Hamilton.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 06, 2011 at 14:45:55 in reply to Comment 59360

The TO airport curfew allows carriers that operate scheduled flights to obtain exemptions or extensions to continue operating during restricted hours. The curfew mostly affects General Aviation (non-commercial) and Charters.

http://www.boeing.com/commercial/noise/t...

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By Long Pig (anonymous) | Posted February 06, 2011 at 23:52:31

Maybe serve Bratina Burgers and Fred Fries to open the rebuilt Stadium...

Is that what they mean by "Tigers eat them raw"?
Disturbing but possible...

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2011 at 02:40:45 in reply to Comment 59387

LOLS!!

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By Centrist (registered) | Posted February 10, 2011 at 00:37:15

I don't see zombie apocalypse on that list.

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