This time of year is always exceptionally busy, as it is with most “extreme” gardeners. But when a friend calls and he needs help to build a handicap ramp on his mother’s house, one just has to hit pause and help.
His mother had fallen and displaced her hip. Although she will make a full recovery, it will take time. We never know what the future may hold, so taking the time now to build a handicap ramp may save us time and money in the future.
Ironically, mother’s dog just had a knee replacement surgery and could not do steps either. We were struggling to pick up a 60# dog and carry it down and up the steps 4 times a day, so the ramp could definitely be utilized immediately.
If you have been following our bathroom remodel, sorry to say that it was put on hold for the last week. Although I do have at least one post to do about it, this week has been spent preparing for the inevitable Jonas Storm hitting the east coast. I am not a doomsday prepper, but I do seriously believe in prepping for the eventuality-nay reality-of natural disasters; like winter storm Jonas.
It is not just about going to the local big box and buying up all the necessities: water, milk, bread, toilet paper, etc. Although these are good items to make sure you have on hand. There are a lot of other preparing depending on the disaster that is going to hit. It our case in Baltimore-Blizzard Jonas.
Since our chicken coop is a mile from our house (due to local regulations), I went and took the time to wrap the entire coop in a heavy mil plastic to keep the majority of the snow at least outside. But with 60-70 mph wind gusts, I hope it will hold up.
I did make it to the coop yesterday morning and it seemed to be fine, but the worst of the storm did not really hit until yesterday afternoon. I am stuck this morning-even 4-wheel drives are not moving for a while because of the 4-5ft snow drifts surrounding them.
Next I concerned myself with the rabbits. Although rabbits handle cold well, I really did not want to worry about trudging through the snow to take care of them. So we decided to move them into the greenhouse.
There is not really much room in the greenhouse, but I nestled them into the back corner, covering the rear entrance. We use this entrance very little and with snow piled outside, the likelihood of needing it was less.
You can never have enough good batteries, especially if you get into a grid down situation. So on my stock up trip to Costco, I did buy extra batteries. I also made sure that my solar powered generators, batteries, and lights were fully charged. I love Goal Zero’s products, so I have most of their product line and solar panels. We do have a Honda gas fired generator, which I fueled and started just to make sure there were no issues.
So in comes Jonas! I did everything I could to be ready, but it seems, there could always be more. I forgot to dig out my heavy hat, gloves, boots and scarves. It was not too bad rounding them up, but I could have had them out and ready.
Spent most of yesterday transporting essential personnel. My wife is a nurse, so not going to work is not an option! I was hoping she would not get stuck there all weekend, but that all depended on transport picking up the personnel that could not drive in. They were able to get fully staffed so my wife was able to leave at the end of her regularly scheduled shift. But she did have to get a ride in this morning since my 4wd is plowed in!
I did take a little time to dig out the greenhouse entrance so I could feed the rabbits and fish, as well as check on the aquaponics operation. Although it was nice and toasty in the greenhouse, I was a little concerned about the amount of snow laying on our windows. Since we used conservatory windows, they are not built to withstand holding that much weight. I thought starting a fire in the Rocket Mass Heater might help to melt it off a little quicker.
The rest of my day was spent, shoveling and snow-blowing to insure that emergency personnel could get on our street if need be. The majority of my neighbors are either elderly or disabled, so it falls on the few of us able bodied to keep the road and driveways open to essential personnel.
My neighbors son-in-law, my brother-in-law, and I dug out most houses on the street. We live on a short section of one-way street, so there are only 10 houses on the block. Out of the 10, we dug out 6 before the worst of the storm hit. At this point we had already had about 15-18 inches, so I thought it would make it easier on us this morning.
Most of the work we did yesterday was gone! The winds, gusting up to 70mph, re-covered everything and pretty much buried any vehicle. There are a few people out shoveling, blowing now and I will join them soon, even though I am still trying to recover from yesterday.
I do love snow but Baltimore ended in a new single snowfall record of 29.3 inches. Add the wind to the mix and this was definitely one of the worst storms to hit our area in my lifetime. We are looking at cloudy skies and sun for the next week, so we should be able to recover quickly and get Baltimore “open for business” again!
The last few weeks I have been writing about the classes we undertook sponsored by the Maryland Department of Emergency Management(MEMA): Neighbors Helping Neighbors. (Previous posts:Sustainable & Resilient Communities, Disaster Readiness) Our final class was this past week and I am really thrilled that I took the time to be involved.
Since we moved to Maryland (August 2003) most of our natural disasters have only caused service interruptions of a week or less. If you remember the date, Hurricane Isabel hit us 2 weeks after we moved in to our nice little row home just across the street from waterfront. We quickly became educated in the need for preparing for these eventualities. Maybe it is 12 years later but the class was our next step in being ready and further educating us on areas where we may be weak.
The class information was well prepared and very well presented for anyone who is interested in not only being prepared in the event of an emergency or disaster, but those concerned about others within a community.
The overall takeaway from the class was getting oneself ready for eventual disasters or emergencies that may come along. Living on the east coast, our potential for hurricanes and flooding put us in a category of not if but when they will occur.
Although important to have a good mental attitude for any situation, but having a few supplies carefully crafted and stored is key to being in a position to survive AND to help others that are in need during a crisis.
FEMA & MEMA both recommend 3-7 days of necessary supplies, while our instructors think a 10 day supply is more adequate. I tend to lean in the more category, being somewhere between 10 and 30 days.
The basics of any emergency stock:
Water-The suggested amount of water is 1 gal per person per day. With only 3 people in our household now (I sure this number will triple in case of real emergency-kids and their families) That means for a 14 day supply, we would need at minimum 42 gallons of fresh water. (# people X # days = absolute minimum gallons needed)
Food-This is a gray area as to the amount needed, but having a good stock of foods on hand will be important to any survival plan. Be sure that it is shelf stable, long term storage. Don’t depend on fresh or frozen since during a heavy disaster there will most likely be no way to store these foods. If storing up canned foods (store bought) be sure to pack a can opener! Enter the homesteader: someone who grows and maintains a constant stream of food through gardening, aquaponics, or small animal husbandry. (rabbits, chickens, etc) Although as a suburban homesteader, we have home canned and dehydrated foods, we also have the ability with our greenhouse and aquaponics to refresh our food supply.
Radio & flashlight-Needless to say these need to be battery operated and you will not be able to just plug and play in a grid down emergency. This could be supplemented with the use of portable solar power. Having a rechargeable battery pack through the use of solar panels makes life a little easier in the worst of disasters. I personally like Goal Zero products.
Basic first aid-Bandages, compresses, eye wash, topical creams, scissors, tweezers, etc. During a disaster there is always the potential for some minor medical needs. Along with first aid, do you have anyone in your care that takes prescription medications on a regular basis? Having at least an extra month of those meds on hand could make the difference in that person surviving.
Extra clothes, blankets, and compact emergency tools-I am talking an emergency supply bag, many may call it a bug-out bag, but no matter what you call it, it is a part of necessary preparedness.
If you are not able to maintain yourself and family, how are you going to be a benefit to those in need in your community?
For more in depth information I invite you to visit one of my favorite websites. A. H. Trimble , instructor, teacher, author in the art of being prepared for any emergency situation.
Have you been reading our friends’ guest posts about Emergency Readiness? Now here are some suggestions to developing a Positive Mental Attitude to insure your readiness for any emergency or disaster!
Your main concern as someone dealing with an emergency situation is your safety and the safety of your fellow human beings . As you can see; from the previous series of posts, ( Important mental attitude in an emergency ) you are going to experience an assortment of thoughts and emotions. These can work against you or they can work for you if you develop a positive mental attitude that’s ready for emergencies!
Fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, depression , loneliness, boredom, and guilt, are all possible reactions to the many stresses common in a emergency. These reactions, when managed in a healthy way, help to increase the likelihood of successfully handling an emergency. They can prompt you to pay more attention in training, to fight back when scared, to take actions that ensure sustenance and security, to keep faith with others involved in the situation, and to strive to succeed no matter the odds.
When you cannot control these reactions in a healthy way, they can bring you to a standstill. Instead of rallying your internal resources, you begin to listen to your internal fears and experience psychological defeat long before you physically succumb. Remember, desire for survival is natural to everyone; being unexpectedly thrust into the life and death struggle of survival is not. Don’t be afraid of your “natural reactions to this unnatural situation.” Prepare yourself to manage these reactions so they serve your interest of staying safe and alive with your honor and dignity intact. This involves preparation to ensure that your reactions in a emergency setting are productive, not destructive.
Emergencies have produced countless examples of heroism, courage, and self-sacrifice. These are the qualities emergencies can bring out in you if you have prepared yourself. In the following posts in this series are a few tips to help prepare yourself psychologically for emergencies. Through reading these posts, personal study and attending training you can develop a positive mental attitude that’s ready for emergencies!
I did a post yesterday on Sustainable & Resilient Communities, then thought that I should have started with a post talking about Disaster Readiness first. The class we are taking, Neighbors Helping Neighbors-Disaster Readiness, sponsored by Baltimore County and Homeland Security, is a step toward preparing one’s family for the eventual emergency situation. Eventual meaning, not if, but when an emergency occurs. So let’s back up and talk about disasters that can occur.
Most disasters can be broken down into just two categories;
Manmade-train or plane crashes, hazardous material leaks, vehicle accidents, etc.
Depending on the area of the world certain natural disasters are more prevalent. Here on the east coast of the United States our primary concerns lean toward hurricanes and flooding. These are the two predominant forms of natural disasters for our area. Yes we do get a few tornadoes and we are on a major fault line for earthquakes, but these occur much less often.
The U.S. west coast would be more concerned with earthquakes, while the Midwest would be watching for tornadoes. Excessive heat or cold could be a natural disaster. Lighting strikes in excessive heat make for huge natural disasters on the west coast with the spreading wild fires. Of course some of these could be considered man-made as well if started by a discarded lit cigarette.
Man-made disasters can be just as devastating as any natural disaster and can occur anywhere and anytime. Here in Baltimore, just this past year was a major train collision with a dump truck in a heavily populated area. The explosion was phenomenal and could be felt miles away. From my house I could see the flames rising above the horizon.
After the initial impact came the threat of an area evacuation because of the potential for a hazardous material spill from a train car. Fortunately there was no spill and no evacuation had to occur.
But what if an evacuation had to occur and we would have to leave our homes for a few days. Would it not be easier to leave in an emergency IF there was already a plan in place and a bag packed for just such an emergency?
That is the goal of emergency readiness! We never know when one of these disasters may occur, but taking steps ahead of time to prepare for the potentiality of a disaster that is predominant to the area just makes sense.
No I am not a “doomsdayer” or “prepper” per se, but being prepared for common to our area emergencies just shows that I care enough about my family, friends, and neighbors to be a help and not a hindrance during troubling times.
I would advocate for every family to take some time to educate themselves about disaster readiness. Take stock of the area in which you live. Do a risk assessment of potential disasters and prepare for eventuality, not just for yourself, but your family, and your community.
Be sure to read Sustainable & Resilient Communities on this blog to see how to prepare a community for disaster readiness. I will be following up with other posts as we progress through the class.
Humans are social. This means, as human beings, we enjoy the company of others. Very few people want to be alone all the time. With this in mind, there is a distinct chance of isolation in an emergency setting. This is not necessarily always bad. Loneliness and boredom can bring to the surface qualities you thought only others had. The extent of your imagination and creativity may surprise you. When required to do so, you may discover some hidden talents and abilities. Most of all, you may tap into a reservoir of inner strength and fortitude you never knew you had. Conversely, loneliness and boredom can be another source of depression. As someone dealing with an emergency alone, or with others, you must find ways to keep your mind productively occupied. Additionally, you must develop a degree of self-sufficiency. You must have confidence in your capability to “go it alone.”
This brings us to the possible feeling of Guilt.
The circumstances leading to your being in an emergency situation are sometimes dramatic and tragic. It may be the result of an accident, a poor choice, unwise decision, or even a natural or manmade disaster where there was a loss of life. Perhaps you were the only one, or one of a few, to survive. While naturally relieved to be alive, you simultaneously may be mourning the deaths of others who were less fortunate. It is not uncommon for survivors to feel guilt about being spared from death while others were not. This feeling, when used in a positive way, has encouraged people to try harder to survive with the belief they were allowed to live for some greater purpose in life. Sometimes, survivors tried to stay alive so that they could carry on the work of those who didn’t make it. Whatever reason you give yourself, do not let guilt feelings prevent you from living. The living who abandon their chance to survive accomplish nothing. Such an act would be a great tragedy and does not honor those who have passed away!
I have attended a class the last two weeks on Emergency Readiness for disaster. This is a free five week course put on by the Department of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. I hope to write a little each week about each class and my take-aways, in the hopes that others will see the importance of being prepared for short term emergencies. This weeks lecture focused on sustainable and resilient communities.
What is meant by sustainable and resilient communities? Here are the definitions as given for this lecture:
Sustainable: People and property kept out of way of disasters. Building properties that are not in direct line of a potential disaster, or building property with potential for natural disaster to strike. Take for example a waterfront home. In our area the potential for hurricane damage or flooding is high. So build the home with the necessary precautions to sustain the conditions that may prevail. Of course, nothing can withstand a major hurricane, but upgrading the building and properly aligning the footprint may prevent as much damage from a lower class hurricane.
Resilient: The ability to react and recover quickly from a disaster. This ties in a little with sustainable, as if the proper is built to withstand, it will sustain less damage allowing a quick recovery. But resilient goes a step further in that the individuals are prepared to handle these disasters. Knowledge, training, and immediate access to necessary supplies are key as to how an individual will react and recover.
The theory of developing sustainable & resilient communities is:
overall costs will be cut in recovery
recovery time will decrease
amount of damage to a community will be far less
loss of life will decrease
Improve strength of communities
To me it just makes sense, that neighborhoods become the first step to strengthening our resolve to quickly and efficiently recover from a disaster-depending less on the ability of a government to step in and do it all.
Making communities sustainable and resilient depends on the commitment of the members of that community. Members must be willing to be involved, share, and help both themselves and others in the community. Commitment and involvement from more members will aid in a quicker recovery to the norm after a disaster.
A small group of individuals in a community can get the ball rolling by:
Doing a risk evaluation or identifying potential risks in the community
Setting a plan for the community that is both pro-active and reactive
Empowering members in the community to be involved
Making sure that those active members are organized, informed and trained if necessary
Having effective and responsible leadership who inspires members
Helping maintain responsible and healthy community institutions, businesses, and services
This, of course, is not an all inclusive list, but it is a starting point for any community to take large steps forward in growing a sustainable and resilient community. The benefits of community members being involved and working together will significantly increase the chances of that community recovering quickly, with less damage and loss of life.
Frustration arises when a person is continually thwarted in their attempts to reach a goal. The goal in an emergency is to stay safe and alive until you can reach help or until help can reach you. To achieve this goal, the you may have to complete some tasks with minimal resources. It is inevitable, in trying to do these tasks, that something will go wrong that is beyond the your control; and with one’s life at stake, every mistake is magnified in terms of its importance. Thus, sooner or later, we will have to cope with frustration when a few of our plans run into added difficulty.
One outgrowth of this frustration is anger. There are many events in a emergency situation that can frustrate or anger a person. Getting lost, damaged or forgotten equipment, the weather, inhospitable terrain, hostile people, and physical limitations are just a few sources of frustration and anger. Frustration and anger encourage impulsive reactions, irrational behavior, poorly thought out decisions, and, in some instances, an “I quit” attitude (people sometimes avoid doing something they can’t master). If the person can harness and properly channel the emotional intensity associated with anger and frustration, they can productively act as they answer the challenges of the situation. If the person does not properly focus their angry feelings, they can waste much needed energy in activities that do little to further either their chances of success or the chances of those around them.
Depression; it would be a rare person indeed who would not get sad, at least momentarily , when faced with the deprivations of a life or death situation. As this sadness deepens we label the feeling “depression.” Depression is closely linked with frustration and anger. The frustrated person becomes more and more angry as they fail to reach their goals. If the anger does not help the person to succeed, then the frustration level goes even higher. A destructive cycle between anger and frustration continues until the person becomes worn down physically, emotionally, and mentally. When a person reaches this point, they start to give up, and their focus shifts from “What can I do” to “There is nothing I can do.” Depression is an expression of this hopeless, helpless feeling. There is nothing wrong with being sad as you temporarily think about your loved ones and remember what life was like back in “normal times” . Such thoughts, in fact, can give you the desire to try harder and live. On the other hand, if you allow yourself to sink into a depressed state, then it can sap all your energy and, more important, your will to live. It is imperative that each person resist succumbing to depression.
Did you miss the first parts of the series? Catch up now.