Are you prepared?

Unless you live at the bottom of a giant hole right now, you’ll be aware that NZ was hit with a mighty big and devastating earthquake yesterday.  It centered on Christchurch, the S. island’s biggest city, just 4 hours north of Dunedin.  Yes, we definitely felt it down here, and some of the aftershocks as well.  Although technically this wasn’t even an earthquake, it was an aftershock of the 7.1 bad boy that hit Christchurch (Chch) on Sept 4 2010 when bf and I were actually in MN.  The amazing thing about the original earthquake is that although it was big and devastating, no one was killed (middle of the night!).  Unfortunately, although this earthquake was merely 6.3, it was much shallower, and hit during lunchtime.  People were not in their homes (in bed), they were at work, in office buildings or out having lunch, running errands at the CBD (central business district) of Chch – which unfortunately was one of the areas most hit.  It would have felt much stronger than the original 7.1.  And caused much more damage, devastation, injuries, and deaths.  In fact, so far it’s already the second highest death toll ever in a natural disaster in NZ.  We’re up to 65 reported deaths – but hundreds of people are still unaccounted for (trapped?) so it’s sure to rise.  It even caused glaciers to fall off the side of Mt. Cook.

Devasted Pyne Gould Buiding - Christchurch

My heart breaks (I keep thinking of the rescue workers, police, fire dept and city officials working through the day and night to organize rescue efforts!).  Chch is essentially flattened – “irreparably”.  To have survived the Sept earthquake – have endured that and the reported 4500 aftershocks (google liquefaction – apparently that is what is happening to the ground underneath Chch – again something I was never aware of before coming to NZ!  Of course, being from MN, earthquakes are something that only happen in California…).  The freakiest thing?  Before Sept, they had no idea a fault-line was even there.  But to endure for 6 months and start repairing your home (or still be in the process of filing insurance claims from the last big one?) and now this?  Why would you want to live there anymore?  Especially as they are predicting that it will take ‘years’ for the ground to settle?  I suspect Chch might go the way of New Orleans after Katrina.  Parts of it will probably never be rebuilt.  I (selfishly) hope those who decide to leave come to Dunedin (instead of Auckland or Wellington!).  We have need of new businesses and industry and people down here!  Honestly there are so many empty buildings and retail spaces…

But the real topic of today’s post is are you prepared for a natural disaster?  I read an article of new year’s resolutions several weeks ago, and the one that stuck with me most was to create an emergency kit for your home (coming from MN it’s sensible to have an emergency kit for your car in winter, but we definitely never had one in our house growing up, and it wasn’t something I had ever considered until I was an adult).  It’s been on my list of things to do for a while now, but of course I’ve also been very poor these past few months and haven’t had a spare couple of hundred dollars to make one up!  I was even just talking about it with bf a few days ago (after I read an article which suggested adding a few items to your kit each week instead of buying everything in one big go.  Clearly this is more economical).  We are definitely going to start one now.

The first thing to add?  Water.  I think emergency kit and I think non-perishables and canned goods – but bf pointed out you usually have these things in your kitchen regardless.  In the case of an earthquake, as evidenced by Chch – water and sewage mains break and power goes out.  Sure, water may come out of your tap, but it may also be contaminated (with sewage – ewww!).  So several gallons of bottled water would be the first thing to add to my kit.

BF and I are lucky with all our tramping and camping gear as it can double as emergency kit/survival gear, we have portable cookers and gas, flashlights, tent, sleeping bags and mats, etc. etc.  One thing we do want is a water purifier!  Bf used one for the first time in MN on our camping trip – my parents have one that is similar to this.  Definitely would be handy to have one of those in your emergency kit.  I’ve previously been opposed to getting one for tramping because of the weight and most water you come across while tramping is pretty clean (free flowing) you just need to boil it to be on the safe side, but now I would get one just to have for emergency use.

Obviously you also want to have a first aid kit (again, we actually need one of these for tramping!  I know I know!).  In terms of other supplies aside from the obvious, I found this link to be pretty useful.  Obviously you need to use your own judgement on what to include but generally I found it pretty sensible.  I liked the suggestion to include “comfort foods”.  That is something that hadn’t occurred to me.  Chocolate after a terrifying earthquake (or other disaster, but earthquake is the main risk here in NZ.  Or super-volcano)?  I think I might need a few blocks!  Also coffee (because bf is actually addicted) and tea.  Hot drinks in and of themselves I find to be comforting (speaking from tramping experience here!).  And probably some berocca or something similar (effervescent multivitamin and mineral supplement).

I also liked these practical tips/additions:

For worker/s in large urban areas keep a back pack under your desk which contains water, energy bars, flashlight, spare socks and good walking shoes in case public transportation is disrupted.

Whistle to signal for help

Maps

We actually need to add whistles to our tramping gear as well.  Obviously there are heaps of other things to include but I’m not going to list them all here, you check check the link out for yourself.

Any thoughts on how to prepare yourself for if an emergency or disaster strikes?  Do you have a home emergency kit?  Do you think you’ll make one?  Or are you one of those ‘preparing for anarchy/2012/end-of-the-word/shit-hits-the-fan types’ and you’ve been stockpiling things you think you’ll need for the future breakdown of civilization for years?

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6 thoughts on “Are you prepared?

  1. I have been to many places after damaging earthquakes. The types of buildings, bridges, and other structures that have failed become good subjects for academics to study and publish. Unfortunately, the findings and reports fall on deaf ears when it comes to fixing up at home the same type of structures that failed miserably elsewhere.

    I think preparedness is very important and having an emergency kit is part of it. However, the real preparedness is to build better structures and strengthen the hazardous ones, so that casualties and economic losses from major earthquakes are minimized.

    My heart goes out to the families of victims who were killed or injured. Some of the victims could have been saved if people and the governments paid attention to what happened elsewhere and fix their structures at home.

  2. Becca – we are so glad you and Dan are safe and sound!! A long time ago my dad sent me a detailed list of things to stockpile in case of an outbreak of the bird flu (remember when that was really scary?). However, I don’t think you could ever be really prepared for a disaster to happen. It doesn’t hurt to be as prepared as possible though, and everyone should have basic first aid items in their homes and probably in their cars as well.

    Also – keep that cell phone charged!! 🙂

    I also agree with the comment above, that part of being prepared (for earthquakes, fires and tornadoes) is having better structures and also a well-prepared response on the part of the government and other disaster-relief organizations.

    • True – no one is ever truly prepared! However, I think a lot of people think that ‘someone’ will save them after a disaster. The government, the military, someone.

      The person one should rely on to save them is oneself! And having some bottled water and other basics on hand just in case might be enough. Especially in the case of CHCH, it is a city with nearly 10% of NZ’s population. And it takes a long time for the gov’t, military and red cross to get organized in distributing goods and repairing infrastructure.

      I don’t want to be one of those people waiting for hours in a queue for water or other supplies.

  3. My thoughts and prayers go to Christchurch and everyone dealing with the devastation. 😦

    We have some random bottled water in our basement but that’s it for our emergency preparedness. We really should take it more seriously. Perhaps it’s because in MN the threat consists mostly of tornadoes, in which your emergency stash is just as likely to be destroyed and strewn about the country as not; and blizzards, where you have warning and are usually not completely snowed in anyway; but we don’t have an “armageddon” stash. My pantry is typically filled with boxes of pasta, canned random foods, etc., so I’m sure we’d be OK for a while if there was a horrible locked-in situation. But we should look at getting a water filter and making sure our camping stove is in working order JUST in case. Hugs to you!

    • Agreed! Disasters in MN are different to NZ!

      However, even Dan said that they’ve always been told that Wellington (capital city) will someday be hit by a devastating earthquake. Probably similar to what we’ve been told about California.

      Certainly earthquakes can happen anywhere in NZ at any time, but it’s different if you don’t even know there is a fault-line running underneath your city!

      By contrast – Otago harbour was actually created by a volcano. Lucky us!

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