Preparing your home for a currency crisis

Dec 03, 2011 17 Comments by

by Theresa O’Donohue

What happens if the money in your pockets is worthless overnight? The future of the Euro is not looking too bright, nor is our relationship with it. Whether it crashes, we leave it or we are asked to leave – it is something worth preparing for. Are you ready for life without the Euro?

Unless you have another form of currency – gold or precious metals, it is not a good time to go shopping. The shops will be swamped with desperate people vying for whatever they can get. People consumed with fears for themselves and their families.

What happens if international trade stops because the credit upon which that trade depends is withdrawn? How will the shops be restocked? What happens if our energy supply cannot be purchased? What will power the electrical grid? Who will the government decide should get the emergency back-up – hospitals, prisons, government buildings, schools, water treatment plants, waste services, pumping stations, care homes? It will most likely be up to individuals to fend for themselves and their families as the authorities struggle to cope.

When faced with shops stripped of food, taps without water, cables without power and empty fuel pumps what could you have done to better prepare? The currency is in crisis, the government is scratching its head, panic trade is setting in. What can you do NOW to ensure that you can remain calm? How confident are you in “the system” to return to business as usual? How long do you think it would take – 3 day, 3 weeks, 3 months, 3 years?

To prepare you need to consider your family’s basic needs – food, water, heat, shelter, health, security. Here is a list of considerations, some you may have, some you may have inherited and need to root out. There is no definitive list – each to their own but there are definitely shared basics. How much you prepare depends on how much you trust the system as it stands.

Food

  • Staples – at least a months supply but anything up to a year is a good bet.

    • Tinned meats, fish, fruits, beans, peas etc
    • Grain, wheat, corn, spelt, oats etc
    • Nuts, dried fruits, lentils, soup mixes etc
    • Corn for popping
    • Powder or condensed milk
    • Honey, sugar
    • Rice, pasta and other dried carbohydrates, however if they require a water supply to reconstitute them don’t depend too heavily on them.

    Food requirement calculator for one year based on Latter Day Saints quotas.
    Balanced Diet guidelines and bear in mind our portion sizes tend to be bigger than our requirements.

  • Seeds – to grow your own food. Purchase organic seeds which allows for you to save your own seed the following year.
  • Salt, yeast, oil plus any other condiments you need or wish to use such as soy sauce, stock powders, soup base etc
  • Pots, pans and kettles suited to open flame or hot plate heat – cast iron
  • Knives, utensils and sharpening tools
  • Livestock with adequate feed. This depends greatly on your space. Hens are relatively easy. Goats and pigs may be worth it if you have the space and ability to feed them.
  • Gardening tools and reference books. Spades, forks, hoes, secateurs etc
  • Working boots and gloves in various sizes to fit everyone
  • Fishing rods and nets
    Manual preparation and preservation tools – grinder, miller, muslin, pulper, juicer, storage jars, bottles, lids, wax, brewing kits etc
  • For now you could invest in some organic seed with a good shelf life, a greenhouse of some sort if you can, start reading up on how to and practice grow your own food. It is the one skill your family will thank you for AND everyone CAN do it.

Grow It Yourself Ireland

Water

  • 1 Gallon per person per day
  • Bleach – plain unscented. 8 drops per gallon of water
  • Barrels
  • Manual pump
  • Install rain water barrels now if you can

Water treatment details

Heat

  • Seasoned firewood
  • Saw and hatchet
  • Thermal wear – hats, vests, tops, leggings and socks
  • Sub zero sleeping bags for added warmth
  • Blankets, scarves, warm coats, hats, gloves
  • Plant trees now for a sustainable supply
  • Matches
  • Take steps now to insulate your home
  • SEAI guide to home insulation

    Shelter

    • Essential repair kits and replacement materials if required
    • Basic tool kit
    • Durable clothes and footwear
    • Scissors, sewing kit, fabric, wool etc
    • Insulation
    • Rainwear – rubber boots. coats, trousers
    • Keep all clothing and start collecting up sizes for your children from family, friends and charity shops
    • Likewise for shoes, boots and rain wear.

    Health

    • Substantial first aid kit and reference manual.
    • Soap
    • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash
    • Bottled water for babies
    • Soda, vinegar, natural hygiene and sterilising plant products
    • Medication
    • Washable sanitary protection
    • Reference book on natural, herbal remedies from everyday plants, lavender, geranium etc
    • Do a first aid course
    • Locate a natural remedy practitioner in your community and keep their details to hand

    Link to first aid kit contents

    Security

    • Dog and adequate supply of dog food
    • Blackberry or thorny gorse hedging
    • Wind up radio
    • Wind up torches
    • Surplus food – there will be plenty of hungry people looking for yours
    • Mouse and rat traps
    • You could start a community alert or neighbourhood watch in your area now.

    Waste

    • Look at on-site toilet solutions such as a reed bed system or compost toilet
    • Aim to generate as little waste as possible as waste collection and landfill systems may be curtailed.
    • Compost as much as possible especially when growing your own food.

    Here is a list of items you may also start gathering now that could make life a little easier if they become unavailable for any extended period and things that may be lying around which could be worth having to hand.

    • Water containers in case you need to source clean water
    • Camping stove and gas
    • Board games
    • Toilet paper
    • Flashlights
    • Batteries and solar charger
    • Candles and more matches
    • Bicycles, carts, trailers, sleds, spare wheels
    • Timber, nails, screws, tools, string, tape, nuts, bolts etc.
    • Tea, coffee, cocoa, chocolate
    • Solid bicycle tyres
    • Spare can of car or generator fuel
    • Fuses, light bulbs
    • Writing materials
    • Art materials
    • Craft tools
    • Bicycles and repair kits
    • Reading glasses
    • Musical instruments
    • Manual can opener
    • Shoe polish, laces
    • Fabric nappies
    • Tinfoil
    • Compass
    • Firelighters
    • Flint and learn to light a fire without matches
    • Self sufficiency reference library including books on growing food, crafts, repairs, electrics, cooking, making vinegar, growing yeast and self medication etc.
    • Children’s education – encyclopedias, geography, science etc

    It is all well and good for you being prepared but the ideal would be that everyone have some level of preparation. As a community we have to depend upon each other in a crisis and this is no exception. Go to community meetings, become involved in local activities now and you will have a base for future communications. Get discussion going on crisis preparedness. Propose community resilience planning. There are many agencies, courses and groups supporting local initiatives. Contact Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland for information on communities taking steps toward resilience or for support in introducing resilience to your community.

    For further browsing here is the US Department of Homeland Security website for disaster planning and here is a link to the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Governments disaster planning page.

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    Theresa O’Donohue, a systems analyst, has turned her focus from computers to community. A mother of 5, she has been considering family crisis preparedness ever since discovering the challenges posed by peak oil, climate change and economic collapse in 2006. Through this she has become involved in community resilience and the role of the wider community in a crisis. Like any mother she wants to best prepare her children for their place in life as mature, proactive respectful adults.

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    Featured image: old fashioned canning jars. Author: Nils Thingvall. Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1133973

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17 Responses to “Preparing your home for a currency crisis”

  1. Caroline Whyte says:

    It seems sensible to make some kind of provision for emergencies on a household level but I think the point at the end about community is truly vital. Davie Philip makes this point well in his article in Fleeing Vesuvius.

  2. Andy Wilson says:

    Theresa, that’s a great bit of work

    Essentially there will be three distinct phases of collapse:

    Phase one – the headless chicken scenario when supermarket shelves get stripped, and panic-stricken people stockpile things they have no means to store properly, or have no use for.

    This is when it will be good to have a stash of vital things (draw from the list above)

    This phase may last anything from a several weeks to a couple of months

    Phase Two – Limited Response phase. This is when some attempt may be made at national, regional or local level to distribute food, and medical supplies, possibly water, though most likely not fuel.

    This is also the time to be connecting seriously with local communities, as there is every chance that help from official circles will be ineffective, or just not arrive.

    This phase may last up to about eighteen months,

    By the way, forget the reed beds – NOT practical for 99% of households – instead think compost loos -they require no water, almost no space, and can be put in every back yard.

    Phase Three – Growing food. This is what it will come down to in the end. All the spare livestock will be culled and after that food will begin to become scarce.

    Hence seeds and tools (and where possible, machinery) must already be in place.However, limited access to private land may be a major obstacle for a considerable period. It would be a mistake to assume that the farming community have either the necessary skills or knowledge to take the initiative in post-crash food production. Some farmers will but many won’t.

    Recommended reading: Accounts of Ireland’s last two major famines (1740-41 and 1845-50) and also of the Black Death in England (Ziegler is good on the latter).

  3. Andy Wilson says:

    PS

    How long will it take to establish a system of food production that can sustained with the very limited resources available? While much might be achieved in 15 or 20 years, history shows that full adaptation to, and/or recovery from, major collapse takes a very long time – typically generations and often centuries – when there is no help available from outside the crisis area. Its important to acknowledge this.

  4. gillies says:

    this is ireland. the pre industrial ecology contained humans as cattle minders, milkers, cheese and occasional beef eaters. people who fantasise about living on vegetables would need to consider how – if the crisis erupted in, say, december – they would get to next june when the first produce came out of the garden.

    ireland does not produce much wheat for bread. for animal feeds, perhaps. i have grown wheat all the way from sowing by hand to a loaf of bread. it was a long long sweat, mainly because although we had the ingredients – field, seed, sickles, hand threshing machine etc. we had no clue what we were doing. no cultural back up.

    mainly, survivalists think as secular consumer/materialists. ask ‘what do you need in a crisis ?’ their answer is a shopping list. community comes at the end. but community needs to come at the beginning, and survival is a dynamic process – not something that can be hoarded.

    worst of all, you might prepare for a tsunami only to be caught out by a volcano. (see sunday independent cartoon, today)

    – or you might prepare for inflation, only to learn that with people and businesses going broke all around you, cash is actually strengthening, and it is credit which is collapsing.
    what is the price of diesel, of property, if all deals are for cash only ?

    if anyone does not understand that – could we please have a thread to tease it out ? otherwise some people with means might get caught in a gold crash, that is to say the downside of a gold price spike, when the survivalists emerge from their bunkers and all go looking for liquidity at the same time . . .

  5. Theresa says:

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I would agree that community is everything. However this is written specifically for householders. In time hopefully those who do not get the importance of community may see the sense.

    Here’s a discussion forum I’ve set up to thrash things out and I hope there is plenty more suggestions for inclusion. I will get into the points above when times allows.

    http://transitiontownsireland.ning.com/forum/topics/preparing-for-a-crisis

    As ever, I definitely don’t have all the answers but I did put down what I could think of and thanks to those who gave input 🙂

  6. Simon says:

    In answer to Andy Wilson’s question “How long will it take to establish a system of food production that can sustained with the very limited resources available?” can I suggest looking at how Cuba managed when the Soviet Union collapsed.

    Cuba had survived by bartering sugar for Russian oil on reasonably advantageous terms. One day, the oil tankers just turned around and stopped arriving. The Cuban government had an inkling that this could happen and had had less than 12 months to plan for it.

    The first thing that happened was that food rotted in the fields – there was no fuel for the tractors or the lorries to harvest/haul the food into the cities. Power cuts lasted for 20 hours per day, water was available only when power was available. Freezers became sources of contaminated food. (Bear in mind that Cuba was then LESS reliant on imported energy that Ireland currently is – it had its own functioning oil wells).

    It took 10 years to re-engineer its entire agricultural system to be independent of oil inputs: transport, traction, processing, refrigeration, pesticides, everything. It now produces most of its fresh fruit and veg within urban areas, consumers walk to the farmers market and buy vegetables every day.

    The deficiencies of the diet in the first few years lead to unexpected health impacts, one of these was a form of temporary blindness caused by a mineral deficiency in the diet. Vitamin pills were prescribed for every child attending school. Universal school meals were introduced to guarantee children got one nutritionally balanced meal per day. Pregnant women were given double food allowances to protect the development of their children.

    A rationing system (which was in place since the 1960s, and is still in place today) became vital to ensure that the limited food supplies were not hoarded and were distributed equally and reasonably efficiently. Ireland is ill-prepared for this and is culturally disposed to the alternative: mass violence caused by hunger.

    We have a food resource which will be vital: we currently feed 35million people with our beef exports. Beef cattle can walk. It will be possible to herd cattle to the towns and cities (there will be no traffic on the roads) and slaughtered in temporary slaughter yards for local consumption. This will keep the resident population alive, but it will require that it this food resource is nationalised: all exports of food will have to be stopped, if necessary by vigilanty action in the absence of government action. We have experience of record food exports being recorded at the height of the potato famine, this must not be allowed to happen again.

    But we will not have sufficient fuel to cook it.

    There is a monument to the egg in a park in Havana. It is an acknowledgement of the role played in providing protein to the population of Havana during the “special period in time of peace” that was declared to enable emergency measures to be introduced under the Cuban constitution to protect the population. The “special period” only ended in 2009, almost 20 years after its initiation.

    In short, it took Cuba almost 20 years to effect the transition. In all probability, it will take Ireland longer because it is socially less cohesive, economically more dependent on external trade and politically less coherent.

  7. Jürgen says:

    When the 8,8 earthquake cought us here in Chile, the response timming was something like this:

    Saturday Feb 27th2010 3:30 AM 8,8 Earthquake and Tsunami
    Goverment response with Navy and army to restore order: Sunday 28th. That was about 48 hours.

    Electric Power restored Thusday 4th. Like five days.

    Financial services 10 days.

    Emergency housing I would say the frist house was installed maybe a month later.
    First demolitions of collapsed buildings started last october.

    And I can still see people living in emergency settlements.

    Storing food, and other stuff is useful for a short while, but after that you have to knok your neighbor’s door.

    Community matters, always.

  8. gillies says:

    i wonder if people have a ‘pet’ crisis ? an attachment to a particular vision of crisis ? theresa leads off with a scenario in which currency is suddenly worthless. i react to that because i can picture a scenario where oil, for example, or real property, is cheap because self feeding deflation makes money be worth more, and distrust makes credit unobtainable. which crisis you are in, makes a lot of difference.

    in theresa’s list i particularly endorse hand pumps. water is a basic necessity. we have forgotten that many of the cattle in the country drink from troughs connected to the public supply, or deep wells owned by the farmers themselves – all electrically pumped. power cuts immediately dump you into a lower level of existence. if the cow does not drink water, you don’t drink milk !

  9. Ed Harper says:

    A very interesting article, but the info on Cuba is very important. We cannot simply expect the same system to return, unless we want another crisis for our descendants. communities are capable of surviving individuals are not! Less than 100 years ago this country had communities including limerick city, starting to run their own affairs, but they were sold out. profit addiction is death and most of the current leadership are addicted and know no better.

  10. Oscar Franklin says:

    That’s not Gillies McBain, by any chance? Dear God, I click onto Feasta for the first time in 2 years and immediately see 2 names from my past – Ed Harper and Gillies McBain. Must come round here more often.

  11. gillies says:

    yes this is gillies macbain. i like those contributions about cuba and chile. contact with harsh reality !

    the people that milked cows without electricity and walked to mass are nearly all gone now. the trees that i planted for firewood in 1982 are 60 feet tall. no one told me though that hybrid poplar is not much good for either firing or timber. i will be 95 by the time i get it right.

    a community is built on well tried solutions, and the backup that we will find missing in a crisis will not be materials but knowledge and culture.

  12. Theresa says:

    Thanks so much for the input, the experience and the insight into other scenarios. I show the “Power of Community” the Cuban story to groups and I never fail to acknowledge the malnutrition. It is all too easy to shut out the difficult period. As you pointed out – it takes years.

    I am happy to see such insight and know that community will value all of you when your knowledge is put to use. The scenario of exports being sabotaged is a possibility – our society is so GDP driven it may have to be the only way!

    After water sourcing implements, seeds are the most vital inclusion in my opinion. I believe that food production will save us, be it for national nourishment but also the export potential with Britain. Once we are on our feet, years from now, we have neighbours with insufficient acreage to feed themselves. A more sustainable trade system should be in place with a better connection to nature and all that it can provide – if allowed.

    As for a restructuring of our system – I cannot wait. It is so long overdue. The inability to pay the imposers of the current system cannot come quick enough. Talk of not being able to afford to run the country is great news in my opinion 🙂

    I often wonder what my grandparents would think if they were alive now – I reckon they would be horrified. We have become so detached, useless and stupid as a species – present company (and some more!) excluded 🙂

  13. John Sharry says:

    Dear Theresa and other contributors

    Thanks for starting this very interesting thread. I think it is crucial that each individual and community starts planning for the impending crises that will occur
    What I am struck at is the level of denial about the severity of the problems and the fact that crises of some sort are around the corner. Most individuals, community leaders and national politicians are hoping that we can simply get economic growth going again and restart the ‘celtic tiger party’. However, I am persuaded by the arguments of ‘Fleeing Vesuvius’ that this economic growth is no longer possible ( due to peak oil, resource depletion, financial indebtedness etc) and we are reaching the end of business as usual.
    We now must have a Plan B.
    While I am sure people reading this thread aware of these issues my question is how can we persuade a wider group of people to start preparing for crises in particular local and national government. Just like there are major accident plans in most cities, what we need is a series of local and national emergency plans for the coming crises related to Peak Oil/ Climate change/ financial collapse.
    Even if politicians don’t want to abandon their clinging to their beliefs that ‘economic growth’ will solve all or that the euro has to survive or is too big to fail, it still makes sense to put some resources into looking at plan B however unpalatable this might seem. Imagining the society impact of a currency collapse or a sudden shortage of oil is not for the faint hearted, though it is absolutely necessary as in all probability we will have to face some crises like these. It is a bit like building lifeboats for a ship. It is not appetising to consider the prospect of getting off a comfortable ship into a small lifeboat, but when the crisis comes you are really glad someone has put a great deal of thought into the logistics.
    So my question is how can we start this level of disaster/ emergency planning and persuade leaders to consider in detail Plan B and to let go of an exclusive focus on the Plan A of business as usual which is growing ever more unlikely even now in the short term.
    What do people think?

  14. Theresa says:

    Good idea John. It ties in somewhat with what I’ve been doing at county level while banging on the national door!

    There is scope for discussion if an area development plan is being drafted. There is always public consultation which is quite often poorly attended. This is a good time to discuss your thoughts and ideas with the county planners. This worked well in Laois and the county development plan due out soon does have a lot of inclusions aspiring to facilitate community resilience. They mention peak oil and climate change as challenges in the context of our need to transition to a lower carbon county. It is just a plan though, nothing legal, no assurance. Another fact is that the inclusions are not necessarily indicative of the awareness or preparedness within the council. They merely indicate that there were some lobbyists who spent time and energy meeting, explaining and discussing the plan with the staff involved.

    Nationally – there was a briefing in Leinster House on Peak Oil last May. The invitation had been given while Fine Gael were in opposition. When PO was explained to one fairly high ranking FG TD he was taken aback, he felt our government needed to understand this better – something had to be done so he issued an invited to Leinster House to brief all TDs and Senators to get the ball rolling. Due to the political happenings, a budget and an election, the briefing didn’t happen until FG were in power. Then the tune changed slightly! He felt it was enough to brief the parliamentary party. Introducing peak oil in opposition could be embarrassing for the government if they fail to show some understanding or preparedness. It may even force questions about a plan B. Now you are into political ping pong.

    It would be great to see some national directive on a plan B but I doubt that would be murmured in Leinster House. A national directive could cater for the central response and call for local area plan B’s.

    Perhaps going straight for local area network would cut out the need for national governmental directive? Working with the Association of County and City Managers, The Environmental Pillar, FEASTA, Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland plus whoever else feels they fit. If there are county plan Bs popping up with the blessing of county managers then we could lobby for a national plan B?

  15. MIchael says:

    We are not starting from scratch in most cases. There are exceptionally strong community groups in every community

    In most communities you will need to use what is already there, in the country this would be organisation like the GAA, ICA, IFA, ICSMA, Parish Councils, Macra na Feirme, Foroige, Development companies, Rural Links etc.

    Very few will have heard of Transition or Feasta. Most detest any mention of environmental matters, so you need to tread carefully if you want to get things moving.
    The focus on Stag hunting, CFls, one off housing and turf cutting are unfortunately what most ordinary people think of when they hear of environmental issues.

    Almost by definition the people most alienated are the ones with the most useful skills. Many, who have the strongest attachment to their community, find the concern with one off housing bizarre. In most cases all they want is to live in their own townland and have their kids back in it.
    Turf cutters are some of the more hard working and self sufficient individuals in any communities. It takes a lot of hard work to bring in the turf and to burn it.

    In the more disadvantaged parts of the country most people in their fifties and sixties grew up growing all their own veg, spuds, oats etc. I’m starting to see considerable transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next at the moment .

    Many farmers have started ploughing again. They prepare ridges for neighbours. It is getting common to see generous quantities of manure heading back to former lawns.

    In my daily conversations with neighbours I find many are more than aware of the difficulties which we face. The Farmers journal is their bible and it covers many of the issues we discuss. They all are conscious of higher prices for grain, oil, problems with Euro etc.
    Lots of people are already growing vegetables,keeping poultry, cutting turf and timber. Poly tunnels are popping up everywhere. Many have installed stoves in their houses.
    I would think that most of my neighbours also keep several weeks of food, fuel etc in their houses. Snow is a fact of life in this area most years. Most of us use local springs for drinking water as well. The piped water isn’t great.

    The Crash started here several years ago for many. I don’t meet many in the upper shannon region who expect things to improve. Building work started collapsing here about 2006.

    It is also noticeable that people are spending more time visiting and talking again. The local music summer schools are getting busier. Communities are pretty strong and if anything getting stronger.

    One resource that rarely gets discussed is that many migrants into the country as well as Asylum seekers are superb gardeners.

  16. CrisisMaven says:

    Thanks for that comprehensive list! And in case you got trapped before you could stock up on bottled water but stil have tap or rain water, albeit radioactively contaminated, you can still improve your situation by following what I wrote in response to requests from Japan after the Fukushima debacle: “Survival tips: Out of bottled water? Drinking water contaminated? Here is what to do …

  17. Chip Harlan says:

    Theresa,

    I think that we are much nearer the beginning of the financial crises than the end. In a few years the FED will allow interest rates to correct to reality. Then the remains of our dying housing market will go off the cliff big time. That will be a devastating blow to Europe as well as us. I don’t think there will be a recovery to anything close to what it was here in the US or Europe.

    This is a new beginning and it makes me hopeful reading all the well thought out contributions shared here. It’s the silver lining to this dark cloud engulfing us. Re connecting with neighbors and community to build reliance on one another will happen in Eire more successfully than here in the US. Our communities are fractured and filled with strangers that are often mistrustful of neighbors. There will be pockets of hope here and there. People are stocking up on guns waiting for all Hell to break loose.

    Through the internet we can share experience with one another to build a collective consciousness to save our Earth Mother from its and our demise. It is my hope that one day Permaculture principles, barter currencies and micro lending will be the norm rather than the exception. :o)