We live in an ever changing world with many crises and risks. The geopolitical situation remains tense in the east while closer to home there is a lot of unrest. European countries are on terrorism alert with Germans being advised to stockpile food and water, while Britain’s exit from the European Union brings a degree of uncertainty causing ripples across the EU member states. Refugees continue to seek help as natural and manmade disasters continue. There are also crises closer to home and not unique to Ireland, including homelessness, poverty, discriminate healthcare, flooding, corruption, transparency, democratic deficit, all of which fuel civil unrest. There’s been a lot of tension around the Trump presidency in the US. You could be forgiven for thinking it all feels a little unstable.
Ireland compiles an annual risk assessment. The latest published is 2015 – National Risk Assessment 2015 ‐ Overview of Strategic Risks. This image lists what our government classifies as risk and is from that publication:
We also have an Office of Emergency Planning with a website detailing the Irish Government’s plans for major emergencies. There are some useful articles and files: https://www.emergencyplanning.ie. Also Be Winter Ready.
So how do and would you cope in a crisis? The time it takes to bounce back depends upon many things. What the crisis is, how it impacts you personally, your family, your community, society in general, your government and the wider world. Many of the quick fixes we’ve seen applied to crises aim to treat the symptoms but eventually the underlying cause will need addressing. This has been said of the financial crisis as cracks continue to be filled in when really it’s the corporately ruled, politically led, capitalist culture that needs changing.
For this article I am focusing on the basics – our day to day supplies and services. Severe weather, supply chain disruption, terrorist strike, anything that challenges your ability to fend for yourself as normal. I have found that this helps in a lot of situations. I applied some of these practices years ago and it got me out of some sticky situations during austerity. If you are covered with the basics you have one leg up in any crisis.
Consider your family’s basic needs – food, water, heat, shelter, health, security. Here is a list of considerations. 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. What you store depends on what your family eats and your budget. I found buying double for a few months helped stock my shelves.
• 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.
• Guidelines for a healthy diet
• Seeds – to grow your own food. Use untreated seeds. That way you can 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 International
• 1 Gallon per person per day
• Bleach – plain unscented. 8 drops per gallon of water
• Manual pump
• Install rain water barrels now if you can
World Health Organisation recommendations on emergency treatment of drinking water.
• 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
• Take steps now to insulate your home
• SEAI guide to home insulation
◦ Essential repair kits and replacement materials if required
◦ Basic tool kit
◦ Durable clothes and footwear
◦ Scissors, sewing kit, fabric, wool etc
◦ 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.
◦ Substantial first aid kit and reference manual.
◦ Toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash
◦ Bottled water for babies
◦ Soda, vinegar, natural hygiene and sterilising plant products
◦ 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
◦ 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.
◦ 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
◦ 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
◦ 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. Follow Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland for information on communities taking steps toward resilience or for support in introducing resilience to your community.
Check out the Transition Network for actions outside of Ireland.
Perhaps the bigger the crisis is the more chance we have of reshaping or building a better system altogether? Filling in the cracks just props up the toxic system. Letting it crumble and collapse could be pretty painful – it would involve a grieving process. How is Iceland doing after letting its economy fail?
PS – if you like it! I did enjoy a historical contextualisation of our current climate in the Huffington Post recently by Tobias Stone.