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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Publisher’s Notebook

• Handling Adversity •


I have no sympathy for the people who called, texted or emailed me about the “cataclysmic disaster” or the “horrible crisis” that Malibu experienced last weekend. My response to all was, “What if you were on Long Island?” There are still 100,000 people in the storm zone who have been without heat, water, and other fundamental services for over two weeks. The local complaints ring hollow compared to the laments of those dealing with death and the loss of everything they own in cold, wet and darkness.
One doesn’t have to be a fan of Southern California Edison to not rag on the utility company for a 12-hour outage in the same way that residents are rightfully slamming the Long Island Power Authority. Are we really so lacking in perspective and personal fortitude? I say this even though I doubt that SCE would fare better than LIPA facing the same circumstances because utilities are more concerned with profits than preparation for the extraordinary.
The notion of self-reliance is increasingly alien to most people, but preparation and sustainability are critical during crises. One may never be ready to face total devastation but power and communication outages are manageable.
In my house, every unused wall outlet has emergency lights plugged in. There is enough light everywhere to take action when a failure occurs. We have a large closet with floor to ceiling shelves dedicated to disaster preparedness. There’s a dozen lanterns, flashlights, lighted ski headbands, spelunking headlamps, yards of heavy duty line for rescue, animal convoy or “human chains,” and boxes of C, D and 6-volt batteries neatly stacked and rotated for freshness.
We have solar lights nearly everywhere outdoors. Except by choice, there never has to be total darkness around buildings and elsewhere on the property, including the corrals. There is battery backup on our electric gate, and everyone knows how to convert the gate to manual if the outage lasts longer than the 50 reserve “opens and closes.”
Don’t ever think of giving up a telephone landline and have one or more old-fashioned dial or push-button phones to plug into wall outlets. Hand-crank, battery or solar radios are the frontline of contact with the outside world.
We have a stash of old skiwear, vinyl ponchos, yellow slickers, overalls, boots, etc., in an array of sizes. There are several tents, sleeping bags, and vinyl/cloth tarps.
In our case, we need extra dog, llama and horse halters and leads, as well as a stackable carrier for each cat and collapsible dog crates. We rotate a cache of household pet food and disposable containers for food and water.
The human food larder is heavy on dried and jarred supplies. In the walk-in pantry, shelves are devoted to items like crackers, nuts, jarred fruits and vegetables, and juices that are regular staples, and expiration dates are monitored.
Some years back, we purchased some freeze-dried emergency meals (K-rations from an army surplus store) but when we actually tried the stuff, we decided we would rather starve. We discarded the containers when they expired and were grateful they were never needed.
Pick things family members like to eat that have a long shelf life. As for water, one can never have enough, as well as palatable things to mix in water at room temperature. Rotate the water as needed, but quantity is the watchword.
A first aid kit, basic OTC meds, and prescription backup as feasible are also vital. We have several canes and walking sticks for injuries, or traversing difficult terrain. There’s even a set of crutches left over from someone’s foot surgery and two camping “commodes,” complete with plastic bags.
Each family’s lifestyle has unique attributes that should go into the emergency planning process. Think of being completely isolated on an island for weeks. What will you need to survive? Not be comfortable, but survive? If anyone is having trouble with that concept, I have some contacts on the East Coast who would be delighted to explain what it means.

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