Pre­pared for an emer­gency

Kapi-Mana News - - NEWS FEATURE -

What would you do if a huge earth­quake struck? How long could you last with­out mains wa­ter, elec­tric­ity or gas? If you lost your job to­mor­row, could you rely on your own re­sources? AN­DREA O’NEIL finds the Porirua peo­ple most pre­pared for the un­ex­pected.

When Christchurch was hit by its de­struc­tive earth­quake in Fe­bru­ary 2011, many Welling­to­ni­ans started plan­ning se­ri­ously for a dis­as­ter in the cap­i­tal.

And they’re not alone. Pre­pared­ness and self-suf­fi­ciency is be­com­ing a hot topic in coun­tries across the globe, es­pe­cially those deep in re­ces­sion.

In the United States a community of ‘‘prep­pers’’, or sur­vival­ists, num­bers in the mil­lions, stock­pil­ing food, learn­ing bushcraft and plan­ning es­cape routes from cities.

It’s not just nat­u­ral dis­as­ters peo­ple are pre­par­ing for – eco­nomic col­lapse, cli­mate change and war­fare worry many prep­pers.

While there may not be an or­gan­ised community of prep­pers in Porirua, self-suf­fi­ciency has a long his­tory here, emer­gency man­age­ment of­fi­cer Trevor Farmer says.

Porirua Lu­natic Asy­lum ran as a self-suf­fi­cient farm, and community gar­dens around the city are the mod­ern equiv­a­lent, he says.

Mid­dle-class peo­ple tend to plan for dis­as­ter, whereas the rich­est and poor­est in so­ci­ety are un­pre­pared, Mr Farmer says.

‘‘In my ex­pe­ri­ence it’s those at the very bot­tom and those at the very top. The rich are used to just go­ing out and buy­ing things, and the poor don’t have the money for it.’’

Some peo­ple think Civil De­fence cen­tres have vast stores of food and wa­ter to hand out in an emer­gency, which is not the case, Mr Farmer says.

‘‘Civil De­fence stocks no food, no med­i­cal sup­plies, no blan­kets, no beds. We don’t have hun­dreds of tents. We’re there to man­age the re­sponse. That’s our role,’’ he says.

Emer­gency man­age­ment is about en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to be self-reliant.

‘‘ We’re help­ing peo­ple to im­prove their lives. If you give ev­ery­thing to peo­ple, they’ll just take it. We want peo­ple to take care of them­selves.’’

Power play

Whitby man Barry Ryan built his home in 2007 with re­silience and self-suf­fi­ciency in mind.

Ire­land-born, Mr Ryan wanted a healthy, en­ergy-ef­fi­cient home that gave his fam­ily the best pos­si­ble chance in a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Min­imis­ing the fam­ily’s re­liance on fos­sil fu­els was an­other con­sid­er­a­tion.

‘‘That price is go­ing up and up and up,’’ he says.

The fam­ily – Mr Ryan, wife Nicky, chil­dren Eoin 4, and Gemma 2, and Nicky’s par­ents who live in a self-con­tained flat on the ground floor – spend a max­i­mum $200 a month on power in win­ter. Much of their hot wa­ter, heat­ing and elec­tric­ity is pow­ered by 13 so­lar pan­els on the roof.

The house is so fu­el­ef­fi­cient, how­ever, that in sum­mer months the fam­ily of­ten sells sur­plus power back to the grid.

Mr Ryan in­stalled dou­ble thick­ness in­su­la­tion on in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal walls, and im­ported the best dou­ble- glazed win­dows from Amer­ica. In win­ter the house is usu­ally 18 de­grees with­out heat­ing, and when friends are round the lounge gets so warm win­dows need to be open.

Mr Ryan had to fight coun­cil plan­ners to build his eco-house: some of its im­ported fea­tures are so un­fa­mil­iar in New Zealand, like spot­lights cov­ered with trans­par­ent in­su­la­tion, that even the En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Con­ser­va­tion Author­ity ( EECA) was re­luc­tant to ap­prove them.

‘‘You’re not do­ing it ex­actly the way they want to do it, and the way they want to do it isn’t al­ways right,’’ Mr Ryan says. ‘‘New Zealand might be ahead of the game for many things but it’s fol­low­ing the party line with re­gards to fos­sil fu­els.’’

If a dis­as­ter strikes, the fam­ily will move into the down­stairs flat, which can draw power from a gen­er­a­tor and use any ex­cess power stored in the house’s foun­da­tion slab. If power gets low Mr Ryan will limit elec­tric­ity to the fam­ily’s deep-freeze, full of food. A green­house should sup­ply some fresh food in a dis­as­ter.

The house is likely to stand up in an earth­quake – Mr Ryan de­signed zig- zag steps into its ex­ter­nal walls to in­crease their sta­bil­ity.

‘‘You’re hop­ing your house has a fight­ing chance in an earth­quake.’’

But if the house does be­come un­in­hab­it­able, the fam­ily has a huge store of camp­ing equip­ment, wa­ter, dried food, torches and med­i­cal sup­plies to en­able them to live out­doors. Mr Ryan is a tent en­thu­si­ast.

‘‘You’re warm and you’re dry and you’re re­ally safe.’’

He urges peo­ple to take ad­van­tage of sales at camp­ing equip­ment shops – the gear can be used for hol­i­days and usu­ally costs less than one night at a mo­tel, he says. ‘‘It’s just smart.’’

Prac­tice and plan­ning

Once a year, mem­bers of Tawa’s Church of Je­sus Christ of LatterDay Saints, oth­er­wise known as Mor­mons, gather at their Main Rd church with enough emer­gency sup­plies to last them three days.

They are given just 10 min­utes’ warn­ing for the drill but that presents few prob­lems for this well- pre­pared reli­gious community.

There are 3000 Mor­mons in Porirua and Tawa, most of whom are pre­pared for un­fore­seen events, says Elaine Har­vey, the church’s lower North Is­land emer­gency re­sponse li­ai­son.

Church­go­ers keep a ‘‘grab bag’’ of es­sen­tials to last them 72 hours and are en­cour­aged by church lead­ers to store a year’s worth of food and have three months’ liv­ing ex­penses saved.

There are tele­phone trees set up for emer­gen­cies and the church pro­motes re­silient com­mu­ni­ties through neigh­bour­hood sup­port and street party events.

‘‘ It’s a great, well- or­gan­ised church, re­ally,’’ Mrs Har­vey says.

Self-re­liance is a key Mor­mon phi­los­o­phy. Church­go­ers try to be pre­pared for any emer­gency, from a sud­den re­dun­dancy to a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter.

‘‘The big over­all rea­son is when we’re able to help our­selves we’re more able to help our neigh­bours,’’ Mrs Har­vey says.

She stresses the church is not pre­par­ing for the sec­ond com­ing or the end of the world.

‘‘Our emer­gency pre­pared­ness fo­cuses on the here and now.’’

If a Mor­mon can­not help them­selves, their ex­tended fam­ily is the next port of call, Mrs Har­vey says.

Church mem­bers fast once a month and do­nate the money they save on food to pro­vide an emer­gency fund for mem­bers, she says.

‘‘The church wants our peo­ple to be con­scious of al­ways be­ing pre­pared and to plan ahead, not just live from one week to the next. No­body’s im­mune from chal­lenges and tri­als,’’ says Elaine’s hus­band Ge­orge Har­vey, the church’s Welling­ton stake pres­i­dent.

‘‘ Our job is re­ally to teach peo­ple to make good de­ci­sions about self and fam­ily preser­va­tion.’’ Grow your own For gar­dener Sam Buchanan, self-suf­fi­ciency is as much about free­dom as sur­vival.

‘‘There’s a whole lot of dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions, like sav­ing money. My main mo­ti­va­tion is hav­ing a

The Mor­mon community tries to pre­pare for all emer­gen­cies, whether a job loss or a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter. Pic­tured with their 72-hour kits are Church of Je­sus Christ of Lat­ter-Day Saints re­sponse li­ai­son Elaine Har­vey and Welling­ton stake pres­i­dent Ge­orge Har­vey. bet­ter life with­out money.’’

Mr Buchanan tu­tors at Kenepuru’s Te Rito Or­gan­ics and at home in Paekakariki main­tains a flour­ish­ing gar­den.

This au­tumn he grew more than 30 types of fruit, nut and veg­etable, from gar­lic to hazel­nuts, straw­ber­ries and cape goose­ber­ries. He keeps chick­ens, brews beer, hunts, fishes and makes pesto and pre­serves.

Self-suf­fi­ciency is about more than pre­par­ing for eco­nomic or nat­u­ral dis­as­ter – it cre­ates a richer life­style, Mr Buchanan says.

‘‘I don’t think ev­ery­thing’s go­ing to come crash­ing down in the next few years. I think we’re go­ing to see a slow ero­sion of liv­ing stan­dards,’’ he says. ‘‘With a lit­tle bit of skill you can make things a whole lot nicer.

‘‘The veg­eta­bles will be fresher, prob­a­bly tastier, and I think when you’ve grown your own veg­eta­bles you want to make the best meals from them – you don’t just want to throw them in a pot.’’

Com­mu­ni­ties have to band to­gether for self- suf­fi­ciency to work, Mr Buchanan says.

‘‘Self-suf­fi­ciency is a very bad term. No-one has been self- suf­fi­cient since hu­man­ity evolved. We have al­ways been a community species,’’ he says. ‘‘What you don’t grow you can get from your neigh­bours across the fence.’’

Paekakariki has a strong community spirit, with lo­cals reg­u­larly shar­ing pro­duce and stag­ing par­ties and gigs at their hall.

‘‘It’s not just about food. En­ter­tain­ment is a real need for peo­ple.’’

Gar­den­ing isn’t dif­fi­cult but peo­ple of­ten ex­pect too much as be­gin­ners, Mr Buchanan says.

‘‘ It’s about rais­ing the level, what can I pro­duce, what am I in­ter­ested in pro­duc­ing and what’s go­ing to make my life bet­ter?’’ he says. ‘‘We don’t have to look af­ter our­selves but I pre­fer to think we’ll choose to look af­ter our­selves a lot more be­cause it’s a bet­ter way to live.’’

For more in­for­ma­tion on pre­pared­ness read the book­let ‘‘It’s Easy – Get Pre­pared for an Emer­gency’’, avail­able on­line at pcc. govt. nz, search word ‘‘ It’s Easy’’.

Good har­vest: Gar­dener Sam Buchanan be­lieves community is the key to self-suf­fi­ciency and a qual­ity life­style. This cor­nu­copia is a mix of his home-grown pro­duce and gifts from his neigh­bours.

Fam­ily first: Whitby fa­ther Barry Ryan built his en­ergy-ef­fi­cient home to pro­mote the well­be­ing and safety of his fam­ily. Mr Ryan is pic­tured in his green­house with chil­dren Eoin, 4, and Gemma, 2.

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