Being Prepared

A building caught fire in our neighborhood recently, leading to a power outage for two hours. The lack of internet and electricity, even for a short time, reminds us how dependent we are upon these modern conveniences. A recent article in the LA Times about Dr. Lucy Jones and her research of earthquakes and the San Andreas Fault brought even more clarity to the fact that we are SO not prepared for a natural disaster.

Sure, we’ve got camping equipment (tent, sleeping bags, cooking supplies), we’ve got a rocket stove, we’ve got a solar food dehydrator. Check! As a gardener, I’ve always thought, “Hey, it’s not a problem. We can live off the garden.” And to a degree, that’s true. We can live of what we’re growing during certain times of the year. If we preserve, canning and dehydrating our harvests, we reduce our reliance upon refrigeration and electricity. But water…

Food grade barrels are best for use in vegetable gardens.

Food grade barrels are best for use in vegetable gardens.

Los Angeles gets its water from a long ways away. Dr. Jones states that an earthquake along the fault line will rupture that pathway and it will take month, like 6 months, to get water to Los Angeles. That’s scary stuff!

Here in California the rainy season is over, and our rain barrels are almost empty. We’ve turned on drip irrigation in several areas. In an emergency, we have a hot tub we can draw down and purify with our camping filter, but that will only last a couple weeks. Watering a garden will be overshadowed by the need for drinking water and a supply to cook and bathe with.

So what do we do? Here are our plans:

  1. Fill up a rain barrel or two for emergencies. We have 6, so at least 3 should be full at any given time. Ideally we want to get a cistern (SoCalWaterSmart has rebates available) to store larger amounts of water year-round for the garden, for cooking, for drinking.
  2. Water filters will be important when using stored water. We have a camping pump, and we also have an in-line filter for brewing compost tea. In an emergency we can hook it up to the rain barrel.
Inline filter attaches to a hose. Filters up to 45,000 gallons.

Inline filter attaches to a hose. Filters up to 45,000 gallons.

3. Emergency food. At the moment we only have dehydrated onions and shallots on hand. We have a few packages of dehydrated backpacking food, and a few instant meals from Trader Joe’s. Oh, and we have chickens. Are we prepared for 6 month without services, though? Not even close! Emergency food rations are readily available to online shoppers. It’s time to step up the game on dehydrated food and canned goods. Perhaps it’s time to learn how to use a pressure canner? I’d like to think I can eat well under pressure.

4) Solar panels / back up generator. Ideally we’d have solar panels to keep refrigeration and computing a reality. Moving toward the off-grid life makes so much sense in emergency situations. If solar panels are not an option, we’ll get a back up generator with a flex-fuel option.

What are you doing to prepare for disasters (not just earthquake, folks). Post your ideas and solutions here.

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