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Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

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  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 01:04am

    #1

    nickbert

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    Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

As the story develops of the unfortunate events in Haiti, it’s easy to see potential parallels between this and the future we may experience in more developed nations as economic and energy issues come to the fore.  The point of this thread is to look at some of the specific issues the Haitians are struggling with now, and put ourselves in their place to see where our knowledge, skills, and preparations help (or don’t help) in the situation. 

Specific Challenges:
– Ability to evacuate at a moment’s notice (do you have your Bug-Out-Bag ready and waiting?)
– Is there a place to evacuate to or some form of temporary shelter, and assuming you have some time to retrieve belongings what would you take with you? (many, if not most, seem to have lost their homes so let’s assume that your residence is uninhabitable for the time being… or as an alternative, assume your residence IS inhabitable but you have 5-10 additional family/friends staying with you who have nothing to their names)
– Availability of potable water (local water utilities are out of commission, and any water pumps relying on electricity need an independent power source).
– Availability of food and the ability to cook it (no stores open, no food for purchase, and the public gas utility is offline).
– Availability of electricity (no public electric utilities are functional; perhaps we can assume generators and solar pv systems are intact but any wind towers will have been damaged)
– Availability of proper sanitation (wastewater utilities are also out of commission, and diseases such as cholera and dysentary are now an issue).
– Lack of sufficient emergency services (rescue teams, firefighters, medical services, police, etc., are overwhelmed).
– Ability to protect yourself, loved ones, and property (looting and rioting primarily, but in all likelihood far worse crimes are taking place as well).

So I ask, based on what your current knowledge, skills, and preparations, how would you handle these emergencies?  And if there are other challenges I’ve missed, by all means let your voice be heard!

Thanks for participating,
– Nickbert

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 01:31am

    #2
    Peak Prosperity Admin

    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

I was thinking about this earlier.  In some circumstances,  all of our preparation could be for naught.  Most of my supplies are in the basement,  If my house collapsed they would be useless.  Even my means of defending myself and my family are in the house.   We have a camper and some supplies are in there,  but far from enough.

I was thinking about what would happen if something like this were to happen during a work day – I am at work in one state,  DH is at work in another state and the kids in school somewhere else,  I need to cross one major bridge and two small ones,  what if they were gone?  We have a preset rendevouz,  but it might be alot harder to get there than I had been imagining.  

We can do what we can to be prepared but we should never fool ourselves that we are prepared for everything.

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 03:15am

    #3
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

Nickbert,

Awful thing about an earthquake is that it has the potential to absolutely destroy your stock of canned goods. 
Depending on how/where they’re stored, you might lose a massive amount of what you’ve canned – so an Earthquake is a “game changer” in that people who have established homesteads might not be significantly better off than their urban counterparts.

 Also, damage to rural roads/bridges might have a greater impact considering most of our supplies are still trucked in. 

I can see this as being one of the “worst case” scenarios – especially for those of us in the Pacific Northwest. 

So, to your questions (numbered for ease of address):

[quote]- Ability to evacuate at a moment’s notice (do you have your Bug-Out-Bag ready and waiting?)
1. – Is there a place to evacuate to or some form of temporary shelter, and assuming you have some time to retrieve belongings what would you take with you? (many, if not most, seem to have lost their homes so let’s assume that your residence is uninhabitable for the time being… or as an alternative, assume your residence IS inhabitable but you have 5-10 additional family/friends staying with you who have nothing to their names) 
2. – Availability of potable water (local water utilities are out of commission, and any water pumps relying on electricity need an independent power source).
3. – Availability of food and the ability to cook it (no stores open, no food for purchase, and the public gas utility is offline).
4. – Availability of electricity (no public electric utilities are functional; perhaps we can assume generators and solar pv systems are intact but any wind towers will have been damaged)
5. – Availability of proper sanitation (wastewater utilities are also out of commission, and diseases such as cholera and dysentary are now an issue).
6. – Lack of sufficient emergency services (rescue teams, firefighters, medical services, police, etc., are overwhelmed).
7. – Ability to protect yourself, loved ones, and property (looting and rioting primarily, but in all likelihood far worse crimes are taking place as well).[/quote]

1. I’d be evacuating to the family homestead, and have already flushd most of my “important” survival essentials there – so it’d be more of a concern addressing the issue of travel. I might be between 30-300 miles from there when the “big one” hits. Heck, I’ve spend quite a bit of time in the Midwest as well. That’d put the journey at a more improbable 2500 miles.
Even during travel situations, I’ve got a “go bag” and a good -40 sleeping bag with some extra chow and water. The shortcoming is;

2/3. Food and water. I don’t carry more than about 3 days worth, and that’s just not enough. Problem is, it’s heavy and takes up a lot of space. 
I do keep snare wire and fishing hooks on hand. Been thinking about getting a Gaff and some Gill net as well, and now might be just the perfect time to “prioritize” that. Cooking is no problem, but being sure I have the necessary cookware and water purification precautions in place is another story. Water collection is no worries, being in the PNW, but keeping it clean might be more of an issue. I’ve got plenty of trioxine and have been working on a primer for some primitive skills to share here – fire starting even in wet weather is doable, and cooking is no problem. Getting the food might be another story.
Plan: Get a good cookset and a Katadyne Purifier.
Another case or two of MRE’s for travel are in order.

4. I’ve got a small solar panel, good for next to nothing, that goes in my pack. It might be enough to get the HAM radio up and running, but not for long. Transmissions would probably be almost a “no dice” deal. Definitely lacking in this area. 
Plan: Get some “get by” panels and start working towards a wind turbine. 

5. Water is No worries. Gotta be diligent, but have septic and lots of H2O at available. Boiling and re-oxygenation will probably be required.

6. This is something I was thinking about the other night. Fire especially. if you need an ambulance, chances are you can learn to stabilize the patient yourself. EMT B isn’t even a 2 year course. But your home catching fire is entirely different. You have to be able to act fast, act appropriately and get the fire stopped –now!  Taking some extra steps to get fire extingusihers, both for the home and the vehicle would be prudent.
Plan: Update fire plan, rehearse, check batteries in detectors, and get a couple more extinguishers.

7. Rotating fire watch. Protocols for leaving, travel, posture in town (CCW but HEAVY) and entering the property and familiarization/training every 5th day for all members of the family.

I’ve got to say – this thread has really got me thinking about some very simple and effective tune ups I could do now, and for little cost…

Awesome work Nickbert! 
Cheers!

Aaron 

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 04:09am

    #4
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

Well for me, the lesson from this is that you can’t prepare for anything as bad as that….
It also proved to me that living in population dense areas complicates things dramatically. So for instance, if an earthquake as bad as this occurred here, we would still be able to get around on a bicycle, even if it had to be carried some distances over obstacles.

I have zero idea whether our house would be totally destroyed or not…. but I suspect our water supply would withstand something like this unless a great big crack opened up right under the middle of our water tanks!

We don’t store food, as in months worth of supplies. There’s a kid goat in the freezer, and that’s it…. Most of our food’s all in the ground or walking around.

Personally, I think selecting somewhere safe to live is critical……. flood free zone, no earthquakes, no volcanoes (unless they’ve been extinct for 150,000 years like the one I can see out the window!)

The thing that also needs to be remembered is that a disaster of this proportion could only happen in a third world country where nothing’s well built, and infrastructure is barely working even in good times…..

Mike

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 04:19am

    #5
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

I don’t have a bug-out bag per se, but we do have a small pop-up camper that I keep fully prepped and stocked with fresh water, food, and necessities. We learned from Hurricane Rita that in an emergency, there will be no gas, no food, and no vacancy, in no time flat. The strange thing is that during the mass evacuation in Hurricane Rita, vehicles were not allowed to pull trailers or campers, not that they could really enforce that during the chaos.

In addition to what is already in the pop-up camper, we also have the following items ready to go at a moment’s notice:

  • 60-80 gallons gasoline
  • small, and relatively quiet, Honda 3000 generator
  • Electronics Tote: (walkie talkies, emergency radio, flashlights, recharchable batteries and charger, small PV panel and charger etc)
  • extra propane tank,
  • Extra Food Tote (for a total of 4 weeks supply)
  • 30 gallons of water (plus 40 gallons in camper)
  • Rocket Stove, lighter fluid, lighters, kindling/paper, axe and saw.
  • Tools
  • pet carrier & supplies
  • Shot gun and 360 degree motion detection lighting for the camper.

My wife and I did a dry run a few years back and we can have everything loaded up and be on the road in under 30 minutes. Where would we go? Wherever everyone else is not. Of course that means knowing the back roads and routes ahead of time. 

It took us over 24 hours to drive 200 miles during the Rita evacuation of Houston. Never again will we be unprepared to bug-out quickly.

 

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 08:03am

    #6
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

[quote=Damnthematrix]

Mike,

The thing that also needs to be remembered is that a disaster of this proportion could only happen in a third world country where nothing’s well built, and infrastructure is barely working even in good times….. Mike[/quote]

That seems to be a rather rash statement.  Do you consider Alaska circa 1964 (a US state by that time) a third world area?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Alaska_earthquake

http://www.alaskastock.com/resultsframe.asp?akfacts=1&txtkeys1=earthquake

My hometown of Anchorage was flattened in many places as you can see from the photos in the second link.  These are mostly buildings that were built using good standards (of that era), and as you can see it didn’t help much.  So if that’s the case, then why so few deaths for such a large, devastating quake?  Lower population was a part of it, but the biggest factor was simple dumb luck.  It just happened to occur on Good Friday when all the schools and many businesses were closed for the holiday, and at 5:30pm when most people were home (most houses were made of wood which fared somewhat better).  Large buildings such as the schools and larger stores typically suffered the most damage… imagine how high the death toll would have been had it happened a day earlier in mid-day.  All of the challenges I listed beforehand also existed for Anchorage with the exception of rioting and looting (some were very concerned about the possibility of looting though).  Water, sewer, electric, telephone, and gas utilities were all disrupted, and it took weeks for most services to be restored. 

Did being a part of a wealthy nation help with rebuilding in the weeks and months that followed?  Absolutely.  But in the initial weeks the population was still largely on their own, and it was mostly up to individuals and the local community to get by in the meantime.  Is it too much of a stretch to believe that personal preparedness and strong communities had a lot to do with surviving the aftermath?  The ’64 quake was long before I was even born, but I’m pretty sure the people alive in Alaska then were far more familiar with personal preparedness and self-sufficiency than most people today.  Now if the same quake happened in Anchorage right now given the same circumstances I think things would be far worse; I wish it were otherwise, but a lot of people here are complacent about personal preparedness.  Maybe not so much as many other parts of the country, but IMO it is still sorely lacking.  Wealth doesn’t count for much in a disaster if you aren’t prepared, and many people in the US are not prepared emotionally, physically, or materially for extreme hardship… New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina was a painful demonstration of that.  Please don’t let yourself believe that it can’t get that bad wherever you happen to call home, and don’t think that it’s impossible to prepare for things of this scale.  There’s no such thing as 100% preparation, but it could very well be small things, like a $70 portable water filter, that make all the difference.  And from your description of your homestead it sounds like you’re better prepared for a disaster like this than you think… food in the ground and water in a tank is nothing to sneeze at!

– Nickbert

 

 

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 08:44am

    #7
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

Yep Nick, wasn’t that the quake the relocated Valdez too? 3rd world or not Earthquakes have the ability to bring everything to a halt, Look at Kobe 1995,and San Francisco in 1989. Seattle’s overdue for a 7.0+ too, that one will be fun… Sloped Landfill, into the Puget sound you go… Bye-Bye Space Needle… Ah, just relishing the thought…

Anyway on to people thinking about their “stuff” being destroyed. Well don’t store it all in one place. Sheesh, I thought that was obvious. Store some in the Basement, some in the Kitchen, some in a food shed or locker outside. If you’re incredibly unlucky you’ll lose 2/3  most likely the Internal storage. At worst case with the shed (unless it drops down a deep hole) might fall but you can recover the contents. Not much point in being prepared with al your stuff in a single location, if there’s a risk that the single point might be destroyed. If there’s something that hits you that completely destroys more than probably 50 square yards, then you’ll likely not need to worry about having anything later, because you won’t be needing it.

BTW Nick, I suspect that if the same should happen today, that Anchorage would be a lot worse off than it was back then, I think Anchorage has lost the “Alaskan Frontier” spirit, and it’s the northern suburb of Seattle sadly. Not saying anywhere else is that much better mind you, I’d think Fairbanks might freak out too, if it wasn’t for Ft Wainwright.

 

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 08:54am

    #8
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

Aaron –

Awesome breakdown there.  Especially with the rotating fire watch; it’s silly how I know that fires can be an issue after earthquakes, but it never occured to me to set up a fire watch.  And while on the topic of fire hazards, knowing how to shut off the gas to one’s place should be a priority too.  Some of the personal accounts of the 1964 Alaska Earthquake made mention of gas leak fears at the time.

I also find myself with the same concerns that you and On Our Own have about being away from home if/when a disaster should strike.  I keep extra food and a basic emergency bag in my housing unit at my job location, but that’s several hours drive from home.  I always keep the gas tank full in case I need to drive down in a hurry, but there’s any number of possible situations here that could make driving impossible, and in such a case getting to my family would not be easy if it was winter.  That could be one long snowmachine trip!

JAG –

I love the camper idea.  To be honest I’ve been going back and forth on getting a camper… as helpful as it could be in several potential situations, it’s hard for me to justify the expense.  Who knows, maybe campers and such will be among those future ‘bargains’ those of us who are hoarding cash hope to find Wink.  For now I’ve put on my evacuation list just the things we can fit in a Honda CRV, which is not much when already holding a family of 3.  If you don’t mind me asking, what container(s) do you have for storing your gasoline for travel?

– Nickbert

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 03:12pm

    #9
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

[quote=nickbert]

If you don’t mind me asking, what container(s) do you have for storing your gasoline for travel?

[/quote]

I use 6 gallon plastic containers because anything bigger is too heavy for one man to pour easily. We bought the pop-up used for just under 2K. I installed a second battery bank and inverter for another couple hundred. You can run everything, accept the AC of course, for 4-5 days off the dual battery banks. And I could go months if needed with the small generator, AC included.

Also, its a cheap vacation for the family. During the winter here, we often take it down to an isolated spot on the beach and stay over night. Occasionally we will do it in the summer, but I have to take the generator to run the AC. The draw back to pop-up camper is that it can be a pain in the butt to set-up and take down. But it is very easy to pull on and off road, compared to a conventional camper.

Of course, we live in very different climates, so a pop-up tent camper probably wouldn’t be practical for you. But I’m sure there is a design appropriate to your climate.

All the best….Jeff

  • Mon, Jan 18, 2010 - 03:20pm

    #10
    Peak Prosperity Admin

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    Re: Lessons from Haiti; How Prepared Are We?

[quote=nickbert]

 Who knows, maybe campers and such will be among those future ‘bargains’ those of us who are hoarding cash hope to find Wink.  

[/quote]

When times get tough, people want campers to live in, so demand goes up. I have what I call the camper-economic indicator, meaning the worse the local economy gets, the more people that show up at my door wanting to buy my camper. So in this case, you might want to buy one sooner rather than later if your so inclined.

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