Are you ready for disaster?

Recent news has highlighted some severe weather disasters, and we feel fortunate few such events affect this part of the country.

Recent news has highlighted some severe weather disasters in the world, and we feel fortunate few such events affect this part of the country. That’s not saying we don’t get our share with flooding, hailstorms and the odd tornado ravaging parts of the province. What we don’t seem to get is massive hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes and other such natural calamities. Some might note that we are visited by a natural weather cataclysm every year called winter. The winters we endure would be considered a weather catastrophe in warmer parts of the world. But then we have engaged technology and energy resources to maintain some ability to survive winter in relative comfort. What would be a real disaster for millions in this country is a prolonged interruption in receiving power and energy to keep us from freezing to death in the dark. Which causes one to ponder what would happen if such a calamity occurred.

I would suggest it would be an utter disaster as I expect most of us are hopelessly unprepared to survive for more than a few days particularly in the winter. And don’t expect much help from your governments as there is no indication that they have any plan or capability to help more than a handful of folks. But then one wonders what could be done except to rely on the personal ingenuity of individuals to fight to stay alive – but then that has ominous connotations. Some folks have taken measures – they purchased portable electric generators and others have fire places. One wonders how insightful it might have been if all homes were required to have fireplaces that could burn natural gas without the need for electrical support. It’s not the complete answer but would be lifesaver during a protracted power outage. What about all buildings being required to have emergency electrical generators. Our rulers never think of such measures until a disaster strikes – but then it’s too late. It’s all dismissed as just too costly and unlikely to be needed.

Notwithstanding the deadly impacts of a winter without heat, most of us do not maintain a food and water supply that could sustain us for more than a few days. Our modern western society has developed such a sophisticated food and water supply chain that we take for granted that it will always be there to serve us. It’s all a bit a delusion of course, a protracted power outage will stop water from being pumped as backup generation has its limitations. Our food supply is quite precarious; today’s pampered consumer society has no idea that, at best, we have a 30 days’ supply of food on hand. Most of the year, Canadians are utterly reliant on food imports particularly in the winter from California, Florida and Latin American countries. The North American food system, particularly perishables, operates on a last minute supply and demand basis. Storage costs money and profits are in rapid turnover. The positive side is that we enjoy the cheapest most abundant food supply in the world. The downside is that it rests on a very precarious supply basis. Clearly, any extended disruption in the food supply would cause deadly civil unrest – the peaceful veneer of civilization is very thin – it’s just human nature.

Some folks have recognized the perilous nature of our food supply particularly in light of any natural or human caused disaster. One of the more prominent institutions that advocates for the preparation of any sustenance shortage calamity is the Mormon Church (your writer is not a Mormon but is a humble Anglican). It is part of their policy to encourage its members to maintain at least a three-month supply of food and water on hand in case of emergency. One presumes that church directive is due to divine inspiration, but it’s certainly a sensible strategy if one considers the reality of our 30-day supply of food. To assist its members in building up their supplies, the Church has established retail stores called Home Storage Centers – there are three located in Alberta. The stores are open to non-members and supply food in convenient containers and varieties that are easy to store without heat or refrigeration. One may scoff at this self-preservation approach, but from a practical perspective, it seems quite prudent. Interestingly many think nothing of spending hundreds of dollars annually on booze, a substance which will only provide very temporary relief from any disaster (real or imagined). Perhaps this should all be considered food for thought.

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