Interested in learning more about Permaculture?
Please see flyer below for dates and times. These are free introductions: please email Delvin or Kym for details on locations and send a short blurb about you and why do you want to learn more about Permaculture.
I teach the Emergency Preparedness piece in the PDC, in case you want to register for the full PDC after attending this training.
I can assure this is a life changer!
Why starting with EP/DM?
Disasters and emergencies are part of our life. With all the pressures on planetary systems, we are currently creating and calling for more disasters and emergencies than ever: from individual to local, regional or global; from financial to social to environmental, we are surrounded of real, current and potential “disasters” and “emergencies”.
Permaculture also suggests we start with zone 0, or even 00. Zone 0 is your house and zone 00 is you (head, heart and hands or body/emotions/thoughts)
This week, take time to explore your house and make a list of the hazards, risks and vulnerabilities it has. Examples of hazards:
- Broken windows, doors or walls
- Broken pipes, loose wires
- Non insulated windows and doors
- Big/heavy objects in high shelves
- Untethered shelves
- Crowded halls and exits, general disorder and clutter
- Unclean dryer or chimney filters
Examples of risks:
- Residents and visitors not aware of hazards and how to deal with them
- Unsupervised children left alone around hazardous materials/areas
Examples of vulnerabilities:
- Residents or visitors with disabilities or mental health challenges
- Small children and the elder
- Pets and farm animals
- Structures too old or not designed to withstand certain events
- Enlist others in your home and organize a “hazard hunt” and don’t leave any room out
- Try shaking things, run through the house, etc and see how easy or dangerous it is (if you anticipate damage or injuries, don’t do this!)
- Include the outdoor of your home
- Ask visitors for ideas (sometimes residents don’t see the obvious because they are already familiar with the place)
Discuss your findings with the other members of your household or organization. Plan for a second round, if possible with somebody not familiar with your place.
Make a list of what you found and establish priorities so now you know what you need to do.
Your list may include:
- Simplifying by giving away, selling or swapping things you no longer use/need
- Cleaning and making sure halls, entrances and exits are clean and accessible
- Tethering high shelves and other furniture
- Bringing all heavy/big objects to lower shelves
- Avoiding clutter and garbage (follow the reduce, reject, reuse, repair/recover, redistribute, rot and re-think approach)
- Insulating windows, doors and other entrances/exits
- Making sure all pipes and filters stay clean
- Accompanying children, elders and people with disabilities or mental health challenges so they stay safe
- Planning an “awareness” meeting so everybody in the house knows what the hazards, risks and vulnerabilities are
Many are not aware, but in most countries, citizens are expected to be the first responsible for their own emergency preparedness: from creating a plan to stockpiling food and water (as well as other resources and tools), individuals, families and communities are the first respondents on any emergency and have therefore the responsibility to be prepared.
However, most people rely in their governments and local or international ONGs who will be rescuing, relieving and helping them to recover from disasters or emergencies.
In a “business as usual” scenario, this may be the case, but it is still a demonstration o immaturity and irresponsibility. It is also dangerous: when you become too dependent on exterior hierarchies, “experts” and “saviours”, you also become a slave of their interests.
There is another challenge: most acute disasters may be “Ok” with this kind of response, but for long term disasters such as the ones that may start hitting our communities and households more and more, these formal, top-down approaches are not appropriate.
In Canada and most other countries, local, regional and federal governments have a mandate to create Disaster Management plans. Many also have specific plans to respond to climate change and most of its potential impacts.
But being myself a trainer and specialist in DM and having volunteered for many years at two of these organizations, I know that these plans are very hierarchical, top-down, “expert”-focused and needs-based as opposed to flat/community-based and assets/skills-based.
I run free workshops for community groups who cannot afford paying for these services. I train groups on Emergency Preparedness and First Aid. In the future, I may start offering paid consultations for Disaster Management plan design and implementation both at household and community or institutional levels.
I encourage all those of you who are responsible for your families and communities as well serious about preparing, to explore these upcoming free courses through MOOCs systems:
Disaster Preparedness: https://www.coursera.org/course/disasterprep
Resilience in Children Exposed to Trauma, Disaster and War: https://www.coursera.org/course/resilienceinchildren
Psychological First Aid: https://www.coursera.org/course/psychfirstaid
Natural Disasters: https://www.edx.org/course/natural-disasters-mcgillx-atoc185x#.VLQ-KHtWKnk
Civic Ecology: reclaiming broken places: https://www.edx.org/course/natural-disasters-mcgillx-atoc185x#.VLQ-KHtWKnk
I have taken many courses through MOOCs and they offer you the opportunity to connect with others around the world and explore, learn and watch resources you wouldn’t imagine exist. All for free. You can go for full certification and even pay if you want to, but you can also just “audit” the course for learning purposes as I do most of the time…certificates won’t help in a real emergency…only skills and attitude.
In my last post, I mentioned how being observant, aware and alert is one of the factors that makes people react and do well during disasters and emergencies.
How can we develop this? Is there any training?
The first step is to understand the nature of Disasters: there are acute disasters (unexpected, unpredictable and of usual short duration, such as earthquakes, mudslides, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, an accident… ) and long-term disasters (they may be secondary to the first one, or develop slowly, like “boiling a frog”, such as illnesses in the aftermath of hurricanes and earthquakes; social or economic collapses or a slow deterioration of the soil, water and overall climate that impacts on access to the basics such as food, water and so on)
In many manuals you’ll find other categorizations such as “natural and “human-induced” disasters. The reality is that in these days most disasters are human-induced: building an entire city with gas and oil pipelines and nuclear reactors on the top of a well known earthquake zone is a human-induced disaster on the making. Clear cutting entire forests and changing the paths of rivers are also human-made disasters that will manifest in floods, draughts, pests, new illnesses and so on…
But the most important factor about disasters is to know that they have “personalities” or “profiles”: you can study what’s going on in your household and community and determine the following for each “potential disaster/emergency” you have identified:
- Is it preventable? How? What changes can you make or influence others to make?
- What are the causes?
- What is the frequency? Does it have one or is random?
- What’s the usual duration?
- What is the speed of the onset?
- What is the scope of the impact?
- What is the destructive potential?
- Does it have a regenerative potential?
- Is it predictable? If yes, are there mechanisms in your household/community to sound the alarm so people can make arrangements, evacuate, etc?
- Is it controllable? How?
There are many great courses to train yourself on observation, awareness and alertness.
If you have ever been a scout you may be familiar with games that develop the senses, observation and memory. One well known example is Kim’s game: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kim%27s_Game
Other ways to develop these skills are forcing yourself to be in Nature and be observant. But as “disasters” are increasingly human-induced, put yourself in situations where you can also observe, listen and take notes in urban situations: forget the car and use public transportation. Observe and listen.
And now the first tasks:
- Map your house,
- Map your neighbourhood,
- Map your community.
Your house: recruit the help of those who live with you (children, partner, everybody) and map everything in and out your home: where each room is located, what materials is made, where are the water, gas and electricity tanks/boards and switches. Where are the exits located? Do you have secondary exits in every room?
Map the systems your life depends on: where is the water coming from? Where the energy you use to cook, heat, light, etc? Where does the food come from?
Map the hazards and their risks: do you have objects that may cause fire, infestation, toxicity? What about objects that may burn fast, fall on you during an earthquake or impede your way out in an emergency?
Children like these “games” and I call them “hazard hunt”: give them the task to “explore and report” back to you and have “committee meetings” at supper time: what things need to be changed? How is going to be done? By whom? When?
Once you have your “map” and have developed “eagle eyes” to see the dangers and wrongs at home (and how to fix them), your next steps is to call the neighbours and propose a “map your neighbourhood” meeting to do exactly the same…
The difference is that with neighbours, you also want to know who lives where, who is vulnerable (for example, are there people with disabilities, elders or small children who may require extra help from neighbours? Who has special skills (you may find out that you have nurses, firefighters and the sort right around the corner!)
The second step (map your neighbourhood) is fun but challenging as many may not feel comfortable sharing details about their households or vulnerabilities, so the best is to start small and slow: invite them for a coffee/tea, a potluck and share some flyers about EP/DM…do not force anybody and do not expect everybody on board on day one.
The third step (mapping your entire community) requires a bit more because you need to map rivers, mountains, businesses that have potential hazards such as spills, explosions, etc. and it may be wise to consult the local firefighters, police and the city hall as they may have most of the information you require.
But I’m writing too much…I’ll leave you to prepare my meeting with neighbours for “Map your neighbourhood”.
Have fun and share with me your results: challenges and findings!
Some resources for you:
Tom Brown’s Jr Tracker School: https://www.trackerschool.com/
Tom Brown’s Blog: http://tom-trackerschool.com/
Wilderness Awareness School: http://wildernessawareness.org/
My blog on Permaculture: http://mainstreampermaculture.com/
Some books for you to start (not need to buy, they probably are in your local library, or you can propose to buy some as a group for your neighbourhood disaster preparedness team):
Two psychologists, Latane and Darley, studied in the late 1960’s what they called “the bystander effect”: why people act (or not) when there is an emergency.
Many other authors have studied why some people survive disasters and others don’t.
The key of whether or not and how well people respond to emergencies seems to be liked to a few factors:
- Being observant, aware and alert: being able to NOTICE that there is an emergency or a disaster (either acute or one slowly developing)
- Understanding that the event is, in fact an “emergency” or has the capacity of becoming one if unattended
- Attitude: a sense of personal responsibility; an ethical “call” to action beyond any perceived or real social norm, rule, etc.
- KNOWING what to do: being trained and have enough practice so the skills surface even under stress, pain and confusion
- Deciding to act: linked to point 3 in this list, the decision to act makes all the difference between the “bystander” and the one who acts as a leader.
Other experts in disasters and survivalism talk about other factors:
- Imagination: people who have “played” with potential threads and have allowed themselves to imagine “what if” scenarios tend to respond better and faster as these “mind games” form a pattern easy to follow when the emergency actually happens.
- Resourceful: people who are able to use whatever is at hand in creative ways or people who expose themselves to situations where they are pressed to be resourceful respond better as they don’t become stuck on details.
- Calm acceptance accompanied by realistic optimism: knowing that you or your loved ones may not make it but still being able to quickly assess the situation and have realistic optimism tend to do better than those in the extremes: either those who give up or those who are unrealistically optimistic and focus their hopes on external factors.
- Being in charge: those who take responsibility for their safety and that of their loved ones tend to do better in emergencies than those who passively “trust” external factors to “rescue” them, such as God, rescue organizations, government, etc.
- Not using all the resources at once: knowing that “help” may not come as fast make people do better with available resources.
- Seeing beyond the obvious: in long emergencies, those who can “see” the big picture and beyond “today” have better chances than those who focus only on one day at a time.
- Being fit: this is a no-brainer. People who are healthy and physically fit have more chances than those with chronic conditions, disable or unfit.
The good news is that all these things are “trainable”.
While most people focus on “stuff”, such as putting together a well provisioned pantry, the reality is that attitude and skills help much more than any tools you may have put aside.
This year, I invite you to follow my own journey as a Disaster Management, Emergency Preparedness and First Aid trainer as well as a Permaculturist and mother of two.
Being prepared for emergencies and disasters is not a “might”: with climate change, resource depletion and all the interconnected issues and predicaments, it is a matter of when and how, not if…
“Why O why did I ever leave my hobbit-hole?” said poor Mr. Baggins, bumping up and down on Bombur’s back.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
I used to love travelling…
Now I love staying at home, caring for my plants, reading, walking, playing with my dogs, looking at my cats and wondering how they manage to be so beautiful if they are the equivalent of 98-old human years…
I haven’t travelled far for the last 10 years. Only by ferry, bus or train, going to the wonderful Gulf Islands, to the Sunshine Coast, Bowen or Vancouver Island…
I’m packing my stuff, backpacking to Shawnigan Lake where I’ll be sharing info about disaster management, emergency preparedness and First Aid with my friends at OUR Ecovillage…and staying at the cozy cob house…
Then ferrying to Port Angeles, Seattle and Portland…
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
This is not just a “vacation” but a journey…I’ll be travelling alone for the first leg of my trip: endless time to re-connect, to read, to think, to breath, to dream…
This trip is part of my ever changing and evolving career path towards the gift and the sharing economies, towards doing what I love and I believe in, towards building resilience in myself and others…
I do not drive but this quote summarizes what travelling is…even for female hobbits like me…
“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? – it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
~ Jack Kerouac, On the Road