We Live In Nature, It’s Not A Theme Park.
If we were truthful with ourselves then I am sure we would acknowledge that we live a pretty safe life compared to many others in the world and even more so when compared to our forefathers and ancestors. Thereisn’t a war raging at the moment that really threatens our lives, despite what some vested interests may try and convince us of to the contrary. Unless you are living in Iraq or on Basilan Island, the odds of you falling afoul of a war on terrorism related atrocity are pretty low.
However, we do live in a world where nature still rules supreme. Especially here in the Philippines. In Cebu we are pretty lucky to be sheltered by the surrounding Visayan islands of Leyte, Samar, Negros
and Bohol. Their protection means the typhoons that do strike this far south usually just produce a lot of rain and some wind and nothing like the maelstrom those up in Luzon often face.
The Philippines is a collection of islands, volcanic islands and we lie on the Pacific Rim Ring of Fire, according to the National Geograp documentary I saw last year. Very dramatic but also very apt as anyone who witnessed Mt Pinatubo erupt can attest. There are several active and numerous dormant (or allegedly dormant) volcanoes making up the very land upon which we stand. The perfect cone of the Mayon Volcano in Bicol has been making noises for some time or late, and Mt Pinatubo is also giving hints she is restless.
On top of all that, there are earthquakes to consider and their oceanographic cousins, Tsunamis, or tidal waves. Most of us live fairly close to the sea and so this is something to consider. Can you
imagine a major earthquake hitting your barangay? The mind boggles how our local, antiquated and amateur fire department would cope.
Besides nature and her extremes, there are also the results of average weather events to think about. Storms can lead to losing your roof, or land slides or flooding, even on a relatively minor scale. Nothing lethal or life threatening most of the time, but at the very least disconcerting and annoying. If you had to evacuate your home due to a flood, would you expect your possessions to be there when you return, albeit a little soggy? I wouldn’t.
I will look at events involving human antagonists another time, like riots and so on. This time, lets just focus on natural catastrophes and what we can do to prepare for them and live through them. First of all, don’t get paranoid but don’t ignore the fact that nature does bite some times. A simple storm could leave you without power for several hours or even several days, how will you cope?
Firstly there will be no light, no internet and no refrigeration. There may be no water if the local supply relies on being pumped andthe pump is on the same grid that is affected by the storm. Two years ago in Bogo we had a “brownout” that lasted for nearly three days. The local water supply was reliant on the electricity grid to power the pump to get it to our taps. No power meant no water. Nothing to drink, wash, launder or cook with. After the first day in the heat and humidity the novelty wore off and bottled water supplies were already stretched as people bought up “gallons” wherever they could for drinking water.
The power and water came back on at one stage and I rushed around filling every container I could with water. Others thought I was being silly, the power was back on, the water was flowing again, why fill all those containers? Well the power went out again after just forty minutes and didn’t come back for another two days. Two more days of no fans, no aircon, no television, no karaoke (always a silver lining in any dark cloud) no cold drinks, no fresh food, no ice etc.
Most brownouts last only a few hours, often less. This one was a three day mongrel. I was fortunate in that I could afford to put my family in the Red Terror and drive them to Cebu, where we stayed at the Kiwi Lodge for a couple of days until friends rang to say the power was back on. We could have survived the two more days with no power or water because we were prepared but with the Asawa pregnant there really was no reason not to find a solution such as staying at an hotel. Of course, that solution may not always be available.
We keep at least three days water supply on hand at all times and regularly cycle through it. Our bottled water supplier brings three “gallons” every week but we use only two, so there is always one
there in case of an emergency. I just line them up and go through them so the water is never more than a week “old” when drank. I also have another “gallon” kept in a cupboard out of direct sunlight which I swap with a fresh bottle every month or so as I remember to do so.
We have a battery back up and surge protector for the computer, it will give you about 15-20 minutes once the power goes out to save your work and switch off. Then if it is dark a standing lamp also plugged in will carry on for about the same amount of time giving us light to see by as we get the candles and torches (flashlights) out.
My wife now realizes why I insist on keeping the torches in the same places around the house, along with spare batteries and strict instructions the kids are not allowed to play with any torch except the
one specifically designated as the “one the kids will play with and use up the batteries so it won’t work when you need it” torch. Keeping them in the same places means they are easy to find in the sudden darkness of a brownout. Keeping the spare batteries with them and insisting on a little discipline regarding their use pays off when the torch is needed in an emergency and is worth the extra effort required to instil on the average Fil-Am family. (Or Fil-Aus in our case).
We don’t store a lot of food for emergencies, although we do have a cupboard with tinned goods that I make an effort to rotate through every couple of months. Since we live in the city now we don’t worry
quite as much as what was prudent when we were way up in the province.
My first aid kit, or kits as I have one in the car, one with my dive gear and two around the house, are checked every year or so specifically and given a cursory going over whenever they are used. I always check these things just around my birthday. It is an annual event I never forget and reminds me to check the things that may have lain dormant for most of the year and can do with a little attention.
The secret is to get into a routine and stick to it, take a few precautions and not get too carried away. If I was in the province or felt the threat justified the action I would look at safe rooms in the house, firearms and communications with the outside world etc. Living in Talisay we have a fire evacuation plan (this is important as many houses here have bars on the windows and doors) and two cell phones to supplement the landline. Emergency phone numbers are stored in the phone memories and also handy to the landline on a card.
As far as firearms are concerned, my proactive approach to getting on with my neighbours should erase any need to keep a gun around for protection. Besides which, enough of my friendly neighbours have their own guns so there’ll always be someone around to make noise if needed!
Don’t get paranoid, but don’t get lethargic. I took the same precautions when I lived in metropolitan Sydney as I take here in Cebu, nature can come calling with an attitude anywhere, anytime. Keep that
in mind and then get on with living the dream!