5 ways to prepare your home for disasters
We are living in the safest times in known human history. Globally life expectancy has never been higher and poverty rate never been lower. Life is good therefore and the future looks bright. But this does not mean that we should stop expecting the unexpected and prepare your home. Because the world is volatile and the prudent adult builds resilience into their daily life. The type of preparation depends on where you live and what is most likely to happen. Any list such as this will therefore not be comprehensive and you should seek specialist advise. We call this building resilience into your home, and here are 5 ways to prepare your home for disasters. Within these we have a basic option for our existing homes, and advanced option for a new built house.
Water is the primary need of the human body. We use it to drink, to cook, to wash ourselves, wash our home and flush the loo. We need to drink clean water, and clean ourselves and our surroundings to prevent decease. These we can divide into two basic water categories: water consumption and grey water.
If the water is cut off, we need to be able to store drinking water somewhere in the house. Our basic option is storing some clean water containers that we can fill with clean water before they are needed as a basic precaution. Store these in your storage space or under your stairs along with some portable water filters. Make sure these are kept clean and dry.
The advanced stage is to store water in storage tanks linked to the water mains. These can be the traditional tanks we used to store in the attic, or more modern version that you can build into walls or floor spaces. It’s important that these are robust, installed correctly and well maintained to avoid contamination.
In emergency, grey water can be collected from lakes, pools or rain and used for water flushing purposes and with a bit of filtration for cleaning or watering plants. To prepare our home, the basic solution is to store water collection containers for the purpose of collection grey water outside the home. Make sure they are clearly marked to distinguish them from clean water containers.
The advanced stage option is to collect rain water into storage tank that is used to flush the WC and/or for watering the garden. There is also a technique available that connects the sink to the WC, using sink water to flush the loo. Again, check the need for filtering system, and maintenance.
Rainwater can be collected separately in garden cisterns that you can use to water the plant and feed the wildlife. Having a ready access to water in a drought is good for plants and animals that live around us.
Historically people would store a certain amount of food in their homes, with cold storage and pantry being a standard space allocation in new built homes. However, in modern households we appreciate fresh just-on-time foods, and allocating space to food storage is a stretch in the small modern (and historical) homes. The basic solution is simply to always have enough (long storage) food in the kitchen cabinets for at least a couple of weeks in extreme circumstances. All stored food should be food we eat regularly and cycle naturally into our diet over time.
To prepare our home we can also amend existing kitchens by replacing a low cabinet with a full height pull-out pantry cabinets in the kitchen. Avoid storing foods in inaccessible spaces. Cycling this into our diet becomes less likely, we will then forget about it and it ends up as waste.
The advanced solution is built in storage space with full height cabinets in a well designed kitchen and cold storage linked to an off-grid power source.
One great option to prepare your home that also improves our quality of life is growing some of our own food. The simplest thing many of us already do is a small herb planter in our kitchen window. Easy maintenance and a great fresh addition to our everyday dishes.
Gardens provide a perfect space for growing some of our food. The advance of “permaculture” and automated watering systems makes this much easier for busy professionals than in the past. This can be designed into our garden so it provides both beauty and sustenance.
For those living in flats, gardening is obviously more difficult but not impossible. Many do have the option of growing some plants in pots on balconies or window sills, but this needs to be confirmed by the landlord and/or building society. The basic solution for apartment buildings that do not have any external space is to grow food in planters. This will not provide all the nutrients you need, but will be a good addition to your food.
For the most advanced solution, recent development in urban agriculture has been hydroponic systems which can operate almost independently with very little maintenance. Hydroponics are water-based planting system that use gravity fed water to nourish plants. These range from your typical herb garden to a full salad resource. Up to date LED lights, pumps and planting/fish bowl systems can be connected to a solar or wind power source giving you a year-round access to healthy greens.
For the avid urban agriculturalist, rabbits and chicken are a source of ready protein and eggs.
Becoming self-sufficient, or close to self-sufficient in energy is becoming ever easier and more cost effective, not just to prepare your home but for lowering costs generally. However, with energy it’s best to think first of reducing your energy use, while production comes secondary.
The primarily energy use is through heating or cooling our homes. At the basic option can be alleviated in existing homes through added insulation, Roof and wall insulation, new doors and windows. In new homes, the advanced option, we can design in passive energy, with things like added insulation, energy calculations, thermal massing (stone and concrete drink in the heat or cold of the home, store it and release slowly over the day). Placement and size of windows, awnings etc. makes a huge difference. Using high tech design methods, we can optimise the passive energy saving of new houses. Passive means that there is no running costs involved.
Over the last few years energy production technologies have become ever better and more cost effective. Solar panels and wind power generators come in all kind of sizes. One of the best are solar water heaters, which warms up your hot water through sunlight use. Depending on your location, excess energy can sometimes be sold back to the grid when you don´t need it. The basic solution is to have at least a small portable solar panel, while the advanced option will give you multiple tailored options for your location.
Energy storage has been one of the biggest hurdles with self-sufficient energy production, since we use most of our energy in the evening when there is no sun and perhaps little wind. Tesla´s Power Wall is effective and an indication of things to come. It is claimed that the Power Wall will rune a household using moderate energy.
4. First Aid
Every home should have a first aid kit in an easily located place. The first aid kits need to be examined regularly as things do run out and have a best before date. Children should be shown where this is and taught how to use it when they reach the right age.
The first aid kit is often located in the kitchen, as this is often the first-place people think of when they have a small accident. This is also a place for a fire extinguisher and fire blanket. All of the above should be designed into your new kitchen. This applies to both basic and advanced options.
A basic medicine storage is also a good ideal to prepare your home and this is usually stored in the bathroom. It´s important to make sure this is not accessible for children. Always in a locked cabinet. Ask your pharmacist about basic medicine to keep at home and do keep an eye on the best-before-date. This applies to both basic and advanced options.
5. Location, location, location.
Each scenario requires a different approach to building in a resilience into your home. Before you start, ask yourself what are the most likely natural disaster in your area? There is no point purchasing a boat when you live in a desert. This should be planned with input from helpful neighbours and specialists. Decide how much effort and time you want to prepare your home before jumping feet first. The aim as always is to make your home comfortable and safe. A true Nordic Hygge Home.
In addition to the above your home should have (from READY):
- Batteries for Flashlight
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert.
- Dust mask
- Tarpaulin or plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
- Manual can opener for food
- Local maps in hard copy
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
By Gudjon Thor Erlendsson
© 2020 Gudjon Thor Erlendsson, all rights reserved.