Sustainability

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 and the future looks bright. This does not mean that we should stop expecting the unexpected. Life 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, Here are 5 ways to prepare your home for disasters.

1. Water

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.

Consumption:

If the water is cut off, we need to be able to store drinking water somewhere in the house. At the starting point, 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, e.g. under your stairs along with some portable water filters. Make sure these are kept clean and dry.

The second stage is to store water in storage tanks linked to the mains. These can be the traditional tanks we stored 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.

Grey water:

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. 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 second 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 a also 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.

2. Food

Store food:

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. We can easily amend this with e.g. pull out pantry cabinets in the kitchen with just enough foot to get by for a couple of weeks if needed. This should be food we eat regularly and cycle naturally into our diet over time.

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.

Grow food:

One great option 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 balconies or window sills, but this needs to be confirmed by the landlord and/or building society.

The most recent development in urban agriculture has been hydroponic systems which can operate almost independently with very little maintenance. These 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 meat and eggs.

3. Energy

Becoming self-sufficient, or close to self-sufficient in energy is becoming ever easier and more cost effective. With energy, it’s best to think first of reducing your energy use, while production comes secondary.

Passive design

The primarily energy use is through heating or cooling our homes. This can be alleviated in existing homes through better insulation, Roof and wall insulation, new doors and windows. In new homes, we can design in passive energy, with 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.

Energy Production

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.

Energy Storage

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.

Medicine

A basic medicine storage is also a good ideal and this is usually stored in the bathroom. It´s important to make sure this is not accessible for children. Possibly in a locked cabinet. Ask your pharmacist about basic medicine to keep at home and do keep an eye on the best before date.

5. Other

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 put into improving your home before jumping feet first. The aim as always is to make your home comfortable and safe. A true Nordic Hygge Home.