Are You Equipped For Emergencies? An Interview With Canadian Disaster Preparedness Expert
Are You Equipped For Emergencies? An Interview With Canadian Disaster Preparedness Expert
After seasons of extreme weather -- from flooding to ice storms that caused failures in our infrastructure --- even the most optimistic among us are questioning how well we’re prepared for disaster.
We contacted Denob the manager of a host of digital resources for Canadian "preppers", people with an interest in disaster preparedness. We asked him for a background on the movement and how Canadians can better equip themselves for emergency situations.
Can you describe your site why you started it?
There are actually three preparedness websites that I oversee. The first is the Canadian Preppers Network Blog, which was started as a sister to and by the owners of the more popular American Preppers Network. The idea was to organize a group of volunteer preparedness bloggers from the various provinces under one umbrella in order to provide Canadians with advice about being prepared for emergencies. The site has evolved recently into one blog for all Canadians.
There are links on the site for each province that will take you to a discussion forum called The Canadian Preppers Network Forum. Here, you will be able to find an ever growing group of preppers who are willing to offer their own personal experience and knowledge.
The third site is called The Prepared Canadian where I produce a weekly podcast discussing various preparedness topics.
The most significant reason for taking on these sites was to bring the preparedness mindset into mainstream thinking.
Can you describe what it means to call yourself a “prepper”? Who are your members? Is the demographic shifting and why?
The term “prepper” was originally coined in order to separate those who prepare for emergencies from the survivalists that were prominent in the sixties and seventies. Not that these were necessarily bad people, but a negative stereotype had unfortunately been assigned to them. To be a prepper means taking charge of your own safety and well being in the face of a multitude of situations. Preppers realize that government and emergency relief agencies have limited resources and can suffer from delayed response times. By stocking up on supplies and learning basic survival skills, preppers are able to either wait extended amounts of time for help to arrive, or not be in need of help at all, thus reducing the strain of relief organizations.
Members of the Canadian Preppers Network are an eclectic mix of Canadians from coast to coast. There are farmers, professionals and business owners, but more common is the guy next door; the average working class Joe who realizes that stuff happens and wants to be able to provide for himself and his family.
Given this wide range of people who call themselves preppers, the demographic really does not change much, however, I have noticed more and more of the average Joe getting involved.
What sort of disasters are people preparing for? Weather? Man-made disaster? Earthquakes? Pandemics?
Preparing for disasters is dependent on many factors. Our members prepare for disasters most common to their general location. For example, those living on the prairies would prepare for events that are most likely to affect them such as tornadoes, and not for earthquakes which are very rare for them. Likewise, those in BC may prepare for a devastating earthquake and less for extreme cold and blackouts.
Instead of focusing on specific events, I prefer to advise people to prepare for a lack of systems of support such as utilities (electricity, running water, etc.), emergency services (police, firefighters, ambulance, etc.), supply chain (deliveries of food, fuel, and other goods), and financial difficulties (job loss, or other decline in income).
By preparing this way, almost any disaster can be mitigated.
What type of objects – at minimum – should a household have on hand in case of emergency (feel free to discuss short term vs. long term)?
- Non perishable food items (include a manual can opener)
- Bottled water
- Battery operated radio and flashlights or lanterns
- Spare batteries
- Portable heater and fuel (propane, kerosene or other)
- Rugged clothing including sturdy footwear and work gloves, appropriate for season
- Camp stove and fuel
This is really an at-minimum list and the amounts are up to the individual household, although I recommend a minimum of a one week supply. Many preppers will strive to have supplies for a one year period and often opt to be able to produce food through gardening and small livestock such as chickens or rabbits, collect and purify rain water, generate power with solar or wind generators, etc.
Can you describe a typical bug-out bag?
Many people fantasize about strapping on a backpack and heading out into the wilderness to survive off the land. This is in fact impossible to do with the exception of a very few well trained and experiences survivalists. A bug-out bag is intended to provide you with the tools necessary to get you to a predetermined location outside of the disaster radius. This could be as close as the other side of town at a friend or family member, or a few hundred kilometers away, depending on the scope of the emergency. Typically, a bug out kit should have to support you for no more than three days. Items one would want to include would be season appropriate clothing, non perishable food, drinking water, and so on. Most preppers would also have copies of important documents such as insurance policies, medical records, etc.
How would you be better prepared than your average neighbor in case of disaster?
The biggest advantage I have over so many others is that I have shaken off the “it can’t happen to me” attitude. Many people sit in a cozy living room watching disasters unfold all across the nation and beyond without a thought of what they would do if it happened to them. 2013 was a year full of disaster for Canadians from coast to coast with floods, ice storms, extreme weather and so on. Once one realizes that not only do bad things happen, but that they can actually happen to them, then the battle is almost won.
Where would the best place to be in case of major disaster? Would it be safer in the city or in the country?
I have always believed that a rural environment is a more logical place to be in the face of disaster. To me it’s a simple matter of numbers. With high population densities in urban areas, resources will be stretched thinner.
Do you believe in doubling up on your emergency supplies for friends or neighbors who are less prepared?
Absolutely. I prepare not only for my immediate family, but for extended family and friends that may be in need. Of course, anyone wanting to seek safety will be expected to help with daily activities, or may be expected to bring any resources they already have with them.
When the larger cable/phone network is down, do you have a plan for creating an ad hoc communication network?
Yes. I have several communications systems in place for local and long distance communications including handheld short range 2 way radios, CB radios in my vehicle and home, as well as an Amateur Radio Certificate. This subject is not as simple as it sounds however, and communications networks between groups of preppers are being planned and constantly re-evaluated.
What emergency situation do you feel most prepared for?
I have spent most of my preparedness efforts preparing for the disasters we see almost every day on the regular news programs. I have plans and supplies in place for almost any weather related or other natural disaster as well as a multitude of other scenarios. As I mentioned earlier, preparing for a lack of support systems or failures in infrastructure has widened the range of possibilities that could arise that I would be ready to handle.
Where do you live? What sort of disaster do you think you are most likely to face next?
Not many preppers will reveal their exact locations, but I am willing to mention that I live in the Laurentian Mountains in Quebec. Given this location, other than the everyday storms and weather related disasters, I personally believe that a major earthquake would be a likely scenario that I might face.
Has there been a movie or book that you feel best describes/predicts what it would be like in a disaster?
Simply put, no. There are many preppers who look to the works of James W. Rawles, Jerry D. Younge, and other fiction writers in the prepper/survivalist genre, but these are, of course, fiction and the stories told are created out of the imaginations of the authors. Rather than looking to the entertainment industry for a look at what can happen, turn on the six o’clock news.
Is there a book or website you'd recommend?
There are several resources I personally recommend.
What is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to disaster preparedness?
Trying to prepare for every single scenario you could imagine will lead to frustration, and ultimately deter you from becoming prepared. Concentrate on preparing for a lack of services, or systems of support.