Pay Attention, Hawaii: FEMA running out of money

So far this season, Hawaii has not been under threat from a hurricane, even though fierce storms on the mainland US continue to cause trouble for millions of people living in their paths. Hurricane Irene, though not a high category storm, was so enormous in size and full of moisture that her effects are still being felt on the East Coast. Thousands of customers are still without power after flash floods washed away homes and infrastructure in the wake of the storm. Many hundreds of people are even left stranded in North Carolina and Vermont after Irene washed away roads and highways.

Currently, Tropical Storm Lee is making his presence known along the northern Gulf Coast, prompting evacuations and emergency declarations. Again the issue is water, not wind. Hurricane Katia is also still churning out in the Atlantic, her future effects still unable to be determined. Not to mention, earthquakes in unexpected places continue to alarm those of us paying attention to the mapsHere is an update on these and other serious ongoing emergencies.

The aforementioned events did surprise many millions of people who live in places that are not usually faced with the concept of preparing for earthquakes or tropical storm systems. Hopefully, more people are now aware of the need to acquire emergency kits and preparation plans for their families, no matter where they live.

This is even more urgent now, because unfortunately the string of disasters that has hit the US so far this year is having a severe economic impact. Aside from lost farmland and businesses, FEMA is struggling to keep up with the enormous costs, and has warned that they are running out of funds. This could have an impact down the line, if further disasters threaten anywhere else around the nation anytime soon. In fact, FEMA is already postponing some projects in an effort not to be left empty-handed. FEMA head Craig Fugate said earlier this week, “Going into September, being the peak part of hurricane season, and with Irene, we didn’t want to get to the point where we would not have the funds to continue to support the previous impacted survivors as well as respond to the next disaster.”

So even though Hawaii has had a nice breather since the tsunami in March, now is not the time to become complacent. Pay attention to the news, and prepare your home and family however you can, keeping in mind the government may not have all the resources it would like to have to assist us if something hits here. It might be wisdom to add a little boost here and there to your food and water supplies, so you could support your family for a little longer if a storm or earthquake threatens.

Stay safe everyone.

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Community Hazard Preparedness Workshops coming to Hilo and Kona


Are you prepared for the next natural hazard?

Saturday, JUNE 25th 8:30am-12:30pm
University of Hawaii- Hilo UCB Lecture Hall- 200 W. Kawili St, Hilo

Saturday, JULY 16 th 8:30am-12:30pm
West Hawaii Civic Center- Community Meeting Hale Bldg. G
74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy. Kailua-Kona, HI


  • County Civil Defense – Emergency Management and Evacuation Planning
  • Pacific Tsunami Warning Center – Tsunami Warnings
  • National Weather Service- Hurricane Forecasts
  • UH Sea Grant- Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards
  • Additional Home Hurricane Retrofit Measures
  • DLNR- National Flood Insurance Program


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Know What You Have, and Have What You Know You’ll Need

In emergency situations, there’s not always time to have to remember where you put one item or another. Did I remember to put the flashlight in the bugout bag? Did I remember to buy more coffee for the storage pantry? If you’re already a prepper, don’t keep a list and haven’t gone through your gear for awhile, take an hour or so to refamiliarize yourself with what you already have. Make a list, if you can. Then do a quick online search for survival or emergency gear lists, and see if there was something you’d forgotten about. Had you meant to order some thread or a new radio, but put it off and then forgot? Have you printed out your important documents, put them in a waterproof bag and added them to your BOB yet? Are there any small items you’ll need to remember in such a moment (for me, a nightguard for my teeth I cannot afford to duplicate, for instance). Pin a note to your pack so if such a moment arises, you’ll remind yourself to grab it before you head out.

In the past few weeks, millions of people, at one time or another, were faced with a potential tornado tearing down their door. In such situations, there is no time to think of much other than personal safety. I wonder how many people took their bugout bags with them in shelters, basements, closets or bathtubs, and survived just a little bit easier for having done so? A change of clothes, a few meals, a flashlight, a favorite book, insurance cards, first aid and extra medicines…these little things can make all the difference.

Thankfully, in Hawaii we don’t have many tornadoes. However, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to disaster. Earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes are occasional visitors. In fact, today, June 1, is the start of hurricane season.  We should be ready for them way beforehand. Not to mention, as I repeat here again and again – a large disaster elsewhere could mean trouble for our supply barges.

If you’re new to the idea of preparedness, start off with a plan. Think about how many people you’re preparing for, any special needs and how long you feel is necessary to plan for. Official authorities recommend 72 hours. We’re working on six months. So somewhere in there. 😉

Be organized. Know what you have, and where you’ve stored it. Occasionally go over your list, or through your shelves, know what you need to replenish, and what you could use more of. If you’re on a budget, create space and work out a plan for acquiring the supplies you want to have to feel secure. Our bug-in gear is stored in various places, so I make a point of repacking crates, shelves and boxes as more things are added. It reminds me I have plenty of one thing, but not enough of the other.

If you’re not sure what you’ll need, do a little research now. Search your spirit about the times we’re living in, and decide how important that kind of security is for your family. And rather than working from a place of fear, think of it like having insurance. Whatever happens, emergency and survival gear is never a bad thing to invest in. I hope we’ll never have to use everything we have stored. But if we do, I’ll not regret one dime or one minute I spent on it.

Go here for my bug-out bag list; here for bugging in. And do a search online – plenty of people out there with lots more information. In Hawaii, there are not many independent bloggers writing about these things, but, though also a relatively new website, is a great local place to start as well. Dave and Matt’s podcast there is personable and fun to listen to, and they bring up lots of great ideas and suggestions for Hawaii. Community is where it’s at in such times, so I’m happy to have been in touch with their work.

For an update on the weather weirdness and other such topics, check out my recent post at Surfing the Tao, Global Weirding Update: Surf’s Up. My most recent post there, Gratitude in Interesting Times, is a little morale booster you might enjoy as well. It’s not all gloom and doom folks.

Be wise, be prepared, be well.

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Increase in Media Prep Coverage?

Recently I’ve noticed more news about emergency preparedness appearing from mainstream sources. The earthquake/tsunami in Japan was likely a large part of this upsurge, but, there are quite a few ongoing disasters happening worldwide at the moment, including some pretty terrible, record setting floods. A couple of weeks ago 100 days of Disaster: 2011 appeared on Australian television, which included quite a bit on prepping. Last week CNBC aired a program called Apocalypse 2012: Profiting from Doomsday which outlined some of the more extreme visions of an apocalyptic future, but also went into some of the serious preparations going on including underground shelters and the fact that prepper websites are experiencing a huge upsurge in sales of emergency supplies and survival gear.

Here’s an article from May 5, 2011 in a local Illinois paper, Prepare an emergency kit for your family. From April 26, 2011, Colorado news noticed more people are stocking up just in case, More Colorado Residents Opt to Prep for Disasters. The local news in Oregon asks, from May 4, 2011, How Prepared are You for an Earthquake? Arlington County, VA is updating its emergency preparedness. Stamford, CT’s Mayor Forms Civil Preparedness Advisory Group. From the Montreal Gazette May 3, 2011, Emergency? Be sure you are prepared. May 5, 2011, Emergency preparedness begins with a personal plan.  Just found another interesting one – South Korea stages a disaster drill, from May 4, 2011. And that’s just a few of hundreds of such articles I found, all very recent.

On April 22, 2011, another Oregonian news outlet writes that people are Freaking out for freeze-dried food to such an extent that dried food manufacturers are sold out for the 2011 season, “Oregon Freeze Dry officials say they have never seen this level of consumer panic over emergency preparedness in the company’s 48-year history.” Wow. In fact a really big quake could occur anytime in the Pacific northwest…or along the New Madrid fault in the Midwest. So it’s not just California anymore people – have your family’s kits ready to go no matter where you are. I found a slew of announcements in local businesses, community centers and libraries all across the nation offering classes, seminars and drills on emergency preparedness and surviving disasters. A college in Canada recently announced they are creating a new degree program in emergency management. National Geographic channel is producing a new TV show called Preppers.

These days it’s wisdom (and apparently, even chic) to be prepared for anything, including severe economic hardship, rising food prices, etc. As I’ve said before, Hawaii would suffer immediately if the ships were unable to come for any reason. A blogger at Forbes recently wrote an article, When Disaster Strikes: Avoiding A Hit To Your Supply Chain. I’m not sure if it’s comforting to see that companies are considering options for supply-chains during disaster or not. It’s a fragile system, one not to take for granted, especially here in the islands.

A couple of days ago the University of Hawaii announced that one of its professors was recently published in the journal International Homeland Security (isn’t that an oxymoron? anyway…) “Disaster Management in the Asia-Pacific Region: The Role of Hawai‘i.” According to this article, Hawaii “is strategic in any U.S. response to a wide range of natural and man-made disasters as well as the threat of terrorism. Moreover, the extensive Hawai‘i-based network of coordination, cooperation, and collaboration among emergency and disaster management government and civilian agencies at the local, national and international levels is essential to maintaining security in the Asia Pacific region.” Here is information on the next CERT training in Hawaii County.

And we would all be advised to work up our own ohana and local networks. We’re pretty remote, so we’ll have to rely on each other. Encourage your friends and extended family to invest in a few extra supplies. While this blog is still new, I’ve enjoyed making a few contacts already, namely Matt over at Survival and the Hawaii Preppers Network. Lots of good info; check them out.

If you live in Hawaii, at the very least, be sure you keep your gas tanks above half, and stock up on some extra toilet paper (the first to go!), rice, water, personal medications and other such necessities. Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but it’s excellent security in a crisis. How far you want to go is up to you; check out my posts on Bugging Out and Bugging In, and decide what makes sense for your family.

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Our Backyard Garden

A few years ago I noticed the localvore trend really taking off, even in big cities, with people starting rooftop gardens or digging up their lawns and planting vegetables. I imagine it was a kind of backlash to rising fuel prices and economic hard times, but it makes sense on a lot of levels for a culture that has grown so far apart from its connection to the earth. Perhaps people are beginning to sense it is time to return to our roots – literally.

Here in Hawaii, as in many places, the local farmer’s markets are always busy, with all sorts of delectable locally grown products, from fruit and vegetables to eggs, goat cheese, honey, coffee, and even local chocolate. The Big Island has quite a lot of small farms, animal husbandry, large ranches and even burgeoning suburban ventures like this aquaponics farm just down the street from us. Like us, they don’t have all that much space, but found a great way to make excellent use of what they do have.

We’re on our third year of backyard gardening and keeping chickens for eggs. The first year was enormously frustrating, as we realized four of the six chicks we got were roosters (we did manage to replace them with young hens), and fought bug after blight in our tiny organic garden. I tried dozens of varieties and was disappointed how difficult it was to get that bountiful harvest I dreamed of. But, three years later, we’ve narrowed down the choices that seem happy in our particular spot of land, which is on the dry side of the island at about 1500 feet (though this year we’ve had an unusual amount of rain). We’ve got quite a few long green Thai eggplant bushes that have grown into exactly that: no winter in Hawaii means continuous growth, and some are now several years old and still producing like gangbusters. I don’t really have to do anything to maintain them other than an occasional afternoon weeding. Same with the collard greens – they are like small trees and have still never bolted. The chickens love the older leaves, too. Ginger grows quite happily, as do our chili pepper bushes. And the Tahitian squash – an acorn/butternut type of winter squash – gives us dozens and dozens, which is great, because they really keep for a long time and we can eat on them for months.

Our papayas are now producing, after about two years – we just threw one on the ground, a few weeks later we found dozens of small sprouts, which I separated and nursed until large enough for their own spot outside. Pineapples, which we placed around the edges of our property by the dozens, have taken hold, and a small lilikoi (passion fruit) sprig has taken over and promises a bountiful supply here pretty soon. And of course – our bananas are a wonderful thing to have, even though their maintenance is really a lot of hard work.

I’ve found a few things that seem to work at keeping the bugs and blights away. Diatomaceous earth is fantastic – we even sprinkle it on the chickens to keep off the mites and fleas. Sulfur seemed to mostly cure my cucumbers of a rusty blight, and a solution of neem and/or Dr. Bronner’s peppermint soap sprayed around occasionally seems to keep the whitefly and aphids at bay. I was so pleased today to find nearly a dozen fully grown cucumbers hiding under the leaves. It never ceases to amaze me, when things do work, how well they do, even in such a small patch of ground. In fact today I even found something useful I didn’t plant – a type of bitter melon that seems to be saying, “feed me, Seymour”…

If you’ve not yet found your green thumb, as I was sure I would never be able to do, give it a try. You don’t need much space – even a few containers on a porch would work great – and you can share in the joy of eating your own, homegrown goodies. Needless to say, I can’t grow enough to sustain us – yet! – but it’s a start, and a joyful one at that. Happy gardening!

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Bugging In: Prepping for Sustaining

Recently I posted an article about bugging out, and what kinds of supplies to have ready to go in case you and your family need to leave your home quickly in an emergency. But if you end up having to stay put, say during a pandemic scare or if a mainland event caused the boats to stop coming to Hawaii for a time, you might want to consider some more long term and sustainable options. And let’s face it – we should be doing that anyway. Local food and energy production should not be a far-off dream, but a work in progress. Our civilization is precariously hinged on a continuous supply of electricity. It wouldn’t take much to knock it out, especially in the US with our crumbling grid.

If the recent tsunami from Japan wasn’t enough to kick your prepping up a knotch, there are plenty of other scenarios that might. NASA and other organizations have long warned the public about the possibility of solar flares knocking out grids for long periods of time – months or even years. And that is just one possible SHTF (sh—hit-the-fan) scenario – economic collapse, polar shift, supervolcanic eruption, mega-earthquake, nuclear war or meltdown…the list is endless. The governments of the world are building hundreds – if not thousands – of large underground bases worldwide, and storing seeds for any such possibility. In fact, if you have a lot of money, you might be interested to know about various long-term underground shelters people are building – self-contained units, some with supplies to last as long as five years. Since the Japan catastrophe, sales have skyrocketed. Recently, Australian television aired an interesting program, 100 Days of Disaster, about recent disasters worldwide, preparations some people are making, the 2012 phenomenon, etc. Worth a watch.

How far you want to go in terms of preparations is up to you, how much storage space you have, how much you want to spend, how long you feel you need to prepare for, the abundance of natural resources in your area, etc. My family has been preparing a little at a time for quite a few years; we have recently ramped up our preparations, as we feel things are becoming more uncertain every day now. We’ve always considered it money well spent, either way – a kind of insurance policy we hope we never have to use, but wouldn’t dare be without.

And depending on your location, bugging in might not even be an option. You might be in a big, crowded city, and not have enough rainfall, firewood, fuel, or space to garden. But on the Big Island, it could be more realistic, as we have a lot more resources at hand and a relatively small population to support compared to the huge and abundant island we live on. And, the weather is always temperate – we can garden all year round and don’t need to worry about heating our homes (as a side note, I still have some winter gear stored – hey, climate change is in the news a lot…). Regardless – as it is now, this island could not independently support its population without a LOT of work by a LOT of people working together.

This article is only the tip of the iceberg, as I am certainly no expert – there are many, many books and websites devoted to this topic, and a lot of people spend a lot of time researching, studying and living these methods. But I’ll try and give somewhere to start. One book I found is When Technology Fails – lots of information there, whether it’s for emergency preparedness or off-grid living. Back to Basics is a classic. Heck there are a bunch of them out there. Get one or two and do a little reading before anything happens.

Water will continue to be the most important consideration. Household water catchment is already quite common in Hawaii, especially in areas that receive more rain. But does your filtration system run independent of the electric grid? Something to consider.

Otherwise, have a stash of water in your storage, as much as you can fit and afford, and want to plan for. Plan on about a gallon of water a day per person. After that, you will have to filter, so even if you’re not on catchment now, larger storage barrels or tanks as well as smaller, collapsible water carrying containers are something to consider. During an emergency, you might want to fill your bathtub just in case – the WaterBOB is a pretty nifty idea. Solar stills can be cheap and simple to build, or there are more elaborate solar still set-ups available online, which is a good option for Hawaii. Boiling and distilling are certain, but require a lot of energy. The Waterwise 1600 is a distiller which doesn’t require any filters, works on seawater and is nonelectric (it must be kept at a simmering boil for hours over some kind of heat source) – however they are not readily available at the moment. I’ve seen bidding wars for them on Ebay.

Some people swear by their Berkey water filter – depending on the model they can filter up to 6,000 gallons before replacing the filter. The Kadadyn systems have ceramic filters which last a very long time (up to 13,000 gallons). These can all be expensive though. I did find a very interesting alternative at – check their blog page for a CNN video to see them at work in Haiti. Pretty good for the price – starting at $29.00 for a simple DIY. Even so consider having replacement filters, just in case. Water can also be filtered using sand and charcoal (not briquets!), or sunlight and PET bottles, called SODIS. And of course there are purification tablets and plain bleach which can work short term. You might want to have a few different water treatments options at your disposal, as not all systems filter all viruses, cysts and protozoa. Do your research.

Having weeks or even months worth of stored food would be a great help to support your family at first, but again, this is based on affordability, space, and what scenario and time frame you are prepping for, and whether or not you have a vegetable garden and/or fruit trees. I’d suggest having a few weeks of stored food at the least if you live in Hawaii even if you don’t think TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it) is going to happen, in case there is ever a hiccup with the shipping, which has happened temporarily before. It’s estimated that most grocery stores have only about three days worth of food, so if transportation is halted for any reason, things would go south quickly. Here is an overview on long term food storage, pest prevention, rotation, and containers. And here is one example of the kind of preparations some people are doing – it’s very serious stuff here folks.

If you already have a garden, or have plenty of fruit trees on your property, this is great security and a step towards self-sufficiency. The localvore movement has been quite strong the past couple of years, and many more people are digging up their grass in favor of tomatoes. Consider getting a fruit picker, if you don’t already have one, so you can reach high branches when you go gathering. Canning and preserving are valuable skills, especially without refrigeration, and there are some great books out there to help you. Many people here I know also keep chickens, rabbits, goats, and even sheep and cattle. (We also know plenty of people who hunt the abundant wild goats, sheep, pigs and even cattle.) If you don’t already save your own seeds for next year’s garden, read up on that, and be sure you’re using nonhybrid seeds so it’s at least possible to try. Meanwhile, consider storing nonhybrid seeds. You can purchase sealed emergency seed caches which claim to last for years. Or, vacuum seal an assortment of seeds you know will work in your climate. Don’t forget medicinal herbs. Do what you can and trade for everything else. The ancient Hawaiian community system, the Ahupua’a, is a topic worthy of its own post. Ohana is everything.

As I said in the Bugging Out post, have several kinds of firestarters just to be safe. Lighters run out of fuel. Here in Hawaii, the traditional method of cooking uses an imu, and many people I know still do that for luaus and such, so fortunately that is not a lost art and is actually a very healthful way to cook your food because it’s steamed. Another popular way to preserve meat in Hawaii is smoking, and dehydrating for fruits and veggies. If you use propane, have some extra, but long term, that could run out. Have alternatives.

Solar ovens work surprisingly well, and you can make your own for pretty cheap. Rocket stoves are also pretty cool. Cast iron pots and pans will last forever, and large cauldrons for soups and stews to feel lots of people seem like wisdom. (An outdoor fire pit or wood-fired BBQ set up goes without saying.) If you think like the Amish, consider manual grain grinders, food mills and mortar and pestles, and even a wood-fired stove. Books on storing and preserving food will come in handy. Dehydrating sea water for salt will be an option here in Hawaii.

First aid
Aside from the smaller, compact kits in your bug out bags, a surplus medical supply is another thing to consider. How prepared you want to be for these types of emergencies is up to you, but living on a remote island, I would feel more secure having a larger supply of a few things, like bandages, pain relievers, ice packs and antibiotics, not to mention allergy relief, burn treatments, minor surgical supplies and even midwifery essentials. Of course if you or a family member has a medical condition, have plenty of prescription medicines and necessary supplies on hand. (You can buy antibiotics over-the-counter for fish at vet supplies online – it’s controversial, but it’s said they are the same ones used for humans, if you buy from a reputable vet supply.)  You can buy in bulk at Costco and even Ebay. Honey, tee tree oil, oregano oil, whiskey and vinegar can be used as disinfectants and/or topical antibiotics. I found a great resource on line at The Patriot Nurse – check it out. She knows far more about these things than I do. There are a multitude of great survival and basic medical first aid books available, such as Where There is No Doctor and Where There is No Dentist. Make sure you have a Nurse’s guide or other such handbook on dosages for antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, if you decide to stock up on those. I can’t take any responsibility for those decisions – it’s up to you, just know your options and do your research.

Dental care could also become a concern. You can get some temporary emergency filling repair kits, and salt is a good substitute for toothpaste, believe it or not, as is baking soda. Clove oil is great for treating abscesses, and Anbesol for oral pain relief. Medicinal herbs, how to grow them and how to make home remedies, is another skill worth studying. I recently took a CPR and First Aid course which I hadn’t done in many years. Just a suggestion.

Sanitation and hygiene
Keeping clean and hygienic is important to avoid disease, as we all know. Composting toilets are quite interesting, and some off-grid communities here already use them, as well as grey water recycling. Toilet paper will among the first things to run out if the boats stop coming, so store some extra. In Hawaii, we also have a toilet paper tree called Melocia, believe it or not. Wish I had one in my yard. 😉 Know how to properly dig and care for a latrine. For shorter term scenarios, you can use 5 gallon bucket-type camping toilet kits. Do a little searching online and be prepared at least for short term sewage stoppages.

A good supply of various soaps is wisdom. Castile soap is organic and can be used for showering as well as clothes and other things including pest management in organic gardens, believe it or not. Baking soda, corn starch, vinegars, and lemon juice can be used to make cleaning solutions and deodorants for all kinds of uses. Here is an idea for making your own manual washing machine using a toilet plunger. One of the aunties here on the island recently told me how her mother used to wash clothes in a metal basin over a fire made of coffee tree branches – they would boil the clothes, and have two other rinsing bins before wringing and hanging to dry. A solar shower is a handy thought too, especially here in Hawaii.

Most women these days probably use disposable products, but if you’re into being sustainable, you are probably already beyond this. The “cup”- there are several brands – is made of silicone and will last practically forever. Another suggestion is reusable fabric pads. You can buy them online or find patterns to make your own. Note that disposable maxipads are also usable for wound care – so, maybe have a pack or two around anyway for first aid. Also, tampons can be used as tinder for starting fires, among other things. Believe it or not, I’ve also heard of baby socks rolled up as a suggestion for reusable tampons. In a long-term scenario, birth control could become a vital concern. Something to think about.

Self Defense
If it’s really TEOTWAWKI, let’s face it: if you have a solid long-term supply, gear and bug in plans, your less prepared neighbors might find out about that pretty quickly. Of course, working together and community living will be imperative to long term survival in such a situation, and hopefully everyone will find a way to contribute, if if comes to that. But what about the people who will just want to steal your stuff, or even kill you for your food? I’d like to think that especially on the Big Island, this won’t be as big a problem as it could be in a larger, mainland city. Generally people are pretty aloha here, and tend to be very community oriented. But like everywhere else, we also have some lazy, mean, crazy and selfish people – and plenty of unprepared people, to be sure. In our family, we are ready for this possibility. Think about what you would be prepared to do, and what supplies you would want to have, to defend your bug-in spot, your family and stockpiles. You might have to move somewhere more defensible. And remember: ammunition can run out. Have options.

Tools and equipment
For bugging in, one assumes you will have access to your home tool shop. If you don’t have the basics in terms of hand tools, pick up a kit, same for gardening, if you have the space, and seeds. Have a few other essentials like a variety of nails and screws, duct tapes, tarps, zip ties, glues, and rope. More elaborate SHTF preppers might also have thought of manual hand drills and sewing machines. Maybe you have some antique tools in your attic or outbuildings. Dust them off and see if they need repair now. I found a manual crank attachment online for an old Singer I have. A store of threads and fabric will also be good to have, along with other various needlecraft supplies. Some people go so far as to have tools for tanning animal hides and stitching leather.

If you’re a hunter, consider have alternatives to guns to hunt with and start to develop your skill in using them. Long term, ammunition could eventually run out, but you can reuse arrows, and even make your own, for example. Traps and snares are an excellent option. If you’re a fisherman, make sure you have extra supplies to repair and build nets, spears, fishing lines, etc. In the old days, Hawaiians built fish traps near the shore with rock walls. Metalworkers and blacksmiths will be highly prized, if they know the old ways and had the old tools.

Some people have two-way radios, solar generators, aquaponics systems and other fancy equipment. Again – depends how deep you want to go with this, what you are preparing for, and where you live. Off-grid living and/or local energy production can be a challenge, and yet even as many people realize it is the best solution for what ails our planet, if things aren’t changed soon, we may have no choice in the matter.

Having a library of useful information will be important when there is no Google. There are all kinds of books out there on off-grid living, back to basics, homesteading, etc. You can learn to make soap, candles, and glue, for example, not to mention manual or animal-driven farm implements. Gardening, composting, preserving food, human waste disposal, and medical manuals like midwifery will be valuable. If you find something useful on the Internet now, print it out and keep it in a notebook somewhere. Don’t forget about entertainment! Have your favorite books and novels, and maybe pick up a few you haven’t read yet, to save for later.

Books, board games and decks of cards will be dusted off, as they often are, when the power goes out. Nonelectric musical instruments, and people who can play them, would be wonderful, as as would good storytellers. In any emergency situation, short or long term, keeping children occupied, and even adults, can be essential to psychological well being.

I’m not going to get too deep here on this. I’ve written quite a lot about maintaining one’s spirit and attitude over at Surfing the Tao. The gist of it is, the wave can be either big or small, you still need to be balanced as it carries you forward. Unfortunately, many people are mentally unprepared even for the smaller emergencies of “normal” life. If something major happened, fugetaboutit. But for others, look to your higher power, know you are not alone, and things will happen regardless of how you react. So, why not react with balance and forethought, compassion and calm? Do you want to be a burden on those around you, or a help? Something to think about. Because – It’s all good.

As I’ve said, this is merely the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully I’ve got your wheels turning. Spend some time searching possibilities online now while you can, purchase a few books for your library, and consider adding to your cache a little at a time. If you have the chance to live off-grid or learn valuable skills, please share. I hope in times of need, we can band together, so if you find this website, get in touch. Add a comment or email me at

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Surviving an Earthquake: the Triangle of Life

Growing up on the East Coast, I never experienced any earthquakes. My parents, who still live there, to this day have never felt a quake. But in 1992, I moved to Los Angeles. (In fact I arrived in April of that year, just in time for the LA riots – but that’s another story!)

It wasn’t long before my roommates and I began to feel small tremors here and there – it was a novelty, and kind of exciting when we did.

That all changed on January 17, 1994, the day of the Northridge Quake. My boyfriend at the time and I were living in Hollywood, and were rudely awakened at 4:30 in the morning by a violent shaking. Neither of us had ever experienced a major earthquake before, and it took a long moment before we realized what was actually happening. The most prominent memory of that moment, aside from the violent shaking and not even being able to stand up in the doorway where I was “supposed” to be, was hearing large explosions outside in the neighborhood, and to be honest my first thought was we were being attacked by the Russians. Well…it was 4:30 in the morning. 😉 Turns out those sounds were the electrical transformers blowing up along our street.

Very quickly we, along with our neighbors, made it out into the street, where we remained for some time before we felt safe enough to go back indoors. Our 1920s-era apartment building suffered some pretty big cracks in the plaster walls, but it was ok, and so were we. I will note that we made some new friends that day, as did many others; LA is notorious for a kind of blasé view towards neighbors but that changed that day, and we spent the next day or two huddled together watching the horrific aftermath on the news and riding out the aftershocks. (A funny side note; years later another friend confided she sleeps in the nude, and had run outside oblivious to her lack of clothes, until a neighbor gently pointed out her condition. These things happened I suppose.)

The Northridge quake was measured at 6.7 on the Richter scale. On October 15, 2006, I experienced another 6.7 quake here in Hawaii. Again, I was awakened by the sensation, but this time I took hold of my small dog who was next to me and rode it out in bed. It was another strange day of aftershocks and cleaning up broken glass (by the way, don’t store cooking oil in glass where it could fall off a shelf – what a nightmare to clean up!!) Mind you, we live in a wood frame house, so I knew no bricks or concrete were coming down on me, and we also live on a giant lava rock – no liquefaction in Hawaii either. That is a big problem in LA and other places. Check out this video of ongoing liquefaction from the recent quake in Japan – frightening to say the least.

Needless to say, earthquakes aren’t fun anymore. We get small tremors pretty regularly from our volcano, and each time I feel one I freeze and wait and see if it tapers off, or grows. It’s now an extremely frightening feeling, one I do not want to go through again. And yet, likely, we will.

So what to do? Experts recommend, “drop, cover and hold on”. The doorway thing has now become controversial, because the door could slam shut and hurt you. And in a really big quake, you may not even be able to stand.

Alternatively, the Triangle of Life is a method of surviving earthquakes developed by Doug Copp, which you will see by reading that Wikipedia entry is quite controversial. After my years of research however, I’ve come to take Wiki with a grain of salt. Alternative theories don’t get much credit there, because the mainstream may have ulterior motives. (You’ll have to spend some time on my other site, Surfing the Tao, if you want to go down that rabbit hole.)

You can watch an introductory video about Copp’s method here. Here is a site which claims this method has been endorsed by many various countries around the world, and offers some possible reasons why the official US mainstream does not.

Myself, I’m not going to be crawling under a table, or standing in a doorway. After reading all of these various suggestions and having been through it before, I’ll be on the floor next to my bed, or maybe in front of my couch, in a spot where no books or mirrors can fall on me, hoping to be in that triangular “void” space created by falling walls and debris. Better yet – I’ll either be outside, or have shoes on to quickly run outside when a tremor starts, and not cut my feet on broken glass. But you may not have time for that, and it could be more dangerous to run with falling objects coming down around you.

Make yourself and your family aware of these options, do your own research and decide on a plan together to stay safe during an earthquake. And get to know your neighbors. You’ll need each other if a big one hits.

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