Thursday, 26 July 2007

Back to normal

Things are just about back to normal for us now. The water levels around the village have gone down and we haven't had a power cut since Monday. My husband has been working from home this week as the trains haven't been running on part of his journey to work but this morning he decided to go in to the office. (He has just phoned me to say he is sitting on a rail replacement bus in a traffic jam somewhere outside Oxford so maybe things are not going to be completely normal for a while).

Of course, we are the lucky ones. There are thousands of people without running water or electricity or both and for some it might take a week or two before supplies are restored. Then of course there is the flood damage to houses with some people not likely to be able to return to their homes for months.

It has made me realise how vulnerable we are once the infrastructure breaks down and how unprepared we are as a family if this should happen to us. I always have some bottled water, for emergencies, but what use would half a dozen bottles be if we were without water for a week? We tend to have a reasonable amount of food in store but that is because I buy in bulk when things are on offer, so the food in store would not provide a very balanced diet and wouldn't last more than a couple of weeks anyway. I grow a small amount of vegetables and fruit on my allotment , but that is a mile and a half from home and in times of food shortage the chance of any ripe food or veg remaining on the plot for me to harvest would be very slim.

We are also completely dependent on electricity. We have gas central heating and water heating but that requires electricity to function and we cook by electric. Our house, built in the late 1980s has no chimney or space to put one so heating by solid fuel which we could store for emergencies would not be an option either.

A few years ago I investigated the possibility of getting solar panels for water heating but was told by the company I contacted that the combination of our house being situated east/west, being closely surrounded by houses and having tall trees to the west would mean that ours was one of the few houses that they would not recommend putting panels on.

Up to now I have concentrated on trying to live simply and reduce our impact on the environment and the amount of fuel we use, no clothes drier or dishwasher, low energy light bulbs, small 48 mpg car, not flying, buying local food, growing food, eating meat less often, buying used, etc etc but I've come to realise that although these are positive things to do, they won't actually help us as a family when there is a crisis. Although it seems frightening to do so, it is time to think about how we can better prepare ourselves for a future emergency.

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