What do you think of when you think about emergency preparedness? Do you think about it at all? Are you confident you’re prepared for an emergency?
Emergency preparedness is not just for a ‘zombie apocalyptic’ type of event. In fact, there are many likely events for which to plan and prepare.
A likely event
In northern Alberta we have been experiencing seasonably frigid temperatures. It is not uncommon for us to experience temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius and even lower for a few days every winter. With all of our modern amenities we often take for granted that warmth, and comfort are simply and easily available at the mere flick of a switch. Often forgetting how much we rely on the ability to do so.
Case in point. Last night in the area in which I live, temperatures were hovering around the -55-degree Celsius mark (factoring in the wind chill). At some point during the night, the power went out. Many people woke up, as usual, in the early morning only to discover the power out and their houses getting
colder. Without judgement, I noted, as I scrolled through my social media, that many may have found themselves unprepared to do anything about it. This is in stark contrast to just mere decades ago when survival meant living without the access or benefit of modern amenities. The unexpected power outage serves as a catalyst to reflect about and prioritize emergency preparation for future unfortunate events.
Life skills and preparedness lessons from our ancestors
When I was a little girl my Oma (grandmother) used to recount what it was like living as a homesteader. In 1926, after she and her father immigrated to Canada they made their way to a plot of land in an established Finnish community in northern Alberta. She was about 9 years old when her father, her only living relative in Canada, had to go to work in a logging camp located many hours away, for the winter. They lived in a one room cabin, heated by a cook stove. He prepared his daughter for the winter by chopping as much firewood as he could. He asked a female neighbor to teach her how to bake bread using their cook stove. The kindhearted lady did and also agreed to check on the little girl once a week. That winter she survived alone. She recalled waking up in the morning with the water frozen and frost on the covers of the bed. She would quickly stoke the fire up to get some heat circulating the small cabin. These stories of our homesteading ancestors are not uncommon.
Fast forward to when I was born, a short, 42 years ago. My parents set up their family on the same homestead. I was raised with modern conveniences on the very land where my Oma was baking bread in a cook stove a few years previously. She had long since moved to the farm next door, with her small family, after getting married. As a little girl I would visit there. By then they had installed electricity to the farm house, however they still functioned without indoor plumbing. I can recall very clearly using the outhouse.
I am prepared for an emergency because I was taught the skills of my ancestors. As an adult, I now live on the land that my great grandfather homesteaded. Like most people, I live in this modern world with modern amenities and work in a corporate career. However, I have retained the skills of my ancestors and my farm is equipped to function without modern amenities should they unfortunately fail. For example, water can be accessed via a hand operated pump on the well, wood stoves are installed for heat, and a gas stove can be ignited without electricity. An outdoor privy is accessible for those brave enough to do so in these frigid temperatures. I realize that this preparedness list may be the exception and not the rule, so I often wonder how others prepare. Dare I say, especially those who live in urban centers, in apartments etc., who may feel less urgency to prepare compared to those in rural settings.
We can learn from each other
As I heard the click of the power coming back on and my furnace sparking into action, I inwardly thanked the dedicated power linesmen who worked so hard in the cold this morning to get the power functioning in a timely fashion, lessening the severity of what could have been. I also thanked my ancestors for teaching me important life skills that allow me to continue to thrive during such an event. (And by thriving, I mean I was able to rustle up a morning coffee without skipping a beat!)
It may not be possible for everyone to have a well and outhouse access these days, but certainly there must be other ways people can prepare. Please share what you think about emergency preparedness and how you prepare for likely events such as power outages during in-climate weather. Let’s all learn from each other’s lived experiences.
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Be well .
2 thoughts on “Ancestral knowledge: considering emergency preparedness”
I think if you’re not prepared for emergencies, after what this province has been through with all the fires and flooding and as of late, bitter cold temperatures, you definitely should be giving it some serious thought and making it a priority. We all think it won’t happen to us till it does. The thing is if this little 9 year old girl could take of herself with only the barest of essentials and necessities and come through it ok, then what possible excuses for not taking care of our basic needs, in an emergency situation, can the rest of us come up with? I mean seriously!!
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It puts things into perspective for sure. Oma was a resilient lady. I am proud to be in the lineage of such resilient, hard working woman.