This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and worked as a financial adviser before retiring at age 35. He is married, has three kids and has returned to school with the goal of eventually living and working overseas.
As you are probably aware, parts of Calgary, where I live with my family, (as well as other areas in southern Alberta) have been devastated by severe flooding. A few days ago, we were starting to get tired of the rainy weather, but we didn’t see it as a particular problem. Then, the water starting coming down from the mountains, and the Bow and Elbow rivers surged beyond their borders and through some of the nearby communities. My family was lucky and we were essentially unaffected. We left a soccer game early to get home on Thursday night, as they began evacuating the community where my son was playing.
On Friday morning, we went to the store and found that the milk, bread and water shelves were starting to look bare. During the day Friday, the kids stayed home from school and we watched the news reports come in with pictures of the flood waters moving through streets and buildings that we knew. We made a small care package of toiletries and hygiene items to send to the homeless shelter that was displaced. On Saturday, we walked down to a riverside park (keeping well back of the water) to view the extent of the flooding. It was unbelievable to compare the deep, rapid, muddy river with the park it used to be, where we used to take our kids to the playground.
On Sunday, I heard a chilling story. I knew people who had to leave their homes, and others who had family or friends staying with them, while they waited to hear that it was safe to return to their homes. Some were flooded, while others were simply without electricity. But the story that bothered me the most was a family who were told to evacuate. They took 10 minutes to gather just a few things, and in that time the water engulfed their car, trapping them in their home and causing more damage to their car than the value of the things they tried to save.
What would I do? Would I be prepared to leave in under 10 minutes? What could I replace and what is irreplaceable? I don’t have all the answers, but there are a couple things that I’ve resolved to do for next time. We don’t know when this could happen again. As an example, when Calgary experienced flooding in 2005, it was said to be a “once in 50 years” occurrence. That was just eight years ago. Further, we could end up without electricity or stranded for any number of reasons, including an ice storm or lightening strike, tornado or earthquake. (Or zombie apocalypse, if you’re into that kinda thing.) It’s impossible to predict the likelihood, so instead, I plan to be ready.
Off-site backups. My computer hard drive recently died. But with routine backups to an external hard drive, it was a simple matter to restore everything (mainly family photos). I highly recommend this, but it wouldn’t help if there were a flood or fire. I’m looking at cloud-based options, but for now I’ll rotate external hard drives and keep the spare at my in-laws.
72 hour kit. The idea is to have a bag that I can just grab and go. I still have some research to do before putting it together, but I think it will contain: clothing, hygiene, cash, food / snacks, blankets, books and toys. I’ll start my research: http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-eng.aspx, http://www.redcross.ca/what-we-do/emergencies-and-disasters-in-canada/for-home-and-family/get-a-kit, http://72hours.org/build_kit.html
3 month food supply. This will be a little trickier. I plan to pay attention to what we eat, so we can store things we like and rotate them into regular usage, to avoid wastage. But I’ll also need to think about how to work in perishables like milk, meat, fruit and vegetables. Also storing water, for cooking and drinking, in case it becomes cut off or contaminated. And doing all this without imposing a financial burden.
Up to now, my emergency plan has consisted of having working debit and credit cards. But in case of a run on the grocery store, that wouldn’t be much help. Do you have an emergency plan in place? Have you ever relied on it?