In 2005, part of my job with Alberta Agriculture was to manage a project called “Ensuring the Food Supply in the Event of a Pandemic.” (That was back when everybody was terribly worried about a global influenza epidemic.) In the course of working on that project, I did a lot of reading about what happened in communities when catastrophes occurred.
This project kept me up at night, and I my husband and I realized how dependent we were. We decided that we had been living, in some ways, like pet hamsters: our food arrived in the store mysteriously, our garbage and waste went away equally mysteriously. We turned a knob and the heat came on, or clean water came out of a tap. All we had to do was keep showing up to our hamster-wheel jobs, pay the bills, and everything we needed simply showed up.
Our vulnerability bothered us, so we started to work on becoming as self-reliant as possible. Our friends tease us, but it’s been a very interesting and enjoyable learning curve. (I now know more about goat parasites than I ever thought possible.) We don’t do everything for ourselves: we enjoy all the amenities of modern life. (Why not, while we still can?) But we have a Plan B for all the essentials.
I also trained in emergency management. Since 2005, I have worked on floods, oil spills and fires. I worked in the Provincial Operation Centre on the Fort McMurray wildfire, and also on the provincial Wildfire Recovery Task Force.
Here is something I’ve learned: my family’s self-reliance won’t add up to a hill of beans if our neighbours are suffering the chaos of a disaster. We need all levels of government to prepare in advance for extreme weather to protect people, property and the ecosystem we rely upon.
We have been lucky so far but are not going to escape weather emergencies. On September 9, there were three hurricanes destroying the Caribbean. Large tracts of Southern Alberta and BC were on fire, and there was a massive earthquake in Mexico. Strathcona County had two days worth of water and had asked residents to postpone doing their laundry.
Each level of government has a role in our security, but it is your municipality that has to look after the basics. Since the municipal elections are coming up, now is a great time to ask the candidates how they intend to plan for drought, flood and wildfire. If a candidate has no answer to that question, find one who does.