Tag Archives: preparing for emergencies

The Resilience Handbook – out now!

Finally the Resilience Wheel is rolling!!

I’m waiting  for my first order to arrive so I can send copies out to all you good people who have been following its progress – too excited to write, so I’ll let publishers Magic Oxygen explain more.  You can read some of the book with their ‘lookinthebook’ gizmo, and order from them to maximise the benefit to local economies.

Why is that important?  The book explains it all!

Normal blogging will be resumed in due course 🙂

 

Resilience Soup

Watching ‘The Island with Bear Grylls’, it appears that apathy caused by culture shock can lead seamlessly to exhaustion from lack of food calories. Part of a Resilience Plan is to keep a small store of tinned and dried supplies. I recommend keeping enough for three weeks, if you have the space.

Inspired to inspect my own collection, I found it was a bit haphazard and resolved to organise it. Counting calories and working out recipes…. I’ll have to write another book.

The stores have to be rotated as sell by dates are reached. Check through them every three months, take out anything that needs used before the next check, rearrange and restock. Never store food you don’t like. Storage conditions are often far from ideal; lofts suffer from stifling summer heat and freezing winters. You couldn’t store butter, for example.

If you ever need to rely on your stores, it’s useful to do some menu planning. Here’s one recipe..

Resilient Lentil Soup

A large pan. This recipe is easier to make in larger amounts. A tablespoon of cooking oil, some tamari (soy sauce). If you have any fresh meat or onion type vegetables to add, chop them up and lightly fry them.

If you are lucky, you may have some stock; otherwise add hot water and a couple of stock cubes. Add about four ounces [112g] of dried red lentils. Don’t pre-soak them.

How much liquid? Depends how many people you want to feed; this recipe is enough to fill four bowls. Remember the lentils will soak up some of it. If you have any root vegetables, put them in now. Grated carrot is nice.

Stir. Bring it to a low boil, then turn the heat right down and let it simmer. Mind it doesn’t stick; pans with thick bottoms are best for this work. Stir in four teaspoons of instant gravy mix and a quarter 130g tube of tomato puree. Keep an eye on the sticking as the soup thickens. You can add more water at any point.

Add any green leafy veg, shredded, just before the end. The soup is done when the lentils are soft, but can be kept simmering to wait for people for as long as you care to keep stirring it.

This soup really needs to be kept in a cold place to last over two meals, so it’s best made fresh and left overs eaten early the next day. Without the added fresh food, this recipe provides an unimpressive 550 calories* between four. If you’re completely unable to access any other ingredients, increase the lentils.

lentil soup calories
*all calculations are strictly back-of-the -envelope

However, what of your neighbours who don’t have stores? Remember, freezers depend on electricity. Could they help you forage to add to the meal? Bacon goes very well with this recipe; it may be available after less thoroughly preserved meats have spoiled.

A basic soup provides an expandable framework for a variety of fresh food.

Resilience.

There’s quite a lot to it.

Resilience and The Island

The Island is a TV series designed and presented by survival expert Bear Grylls. Fourteen men and fourteen women are marooned on separate Pacific islands with the minimum of training and equipment. They have to work out how to survive there for six weeks.

Watching the teams of ordinary Westerners struggle in the wilderness is a good resilience exercise. Could you have avoided their mistakes?

How much would previous learning count? Practical experience with a fire drill? Quite a lot. Trees can’t grow fast enough to let everyone become expert at forest shelter building, though.

And when would you need this skill? If you find yourself in a survival situation, it probably won’t be on a remote Pacific island. It’ll be more like a weirdly twisted version of your current comfort zone. The electricity won’t come out of the walls any more, and the taps are dry.

Attitude is everything when it comes to resilience. The people in the series weren’t fast enough to realise that they were in danger. Relentless attention to fire, water and shelter is no longer part of our lifestyle in Britain. People forget how much work it is, and that you can’t relax until it’s done.

Following a Resilience Plan increases your awarenesss of the facilities you take for granted, and highlights things you ought to work on.

Although I’m able to use a flint and steel efficiently, I’ve never tried lighting a fire with a bow drill. It could be important and it’s certainly interesting, so I’m going to target it in my plan under ‘Emergency Planning’. Then I’ll be reminded of this resolution until I actually carry it through. No matter how good you are at survival skills, there’s always something new to learn!

There’s a lot of focus on what the Island participants did wrong, but there’s one thing they all got spectacularly right. They were brave enough to have a go. It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words – a TV series is a shortcut to hours of explanation.

Study the mistakes of others, realise what you ought to know, set about learning it, find a way to practise it.

Resilience is about doing as well as knowing.

Radiation Measuring Devices

One click on a Geiger counter signifies a single nuclear disintegration, but not the type of radiation released by it. This could be alpha, beta or gamma. The clicks per second can be easily translated into becquerel, and will give the rate at which the living tissue is receiving radioactive particles. The intensity of the radiation source is being measured here.

The biological effect of this, expressed in sieverts, depends on several other factors. A conversion between these units is not easy. Modern devices provide a ‘best guess’ of the sievert equivalent. Some may not detect alpha or beta radiation. Incorporating a mica window allows these particles to be measured, though calibration to sieverts becomes more challenging then.

Microsieverts (µSv) are the most common unit. American equipment may be calibrated in millirems (mrems). One millirem equals ten microsieverts.  Millisieverts (mSv) may also be used; one millisievert (1000 µSv) is a dangerous dose.  [100 mrem; the recommended maximum yearly exposure for the general public]  As radiation is accumulative, you should leave the area as quickly as possible.

Some Geiger counters will give data on dose per hour. The average safety limit for workers in the nuclear industry is 20 mSv/year. Firefighters at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant received an average 12 Sv over their period of exposure, from which all were ill and 30 died quickly.

Radiation on food or in water is harder to measure. Dust from a nuclear incident lands on these and contaminates them. Careful calibration against background radiation and long measuring periods, up to 12 hours, are required. Although the intensity of these sources may be low, the biological effect is compounded by ingesting them. Covering food, bringing farm animals indoors and filtering water can help.

A Geiger counter will not tell you what kind of radioactive sustance is present on food. Safety limits range from only 10 becquerels per kilogram when dealing with plutonium, to 10,000 Bq/Kg for tritium or carbon-14.

The best use of a Geiger counter in a serious emergency is to find a safe place, with a tolerable level of radioactivity. You should remain under cover until the majority of the fallout has dispersed. Four days is a recommended minimum, so a reading of 10 mSv would be the upper limit.

Remember you are keeping dust out, so you are better off in a building. Make sure there is enough water. The longer you can stay there the better, as fallout will now be covering the ground. The danger comes from inhaling or ingesting these fine particles.

Good luck with survival. You might wish you’d been less hostile to wind power.

 

Measuring Radiation – Sieverts and Greys

The International System of Units (SI) is the most popular system of measurement globally. Radiation units have been brought into this. Becquerels measure quantity and coulombs per kilogram are used instead of roentgens to denote exposure.

Grays (Gy) measure the absorbed dose. A gray is defined as the absorption of one joule of radiation energy by one kilogram of any matter, not just air as with the roentgen unit. One gray is equal to 100 rads. Five grays at once is a lethal dose. Diagnostic medical treatments are usually measured in milligrays (mGy).

An abdominal X-ray gives a dose of 0.7 mGy, while a computerised tomography (CT) scan is higher, at about 6 mGy. Cancer treatments exceed the lethal dose, but in small increments. Up to 80 Gy can be given, in doses of 2 Gy at a time.

Any given amount of radiation may not have the same biological effect. This is influenced by differences in the type of radiation and the conditions of exposure. Where X-rays and gamma rays are concerned, the absorbed dose is the same as the equivalent dose. If alpha particles are involved, the biological damage is more severe and weighting factors are applied. The sievert is the resultant unit.

A sievert (SV) is the standard international measurement of equivalent dose, replacing the rem. Sieverts express the potential for damage to human tissue, and are related to grays. One sievert is equivalent to one hundred rems, which would be a lethal dose. A microsievert (µSv) is one millionth of a sievert. One tenth of a microsievert is the natural radiation found in an average banana.

part four ‘Measuring Devices’ to follow

Measuring Radiation – Roentgens, Rads and Rems

The roentgen is defined as 2.58 x 10-4 coulombs of charge produced by X-rays or gamma rays per kilogram of air.

A roentgen is a lot of radiation. A dose of 500 roentgens within five hours will kill you. So a place with a reading of 100 roentgens per hour or more is very dangerous. Shortly after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, readings of up to 30,000 R/hr were recorded in some areas.

Devices are usually calibrated in tiny fractions of one roentgen. There are a thousand milliroentgens to one roentgen. The reading will often be given in mR/hr. Flying at high altitudes exposes passengers to around 25 mR/hr, due to cosmic radiation.

Rad stands for Radiation Absorbed Dose. The units used here relate to the amount of radiation absorbed by the irradiated material. This may be you. One rad indicates exposure equivalent to an energy of 100 ergs per gram. It is about the same as 1.07 Roentgen, or 1,070 mR.

Rads are useful when assessing whether acute radiation sickness is a risk. A dose of 10 rads (10,000 mrads) in less than an hour is dangerous. Treatment for ARS will be needed.

The absorbed dose, measured in rads, is adjusted to give the Roentgen Equivalent in Man. The type of radioactive material is taken into account, among other factors. This unit is used to assess the chances of getting cancer from exposure. It is used to calculate safe levels in industry and medicine.

A rem is a large amount, so readings are generally given in millirem (mrem). The general public should not be exposed to over 100 mrem per year. This is just over the natural radiation levels inside a building made of granite.

Roentgens, rads and rems are very roughly equivalent. As the adoption of international standards became important, they were replaced by other units. Some countries, particularly the USA, continue to use the old ones.

part three ‘Sieverts and Grays’ to follow

Measuring Radiation – Curies and Becquerel

Devices are available to measure radiation, from expensive Geiger Counters to smartphone apps. There are several different units used. Some areas or items have naturally high radiation levels which confuse readings. It’s difficult for an amateur to work out how dangerous a source might be.

Curies and Becquerel

A curie (C) is the original unit used to describe the intensity of radioactivity. It is based on the physical properties of radioactive material, as the dangers of exposure were not well understood at the time. One curie is the radioactivity of a single gram of radium.

A microcurie is a millionth of a curie and a picocurie is a trillionth. Thirty seven billion becquerel (Bq) equal one curie. A becquerel is thus about 27 picocuries (pCi). Modern convention has replaced the curie as a unit with becquerels. As these are tiny, measurements are often given in kilobecquerels (1000 Bq) or megabecquerels (1,000,000 Bq).

The unit is named after the French scientist who discovered radioactivity, Antoine-Henri Becquerel.  It describes one atomic disintegration per second. These disintegrations release energetic particles, which are the basis of radioactivity. The process is called decay.

Alpha particles are the largest, the same size as a helium atom. Beta particles are smaller, but can be stopped by a shield only a few millimeters thick. Gamma rays, a sort of proton, can penetrate up to two feet of concrete.

Skin and clothes protect against the larger particles. If radioactive atoms enter the body, however, these particles will hit cells directly during decay. A nuclear incident distributes these atoms in the air, water and food.

Radioactive material presents two types of hazard. There is the danger of being too close to an emitting source, and the risk of ingesting small fragments of it. This risk increases dramatically if the source explodes. Nuclear fallout is the resultant dust.

Although the luminous properties of radium and other elements were exploited for various gadgets, the dangers of emitting sources are now recognised. The public are unlikely to come into contact with them, except during medical treatments.

X-rays and radiotherapy both use radiation. A means of measuring the risks to patients and staff was needed. New systems were explored, designed to express the biohazard aspect, the actual damage done to living tissues.

Part Two ‘Roentgens, Rads and Rems’ to follow

© E J Walker 2014

 

Driving in the Water Margins

Here on the levels in Somerset between the sea and the high ground we’re used to seeing the water. Driving between towns, the fields are shimmering mirrors, traced with sunken hedges, populated by opportunistic swans. The main roads are edged by dark puddles, threatening to merge over the white line with every fresh downpour.

Villages hugging the tiny ridges of high ground out in the marshlands are often cut off. Farm tractors become informal delivery vans and buses. Rows of willow trees, planted so that people can see where the road was, come into their own. The river lurks just over a low bank.

The network of narrow lanes across country are under water in many places, especially at the crossroads and gateways where you could have turned around. If you come upon one flooded section, chances are there are more ahead. It’s unwise to use these lanes as a short cut.

Towns are linked by single main roads. An incident on one of these could involve you in a twenty mile diversion just to get back from the shops. If that route then becomes blocked – easy enough with the high winds and dangerous conditions – hundreds of people could become stranded for hours.

Keep at least half a tank of fuel, even for local journeys. Carry waterproofs, wellies and a drink of water in your car. Make sure your mobile phone is charged.

Shop with a list and bring in extra long life food. Try to avoid going out at all in heavy rain. Start using all those ready meals in the freezer; if your electricity goes, they will be a write off anyway.

Night time is the most dangerous. Plan to stay in, invite neighbours round, play cards or games, learn to knit. Spending all your evenings slumped in front of the TV will soon give you cabin fever!

Driving through flood water is unwise, especially if you are on your own. You can’t see how deep it is, if the road has been washed away underneath, if there are any obstructions ahead. Your electrics may get damaged.

Don’t change gears but drive slowly and steadily. If your engine cuts out, it may have got water in it. Trying to restart it might destroy it.

Even six inches of fast moving water can sweep you off your feet, and not much more can move your car. If you become trapped in a flood, call for help at once. Don’t panic and think very carefully about your escape route.

Resilience is about adaptation. Change your behaviour in response to the environment. Go out as little as possible and make every journey count. Even if you’re not directly affected by flooding, you could still be caught up in a diversion as police try to clear another area. Your presence on the road is one more factor for the emergency services to take into account, so don’t waste it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mince and Barley Broth

This is incredibly cheap and can be put together in minutes, then left to cook while you do other things.

Use a large pan. Take a half pound (about 250 grams) of mince, preferably from your local butcher, and brown it in a little oil. A dash of soy sauce at this stage improves the colour. Add a couple of finely chopped onions, herbs and garlic.

Stir till the onion is soft, then lightly sprinkle with plain flour and stir some more. Slowly add a litre of hot water as you stir, then crumble a stock cube into the broth. Throw in a couple of handfuls of dried barley grains and simmer on a low heat for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Serve with bread. This broth provides a nourishing meal for at least four people.  Increase the quantities to feed more.

At this time of year you will find that your stored potatoes begin to soften and sprout. Soon they will no longer be a reliable source of carbohydrates and the resilient household will need to turn to grains.

The leeks you planted last year will be ready to use now, and can be substituted for onion in this recipe. For extra vitamins, add shreds of new brassica leaves or throw in a handful of chopped wilted rocket just before serving. Use up the last of the potatoes, carrots and parsnip over the Spring to bulk the broth up into a stew.

Dedicated survivalists can, of course, strip the meat from a lightly roasted rabbit or squirrel and make a stock from the carcass instead of using mince and hot water.

Gardening for Resilience

Convert your garden into a year round food supply!

 Open Day at the Resilience Garden is on Sunday 15th September from 11 am to 5 pm at Harters Close in Coxley, Somerset. Entry is free as part of the Incredible Edible Somerset Open Gardens Day.

Visitors will have the opportunity to test their skills at plant identification and there will be a talk on community resilience at 2 pm, with demonstrations of useful and easy to learn crafts.

Save money, keep fit and be prepared

A visit to the supermarket, even for a pint of milk, rarely leaves you change from a £20 note, it seems. Shopping carefully on a budget, you’re better off only having to go there once a week! Having fresh vegetables to hand just outside your back door cuts down those extra shopping trips, as well as being healthier and involving no food miles at all.

Gardening is a good excuse to spend some time outside, taking gentle exercise. Modern no-dig techniques take much of the heavy labour out of maintaining a garden. Using home made organic fertilisers and recycling your food waste as compost reduce costs while companion planting and a healthy soil cut the need for expensive pest control products.

In the event of a national emergency, through extreme weather or hostile actions, our delicate and extensive food transportation network could be badly affected for some weeks. Rural areas could become isolated and dependent on limited stores. There may be no electricity, which would destroy frozen supplies and force reliance on tinned and dried food.

Growing your own would help your community through this, by providing a small but necessary amount of fresh produce with its vitamins and minerals.

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 Learning how to survive in the 21st century

The Resilience Garden is one of a series of projects designed by Elizabeth Walker, a teacher and writer with many years of experience in living ‘off the grid’. Her Resilience Wheel concept links all the factors necessary for a robust and sustainable community based economy into a single framework. No positive effort, however small, is wasted and everyone can do something straight away to bring a better world closer, while saving money and improving their quality of life.

She trains volunteer event stewards in emergency procedures during the summer, organises workshops around adapting traditional crafts to the modern world, and writes educational materials, articles and stories set in strange landscapes.

For more information on the Open Garden or on planned courses with Carymoor Environmental Centre and Somerset Skills and Learning, please follow this blog.