Tag Archives: disaster

Emergency preparedness for individuals: what you must plan and prepare for

No-one can predict the future accurately.
But we all can plan and prepare for it.

Getting better prepared and creating networks of support that build community resilience are crucial so that it does NOT end up as a case of aid versus preparedness as I wrote earlier.

So, what is it then that you must plan and prepare for?

Different emergencies or disasters call for different responses. Some of these are tackled in the scenarios at the preparedness hub. However, what sometimes gets overlooked this way is that there are common threads running through all of these. It has to do with consequences rather than with causes of emergencies and disasters and that is a good way to talk about preparedness, especially with people that are new to the topic. So, what it all boils down to is that you must …

be prepared for:  delays in getting help

It’s not that the emergency services don’t want to get to you in a disaster but the same things that stop you also affect them: road closures, lack of communication, severe weather conditions … not to mention the many people that will want assistance all at the same time.

The emergency services and local authorities are mandated by law to serve, survey and respond over an entire area and provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Naturally, they cannot get to everyone right away so there will be a delay in help. That is why you need to be able to take care of yourself at least for some time.

There is a lot you can do for self-reliance and to get better prepared. The general recommendation is to stock a minimum of three days, or in other words 72 hours’ worth of supplies,  essentially non-perishable food, clean water and medications to shelter-in-place as well as an emergency grab bag for safe evacuation. What that looks like, check out the blog series on safe evacuation; especially ‘mass’ evacuation and why ‘self’ evacuation preparedness makes a lot of sense.

With this, you’re off to a great start but keep in mind that the more you prepare and get equipped the better off you will be in a real disaster or emergency. Find out more about how to build your own emergency kit and check out the survival kit list.


be prepared for: road closures

Flooding, landslides etc. can collapse roads and bridges and affect how you can move around with public transport and your own vehicle. Always keep a half tank of fuel in your car and spare road maps as part of your car safety kit in case GPS is disrupted and you are forced into unfamiliar areas.

In the event of a mass evacuation, be prepared for a long journey. It may well end up looking like this


be prepared for: power outages

Power outages mean no ATMs or cash dispensers, no petrol pumps at your gas station, your fridge/freezer stops working and food goes off (Emergency Preparedness and FoodSafety), the batteries in your phone and gadgets don’t get charged, no TV or internet …  Following on from the earlier example of the recent flash flooding in Coverack, it appears the community there knows that scenario well …

Read more about preparedness for power cuts, brown outs and black outs and also check out food security especially for communities.  


be prepared for: lack of clean water

Water mains bursts and flooding can mean outages and contamination of your water supply. In an emergency, shut off your supply to keep your clean water in and dirty, unsafe water out. Read more about utilities shut off safety. Your home may already have ’emergency stores’ i.e. top reservoirs of toilets, boilers, garden reservoirs etc. but keep in mind that  water purification is essential for health.

Minimum clean water supplies are usually given as 1 gallon (approx. 4.5 lt) per person per day for basic needs such as drinking, food preparation and hygiene. If you have pets, count each one as you would a person for extra reserves.

be prepared for: limited or no communication

Communication systems may get knocked out which means you may be unable to call for help or get information the usual way. It also means you may lose touch with loved ones. Having a communications plan and preparedness measures in place is vital. Check out our free template on the preparedness hub to get you started so that it does not come to this …

be prepared for: property damage

If you’re lucky, property damage is minimal which means you can shelter-in-place and ride it out. However, property damage may be extensive which means you can no longer safely stay and must evacuate and shelter elsewhere.

The most common damage to property is from fire. There is a lot you can do for better fire safety and fire preparedness. Other common property damage may result from flooding or wind. Take a look at his short video showing the impact of different wind speeds. It may be set in the tropics with palm trees but applies to other settings too.

be prepared for: living in a shelter

Living in a shelter is not like living at home. The better prepared you are the more comfortable you will be. Living in a shelter can look very different depending on circumstances and duration. You may choose to provide your own shelter by staying with loved ones, moving into a hotel or even camp outdoors. Alternatively, you may be given shelter provided by the authorities and volunteers. Often, this will look similar to this example in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower Disaster

be prepared for: a new ‘normal’ Depending on the severity of the emergency or disaster, clean-up and recovery can take a long time. In many instances lives are disrupted for extended periods of time and never get quite back to how things were before. A ‘new normal’ eventually settles in as people piece their lives back together. What that may look like for you is something you can help determine. Start planning and preparing today so that you can be better prepared tomorrow. Events like flooding are sadly the new reality as we all face and must prepare for a world that’s more than 2° C warmer.  

Be prepared, not scared. Start today for a safer and more secure tomorrow.


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Community Resilience Building Blocks – it all starts with prepared individuals

September is Preparedness Month in the US and this is also gaining traction over here in the UK. This year, some of our Local Resilience Forums have run campaigns locally as well as on social media, for example using hashtag #30Days30WaysUK on twitter, an easy way for you to track and check out some of the goings on. Take away the ‘UK’ and you get the international version.

September also sees the publication of the Annual Disaster Statistical Review (PDF) by CRED, the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters.

This is important because it lets us take stock.

So, what are the latest Disaster statistics?

  • 324 Natural Disasters were registered worldwide last year, 54 in Europe (image opposite is Kefalonia Earthquake)
  • estimated damage overall just under USD 100 billion (ouch!!)
  • 140.8 million people affected (heartbreaking)
  • almost 8000 people lost their lives (tragic, should not be!)

While stark, these 2014 numbers are thankfully lower than in previous years; perhaps a measure that we are getting better not only at Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Recovery but also at Preparedness. However…

How well prepared are we really? What’s the evidence?

It’s 50/50 really, meaning that typically 50% of people report that they are not prepared. One of the few UK studies1 I found showed that 51% of respondents (London) had partially completed their recommended emergency plans and only 48% stocked the recommended emergency supplies.

To me this means there is still a long way to go. We must increase awareness for Emergency Preparedness but we also must walk our talk and get better equipped in a very practical sense with actual tools and practical resources. Behaviour change is challenging. Just how much I’ve started tackling in my previous post “Resilience and Preparedness Roadblocks: what stops us?” Do have a look and become a ‘Drag-on slayer”.

Since we are talking preparedness, other important questions are:

What is the evidence that Household Preparedness actually works?

Does Household Preparedness really contribute to Community Resilience?

You would say yes, wouldn’t you, intuitively?

It kind of simply makes sense that prepared individuals cope better in the event of an Emergency or Disaster and that this also contributes to Community Resilience.

Well, it turns out that science backs this up. UK studies are rare so I opted for the next best thing: A Literature Review on Household Emergency Preparedness2.

Scientific conclusions are clear: Household Emergency Preparedness pays off

Reviewing almost 80 relevant studies, Levac and colleagues have good news, summarizing that:

  •  most injuries, death, damage and loss caused by disasters are preventable
  •  adequate household emergency preparedness could significantly reduce such negative consequences of disasters
  • sufficient household emergency preparedness contributes towards people being able to care for themselves in the immediate aftermath of an event

Most importantly:

“One of the most effective ways to mitigate the effects of a disaster is through proper household emergency preparedness”

… and that entails ….

“Emergency Preparedness involves knowing the risks particular to a community, developing an emergency plan and having an emergency kit in the home containing food, water and medical supplies to shelter-in-place for 72 hours”

Just a few days ago, Rafael Lemaitre (FEMA’s Director of Public affairs) reiterated this with a rather funny contribution on twitter


Personally I would upgrade the 72 hours to 5 days. Why? In a major event supply shortages and utility outages may be substantial, especially if you live in or near an area prone to flooding (just remember i.e. Key Moments of the UK Winter Storms) I also would differentiate between an Emergency Go-Bag and a Shelter-in-Place Kit and add that Emergency Plans are only effective if they’re reviewed and practiced regularly. Twice or three times a year is good to keep it all fresh.

So, how about your Winter Preparedness? Whether Britain [is] braced for long, snowy winter and winter storms remains to be seen although records do tend to show that El Niño gives colder European winters. In any case, I’m not taking any chances and advise you to do the same. After all, we’ve just seen that

Preparedness really does reduce the negative impacts of Emergencies and Disasters and helps individuals as well as contributing to Community Resilience.

As they say: It’s a no brainer really 😉

And if you want to read more about one of our most recent active projects at the local community level head over to UK Community Resilience – a brilliant example of what really works. If you want to go back to where Preparedness all starts, have a look at one of the earliest posts Resilience what it is and how it connects to crazy weather.

Have a great weekend and a brilliant last week of 2015 “September is Preparedness Month”.


thank you for sharing and helping raise awareness for Emergency & Disaster Preparedness.


  • 1 Page, L., Rubin, J., Amlot, R., Simpson, J., & Wessely, S. (2008).Are Londoners prepared for an emergency? A longitudinal study following the London bombings. Biosecurity & Bioterrorism,6(4), 309–319.
  • 2 Levac, J., Toal-Sullivan, D., O’sullivan, T. (2012) Household Emergency Preparedness: A Literature Review. Community Health, 37:725-733



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Disaster Preparedness – what Disaster? Why Preparedness?

updated 05/2017

It’s midweek and I am meeting some people.
“…. what do you do?” The question is innocent enough at any social gathering. What happens next however is always quite interesting for me. When I say “I am in Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, we create Preparedness Kits for  individuals, business, organizations and local government” I either get a blank stare and the topic moves swiftly on or it gets engaging:

What do you mean by Preparedness? What Disaster? Where?

Now, that is a very good question. There is a quite a bit of confusion and a considerable gap between theory and practice – that is the difference between disaster theory and actual disaster risk reduction (DRR) and, more recently, preparedness. Thankfully, clarity has improved and the gap is closing for Disaster Preparedness concerns us all – and not just philosophically:

“Live moves very fast. It rushes from Heaven to Hell in a matter of seconds”      —  Paul Coelho

Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5c/The_Ladder_of_Divine_Ascent_Monastery_of_St_Catherine_Sinai_12th_century.jpg

As imagery of that quote I particularly like the 12th century ‘Ladder of Divine Ascent’ at  Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai which, to me, is a good visual analogy of the precariousness of life as we strive for (ultimate) peace and security.

Predicting the future is no easy task, even with today’s amazing tech and science to help us understand and manage the risks associated with globalisation, urbanisation, climate change, population growth, dwindling resources, etc.

New technologies combine with existing ones, changing old and well understood hazards, and creating new ones in the process. People and communities worldwide – including the UK – become more vulnerable as a result of these new hazards in ways that we may not have encountered before – ways even that are hard to imagine.

‘Natural’ disaster data – perhaps not as straightforward as you may think…

source https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/52db6435e4b0826240a963ce/1392762570748-EY23D42EOAT50PZ5UZR3/katrina.png?content-type=image%2Fjpeg So called ‘natural disaster’ data is readily available nowadays but the term is actually a bit of an oxymoron. Natural events trigger a range of ‘disasters’, the resulting damage is largely the result of lack of planning and poor development which ends up putting property and people at risk.

Another issue is that most disaster data, like the following graphs, are biased.  The one by the insurer MunichRe is skewed towards the developed world, as opposed to, for example the EM-DAT based Oxfam report Time’s Bitter Flood which focuses on developing countries. There are other subtleties that may get ‘lost’ in how data is entered into international databases such as the one by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters CRED. Often not being considered (but thankfully that is also changing) are issues of geographical or time scale (no difference between 10 deaths in 1 min or 6 months) or that gross rather than normalized data is emphasized, yet there can be significant differences between total damage and per capita damage. Despite these limitations the various data nevertheless show a clear trend:

A clear trend: Natural Disasters / Catastrophes are increasing

Source: https://earthbound.report/2011/05/30/the-number-of-natural-disasters-is-on-the-rise/ Source: https://earthbound.report/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/disasters-oxfam.jpgAnd now, another ‘bad’ El Nino seems a certainty:

Impacts from disasters are complex and wide-reaching but more importantly, they affect us all in a myriad of direct and indirect ways even on the ‘other’ side of the world. Disasters do not respect boundaries, whether geographical, social, economic or political5. For a historic insight into disasters located in the UK, Wiki has a couple of interesting lists: List of disasters in Great Britain and Ireland by death toll and List of natural disasters in Great Britain and Ireland .

So, what then is a disaster?

Actually, that’s another excellent question for the term has been used in many different ways1. Operational definitions are important since they trigger political decisions and a flow of resources.

Disasters are more than ‘just’ large emergencies and catastrophes are more than ‘just’ large disasters.

How we talk about and define ‘disaster’ has implications for what kind of research is undertaken and what strategies and resources are used to manage them. Disaster is an intellectually complex and emotionally loaded word that should be used with care. Theory is important as it underpins good practise. For example, in creating hazard maps, different concepts of ‘disaster’ need to be considered not just rapid onset well-defined events like an earthquake or  a volcanic eruption but also  slow onset diffuse events like droughts which only recently are being considered as disaster events1  (also see the current California Mega Drought or Wiki Historic Examples of Drought directly affecting India, Russia, China, USA, Australia and many countries in Africa but having much wider impacts).

‘Dis-aster’ (Latin) literally means ill-favoured star

source: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5216/5383975707_66c561a1a2_z.jpg Jupiter, the king of the gods and the god of sky and thunder

That is one way of revealing its origins in a classical and fatalistic worldview that saw calamities as coming from the heavens (or as in my later example above the daemonic nether regions).

Most traditional interpretations tend to revolve around agent descriptions, physical damage, social disruption and negative evaluation while more modern approaches favour social constructionism and the disruptions during and after a natural disaster event2.

A disaster is more than one thing (object, event, feeling) to different people and so while theorists may argue for a single, concise definition there is value in diversity.

What ‘disaster’ means to people is subjective, first and foremost and thus not so easily definable. People across the world interpret disasters differently, depending on their goals, cultural views and values.

Defining ‘disaster’ is complex and challenging

Disaster taxonomies exist similar to the ones used in biology3 and one commonly used typology is based on frequency, duration, area, onset speed, spatial dispersion and time spacing4. Other, rather coarse and overly simplistic categorizations use the labels ‘natural’ versus ‘technological/man-made’ or ‘rapid’ versus ‘slow onset’ as mentioned earlier.

Getting to grips with better taxonomies is important for both research and operations. Emergencies, disasters and catastrophes all show different characteristics both quantitative and qualitative which necessitate different management and planning strategies. Now, all this, while interesting, is also quite ‘academic’.

Preparedness, on the other hand, is intensely practical. Even in research…

Preparedness refers to concrete sets of actions taken as precautionary measures in the face of potential disasters

This includes information and training as well as the physical preparations of adapting infrastructure and readying emergency supplies. In our current climate of dwindling public services and resources, business and individuals increasingly have to take on their own Emergency and Disaster Preparedness responsibilities. Naturally, this varies widely depending on the particular circumstances. However the necessity and utility of a good dose of self-sufficiency is, in my view, self-evident.

Being stronger and better prepared individually not only helps you to survive and bounce back, but automatically makes for stronger and better prepared communities.


Preparedness is empowering.

Preparedness is a diverse, practical toolkit that can make a huge difference. Start with our FREE resources. As an individual begin by making your own Emergency Plan. As a Business, especially if you are an SME, look into Business Preparedness and practical Business Continuity. And if you can’t find the practical resources and kit you want then give us a shout. Our specialty is, after all, custom-made kits and we’re always happy to help.

Until next time – I wish you lots of motivation to tackle your own Emergency and Disaster Preparedness and bring it into your wider communities.


 Thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness

References / Resources

  • 1 Etkin, D. (2015) Disaster Theory – An Interdisciplinary Approach to Concepts and Causes. Butterworth-Heinemann (Elsevier) Oxford, UK
  • 2Quarantelli, E.L (1998) What is a disaster? New Answers to Old Questions, ed. Perry and Quarantelli (USA, Xlibrib Corp) / (2000) Emergencies, Disasters and Catastrophes are different phenomena. University of Delaware DRC Preliminary Paper#304,6) / (2005) A Social Science Research Agenda for the Disasters of the 21st Century in What is a disaster? New Answers to Old Questions, ed. Perry and Quarantelli (USA, Xlibrib Corp)
  • 3 Krebs, G.A. (1989) Description, Taxonomy and Explanation in Diaster Research. International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters 7, no 3; p277-280
  • 4 Burton et al. (1993) The Environment as Hazard. Guilford Press
  • 5 Hannigan, J (2012) Disasters without borders. Polity Press. Cambridge, UK

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Resilience – Preparedness and older People

this blog entry is also accessed via https://evaq8.co.uk/blog/resilience-preparedness-and-older-people/ | updated 13June2017

Another very busy week again here for us at EVAQ8.co.uk, making sure your orders go out without delay while we’re stocking and organizing the new premises all at the same time. We’re also hiring again and so I’ve read close to one hundred CV’s of young people wanting to come work with us just these last two days. Being confronted with so many youthful stories of diversity and resilience I suddenly remembered my notes on Emergency Preparedness for older adults – the higher end of the age spectrum which so often remains under-represented. Needless to say, this afternoon I took this inner prompt to heart straight away for this is too important a topic to get buried yet again in my never diminishing pile of interesting resilience and emergency preparedness topics.

And so, without futher delay – did you know?

26 million older people are affected by natural disasters every year

.. and that’s just counting natural disasters, not conflict or war.

By 2050, the number of people over 60 will triple from 650 million (11% of the world population) to two billion (22%). A global ageing population means more and more will be affected.

Older people are deemed a ‘high-risk’ group in that they may be less agile, less mobile, may suffer cognitive impairments and are more susceptible to heat and cold exposure. However, older people can also be a real asset in a crisis. Most of those that have lived past six or seven decades have experienced more than one type of emergency or disaster. Their stories and insights not only may support those that are frightened and depressed but can also bring real wisdom and hope.

The topic of ageing and resilience is a complex yet one thing is clear:

Emergency Preparedness helps build resilience for older people

  • it brings a sense of self-efficacy, the ability to handle one’s own problems
  • it promotes flexibility and adaptability
  • it provides a focus and sense of purpose through meaningful activities and planning
  • it taps into often existing coping styles and optimism such as the ability to see silver linings and to look positively to the future

These factors, according to researchers, are more important to obtaining happiness in aging than perfect health. Isn’t that simply brilliant?

Of course, there is a lot more… I’ve just added four books to my reading list on ageing and resilience. It will be interesting!

I hope you will enjoy and share our new page on practical Emergency Preparedness for older adults with all the elders in your circle of friends and family. You may also enjoy reading Resilience and the importance of Role Models. I wish you a good week.



EVAQ8 cartoon | see why we use cartoons


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Resilience – Disaster Preparedness and Ebola

What a head-spinning ‘disaster summer’ this has been!

We’ve been incredibly busy here at EVAQ8, putting together disaster preparedness solutions for people, businesses and, most recently, aid organisations. Only now do I find a moment to sit back and reflect on this summer’s long list of disasters and their unprecedented cost to humanity. Continuity Central provides excellent, sobering and thought provoking monthly summaries on the global impact of natural disasters.

Widespread flooding through Europe affected Bulgaria, Romania, the Netherlands, the UK, Switzerland, Slovakia, and Croatia. In Asia, Super Typhoon Rammasun and Typhoon Matmo raged in addition to excessive seasonal rains affecting vast regions.

On the other hand, drought conditions worsened in China and the Washington Carlton Complex Fire became the largest wildfire in state history.


Iceland’s Volcano Bardarbunga stirred. Earthquakes struck around the world, for example 6.0 San Francisco, 6.1 Yunnan Province Chine, 5.1 near Quito Ecuador, 6.9 southern Peru, 5.6 in Algeria and 5.4 in South Africa. Severe weather events and floods submerged the Italian village of Refrontolo and inundated Denmark and southwestern Sweden – comparatively ‘mild’ impacts compared to Africa with widespread flooding across the Niger region and heavy losses throughout Asia. And then there was Super Typhoon Halong in Japan, hurricane Iselle making landfall on Hawaii’s Big Island and multiple tornado touchdowns in the US. In contrast, drought hit Sri Lanka and Guatemala impacting agriculture.

Massive flood damage continued through large areas of Asia especially India and Pakistan while remnants of Hurricane Norbert and Tropical Storm Dolly generated flash floods in Arizona, Nevada and California. Hurricane Odile impacted Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Typhoon Kalmaegi made separate landfalls in the Philippines, China, and Vietnam and Tropical Storm Fung-Wong brought torrential rains to the Philippines, Taiwan, and China. Wildfires burnt across northern California and in Japan, Mount Ontake erupted.

Disasters do not Respect Borders – no one is immune

… and if all these severe weather events and natural disasters were not enough,
there is also Ebola – according to the WHO

“Ebola – the most severe acute health emergency of modern times”

This is not scare mongering. It won’t be long until we have the first Ebola case(s) here in the UK. The warnings are stern and from reliable sources: “Ebola Crisis – disease will be in Britain by Christmas, warns Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt” writes The Telegraph while New Scientist says that Ebola deaths will peak before there is a vaccine, with a possible 1 million cases projected.

Thankfully, the UK is in a much better position to deal with Ebola than most nations.

There is no reason for panic – but there is
every reason to be aware and informed – every reason to be prepared and equipped


What does it mean to be prepared for Ebola?

be informed – stay up-to-date – and remain critical of your information sources

UNICEF on the importance of being equipped UNICEF on the importance of being equipped

There is a lot of information out there, too much almost and it’s difficult to make sense of it all. Official channels such as the WHO, UK Gov, the NHS and the CDC are a good place to start and come back to as they are updated on a regular basis. To lift your perspective also read up on stories of Ebola survivors, for example British Red Cross Blog What is it like to survive Ebola? While a very serious threat, Ebola does not kill everybody that is infected, especially if caught and treated early.

Emergency and Disaster Planning for Ebola is similar to planning for pandemics. Guidance is readily available and can be adapted to your particular situation. For example see the UK Gov guidance on pandemic flu or US sources (flu.gov) such as information for Employees and Employers with regards to Pandemic Emergency Planning in the Workplace or in a more wider sense Pandemic Preparedness for Communities, Schools, Transportation and Health Professionals.

Reliable Diagnosis of Ebola

It takes upwards of three weeks for infected patients to begin showing signs of Ebola. Just because someone has a fever and is feeling ill does not mean they are infected with Ebola. There are a lot of misconceptions out there so be aware and help break the cycle of panic. Reliable diagnosis is by blood test. Researchers are working furiously to perfect rapid diagnostic tests for Ebola which may become more widely available. The NHS 111 helpline number now screens for Ebola (Guardian) but there may be problems with accuracy as pointed out by the GPC chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul (GP online). New methods are being trialled everyday, for example today the Guardian reports that Skype is being used to consult with patients in Manchester.

Hygiene and Infection Control – limit the spread of Ebola

UN: Hygiene as a vital Ebola Response Tool

Hand and surface disinfection is crucial.

There are a number of reliable products available to everybody, for example Clinell (also see their Ebola statement).

In addition, there are practical solutions for Infection Control.

Finally, keep your Emergency Go Bag and 72-hour Emergency Kit stocked and up-to-date. For more information on that aspect please visit our Disaster Preparedness Information portal Emergency Plan.

If you also need to consider Business solutions, visit our page for Business Continuity.

Ebola and natural disasters affect us all, indirectly at the very least.

Don’t lose time, be informed and get equipped today. Talk to your friends, collegues and neighbours and help raise awareness for disaster preparedness. Help dispel myths and get the right information and attitude across no matter how young or old you are. Social support is absolutely crucial in Disaster Preparedness and Resilience – something I will address again in my next post.

Have a good week. Stay safe. Be prepared.


thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency & Disaster Preparedness!

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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