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Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Dogged preparation

Every natural disaster reminds people of the things they should do to prepare for disaster. With luck, the disaster that reminds them is somewhere else, or, at least, not severe enough to cause terrible problems. We had that happen recently, and while it encouraged us to prepare for ourselves, it reminded us of one more thing we needed to consider: Our furbabies.

Nearly three weeks ago we had major storms in Auckland with severe winds causing damage all over the Auckland region. That was mostly an annoyance for us, apart for one thing: When we lose power, we lose water, and we can’t flush the toilets, either. We knew we had to come up with ways to prepare for those things, but suddenly we realised one more: We needed water just for the animals.

After that storm, I went to the grocery store and bought a six litre bottle of drinking water and two 1.5 litre bottles for Nigel and me. The smaller ones are in the event of a short interruption like we had last time, the bigger one in case the outage lasts longer. Some people in Auckland were without power for more than a week after that big storm, and no power for a week for us would mean no water for a week. Seven litres is not enough water for us for a week, but it’s not far off.

But, what about the dogs and cat?

I had a two-litre milk bottle I washed out and filled with water after our power came back on, just in case the new storm predicted was as bad as predicted (it wasn’t). I knew that wasn’t nearly enough for a long power outtage, but how much DID we need?

I poured the water from the milk bottle into their water bowls (they all share) and found out both bowls take exactly one litre. One of those two bowls is outside on the deck, and is extra, so the dogs can have a drink after they eat (I feed them on the deck). Their main bowl is inside, in our en suite, and I fill it twice a day. So, I knew I’d need to about least two litres per day just for them—possibly more when it's hot, less when it isn't.

We normally buy milk in 3-litre bottles, so I washed out three and filled them with water, which gives us nine litres of water for them. That’s enough for at least 4.5 days. I’ll soon have another 3-litre bottle to join the supply. And 12 litres is at least six days—probably enough for a week, actually. Just for the furbabies.

But my planning wasn’t done yet. When I went to buy a new bag of dry dog food, the pet store was giving away 12 tins of food for free, and that’s when it hit me: Cans keep for a very long time, and if a major storm hit, say, the day before I was heading to the store to buy more dry food, what would I give them? The recent storm blocked roads with fallen trees, and a bigger storm would be worse and take longer to clear. However, each can feeds the dogs for one meal. So, I now have enough cans to last six days (not counting the food from the fridge and freezer the dogs would probably have to help us eat).

Bella is on a special diet, and I can’t quite as easily stock up for her, but they do make pouches of food for her, so I’ll buy some as an emergency supply. Her water is already sorted, of course.

The thing is, all of the information I’ve seen on emergency preparation has been focused on people, and fair enough, too: They’re the ones who make the preparations, after all. But we’re also responsible for the well-being of our furbabies, and that means we need to make sure they have enough food and water. Until this storm happened, it never occurred to me to include them in our “Get Thru” planning.

To be honest, we’re not quite fully sorted for an emergency yet—though, in our defence, this past weekend we bought a pack of cans of gas for our little camp stove, so we’re acting on what we need. We’re still researching emergency power options (especially for charging cellphones) and an emergency toilet, and I’ll talk about our solutions when we have them. But this is all still kind of new to us, because the power seldom went out at our old place, and we never lost water. This alerted us to new things we needed to provide for.

Worse, the emergency planning people for Auckland Council have warned that a “mega storm” is inevitable because of climate change, and communities might need to be self-sufficient for days, maybe a week, maybe longer, before outside help can arrive. We’ll prepare for those huge events without being over the top or spending a lot of money, but finding the best solution does require some research and effort. We’re equal to the task.

In the meantime, our furbabies will soon have enough water to last about a week. That’s a good, if unexpected, start.

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