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  • Venezuela Food Crisis: A Warning to the World

    venezuela-empty-shelves-via-abc-news Empty shelves in Venezuela - via ABC News

    Venezuela is on the brink of collapse. With food prices skyrocketing, people are struggling to feed their families. Crime is on the rise. Long lines of people wind endlessly around the supermarket in the hopes of securing just the bare necessities. Oftentimes they go home empty handed.

    Citizens are now revolting against the leaders that brought them into this mess.

    This report by the Washington Post shows just how delicate the situation is in Venezuela. Led by President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s socialist-inspired revolution used to provide plenty of government funding to “create a more equal society.”

    Looking at what’s happening in Venezuela now, that didn’t work so well.

    For a while, things were fine. People thrived, and much of that success was due to their strong oil economy. During the Chávez era, governments helped subsidize mothers in extreme poverty, helped people finish construction on their houses, and even help youth receive scholarships – all great things.

    Then the money dried up.

    venezuela-fridge-via-the-washington-post With high prices, food is hard to come by - via Washington Post

    Oil prices tanked, and the government-run supermarkets that provided the basics at subsidized prices are practically empty, and due to 700% inflation, even these subsidized supermarkets are forced to sell their goods at exorbitant prices. Food is scarce, many children don’t have the energy to even attend school. One Venezuelan journalist eats only one meal a day which consists of one egg. With empty supermarkets and no hope on the horizon, things are certainly not what the people of Venezuela had expected from their government.

    “We’re tired,” said one woman as reported by NBC News, “tired of hunger and humiliation.”

    Thousands of people from all across the country gathered in Caracas to protests against the worsening economic crisis. A coup was even attempted, but failed. People want change, because with change comes more access to food. PBS reported that Venezuelans are “losing hope that their government-controlled system will supply key items.”

    The situation in Venezuela is a warning to the United States – and every other developed nation. While the U.S. may not be in the same dire straits as they are, a look back can show just how gradual it was. Venezuela prospered for many years. Then, slowly, things worsened, until the food crisis arrived in full swing, increasing its intensity until food was nowhere to be found.

    How does one prepare for such a crisis? It can be difficult to predict something like this happening, especially during the good times. But it’s during the good times that we as a people must prepare for the difficult times.

    Food prices have soared in Venezuela. A dozen eggs now costs $150 on the black market, not much more than the official government pricing. This is where emergency food storage comes into play. No matter what the prices jump to in the future, your food storage maintains its value. In fact, it’s like an investment in that when food prices rise, you’re already prepared so you don’t have to spend $150 on twelve eggs.

    venezuela-inflation-chart

    Likewise, only eating a few eggs a day will get old fast. By stocking up with food, you can ensure you have the food you actually want to eat, rather than rely on the supermarket to provide you with the very basics, assuming the shelves haven’t been stripped bare by the time you arrive.

    Food prices spiking and many different stages of civil unrest can make acquiring food not just difficult, but nearly impossible. Take the time now – before a crisis – to prepare for any emergency scenario.

     

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  • The Burning Man Festival as an Emergency Situation Example

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    Burning Man Traffice - via Slate Traffic at Burning Man - via Slate

    Every year, the week before Labor Day, Black Rock City becomes the sixth largest city in Nevada. This ephemeral city, which exists solely for the Burning Man arts festival, deals with the same issues of any 70,000-person city: traffic control and traffic jams, water and sanitation, power, health care and law enforcement. It has a large central coffee house, neighborhoods and postal service, many art installations, a wooden temple and loads of bars and entertainment venues, some of which are mobile. And of course it has its namesake: a giant, wooden statue of a man that’s destroyed by fire every year.

    Its temporary residents have problems people in no other midsize city face except during a disaster. At the end of the festival, the city must disappear like it never existed. Its residents must provide their own necessities: homes, food, water, sanitation and power. In fact, the only things available to buy are coffee drinks and ice. Internet and phone service is minimal to nonexistent. The city provides portable toilets but not showers. The nearest supermarket and gas station are nine miles away and jammed. There are no trash cans. All trash – even cigarette butts and wash water – must be stored and removed at the end of the week. Every bit of infrastructure is trucked in on the narrow highway beforehand and trucked out afterward if it’s not deliberately burned during the week. (Even debris from burned installations must be removed and the ground raked over.)

    Burning Man as seen from above Burning Man as seen from above

    Access to this town 120 miles from Reno, Nev. is possible by a two-lane highway or a temporary airport. Its residents face the extreme weather conditions of the desert: temperatures that range from less than 40 degrees at night to more than 100 degrees during the day, bone-dry, shade-free landscape and windstorms of alkali silt that block the sun and hinder breathing. The alkali dust causes playa foot, a chemical burn on the skin that can cause infection, according to attendee Bee Joli Shah, writing in Allure.

    “The first thing you have to know about Burning Man is it is all about survival, both as a 70,000 person community, and as an individual. That might sound a little scary, okay, it might sound a lot scary,” wrote former attendee Jennifer Maas for Hollywood Life.

    They’ve made it work for 30 years by practicing 10 principles codified in 2004. These principles are helpful in any emergency situation and include Radical Self-reliance, Participation, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility and Gifting.

    “The Black Rock Desert is trying its best to kill you. As ‘Radical Self-Reliance’ is one of Burning Man’s core principles, it is YOUR responsibility to see to it that it doesn’t.” the Burning Man web site said.

    Check out this list of required items for Burning Man participants. Notice how closely it resembles lists of supplies for 72-hour kits. Dust masks and goggles are necessary, as is some first aid training. Those are also useful in any disaster situation.

    This year, six people were injured, and one was airlifted out, when their theme camp collapsed. More common injuries include infection, playa foot, heat illness and substance abuse.

    A really good guide for Burning Man attendees is also useful for emergency preparedness, telling, among other things, how to set up ad hoc power systems and manage water.

    Former attendees recommend wet wipes and vinegar for cleaning, because the vinegar’s acidity can cut the alkalinity of the dust. Vinegar is a good cleaning and preserving agent for an emergency too.

    burning man-exodus-2-line - via Burners Burning Man Exodus traffic - via Burners

    Burning Man organizers tell attendees to fill up with gas in larger towns and make sure their tank is mostly full before they arrive, so they won’t have to fill up during the long wait to leave. This year, attendees had to wait up to nine hours in their cars after law enforcement stopped traffic to search for a missing 17-year-old girl. Even during normal departure times, called “Exodus,” people wait six to eight hours just to leave the area, according to event organizers. Organizers have a plan that entails moving groups in hour-plus intervals and turning vehicles off during the wait period.

    “Fill up on gas frequently and consider bringing a small gas can. There are very few gas stations on the 90-mile stretch between Fernley and Black Rock City,” attendee Melanie Curtin wrote for Inc.

    The Federal Emergency Management also recommends keeping a car’s gas tank full in case of any emergency evacuation.

    A major part of Burning Man is gifting, providing gifts to anyone, without thought of recompense or the size of the gift. Participants are also encouraged to volunteer and work together. In a disaster, people who have the things they need will be able to help others.

    Burning Man attendees must be prepared, or they can be turned away, according to Maas.

    “Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise, and rely on his or her inner resources,” the organization’s web site says. “You are responsible for your own survival, safety, comfort, and well-being, and for Leaving No Trace.”

    That can be true in any place, in any life event.

     

    Disaster_Blog_Banner - Burning Man

  • Hurricane Hermine Strikes Florida Following a Decade-Long Drought

    Hurricane Hermine Flood Hurricane Hermine - via BBC

    It happened. After a decade of relative calm, Florida was hit by a hurricane.

    Despite only being classified as a Category 1, Hurricane Hermine did some big damage, cutting off power for over 250,000 people in Florida. Despite the widespread power loss, NBC reported nothing was life threatening as far as damage was concerned.

    Flooding in Florida has turned the roads into dangers. One region received more than 9 inches of rain from Tuesday before Hermine even made landfall. After Hurricane Hermine has since weakened into a tropical storm, but major flooding – including flash floods and river floods – threaten parts of Georgia and the Carolinas.

     

     

    Even though Hurricane Hermine has been downgraded into a tropical storm, it’s still dangerous with maximum sustained winds of 60 miles per hour. CNN thinks it could even stall off the East Coast for days once it passes the Carolinas.

    According to Rick Knabb, hurricane center Director, “the most frequent cause of life…is from inland flooding due to heavy rainfall.” So just because there is no longer a hurricane doesn’t mean the threat is over. Be aware of the watches and warnings issued for your region. And if there is flooding, stay away. “Turn around, don’t drown” is NOAA’s slogan when it comes to floods. Remember, even just 6 inches of moving water can knock an adult off his feet, and 12 inches can carry away a car.

    Hurricane Hermine is expected to continue travelling up the coast and should reach Boston by Monday, if it makes it that far. This will increase the flood risk of all coastal states due to rain and storm surges. If you live along that route, make sure you have the necessary gear and supplies in case you need to weather the storm. If you’re not in that area, then now’s a great time to prepare for another disaster that could come your way without warning.

     

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    Learn all about hurricanes here: Everything You Need to Know About Hurricanes

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