When Disaster Strikes and You Are Not Ready: Lessons from the Philippines
In the Philippines, power and running water can be gone at the drop of a hat. Trust me, I know from experience. One moment you’re walking down the street under the street lights, the next…darkness. It makes for quite the dangerous walk, considering all the deep holes in the sidewalks (fortunately, I only fell in one hole my entire time there). Having lived in the Philippines for a couple years, I’ve experienced all kinds of things that really opened my eyes to why we prepare for emergencies. One event in particular stands out in my mind. The Tropical Storm In the fall of 2006, I was living in a small town in the province of Rizal. A single road splits the town in half. On either side of the road, there are a few smaller side streets. A large lake is less than a mile West of the main road. Mountains are just to the East, just after the terraces of rice paddies. It is a rural town, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. One of the downsides to beautiful, rural living, however, is that when a tropical storm comes through, there isn’t much to stop it from wreaking havoc. That November, we were hit by a powerful tropical storm. It knocked out our power and stopped our already unreliable running water. We had some backup water, but not much. We couldn’t shower, and our dirty laundry just remained dirty. What else could we do? After just two days the water was back on (hurray!), so we had our showers back and our laundry cleaned, and once again we could run our water through our filters for consumption. The power, however, remained off. The Philippines is a hot, humid place, which makes for very unpleasant nights without power. The bedroom in which I slept had no window, and there was only one window in the front room. I moved My bed out there and hoped for a little breeze. Because the power was out, our electric fans were useless. The days were hot, and the nights somehow hotter. What I would have given for some electricity! After ten days of sleeping in a hot, stuffy room, the power was finally restored, and while it was still hotter than the sun, having that breeze move across my face while I slept felt – if just for a moment – like the cold, arctic wind. A little electricity can work wonders. Unfortunately, all the food in the fridge went bad. Instead of keeping food for days before cooking it, we had to buy food the day we wanted to eat it. Nothing would keep. Fishermen were giving their fish away for free because if they didn’t, it would just go bad. A bamboo home near a rice field behind our house was completely washed away by the storm. We knew that family well, and while we were happy that everyone was safe, we were also very sorrowful for their loss. Oddly enough, their neighbor’s home was hardly damaged. Even though the storm was too weak to be a hurricane, it still created quite a mess. Streets flooded into homes, tree limbs littered the ground, blocking the road, and damaging property. Food and clean water was in short supply. Cleanup took quite some time. Lessons Learned [caption id="attachment_19191" align="alignleft" width="300"] We had to collect our water in a bucket, then pump that water through a filter before we could drink it.[/caption] While the experience was less than desirable, it showed how we can be prepared. More than ever, the water filter we used was a life saver. Of course, we always used it, because water in the Philippines just isn’t safe without it. However, after the storm caused floods and stirred the pot, so to speak, the water was even less safe than before. Having a water filter for when the water stops running is, in my opinion, one of the greatest resources you can have. Another hot commodity was electricity. Without a way to stay cool, sleep was more than just difficult – it was nearly impossible. I would fall asleep fanning my face with some sort of paper or cardboard, then wake up with a start when the hot, humid air began to suffocate me again. If your power goes out during a hot summer (or a cold winter, for that matter), having a way to stay cool (or warm) can make life a whole lot more bearable. Having no power was a pain for more than just sleeping. Not being able to keep food long term was difficult at best. By having long-term food storage, losing power won’t affect your ability to eat. Having extra food on hand would have been a huge benefit to us during this emergency. You will never know the extent of damage a disaster will cause until it actually happens. The Philippines is prone to huge typhoons, so we were lucky this was just a little guy. Still, we were affected for over a week without certain things that here in America we tend to take for granted. Before the next disaster comes to your neck of the woods, I urge you to prepare your home and family for any scenario. Know the disasters that are prone to your region and prepare accordingly. And if, after a disaster, it turns out you over prepared, then that’s far better than the alternative. I would much rather be over prepared than underprepared. Have you ever been left without power or water following a disaster? What did you do?
Tags: Disaster, Not prepared, Philippines, Power, Tropical storm, Water