Why an emergence package?
And how to compose one.
We are depending on electricity. And we do so in a way you probably never thought of. Electricity drives the world. When it fails its repair will get top priority and we are assured that power will be restored very quickly. Oh yeah?
But what could possibly go so terribly wrong?
In 1859, 1976 and 1989 the solar wind brought down power and made sea mines explode at harbours in... Vietnam!
This is from a Dutch presentation on solarwind. A whole series of electricity plants and nodes went off line in a matter of 90 seconds. Some of them burnt out, even 1.2 MegaWatt transformers affecting 6 million houses. This costed 13 million dollars valued at the start of 1989.
Keep an eye on the suns activity: https://www.poollicht.be
On 22 and 23 January 2024 Amsterdam had power outages due to extreme temperature/humidity combinations.
Climate, yes... These two reasons will happen again. The latter, for now, is not yet direct a disaster but the first category will very sure be.
But there are more causes. In 2007 an Apache helicopter was doing a low flying exercise in the dark and hit a major powerline leaving 50.000 households without power for several days, wave goodbye to the contents of your freezer and fridge... In 2017 it happened again but luckily on a smaller scale. Floods are a huge risk as well and they occur more frequent than ever thanks to climate change.
And then there is this ultimate disaster looming in the east by the phenomenon called Putin and his imperialistic expansion fever. For that latter matter be aware of hackers and read the part of digital security. But that would be easy. Have you ever taken a good look at the North Sea? The energy and internet network infrastructures there are hard to secure physically. The energy transition spreads the risk but the North Sea is an easy and big target. And that is a sure and assured fact.
And now on 11 February 2024 Trump announced that he encourages Putin to declare war on NATO members that have not yet met the 2% of their GDP on defence. He has a point but he thinks he can ignore the consequences. And then this poll showed up. Michelle Obama has not yet given a reaction but I keep my fingers crossed.
Nah.... won't happen to you huh?
I know that some of my solutions won't fit everyone as I have a garden with some space for solarpanels and firewood but after having read my thoughts my guess is that you'll have a good startingpoint to compose your own emergency package to your fit. Because it is not a matter of if... but when disaster, large or small, is knocking at your door.
Governments either state or local have one serious problem: they lack visionary policies. They have a naive, almost innocent, arrogance of thinking that they can handle situations. You can't expect a politician to have a vision on things like you couldn't expect a blind man to see. Dutch politicians made some sort of guideline they call an emergency package. Stuff some things in with which you can last 3 days. For a simple inconvenience that may be enough but for a disaster... they couldn't even see a disaster if they took a look in their mirrors. Their lack of vision makes them the disaster! In any case the root cause of it.
So they will restore power quickly... And how much time is that? Just a transformer on a city block? Or a distribution node of a region? Or a powerplant like on 13 march 1989 in Canada? And what (scale of) damage are we confronted with? The extend of the failing power can be put simply in these few things:
- Power obviously
- Potable water plants and its transportation to your home
- Sewer systems
- Fuel stations, so trucks can't resupply your supermarket and your own transportation stops when your fuel tank is empty.
So... which problems do we encounter?
The important ones: stay alive and informed.
Notice before reading on and start buying stuff:
There is a raising trend in interest in this stuff as emergency packages are being promoted more and more. Some websites are there for them and them alone and they really don't care if you are well informed. To them this is a very interesting market and they ask monstrous prices where on other websites the goods are up to 50% cheaper. First and foremost look around on Amazon and have a look at the site of the manufacturer to get an idea of the pricing.
Specifically vendors of outdoor and camping stuff and vendors of emergency goods are notoriously expensive!
Water, the potable type.
So potable water is your main concern. What I describe here are my own thoughts based on my own research.
Take it as a starting point of your own. Though I'm pretty sure of myself I'm not responsible for you following my thoughts. Or not, for that matter.
Get some mineral water in your stock just for the first days and then consider purifying as purifying is not going to deliver drinkwater quality but it keeps you alive when needed for a longer period.
There are quite some ways to purify water but none are equal to what you get from your home tap. What these purifiers do is good for either a short off grid trip or a longer time if a disaster makes nothing else available. What you need is surface water, absolutely not from a big river being an industrial sewer and a literal sewer and a filter up to 0.01 micron and either water purification tablets or a UV light.
but also seemingly clear and fresh rainwater, even when collected directly in a bowl, are very likely polluted with heavy metals and acidic chemicals, but also
Be careful with where you get your water. That river that I just mentioned contains chemicals, human and animal waste including ugly virusses. The rain, seemingly clear and fresh rainwater even when collected directly in a bowl, is very likely polluted with heavy metals and acidic chemicals collected from the air being blown into it from factory chimneys and waste burning procedures to name two obvious sources. So... small streams and clear ponds are probably fine. Smaller lakes should be fine too.
Also be careful when the water company is working on the pipes.
Floods are happening more often nowadays. Be careful as this obviously happens near the big rivers with their problems as described before. Specifically the first wave (first days) which contains a massive load of gathered pollution. The later water may be somewhat cleaner as it is the massive rainwater that is the most probable cause but personally I'd avoid that too unless you really don't have any options left.
But anyway: Check where the water originates from and how and via which ways it gets to where you extract it from!
Know your potable water system:
Drinkwaternet en rampen (Only apllicable in The Netherlands)
To heat water use a black plastic bag. It is readily available complete with hose and tap in camping stores for some €11 or €12. Fill it with water and hang it in the sun. You'll be surprised how fast it gets to a serious temperature good to do the dish washing. Saves energy to boil water.
Create a stock of long lasting canned full meals. Dry food like pasta weighs not too much but with water you'll have enough carbs. Flour won't get you far. In comparison with pasta it needs lots of energy to create a loaf of bread. Dried meat is paramount for your proteins so forget your vegan demands which your body isn't designed nor built for. Canned fish is very good as well. Look for dry energy bars in weekly offers etc.
Watch out for so called specialized vendors of emergency goods. They charge prizes for dried and canned food that are insane. Their sales, in my humble opinion, benefit them more than they do you. Better built a rotating stock of normal long lasting food and use what is near the safety date and buy new stuff to add to the stock.
And I can't stretch this enough: water! Purifying is your last resort when no options are left specifically in urban areas.
If you go camping or used to do that you will probably have a small cooking device on gas cilinders. Excellent! but at some point the gastank will be exhausted. And as deliveries to stores may be halted or fully stopped you will run out of gas. An alternative may be a small device running on parafine blocks, be sure to have a lot of them (you will run out at some point) and don't use more than needed. Stopping them is not as easy as it looks. Another and way more possible fuel is wood. Just be sure to keep it or let it dry. A small axe helps you to split it into more manageable pieces. An axe is a personal thing as preferred weight and length are just a personal choice. You'll be fine with a length and weight around 40cm and 1 kg. The more weight the less power needed to split wood as gravity does the job for you. Use some bricks and a BBQ rack to built a simple but effective stove. Lighting your fire can be done with a cigarette lighter but that will also at some point run out of gas. That is where this Tinder & Fire Maker comes in.
Woodstove with secundary airflow maximizing heat and efficiency and cleaner burn.
I was thinking like... a grate from the BBQ and two bricks should do it. But a bit of searching got me to a woodgas burner.
First thing to understand is what fire is. It is heat that evaporates or sublimizes material and the gas coming of is what burns. So burning the gasses is one thing but burning them fully, hotter and cleaner is another. So I stumbled upon this Woodgas burner (picture will follow) that is double sided to enable extra airflow for the secundary burn. No you don't need this when you have enough dry wood but when your space is limited this is a way to get the most from your sources.
The woodgas burner:
Small ready to buy Woodgas Burner
A more complicated one to build yourself and to better understand and see the technique working:
DIY Woodgas Burner De Luxe
You can't use just any wood to cook and heat with.
The first thing is: are you going to cook on it or has your house a chimney so you can heat your house as well? Both need different wood. Though most wood is suited for cooking (be careful with resins as described later) not all is safe in a chimney. Some types like tropical hardwood, pine and spruce (amongst more!) can cause a chimney fire because of resin and soot particles, so be careful!!!
So, every type of wood has its own burn profile and of course the main thing: it needs to be dry. Drying wood takes about 1.5 - 2.5 years depending on the type, ventilation and direct sun. Once dry the bark is coming off by itself and the wood cracks. Laying against a wall slows the process, piling it up under a simple shelter is the best way as sun radiation and wind are free to do their job. Preferably use birch as it burns relatively clean, long and hot. Wood with resins like pine and spruce cause smoke and pollution and the resin can jump out burning and get on your clothes thus turning you into a torch. Oak and beech burn hot and very long but take 2.5 years to dry. The preferred humidity for firewood is 15%. A lower humidity lets it burn hotter but foremost quicker.
So... it takes forever to get fresh wood dried. And you can't go into a city park and cut a tree and your garden better stay the way it is too. Then you have two options left. Either buy wood for a fireplace which by stores is priced like gold or you can collect it from waste dumps along the streets where ever a renovation is going on. Do not! take painted or laminated wood! When it is burned it produces toxic fumes, not a good idea... but construction beams and discarded pallets are excellent for burning. Saw them in short pieces and use a small axe to get them to the needed size. The sawdust and splinters make excellent tinder. Lighting tinder with sparks needs some practice so it would be a good idea to get a few packs of fire starter blocks. They are cheap and don't take much place but make life easier just like a small stock of discardable cigarette lighters or spare gas for that matter.
Pinecones are a good idea too. They dry quicker but take a lot of space as they have an open structure.
If you have no other option left but panted or laminated wood then chop the painted or laminated layer off and/or stay upwind and notify people down wind that they stay out of the smoke.
Solar panels and high capacity batteries
If you have a solar array on your roof you'll probably be fine. Just be sure you have a batterypack for the nights and heavy clouded days! For the ones that don't... you have a problem that can become a serious one. But before owners of solar panel roofs skip the rest of this: keep an eye on the amount of clouds and synchronize the use of your stored power. This sounds obvious but you'll be surprised how fast your batteries drain...
By the way... yes you can use a petrol driven generator too, of course, but do you have a lasting stock of fuel as well? A small tank will do for a while in the nights and on very clouded days but this is not my particularly first choice because of the fuelstock, the fumes, the sound and the environment.
The second thing to take care of is electrical power. Your fridge and freezer probably contain lots of now very valuable food. To keep it cooled and/or frozen you need a powerstation which provides you with the normally local power either 110 or 230 volts. So get one and keep it charged. When power fails be sure to know how long it will take your fridge and freezer to reach its critical temperature. As a fridge is mostly at 7 degrees celcius it won't have much time to stay there. However a freezer has a long term to reach -1 degree celcius depending on it's starting point which may be -18 or -24 or even deeper. If a freezer has 24 hours (unopened) than power it after 20 hours and get it back down again. That usually takes some hours. Choose your powerstation depending on the expected powerconsumption. We have a big deep freezer in a cold cellar that has used 85KWh over the last 9 months (measured individually) which comes down to an average of 315 Watts per day. That means that with the powerstation mentioned below you can power that deep freezer for 2 days. When you let it alone and open it only when absolutely needed you can possibly extend that time a bit but that is it. So thinking about this I am contemplating a powerstation with a much larger capacity so I can use this lighter one for all phones, laptops etc. And of course... an extra powerstation does require extra solar panels.
The batteries last for about 3500 cycles so even with daily use they should last for about ten years. You can do the math for capacity times cycles times costs. 600 Watts times 3500 cycles = 2100 KW x average of €0,26 = €567. Initial cost at buying including 2 solar panels of 100W each was €529. Though inflation and energy costs are far from stable you could say that if you use it this way it comes down to a cost free safety backup project!
But... your powerstation, once depleted, has to be charged... so you will need solarpanels as your wall outlets are still dead.
I have two 100 Watt solarpanels. That is not overkill. When the sky is clouded a second or even third panel provides you with more Amps it is as simple as that. Just take care not to deliver more Amps than your battery can handle. More clouds more panels but disconnect your overly capacity when the clouds start to disappear. Example: if your battery can handle 220Watt and it is cloudy you can use 300 Watt panelcapacity as it will not deliver that much but still more than two panels. When the sun gets through disconnect or cover one so you won't overload the battery.
To give you an idea of the efficiency of 1 single 100W solar panel: - 28 January - 11:00 UTC / 12:00 CET - elevation of the Sun approximately 20.5 degrees at a lattitude of 52 degrees north. - sky clear - charge current 56W - charge capacity with a battery of 299W/hr from 61% to 99% in 90 minutes (10:45 - 12:15 CET) - charge capacity is about 34% of June. In June the expected charge capacity is about 56 / 34 *100 = 165W. This is not possible so 100W will be effective from the end of March untill the end of September when the charge capacity will be >= 56W as calculated with June as 100% of maximum Sun radiation because of the shortest distance through the Earths atmosphere.
Solar panels on the standard wall outlet and home batteryThere are solar panels that can be connected directly to your wall outlet.
This multilingual site (NL, GER, FR, EN) sells and explains in extensive details the ins and outs regarding this type of solar power. That goes also for home batteries.
There is a little thing with these panels. They deliver power... obviously but they do so on one single group of power in your home. So if that is a group that hardly uses power during the day, that power is gone. So you almost need a home battery to store all that generated power. The advantage of that is that if you have a dynamic contract you can store energy while power is cheap and release it when it is more expensive or of course during the night or when clouds stop your panels.
PowerbanksAs you may need the full capacity from that big battery to power a fridge and/or freezer you need a separate system for your smaller stuff like phone and laptop. Get your priorities right: your phone comes first, most likely it will be a smartphone so the need of a laptop will be way less. Preferrably get a 30 Watt-ish powerbank with its own foldable solar panels and/or a portable solar panel with roughly the same capacity. Just be sure the panel is suited for 5 volts. The one shown here has a capacity of 40W. When it has its own USB ports you got the right one.
The built-in foldable solar panel won't deliver what the bigger one can but it is way better than a single panel on the powerbank as that will take up to 3 days to charge your powerbank. If at all... The three panels of the foldable type add to the fixed one and they will do the job much better and faster. If a flashlight is available it comes in handy when it has more than one mode of lighting amongst which an SOS coded mode.
Analogue radio.A radio for emergency is defined by its powering and bands. There are four possible ways to power a radio:
- a built in battery
- a few normal single use or rechargeable batteries
- a built in emergency solarpanel (very limited though)
- a crank
A handy extra use of the radio is using the battery of the radio to charge your phone. Look for this function when you choose one. It has to be able to do this while playing. It isn't exactly speed charging but it works.
The most important bands to receive should be available being FM, AM and SW (Short Wave). Specifically for SW a digital display is very handy as it can be very difficult to find a station with just a needle moving over a scale. The one I have chosen isn't expensive but does have all these features.
So why Short Wave? Young people probably haven't heard of this anyway but it is a very good (and probably only) way to get news when very large scale disasters happen. Short wave signals reach certain areas that other bands can't reach. Search the internet which stations use which frequency for which area. The Short Wave signals can reach for many thousands of kilometers.
Short wave is the choice for IRDR or International Radio for Disaster Relief. This is the frequency table:
And HERE you will find a ton of info about radiostations on all bands. Short wave at about 40% down the page.
Other electrical stuff.While the power is down and you may have a flashlight or built in light like in an emergency radio those lights are not always very handy as they are fixed to some sort of appliance or you have to hold it. At such moments a headlight is a valuable gadget. Wrap it around your head and you have both your hands free for anything.
I have not listed Petzl headlights though Petzl's are more powerful. The quality of Black Diamond and Petzl however is different.
The Petzl has a rating IPX4: No data on dust (the 'X'), Splashing water from any direction, using an oscillating tube or spray nozzle. 10 minute duration.
The Black Diamond has a rating IP67: Fully shielded from dust, Immersion (1 meter or less). Up to 3 ft 3 in (1 meter). Test lasts 30 minutes, with depth of 39 inches (1000 mm)
Medication.If you are using medication and you are not on an automatic delivery which is on a shorter term than needed then ask your pharmacy for an extra package. At the moment medication delivery in The Netherlands is not to good so Dutch people are getting it in Germany or Belgium which puts Belgian reserves under pressure as well. Or if you know your medicine order it online but be very careful with that as you don't know the supplier! It can't hurt to have the standard painkillers and diarrhea stoppers (as water and food may become a problem) etc in stock, they last long.
Maps and compassIf the need occurs that you have to leave your home you may need maps and a compass if you even have to really get off grid. The only reliable maps are the military ones. In Dutch they are called staff maps by the military who actually use these or in civilian terms topographic maps. They differ from regular commercial types by their details. Literal every shed in every garden is in that map. The selections can be downloaded as PDF but the download is not the topographic map that is on the monitor, it is a simpler version with neighbourhood names blocking the map content where the name is printed in a small white background.
You can plot points and routes and print them as well to set a specific goal for that map. Don't forget to get a protective cover for your maps!
This website further provides the maps for Rheinland-Pfalz and Nordrhein-Westfalen in Germany, Luxemburg and a base map of Austria. All provided maps are in the 1:25,000 scale.
The compass shown here is usable on a map because of its transparent base, it is able to direct at objects to set a course and has an inclination measure. It needs practice but once mastered you'll find your way swiftly.
Instruction Suunto MC-2 There are two versions. The cheaper NH version is only useable on the Northern Hemisphere. The Global is for the whole planet. It is a Finnish designed and built compass that also measures the angle of a slope.
World Magnetic Model, Main Field Declination. It is a PDF file. Print it and add to your other physical maps in case you internet connection fails.
BinocularsTake a look at my homepage menu, at the far right under 'Links and Things' you'll find three links to information about binoculars. The code on binoculars is something like 8x20 or 10x42. The first number is the magnification, the second number is the diameter of the front lens, the objective. This diameter is a guide to the amount of light that comes into the binoculars. The smaller ones are good for daylight and the bigger the second number the more they are suited for dawn and dusk or even night. Night does not mean night vision, that would require a special type with light enhancement electronics like infrared or things like that. Cheaper types give you purple rims around objects against a bright sky.