Disaster Preparation

The kinds of benefits we've come to expect in an energy-rich society will gradually disappear. We will rely more on ourselves and our community for support. This is especially true when recovering from a disaster.

Earthquakes are the most devastating disaster, but floods make up over 75% of the disaster declarations each year. What is the chance that you will live through a disaster bad enough that your county is designated an official disaster area? It turns out it's pretty high:

Map shows number of U.S. Presidential Disaster Declarations by County
between 1965 and 2003. Click image for original USGS document (PDF).
Legend: Red > 10; Orange 6 - 10; Yellow 1 -5; White (no data).


The sorts of disasters that occur (some of them often) around the U.S. are:

Chemical Emergencies

Dam Failure


Fire or Wildfire


Hazardous Material

Heat Wave



Nuclear Power Plant Emergency







Winter Storm

FEMA has a good disaster preparation guide that even includes videos. People who live in California should especially be prepared because the chance of an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.7 occurring in the next thirty years has been pegged at 99 percent by the United States Geological Survey and other earthquake groups.

Disaster Preparation Kit

A good disaster preparation kit will feed and protect you and your family for at least ten days. You will often see three days recommended, but after FEMA's performance during Katrina, when many people waited a week for water and food to arrive, we think that is far too low. Moreover, considering that you are preparing a kit for a post peak world, when systems will work even less effectively, we think ten days is the minimum. (Here in the Bay Area, the authorities regularly recommend seven days witnessing FEMA's Katrina performance.)

A disaster preparation kit should include:

Cleanup and Rebuilding

As oil becomes more expensive, many disaster areas will never be cleaned up and rebuilt. Damaged bridges made of concrete will be demolished and the rubble pushed aside but may take decades to rebuild, if ever. (Concrete and steel take enormous amounts of energy to make, particularly concrete. Many bridges built in the future will be made of wood again.)

If where you live relies heavily on bridges and other infrastructure for its proper functioning, and a disaster wipes them out, will you be nimble enough to find a new place to live?

If you do not have a fully stocked disaster kit and continue to live in a disaster-prone area (like California), are you being responsible?