A Rude Awakening, by Ruth E. in Hawaii

Power outages are quite common here in Hawaii. It seems like a couple of times a month, the lights flicker, get dim, and then go out. Sometimes they stay out for an hour or longer. We recently had a blackout on one whole side of our island, which truly woke me up to the possibilities of an endless blackout (worse-case scenario).

Usually I come out of an anxiety session unscathed, but since I currently belong to an emergency preparedness group, I have been reading tons about the many scenarios that could happen to our island home including tsunamis, earthquakes, flooding, volcanic eruptions (we live close to the Big Island), terrorist attacks and many others. This time, when the lights went out, and stayed out for longer than I thought they should, my worrying just would not stop.

What if the lights never came back on? How prepared was I to deal with it? What if this was really the beginning of the end of the world as we know it? Sure, I had a few cans of Spam and tuna, a couple of gallon jugs full of water, oh, and a first aid kit. In fact, I even have a 72-hour kit for my husband and I. But what if I was unable to dry my clothes that were now waiting in the washing machine. I don’t even have a clothesline or clothespins! (Pretty trivial, right?) Going further, where was that recipe of how to make my own soap when it ran out? Mental note: Get a clothesline and learn how to make laundry soap.  That was just the beginning of my worries.

Surely, if the electricity went out for an extended time, or indefinitely, it would cause pandemonium. A majority of the food we eat is brought in from the mainland, New Zealand or Asia on ships. Would we be isolated from the rest of the world?  It would be a dog-eat-dog scenario, seeing who could get to the stores the quickest – that is if they were even open. If it was a worldwide disaster, we could not expect others to help us for a long time, if ever.

And, if I was one of the lucky ones to get a supply of canned foods, did I know where my manual can opener was, since the one we use every day would be useless? As our freezer would no longer keep our meat frozen, how were we going to cook it? We could have a big feast, at least until the food spoiled – unless we knew a way to preserve it.  Mental note: learn how to preserve meat, and purchase a couple more can openers, and put them with my emergency kits.

Thanks to a garage sale, I have a tiny little barbeque grill. Also, since living in Hawaii, we have learned how to make an underground oven. My husband can start a fire with the husk of a coconut (lucky me, right?). We are saved, I gloated to myself thoughtfully! Also, as an artist, I have quite a bit of artwork with frames that I have spent hours on. I wondered how long it would be before all of the art became fuel for a fire to cook our dinner. Mental note: Get an ax to cut up art for firewood, and store it safely

If it truly was TEOTWAWKI, I tried to think of the good things about living on an island, as well as the bad. The good part is that it never gets very cold here, so we will not freeze to death (highly unlikely).  We can go fishing in the ocean, which is vast, although we don’t even own a fishing pole or fishing net. Mental note: Get a fishing pole and fishing net, and learn how to fish with both.

Another thing that is beneficial about living in Hawaii is that we have temperate weather. It is not too hard to grow certain types of food all year round. Luckily, I have a little square-foot garden going in the back yard. Black-eyed peas, lettuce, beetroot, and Swiss chard are doing well; at least we would not starve to death right away. But, I could not just run down and buy more seeds, so I would need to know how to harvest seeds Mental note: Learn how to harvest seeds.

Water – what about water? Luckily in Hawaii it rains quite frequently, and I have a bucket that catches the runoff from the roof. I have also purchased some water purification tablets, which is a start in the right direction, but it would be beneficial if I obtain knowledge of how to distill and filter water. Now that water is packaged and sold, there really is no reason not to have a supply of on hand, except perhaps storage space. Mental note: Learn how to distill and filter water, and store more drinking water.

Fortunately, my husband manages a small farm plot near our home. Certain crops grow here in the islands better than others. I have become accustomed to eating many different types of food. Being from Utah, I used to be a meat and potato, white bread, white rice girl, (which we now know is not healthy), so I am glad that my tastes have broadened to include taro, poi, tapioca root, green bananas, pele (wild hibiscus), and many other island foods. We also have experimented with many different spices, and I can stand my food pretty “hot”. I am thankful that I have been able to adapt to many different types of cuisine.

Also, I have recently learned how to sprout beans. This knowledge has helped me realize how easy you can grow a miniature garden in your own home with mung beans, clover, fenugreek, alfalfa, barley, sunflower and wheat. I also learned that when sprouting, the seeds, grains or legumes provide a large amount of nutrients. With these small seeds and beans, we can store quite a bit of food in a small amount of space.

I love candles, so I have quite a few decorative ones, but they are not the long burning emergency candles, and obviously won’t last very long. I also have a kerosene lantern and a flashlight, but am very unsure how long the matches, kerosene, and batteries I currently have will last. Yet, another mental note: Purchase humidity proof matches or lighters, emergency candles and safely store a supply of kerosene.

I realized how dependent we have become on technology, which may never work again if things go downhill. My biggest worry is that we will be unable to communicate with our children and grandchildren who live miles away. No e-mail, no cell phones, no Facebook. Would we even be able to find out what was going on locally? Where is that old radio? Do we have enough batteries to keep it running? Do I know which frequency emergency instructions would be broadcast over the radio? Maybe we will have to rely on a ham radio operator. Do I know who in the neighborhood is trained in this skill? Mental note: Find a ham radio operator and make friends. Meantime, purchase a small emergency radio and a generous supply of batteries, or get one that you can crank, or even better, get both.

Another worry that snuck into my mind was how well did we know our neighbors? Would we be able to share with them? If we ran out of something, could we ask for it without them scoffing (or worse, shooting) at us? Online banking would be impossible, and there would be no way to withdraw all the money we have been so carefully saving each month to pay for anything. If things should get really bad, we may be forced to barter our possessions for necessities. Memories of Mad Max surfaced in my mind. Would we be survivors like Max himself with the new world order, or be annihilated by the gangs that no doubt would surface? Mental note: Be kinder to our neighbors.

I realized that it is a given, we all must die, but would we prefer to die of starvation, or by our own ingenuity be able to help ourselves and others delay the inevitable? Could we keep our minds focused – which led me to another worry ­– my medications.  Since I take a few prescription medicines on a daily basis, what would I do when they run out? I cannot stock up on my medications because the insurance won’t allow me to get more than a few months supply at a time. Do I know enough about natural remedies to offset the lack of medication? I have quite a few herbs in my garden. Would I know which herb was for which ailment? I also have an essential oil family emergency kit that I am learning how to use.  Mental note: Learn which herbs and oils help which ailment.

How long would it take for us to get used to the new normalcy? Would we have to experience a severe mental shift, or could we just stay calm and take things as they came? Would we feel afraid, become dismayed or lose faith and feel betrayed? My husband and I are Latter Day Saints and have had a lifetime of warnings from our church leaders telling us “if ye are prepared, ye shall not fear”. How seriously have we taken their advice? Mental note: Heed their advice, now!

Worrying can be a good thing. It can move us to action.

Luckily, the lights finally came back on, I said a prayer of gratitude, and went down and cooked myself a delicious breakfast.