Disasters: Are You Prepared?

My Christmas and New Year, like so many other Australians this year was almost a non-event. With half of Australia burning, no-one felt like celebrating. As it is, I’m writing this through tears after seeing so many heartbreaking images of our beautiful country go up in flames.

So many people now no longer have a home, a business, or a farm that until just a week or two ago, did. Over 100,000 people have been displaced from Victoria, with many 1000s more from New South Wales. There are many thousands of people from right across the country that have dropped everything to go fight these ‘unstoppable’ fires, not to mention others who have come from overseas. The pets, native animals, wildlife and stock loss is staggering – 500,000,000 (half a billion) – and the numbers keep rising as the fires continue to burn.

I have family and friends that were impacted by the recent Cudlee Creek fires in the Adelaide Hills … and while that fire covered a fair portion of the Adelaide Hills, it is small in comparison to those in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. I’ve been to Kangaroo Island and seen it’s incredible beauty, and now over the period of two days, about half the island has been turned to ash.

I’m not going to get political here – this is not the place.

But rather I want to say – how prepared are you?

If you saw the “watch and act” or the “emergency warning” message come in to your inbox, or heard the evacuate siren sound from your local fire station – just how ready are you? What would you do?

Having been through this scenario five years ago with the Sampson Flat fire, when I did have to evacuate, I am pleased to say that I am now more prepared than I was back then. As much as I’d like to, I still don’t believe I would be able to save my house, so instead I have a bag with a number of things already packed, and a Go-Bag list printed out and pasted up ready to use and tick items off if the time come.

Some of the items already packed are irreplacable heirlooms – letters written by my great great grandma, cards from various early ancestors, jewellery from my grandma, and then there’s my own legal documents (certificates, passports, home loan stuff etc), photos and so on.

But one of the first things I packed was my portable harddrive which has the latest copy of my genealogy files, along with copies of all my photos – that was important. While computers and software programs are replacable, the years of research work often isn’t. And despite the 1000s of photos that people take these days, photos often get lost on various SD cards, flashdrives or harddrives too. I keep mine in date order on my desktop, and copy them regularly to my harddrive.

I recently read a blog post titled “Preparing for Disasters: Saving Your Genealogical Treasures” and was written by someone for those in California, in relation to dealing with potential disasters there. The author writes that “take time well in advance of a real emergency to think about what you value most. What things would you try to save if you had to evacuate your home during an emergency? And write it down so that when the time comes you won’t have to think about it”. This I can wholeheartedly agree with, because when that siren sounds and you have to get out, trust me, you are not thinking straight. So the more you have written down as a list to follow, the easier it’ll be.

I know this post will be too soon for some, as the emotions involved in dealing with any disaster are too raw. I can understand that – I’ve been there. It does take time. But for others who are not in the middle of it all at present – don’t underestimate Mother Nature. She can come at any time, and the more prepared you are, the better off you’ll be. So don’t say “I’ll do it next week”, DO IT NOW! You just don’t know what next week will bring.

I have seen too many people say they didn’t have time, and only got out with the clothes they were wearing. Get a bag, pop some things in it in advance, have it next to the door so then you can just grab it as you race out the door.

Want to know what to pack in your Go-Bag? Here are some suggestions:
Get Packing
Emergency Pack List
How to Pack a Go-Bay for Emergency Evacuations

Stay safe everyone. Most stuff can be replaced. Lives can’t.


Summertime Memories

While the temperature has been near record levels in my little corner of the world (in South Australia), recently, it’s made me, and probably everyone else in the state seriously appreciate our air conditioners. I have no idea how ancestors coped with 40C+ days without air conditioners? Serious kudos to them. They did it tough and they survived, and it reminds me of one of my all-time favourite genealogy quotes …

But also I’ve been thinking about Summertime and what we did when I was young. How many of these can you relate to?


Firstly sprinklers were used to not only water the lawn, but were also a great way to keep kids occupied and cool, as they played in the water. But along with that there was plenty of clover and bees – which of course also resulted in beestings.

my brother

There was the slip’n’slide, do you remember that? That was cool, at least until too much dirt grit got on it, then grazed you as you slid down.

There was the little kiddy pool. That was well used, and when my bother and I got older my family got a bigger above ground pool. Summertime as a kid was pretty much spent in the pool!

This is little Lonetester hopping into the kiddy pool. Brown water, but when you were used to dam water, this was clean in comparison!

And who remembers the black innertube rubber tyres? They were the best in the pool. There was none of the fancy plastic blow-up ones that are available these days.

Cordial or juice icy poles. You know the ones that were frozen in the tupperware iceblock moulds. If you’ve forgotten when they looked like, you can check them out here.

The days were filled with outdoor life. Bike riding to friends houses, playing in nearby creeks, or getting dropped at a friend or neighbours house for the day, particularly if they had a pool or dam. It was life back then.

Tadpoling. I was lucky enough to have a couple of creeks near my place, so when my friends and I weren’t in the pool or dam, we would go out and and catch tadpoles.

When you went to playgrounds, yes you burned your bum, because the slippery dip (along with every other piece of play equipment) was metal! None of this plastic stuff. But we survived.

On the rare occasion when you weren’t outside on a hot day, you were probably parked in front of the portable (what is now called “retro”) water cooler air conditioner. You know the ones on wheels, that you could wheel into a room, that was heaven on a hot day. Ours looked pretty similar to this one.

So that’s just a few of my Summertime memories. What are yours?


South Australia’s Record Breaking Heatwave

At present Adelaide is the middle of another heatwave, we’re melting on our third day of over 40°C. It is one of those “burn-the-moment-you-step-outside” type of heatwaves. The “burn-yourself-on-the seatbelt” type heatwaves. On the plus-side this weather is absolutely fabulous getting your washing dry, though you will get sunburnt while you’re hanging it out.

While South Australia usually gets one or two heatwaves a summer, they usually hit later in summer. So to say that is has hit us all rather unawares, is an understatement!

For those who come from the colder parts of the world (ie. everywhere else), I just wanted to claify what a “heatwave” is defined as. The Bureau of Meteorology define it as “three or more days of unusually high maximum and minimum temperatures in any area”. Which is similar to my understanding of it, which is that it was a run of three consecutive days with the temperature 35°C or higher.

But hot weather in Adelaide is nothing new. A quick look on Trove comes up with numerous articles which mention the “record breaking” weather.

And while it hit 45°C the other day, it has been higher than that back in 1939!

A quick check on the fahrenheit to celsius converter tells me that 116.9°F is 47°C. So yes, that’s most certainly M-E-L-T-I-N-G weather!!

And just think … back in 1939 they wouldn’t have had all the comfort that we do with air conditioners in our house, car, workplace, shopping centres etc. So think what it would have been like back then.


What would you take with you if you had to evacuate?

It’s a tough question. And we can speculate all we like, but no-one can really answer that until they’ve been through it. Not to mention that each scenario is different anyway.