Are you prepared for anything?Or are you prepared for everything?

Bad things sometimes happen to good people completely unexpectedly….out of the blue. This was clearly referenced recently in Christchurch, New Zealand with the Mosque shootings – resulting in fifty Muslim worshippers being cut down by a lone white supremacist gunman. Although the shooting of people from one religious group by a member of another group is nothing new these days (sadly), it is something new for New Zealand. Many people had a dazed look on their face and uttered the same words “How could this happen here?” However, with terrorism reaching almost every corner of the world, it was only a matter of time before we in New Zealand became part of the equation.

Christchurch has had a fairly bad run of things over the last 10 years, having suffered two large earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The 2010 quake registered 7.1 on the Richter Scale but other than a few minor injuries, no one was killed. It was a different story in 2011, when buildings already weakened by the 2010 quake succumbed to the shaking produced by a smaller 6.2 quake, killing 185 people and injuring many more.

Then in 2016, just 180 kilometres north of Christchurch, the coastal town of Kaikura experienced a huge 7.8 quake which shook down buildings, caused land slips severing road connections with the outside world and left Kaikura residents to their own devices for several days. In spite of the size of the quake, only 2 people died and several others were injured. The main highway north out of Kaikura took 2 years to reconstruct. The quake also caused damage to several buildings in our countries Capital – Wellington – approximately 200 kilometres to the north – across Cooks Strait on the north island of New Zealand.

Last year we had serious floods on the north island, leaving communities cut off for a couple of weeks until floodwaters subsided and this year the south island was hit by flooding, with bridges being washed away by raging rivers, again cutting transport and power and, in some cases, water supplies to several communities.

All of these incidents and others have demonstrated that when it comes to large scale disasters, particularly wide ranging natural disasters like storm damage and/or earthquakes, the government of the day can not protect us. Often the damage caused by the natural event is such that it prevents rescuers or aid from getting through and the victims are left to fend for themselves to a greater or lesser degree. Obviously some folks are better equipped and better prepared to cope through a natural disaster than others. Its all about assessing the facts and taking appropriate action to mitigate the potential for disaster. People who choose to live along a fault line, or in tornado alley or in a high drought area etc and choose to do nothing to prepare to survive an earthquake, a tornado or a drought are fools. They are even bigger fools if they genuinely believe that the government are going to come riding over the horizon and save them.

With Climate Change tipped to bring us more extreme weather in the future, these weather phenomena are more likely to become the norm rather than the extreme. Add to this mix the general political unrest in the world today – continuing unrest in the middle east, Trump in the Whitehouse and “Little Rocket Man” in North Korea, Russia and China flexing their military muscles….not to mention the turmoil in Britain and Europe caused by Brexit…and it’s not unusual to react by dispairingly, throwing ones arms in the air, and saying saying there’s nothing we can do about it. BUT, there are some things that we can prepare for and by being prepared for them, they become a less frightening proposition.

Obviously there is a lot of information on the internet on what to do in emergencies of various kinds, but what if the emergency situation takes out the power grid and you lose the internet as an information resource? That’s why I have several books either on my office bookshelves, or ready for a quick get away in my caravan/trailer, that give advice and guidance no matter what the emergency. There have been a flood of “Prepper Books” come out as a result of the National Geographic TV Series “Doomsday Preppers” which started filming in 2011….followed by 2 shows on the same theme filmed in the UK called Doomsday Preppers UK. Some of these books are absolute garbage and are written by people who have no “Prepper” experience who have jumped on the bandwagon to make a quick buck. There are some that I can recommend though that were written years before the Doomsday Prepper series was even conceived.

One printed in 1987 by Reader’s Digest simply called “What to do in an emergency”, offers useful tips and information on what to do in a multitude of emergency situations, from simple things such as treating bites and stings, to stopping bleeding, dealing with burns and broken bones, through to solving electrical problems, preparing for a coming storm, dealing with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also gives advice on forest fires, emergencies at sea and even what to do in the event of your plane being hijacked. Being a Reader’s Digest book, it’s written in plain, simple language, has helpful illustrations, and is easy to follow. The important thing though is not to just have books like this sitting on your shelf to be referenced after an emergency happens. Read them well first, make notes or if you don’t mind your books being damaged, use a highlighter to clearly mark the most important parts for quick reference when the time comes.

Another very useful book is Ted Wright’s 1993 book “Complete Disaster Survival Manual”. In this book you receive some of the same information as the previously mentioned Reader’s Digest book, but he delves more into preparing in a group situation, either at work or in the home/community and has come up with several useful lists of “must have” equipment for dealing with said emergency situations. He also points out some myths/facts about various situations. Some are comforting but others are quite disturbing when he points out how ill prepared the authorities actually are for many emergency situations that could arise. For example having little or no food/water stored for emergencies, or siting an emergency control centre in the basement of an earthquake prone building on land that would be submerged in the event of a tsunami…..as is the situation in the town close to where I live.

A good standby that most Preppers either have on their bookshelves or in their “Go-Bags” is John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman’s “SAS Survival Handbook” – subtitled “how to survive in the wild, in any climate, on land or at sea”. It’s a mine of very useful information written by a man with years of military survival know-how under his belt. Everything from setting up camp in the wilds, finding your way by the stars, first aid, natural medicines you can find in the woods and fields (with diagrams to help identify plants), edible plants, poisonous plants, hunting, fishing and trapping, how to cope in extreme conditions such as deserts or mountains – all this and more is in this book…..as I said a mine of information. He also talks about building your own disaster “pocket survival kit” and what to do in a variety of natural disasters.

Although the above mentioned books all have sections about health and first aid, it’s important to have a book (or two) specifically on the subject of first aid and keeping healthy. My “Go-To” book is the St Johns “First Aid handbook”. It gets updated every few years, but my copy is from the 1970’s (not the one pictured) and used to belong to my father.

There are a lot of useful books out there that can help us to be like good boy scouts and “be prepared” for all eventualities and those are just a few of what’s available.

Just going back to the “Doomsday Preppers” series. Much of what’s shown on TV is very much over the top as far as these Preppers are concerned. They seem to think that an underground bunker, a dozen high powered semi-automatic weapons with thousands of bullets plus a years supply of freeze dried food will protect them and their families from all hazards. Not only do you have to be very wealthy to have this sort of emergency preparation, I couldn’t imagine being confined in a smallish space underground with my immediate family and probably my in-laws as well, for an extended period of time – we’re talking months in some cases!

My preference is community based prepping and being able to build your own shelter and live off the land….which is why we already grow most of our fruit and vegetable needs (we save seeds for the following years crops) and preserve any extra produce so we can eat it after its season ends (it also provides us with a useful emergency supply store of food), we have a bee hive, harvest rainwater from the roofs as a means of watering our gardens (or in dire emergency as a drinking water supply). With this in mind I also have books on subjects such as gardening/pruning/organics and permaculture, wild edibles, natural medicines and home remedies, preserving (dehydrating/freezing/salting/bottling or canning), natural building methods (straw bale/earth building), making your own electricity and general self sufficiency.

I have been a home gardener since I was a child, helping my father in his veggie garden. I’ve been interested in prepping and being prepared for disasters for a somewhat shorter time, taking a more serious interest about 7 or 8 years ago. There is a lot of information about “Prepping” and “Preppers” on line – some of it is very helpful and can be taken at face value, where as other information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt….in some cases a very LARGE pinch of salt. I would encourage anyone interested to check out any of the on-line forums about Prepping – common sense will soon tell you which are the useful ones and which are run by purely gun-toting rednecks. For New Zealanders interested in finding out more about Prepping, try prepnz.proboards.com or message me for more info.

We face interesting times ahead here in NZ. As a response to the Christchurch shootings, our Prime Minister is pushing through new gun ownership laws which is hardly surprising. What concerns me though is where this change will lead. This is not America. We have no 2nd amendment. At the moment, because our security status here is high, after the shootings, police are currently carrying weapons, once it drops back to “normal levels” they will once again have access to weapons in lock boxes in patrol cars, but won’t be carrying a Glock on their hips.
There is talk once more of permanently arming our police force regardless of security level….while at the same time disarming the general population. In the UK they have gone a step or two further by now making restrictions on knives – the type and the blade size that it’s citizens can own. Like I said, interesting times ahead.

Your feedback/comments are appreciated on anything mentioned in this post.

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Christchurch – love, empathy and forgiveness out of a terrible tragedy.

As those of you who have been following my blog know, it’s about books, writers, bookshops – and occasionally movies, travel and photography. But because of what occurred here in New Zealand a week ago I feel compelled to write something about it.

One week to the day ago 50 people who were going about their lives, many of them praying in their place of worship – their place of safety – were murdered and around the same number were hospitalised. It was, without a doubt, a hate crime and the dead and injured were targeted because of their religion and/or colour. All we know at this point in time is that there is just the one accused man in police custody who has been charged with one count of murder with more counts to be added before he stands trial. Much has been made of the fact that this man is a white supremacist and is Australian. I guess the authorities here want to make the point that it was NOT a New Zealander who committed such atrocities and to try to distance ourselves from the perpetrator.

I am not sure what the killer expected to happen as a result of his crimes, but if he wanted to start a race war, or religious war, or merely to spread hatred and distrust among the various races, religious groups and communities of NZ….he failed miserably. Never have I seen such a coming together of people. The support shown by the NZ public of love and empathy toward the Muslim community has been huge. And in return that love has come back from the Muslim people to the rest of NZ. Long may this state of being last.

Distrust and hatred among people of different races or religions comes mainly from ignorance, of not knowing anything about these people or their religious practices. It’s interesting to see how many hits on line there has been about what it is to be Muslim. People aren’t looking this up in order to convert, but just to understand and accept that there are more similarities between the various groups than there are differences. All too often we make a big deal about how different some people are from others instead of embracing our similarities. There has been particular distrust from non-Muslims relating to the wearing of the various head scarves starting with the hijab – which covers the hair and the neck, but leaves the face visible – through to the full burka which covers the entire head and face. For Islamic women who choose to wear the hijab it allows them to retain their modesty, morals and freedom of choice. They choose to cover because they believe it is liberating and allows them to avoid harassment. Unfortunately due to ignorance from others who have no idea about why these various head coverings are worn and so therefore fear or distrust them, harassment, of a racial kind ,is something that happens all too often. I think it’s important for all of us to have a little knowledge about all religions, all ethnic groups so that we understand rather than fear or hate through our ignorance.

A post on the BBC website – link below – shows the differences between the various Muslim head coverings and their names. https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24118241

In Iran, since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Hijab has become compulsory. Iranian women are required to wear loose-fitting clothing and a headscarf in public. However in most other countries it is optional, but as a sign of respect and modesty most Muslim women choose to wear a head covering in some form or another.

The morning after the shootings, my wife told me that she wanted to pick some flowers from our garden and take them down to the local mosque to show that white people can also show love and empathy, not hatred and bigotry. So, she picked a few flowers, wrapped a ribbon around them and we visited the mosque. The gates and the building were all locked up….small wonder after what had happened in Christchurch. We were surprised to see, so early in the morning, that there were already many floral tributes and cards with messages of support attached to, or leaning against, the fence around the mosque. These tributes have continued to grow in number throughout the week and are now so deep that they are taking up most of the footpath.

There was a short – I can’t call it a service because it had no religious meaning – it was more of a moment of love and respect, there outside the fence of the mosque, when poem was read out written by the poet Rumi, called Silence (or in silence)…..followed by a minutes silence for us to reflect on what had happened. Many people of all skin colour were openly weeping. It was both sad, but at the same time quite beautiful to see this coming together of people who would not normally even speak to one another.

All over New Zealand there have been vigils and public meetings and tributes. Here in my home town of Hastings – which happens to have the only Mosque in the whole of Hawke’s Bay (our region – the same as an American state or an English county) – a service of remembrance, of love and empathy was held in the middle of town by local civic and religious officials last Monday, and even though it was in the middle of the day, when so many people would have been at work, it was heartening to see hundreds of people of all ages, races and religious backgrounds there. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and more all side by side united in grief and love.

Many non-Muslims who want to show their unity and support for the Muslim community are not sure of the protocol to follow. In times such as these it is natural to want to hug someone and tell them that things will be OK. BUT it is not generally acceptable for people outside the Muslim faith of opposite genders to have physical contact. So in general it would be acceptable for a male to hug a male and a female to hug a female – BUT please ask first. Show your respect for their culture. For female non-Muslims who want to wear a scarf or hijab to show support for their Muslim sisters – this is quite acceptable. There was a story about Muslim women who after the Christchurch attack were afraid to go out in public wearing the hijab to take their kids to school. However, non-Muslim women in the community offered to walk with them and to wear the scarf themselves.

There was a photo on Facebook showing 3 eggs – one white, one light brown and one dark brown – all decidedly different looking. In a second photo all the eggs had been cracked into a pan – all looked identical. Under that outer shell – that outward appearance – they were exactly the same. A simple but at the same time a timely reminder to us all to embrace our similarities and not focus on our differences.

We have had our first threat – supposedly from ISIS – saying that the deaths of their Muslim brothers and sisters in New Zealand will be avenged. This is not what the NZ Muslim community are saying. They have reacted only with love, peace, gratefulness for the huge show of public support…..and unbelievably… forgiveness for the shooter. I think all of us can learn from this.

This post is primarily about the good that came from this tragedy. I may write another post, at a more suitable time – outlining from my own perspective what I see as the problems, the unanswered questions arising from what happened and comment on the NZ governments response.