Camping to Get Ready for the Big One

In August, Red Cross asked the
public to try camping in their own backyards with only the contents of their
preparedness kits. Named Camp Prepare, this event helped people see if their
skills and their emergency kits were ready for disasters big and small. Columbia
Ecovillage resident, Hester Van Heemstra, participated with her co-housing community
and most of her neighbors in the August 12 event with creative flair.

Hester describes Columbia
Ecovillage as a co-housing community that has self-governance and is a tightly
knit social group. The group does their own building and property cleanup,
painting, and other basic maintenance tasks together.  
Many members of the community
decided to participate in Camp Prepare just a day or two before the event.

“We had a big variety of
ways to participate so everybody could be included in some way, with a couple
of scenarios that they could choose from,” said Hester. “One was to
camp out with your kits; some people left their place and brought a gallon of
water per person. Others lived in their unit with no power or water. Some just
worked on their kit from the Red Cross site and came to the dinner we

Some of tools they used included
rocket stoves. These are insulated, cylinder-shaped stoves. Small pieces of
quick-burning wood are ignited at the bottom. 
This makes an intense heat, which is concentrated for cooking.

Another critically needed
resource for any disaster is one of the most fascinating at Columbia
Ecovillage: what they call “humanure” toilets. These are one-bucket
and two-bucket systems with saw dust. The community has also had a
demonstration on how to wash dishes using very little water and a talk on

“We’re already used to working
with each other,” said Hester. “We also have people who are trained in
Neighborhood Emergency Response (NET) and can assist first responders.” They
have learned to triage, delegate, and act as response leaders until
professional responders can arrive. 

Preparedness Kit Items

The community takes preparation
seriously. “Columbia Ecovillage stocks enough emergency food and equipment
to feed 50 people a 1,000-calorie diet for at least 3 weeks,” said Hester.
If a disaster happens during the summer, it’s likely that fruits and vegetables
from the community garden could also supplement supplies. 

Hester added, “We also have
a trunk of first aid supplies. We have two naturopaths and one doctor and
several retired and active nurses who live here, in addition to NET and
Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) trained persons and some who have two-wave
radio. We have many big water-collecting cisterns, but they may be vulnerable
to shaking.”

Some residents also included
children in the event, many of whom were very young. Hester included her
3-year-old grandson who had drills at preschool which he called
“earthqueck.” She told him, “We can’t go into my house; we’re
going to pretend and sleep in a tent.” Events like Camp Prepare can be an
adventure to children, but the skills they observe and learn can become habits
that make a big difference in an emergency. 

For the future, the community is
planning another Camp Prepare, probably focusing differently. Hester asked, “In
the winter, how do we stay warm without this and that, and how do we stay

This first trial run of Camp
Prepare enabled Hester to discover that her emergency kit helps with many kinds
of emergencies. For instance, when heavy smoke from the Eagle Creek (Columbia
Gorge) fire drifted into the Portland area, Hester had the proper kind of mask
in her kit.  After the next Camp Prepare
event, no doubt during the chilly months of winter, Hester and the rest of her
stalwart neighbors of Ecovillage will be prepared for almost anything.


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