Many people are thinking ahead about unexpected interruptions. Obviously, I don’t mean neighbors coming over to borrow tools in the fourth quarter of a football game or the kids borrowing the car and calling just after you go to bed and asking how to change a flat tire.

I’m talking more in terms of events out of our control. I’m thinking of the San Andreas Fault letting loose. I was in California in July the week after the latest big quake, and people were wondering whether it was the precursor to the “Big One.” The wonderment did not stop commerce or traffic. That comes when water supplies, septic systems and electricity are disrupted.

To get an idea of the chaos of even a less intense problem, go to British newspapers and read online about Britain’s recent power outage. On Aug. 9, a large gas generator went offline minutes after sensing that another major generation system (offshore wind) went down. Residents were stranded across the country and in Wales. Lights in stores were out, automatic doors trapped people in and out of buildings, fuel stations couldn’t pump gas and people had to deboard trains onto tracks and traverse underground subway tunnels by the light of their cellphones. Although power was restored in less than an hour, it created big chaos. 

That provides a glimpse of a very acute national outage and some of its immediate effects. A professor at UAF was interviewed recently by the BBC about his work on a catastrophic event in the hemisphere, possibly along the lines of atmospheric changes when and whether geysers explode at Yellowstone, where nuclear explosions occur or when a meteor whacks out North America. His basic research is what do we do about growing food with years of atmospheric impact hanging literally over our heads.

Dealing with the practical, I ask, ‘What can I do for myself (or hire a contractor to do) when it comes to healthy homes and energy outreach?’ I have some tips that are much more mundane. The “Alaska Emergency and Disaster Homeowner’s Handbook,” which is nearly complete, covers the general effects on home and property from the usual Alaska disasters such as wildfire, floods, volcano ash, tsunami, earthquake, etc. It is a preparedness guide, not a prepper’s manual on how to build an underground bunker and stock it or anything like that.

Instead, it covers how to prepare your property and home before an event so that when you get back to your property it will take less time to mitigate damage and get back into the home.

There are sections based on previous cooperative extension publications on how to prepare the standard, one-week evacuation kit, as well as recommendations on what to do with refrigerated food when the power is out. For the most part, this publication looks at the structure — what sort of foundation stabilizers you have put into place before an earthquake hits, how far back you have cleared brush and wood around the house before the wildfire hits, what safeguards you have to keep things in place before the flood waters rise and “rearrange” the house, etc. Copies will be available soon.

Art Nash is the extension energy and radon specialist for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at 907-474-6366 or by email at