Are you prepared for an Emergency?

A little over a week ago New Zealand experienced another devastating earthquake on the South Island, but as it occurred shortly after midnight with the epicentre in a rural farming community, hundreds of lives were spared. Sadly there were two lives lost and we pause to think of them and their loved ones. But had it been like the one which devastated much of Christchurch during lunch time on a beautiful Summer morning in February 2011 in which 185 people tragically lost their lives, it could have been very much worse.

Snapshot of a Household Emergency Checklist. Image courtesy of the website,

Although it happened on the South Island, the effects were felt half way up the North Island and being islands, it triggered a tsunami warning. I’ve only ever felt one earthquake since living in New Zealand and it was more a tremor than an earthquake, hardly comparable to the recent event. The glass rattled in one of our cabinets and I had been trying to walk at the time. I remember grabbing onto a low wall to steady myself and looking up to see my husband and son also aware of the movement. My son had just learned about what to do in the event of an earthquake at school and immediately dived under the dining table saying Drop, Cover, Hold! I was more surprised than frightened. It passed very quickly.

The recent 7.8 earthquake was a timely reminder to take heed of warnings and get ourselves prepared. I always have 10 litre containers of water stored in the garage and keep tinned food which would probably last us for about 3 days, and we have a portable gas bbq and cylinder, but the poor people of Kaikoura, a small seaside town on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island were cut off from would-be rescuers due to the damage to roads in and out of the town. They are simply impassable. Helicopters have been airlifting in supplies of water, chemical toilets and emergency supplies as all sources of running water were so severely damaged that they were initially cut off. Sewerage lines were damaged and the navy were despatched to rescue stranded tourists and locals wanting to leave by sea. Kaikoura is world-renowned for it’s crayfish delicacy and the seasonal whale watching.

The most basic Emergency items we should all try to have on hand are things like:

  • 3 days worth of water, approximately 3 litres per person per day
  • 3 days worth of tinned or dried food
  • torches with fresh packs of batteries
  • a battery operated radio with fresh packs of batteries
  • rain/wind-proof jackets
  • blankets or sleeping bags
  • toilet paper, plastic bags, breathing masks
  • nappies, wet-wipes and formula if you have little ones
  • and of course, a first aid kit

Have you got your Household Emergency Plan sorted? Does everyone in your family know what needs to happen and where to find supplies? Realistically, you may not all be together if/when a disaster strikes, or even at home, and Heaven forbid, you may not all survive, so it is a very good idea to make sure that every member of your family is well versed in case disaster strikes.

New Zealand has a great website called which has check-lists and advice for all manner of emergencies. I particularly like this page as it includes the above emergency items and many more.

Another good NZ website for advice on what to do during an earthquake (the Drop, Cover and Hold mantra), can be found here: Drop, Cover, Hold

No-one wants to be an alarmist, but for all of us┬áliving in a country with 40+ volcanoes, being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and having a number of fault lines run through the South Island, we are foolish if we don’t get ourselves at least a little prepared.

It’s at times like this that I marvel at human nature. There are those who literally give the shirts off their backs to help others in need, and then there are those opportunistic disgraceful thugs who steal from abandoned homes and families in the process of losing everything and having their lives turned upside down. Karma people. Karma! No-one is immune.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Get prepared while you still can.


Teaching Good Table Manners

As kids, table manners were drummed into us. Most nights we ate together at the table as a family, with each one taking turns to set the table before dinner, or clearing afterwards. And then, of course, came the washing up. These days, many families don’t eat at the table much, and for those that do, how strict are you where manners are concerned?

You may think I’m a little OTT here, but I’ve drawn up a list of my top 20 Table Manners. Seems like a lot, and it will take years of practice before good habits are formed and they become second nature, so I suggest that you start by focusing on one or two and as your little ones grasp those, add another couple.

20-table-manners-for-kidsAs the mother of a young child, I get to see kids eating all the time. It’s something I can’t help noticing and I believe that table manners, or should I say ‘eating manners’ should be just as important today as they were when we or our parents were young. Of course I’m not referring to┬átable settings with bread knives, fish forks, and 7 glasses in a row ready for 12-course dinner menus, I’m thinking more about the basics: chewing with our mouths closed, not getting up until everyone is finished, polite conversation using inside voices and waiting for your turn to talk, etc.

Might sound awfully stuffy, but don’t get me wrong. It isn’t. It’s one of the easiest ways to teach discipline and self awareness. And if started from a very young age, habits form which help us through our entire lives. And as much as we hate to admit it, and disregarding the PC-ness of whether it’s right or wrong, we judge and are judged based on the manners we display.

Meal time is more than just about sustenance, it’s about relaxing together while enjoying the company of others and a meal which someone has taken the time to prepare, no matter how simple or fancy. It’s about enjoying conversation, possibly at the end of the day when we share experiences or thoughts. With our lives getting busier and busier, it’s often hard to set a specific time aside to eat together, but I believe it is really important. It creates memories, we share laughs and stories, traditions are begun.

The other day one of my son’s friends came for a sleepover. This particular little boy has always had lovely manners, but it was watching him that made me want to share this with you. He held his cutlery beautifully. He chewed with his mouth closed, mostly, but tiny lips navigating big, new front teeth can be a little difficult – my son is exactly the same. He remembered his ‘pleases and thank you’s’. It warmed my heart to see the two of them sitting next to each other and know that we aren’t the only parents in today’s modern world trying to instill a few of the “older” values into our child.

Little ones love stickers and reward charts, so perhaps a star or sticker for each child after they have displayed a particularly good table manner. Perhaps a reward of sorts as well – we all love incentives – maybe they get to start off the discussion the next night or choose their favourite meal. You decide, but as with most things, try to make it fun or it can become a huge drag instead of an enjoyable time for the family.

Some may think that the world has more important things going on and bigger problems to worry about than whether or not one’s elbows were on the table, but I truly believe that if we all tried to learn, practice and remember the basics that set us apart from the animal kingdom, the world would be a much better place. And why not start with table manners – which can be instilled whether there is a table in the vicinity or not!