Surviving a Natural Disaster as an Achromat
Monday, May 16, 2011 at 1:45PM
Richard Windsor in Achromatopsia, Disaster

You might have seen on the news recently that Christchurch, New Zealand, was struck by a serious earthquake. The quake, centered on Littleton and located only 5km beneath the surface, devastated the city centre, destroying the iconic cathedral and trapping many people beneath rubble.

The whole of New Zealand holds their breath while rescuers fight to locate over 200 missing people. The death toll rises every day, and emergency services are stretched to their limit.


I am fortunate, in that I live at the other end of my country, and my friends and family are all fine (although some have lost homes and offices). But as an achromat and a New Zealander, it really brings home the need to be prepared for any kind of natural disaster.

When we moved into our new home, my husband and I set up a "Zombie Apocalypse Survival Kit", which we stock up one item each week when we do the shopping. Canned food, bottled water, candles, matches, a gas stove and spare bottle, a radio and spare batteries. This kit also contains some items that I may need in an emergency – a spare pair of sunglasses, a spare cane and a monocular.

For an achromat, the most important thing is to figure out a plan. If I am by myself when an earthquake or other natural disaster hits, I may inadvertently walk into hazardous areas. I might not be able to see when a building is about to fall down, and I might miss signs pointing to Civil Defense stations.

Have a plan. How will your partner find you? If you are at home and you can't contact your partner, can you call upon your neighbors in an emergency? Have you packed an emergency kit and can you distinguish between everything in the kit? If there is a gas stove in the kit, can you operate it?

Find out about civil defense protocol in your area. If a natural disaster struck, where would the medical and emergency centers be? What plans do they have in place for getting information to citizens? How would an evacuation work? You can find this information from your local civil defense branch. Your local blindness centre might also have important civil defense information in an accessible format.

Recently, I was part of a campaign launched by the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind and the Ministry of Civil Defense to create an accessible, interactive brochure called "Get Ready Get Thru". The brochure contains important information about what to do in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, flood or other disaster. The information has been written specifically for blind and low vision New Zealanders to help them deal with a civil defense emergancy.

I created the Braille version of the brochure, which is available to low vision New Zealanders as Braille, audio CD, cassette and DAISY format. Members can access this important information from the RNZFB website, the Ministry's website, our phone service or through our library.

We always see natural disasters on the news and think "it can't happen to us." But the truth is, it could, and the best defense an achromat has is to be prepared.

Also, if you'd like to donate to the Red Cross to assist in earthquake relief, you can do so here.

Article originally appeared on (
See website for complete article licensing information.