No, the sky is not falling. However it is foolish to dismiss the idea that there are no serious threats to us individually or collectively.
One of the hardest things to do is to walk that broad boulevard between hopelessness and denial when it comes to preparedness. Avoiding the extremes and setting a mid course, unless of course you are in an extreme situation, should be the rule of thumb.
I have a somewhat unique, although not singular position of being able to see what the main stream media, internet, and government agencies have to say about the threats we face today. Over time, I have developed an "inner filter" to sift through the information, dis-information, and pure fantasy. With those filters on, I decide what to take seriously and what not to.
We live in a "just-in-time" society that has an inherent weakness. If there is a disruption in the infrastructure, few can meet their schedules and hence, our needs. We expect the stores to be always open, restaurants continuously serving, cash machines limitlessly dispensing, gas stations faithfully pumping. However, the ugly, but real fact is that with a disruption by natural or man-made disasters, they can’t, and in fact, don’t.
As a society we have become more urban and dependent on others for our daily needs. Most of us have lost that self-sufficiency that was the hallmark of all things American. This is not necessarily bad, but it does put us at a disadvantage.
What to Do, What to Do?
Several years ago, most of us would not have imagined that parts of this country could be under attack by planes, snipers, and biologicals. No one could have imagined seeing the twin towers on fire with people choosing to jump to their deaths, or the Pentagon in flames. However, all of that has happened and it is four short years later.
We all find our ways to cope with such information. On the extremes, some folks surrender to the feelings of helplessness and do nothing as they believe nothing can be done. They are victims of several myths including the notion that certain events are not survivable.
Little do they realize that the US has exploded close to 100 nuclear bombs above ground on the continental United States and we and our parents survived!
Others like to maintain a convenient case of amnesia and pretend like nothing really bad is going to happen. Sometimes this coping mechanism is cloaked by hyper politicization themes and conspiracy theories (oh, they are just trying to stoke up the people to limit our freedoms!) The end result is, again, to do nothing.
There is a middle road. Disasters happen all the time, throughout the world and throughout history. The most measured response to such an event of God’s or man’s making, is to be able to be self-sufficient for a period of time. The question becomes how prepared for how long?
In the event of a local, regional, or national disaster, you will be wanting things that everyone else wants, only everyone will need it NOW, at the same time. Remember the last hurricane or snow storm? Picture that on a larger scale. Also throw in the possible infrastructure problems. The just-in-time economy needs time to react or recover. THAT is the amount of time you need to plan for some self-sufficiency.
You must have on hand now, what you will need when necessary. Once the disaster happens, it will be too late.
From my point of view, a reasonable minimum time period to be self sufficient is two weeks. It takes about that amount of time for authorities to get food, water, and help to an area in any quantity, and distributed to those who are in need. In that time frame, the authorities could determine if an area is not habitable, and you may need to evacuate. However, a large-scale evacuation in a short period of time, for an imminent or current disaster, is just not realistic for most urban areas. You need to be able to shelter in place without outside support.
I drew these conclusions by seeing first hand what the real response times are for authorities at all levels. It is kind of like having a service contract on a computer. Your service contract may specify a 4-hour response time, however, that does not mean it will be fixed in four hours. What it means is that someone will be there in four hours. This is a huge difference.
So where do you start? You start with what you have and add to it as you are able. You build up that two-week supply of food and water. With a two-week goal, this can be the food you already buy and eat. You simply rotate your stocks to keep it fresh.
You need to be prepared to go without running water and power for that two weeks also. The most cheap and easiest way to adapt to no electricity, is to reduce your need for it. That means you are looking at no refrigeration, or an alternative form (natural gas or propane refrigerator, yes they still make those!).
You also need to look at alternative ways to heat at least a part of your home.
For wate--jugs of spring water, or one or more 55 gallon drums with an inexpensive preservative added (can even be Clorox).
Keep On Keepin' On
I live in an area rich in high-value targets so I have built an underground shelter, since I have no basement. I still live my life as usual except I now have a "hobby" of self-sufficiency.
I am experimenting with kerosene cooking, grinding flour, distilling water, etc. Old-time and third world appliances are much, much cheaper than the electronic type.
The goal is to stop worrying, stop denying, and start preparing. You owe it to yourself and your family.