Sunday, July 31, 2005

Spiritual Aspects of Preparing for Catastrophe

Some have said to me, in all seriousness, that planning and preparing for catastrophe is not something they would do because of their faith that God would provide for them in their hour of need. And if He didn't, then it would obviously be His will that they should suffer.

Faith in God is a wonderful and uplifting thing--indeed, I believe it is the fulcrum for all else that happens in this worldly plain. But I have to also believe that folks who espouse total reliance upon divine providence simply have not given the matter enough thought and are rather lazily and mistakenly using such an explanation as justification for personal "blind spots" that cause their failure to practice prudence in their approach to the future.

Now, I'm not about to play theologian here, nor will I quote scripture on the matter, out of respect for those here who do not hold the same spiritual outlook that I do.

So I will simply ask a question here ... if you are someone who feels that preparing for potentially difficult times is God's concern, and that He will provide for you as the need arises, then why do you do anything at all for yourself such as earn an income and budget it for anticipated monthly demands? What exactly is the difference between working to survive when things are easy and pleasant, building and maintaining a comfortable life ... and approaching life differently if things have the potential to get tougher on you?

Is it not the personally responsible thing to also work toward enabling your survival tomorrow in case of disaster, increasing your chance of making a fairly comfortable recovery if you had the means beforehand to have made preparations?

Would you really want to have to test your God, and your faith in Him, to literally deliver you out of the depths of any and all misfortunes that befall you?

I have to believe that it's not only common sense to try to anticipate reasonable possibilities in our future, but a responsibility ... and that whenever possible, we should take reasonable mitigating actions in that regard as well.

All Faiths

There are some faiths that practice physical preparedness as a basic tenet of their belief structures. There are others that embrace it peripherally. It seems most religions or denominations choose not to directly address the matter, focusing instead on encouraging their believers to prepare themselves spiritually for their futures.

Whatever your belief system, I doubt your cleric or advisor would tell you NOT to be prudent and wise in your worldly living. Worldly and spiritual realms are inextricably connected on this plain of existence. In fact, whether you embrace your spiritual side or you disbelieve, a very key focus for all of us is about managing all manner of risks in our development as beings who dwell in the here and now. But if we put any value on our future, we must consciously look in that direction.

Tying it all together--physical, mental, spiritual--can actually help simplify your life. I have to believe that one could express a reasonable, generalized philosophy, acceptable in most circles, in this way: "Living responsibly is about preparing for the future and strengthening your full being against risk and danger."

Preparing spiritually without any concerns for the physical would seem to be a dangerous and vulnerable approach to your tomorrows.

So too is storing up physical essentials and treasures without proper attention to spiritual and moral matters.

The ideal, full-bodied approach to the future is to think about all aspects of who you are and honestly assess what your weaknesses could be in light of unpleasant occurences--in the physical or upon your spiritual and mental well-being. Then gradually work to minimize your vulnerabilities. In so doing, you can't help but maximize your chances of coming out a winner on the other side.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I'm Thinking About the Doorbell, When You Gonna' Ring It? When You Gonna' Ring It?

Is patience near the bottom of your inventory of virtues today? Is anxiety a frequent bed-partner? Do you have a love-hate relationship with the bad-news bears of the news media?

Today, it's a real trick to be able to stay informed in the world while maintaining a steady, comfortable course in your approach to life. I suppose that's why, as long as the world continues to turn like a hand-cranked eggbeater in a bowl of crunchy peanut butter, there are always going to be the popular gurus of postivity, counselors to the stars, head doctors for the lost.

Whatever your choice for sources of news and entertainment (isn't the distinction between the two practically nil today?), unless you've grown some pretty thick callouses around your soul, you're going to sometimes get bummed about humanity's present state and our prospects for the future.

Your Mental Stability

So on the one hand, let's say that the latest news has got you down. Is that necessarily a bad thing?

In my quest to become the latest revered guru of gaga, I'd like to assure you that what you are feeling is a good thing. For one, it indicates that you have not allowed your innocent inner child to be totally embedded in emotional scar tissue. If you are angered by the latest outrage emblazoned across the mainpage of Drudge, then you are not yet lost. Congratulations!

Now some more good news ... fact is, you can use that energy boiling through you.

Or would it perhaps be a measure of fear you are dealing with--angst for the possibility of imminent doom for tomorrow or next week, or next year? No less useful, that emotion be, if put to practical task.

Frustration, anger, fear, hopelessness ...

The marvelous thing is, if properly utilized and applied, the emotional energy stirred up by the negative polarities bouncing haphazardly across our reality can ultimately be converted into good vibrations.

I'm OK You're OK

Write this down. I'm about to share the secret to dispelling all that discontent in your life.

Really. It works for me and I know that it works for many others as well. And it doesn't involve paying stratospheric hourly rates for eggheaded theoretical advice or seeking a better perspective through pharmaceuticals.

The solution is simple. Start putting aside a little extra money, storing some extra food, and judiciously purchasing practical products that you know would help you get through times that could get as dark as your deepest fears. Some of us call it "prepping." It's wise, it's common sense, and now you know--it's therapeutic too.

Yep, take it a step at a time, getting into a prudent rythym with your new self-treatment. As you systematically build your strategic reserves, and tool up for potential catastrophe, you'll come to realize that there isn't anything better out there for your peace of mind.

Best news of all ... there IS a final destination in your journey to self-help. At some point, you're going to wake up and say, I've done all I can do. I am prepared for whatever the world will hurl at me. And I feel good.

I can honestly say, I am there now. I am as prepared as I can afford to be and care to be. I've reached my line of demarcation marking the high ground between the lands of Despair and Overkill. The journey is worth it because the resulting peace of mind allows me to watch the news and read the papers without feeling personally threatened.

The Deal with the Blog Headline?

I happened to hear a new song by the artists known as The White Stripes. I can't say that i keep up with contemporary music, as there just isn't much out there to suit my tastes today. However, this song got into my brain and has stayed there. If you've heard it, you probably know what I mean.

As the song was cycling through my consciousness early today, it dawned on me that the song could be a metaphor for how some folks feel about their world--and the sense of disappointment and cynicism they seem to embrace as if that is all they have.

We all face some basic choices as to how we deal with things in a world of uncertainty and bad news. Many out there quite simply deny to themselves that anything bad will ever deter them personally from their pursuit of happiness ... or that as a society, things could suddenly take a turn for the worse. Yet there are also a great many who take what may be a more cerebral road and acknowledge the risk of setbacks and danger every new day presents.

There are of course gradients between the extremes, but in the end, most of us who at least recognize risk in the big picture must choose either to become devoured by the anxiety or to constructively, positively prepare in order to combat the uncertainty.

I clearly receommend preparing positively to become strong and comfortable. The alternative is to keep nervously thinking about the doorbell ... when they gonna ring it, when they gonna ring it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling!

by doubtingthomas

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.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Modest Start to Crisis Preparedness

I trust that most people today who are prepared to some extent for emergencies don't consider it to be a big deal.

Perhaps they grew up with the mindset and just never felt comfortable without a certain amount of food "put up" in the pantry and the root cellar. Or they are simply the type who developed the personal "need" to save their money (in the bank or in their mattress) as well as to "invest" some of it in practical goods that they know can come in handy should anything untoward happen.

Regardless, it's certain there are a good many folks out there who are prepared to weather a downturn in fortune for at least a short amount of time.

However, though I don't have any numbers to confirm it, I'm sure there are far MORE people out there who do NOT have any means of getting through a week or more of societal system failure. As one of the former--the ones who will HAVE more than HAVE NOT--you will need to give some thought to what that might mean for you ... but again, that is the topic for more than one future post.

Rudimentary Preps

Many of us come to "preparedness" as a result of a gradual or sudden recognition of the real risks out there. For others, it is the result of having personally experienced disaster recovery
on some scale.

Either way, those of us who have not lived our entire lives being prepared have to start somewhere. At the beginning you want to keep it fairly simple and not get bogged down in details or become overwhelmed with the possibilities.

Some basic, realistic worst-case parameters that can help you get started with your logistical contingency planning:
  • Consider a developing chance of the structure of your home itself becoming seriously at risk for damage or destruction. Severe weather, flooding, wildfire are some of the likeliest threats. Occasionally these forces crop up with no warning. With or without warning, what would you do to protect yourself and your loved ones?
  • Imagine a disaster where the normal food-supply chain infrastructure is broken. It doesn't take more than one or two bad links to make the whole chain worthless. Is it possible? How about a widespread drought, a national truckers strike, a far-reaching terror attack on the food supplies, an oil crisis that causes transportation industries to take a big hit, or a pandemic that causes havoc throughout society? The average grocery store has a two-day supply of food on its shelves--and that assessment does not account for panicking shoppers. Yes, the just-in-time supply chain is very vulnerable.
  • A good water supply is critical to survival, yet we all tend to take it for granted. What if your water was suddenly to become undrinkable or your city water was to stop flowing? How long would you and your family be able to cope? Realistic? Ask anyone who was in Cleveland a couple of years ago when the big blackout throughout the region shut down the water-pumping stations there.
  • Think of any kind of event where the power goes out on a wide scale, perhaps preventing the utilities from getting everybody back up in a reasonable time ... some folks having to go without for an extended period. Can it happen today? Think major ice storm, serious flooding, catastrophic earthquake, or a big hurricane impact. Yes, it's possible. What would that mean for your ability to store and cook food, to provide for special health care needs, to heat or cool your home in times of temperature extremes? In fact, what would it mean to have to deal with the security implications in a long-term blackout?

A lot of potential scenarios there, but a few major common-thread considerations for basic planning:

  1. Shelter
  2. Food
  3. Water
  4. Power
  5. Security

The first three in this list are primary needs for survival in most situations. So we'll start there.

A Simple Plan

First, determine how long you want to be able to sustain your household in a worst-case scenario. Then approach each of these survive-and-thrive factors accordingly ...

Water:

First, make sure you have the means to withstand a water supply crisis. If you have city water, but also have a well, you are in far better shape than most. But remember, unless you have a handpump, you'll need to power your electric well pump somehow.

Storing pure water is almost a necessity for everyone else. You need to have a bare minimum of two gallons per person per day set aside. More realistic in your planning would be to store 10 gallons or more to sustain each person per day to allow for drinking, bathing, washing, cleaning, and cooking. If you have four people in your household and you want to be able to ride out a period of one week, the prudent math says you should store 280 gallons of water in containers that are designed specifically for water storage in a dark, cool area to minimize the growth of bacteria over the time it is in storage.

Of course, storing water requires a lot of available storage space, and not all of us have that. But even if you do have storage space and even if you do have a well, ensuring there is a means to filter and/or purify water is also wise and is perhaps the ONE common neccessity everyone should plan for. There are a multitude of excellent water filters and water purification tablet treatments out there on the market, made specifically for crisis preparedness and the backpacking/camping crowd. But even just having some household bleach on hand and providing for a means to boil water will potentially be a life saver.

Food:

There's a wide range of approaches to prudent food storage. If you choose to simply stockpile normal groceries to allow for your family's ability to ride out a crisis, be sure to continuously rotate your food into a normal usage cycle as the nutritional shelf life of all store-bought groceries is surprisingly short.

Some folks grow and can or dry their own food ... and if done well, it's an excellent way to provide for lean times. And on a longer-term sustainability basis, it's THE way to go.

Ultimately, food storage is a science unto itself, and if you want to seriously consider all the ins and outs of various approaches, plan to spend some time investigating your options. For those who have more money than the time and desire to take another food storage route, perhaps the best low-maintenance way to go is to purchase bulk freeze-dried or other similar food-storage packages.

There are many choices and price ranges out there, as well as taste and nutrition-quality factors to consider, but once the buying decision is made, you can rest assured that you have a food supply with an extended shelf life of anywhere from 5 to 30 years, a range that dwarfs the period of time your other approaches will provide you with.

Shelter:

Are you comfortable with your present storm-shelter arrangements? If you have a full basement, you're probably in good shape for most kinds of severe weather risks in most of the country.

In parts of the U.S., flooding or earthquakes are of bigger concern than windstorms, so those regions are more focused on structural integrity and perhaps the structure's foundation elevation and methodology. I would invite input here from those more attuned to these special concerns than I am ... so please check back for more info on these risks if you need to.

Of course, in some cases, where warnings are given, the prudent thing to do is to evacuate to a safe area, as in the event of a coming major hurricane. The obvious need here is to have a well-defined evacuation plan with a destination and transportable supplies that allow you to sustain your family for the anticipated period of time.

Another consideration in the shelter category arises out of the concern for relative security in a world gone mad with crime, terrorism, and the historically proven risk of acts of war. We might even toss in another possibility to account for: industrial and transportational accidents that can severely test your ability to survive in the event of toxic chemicals or a release of radioactivity upwind from your location.

There are many ways to address each of these shelter-related risks (and many more), but the place to start is in a careful assessment of your own unique situation--to include your geological and meteorological risks given your location, your position in relation to prevailing wind patterns and major industrialization and transportation patterns, as well as your local crime trends. You will also want to determine where your comfort zone is in terms of viewing the geopolitical scene going forward.

For many, not all of these factors register, and that is fine. Fifty percent of the benefit of preparedness is the peace of mind it brings. So as long as you are comfortable in your own planning, you are halfway to your goal.

Again, there are a myriad of ways to build security of various types into your home. No doubt, future posts will address some of these. But I would be remiss if I failed to close this post with the opinionated pitch here that there IS a way to adequately address most of the risk factors here in one bold, but not inexpensive step. That is, to commit yourself to providing for your family's well-being with a well-engineered shelter.

Determined do-it-yourselfers sometimes take on the task of building a storm or fallout shelter or a saferoom into their home. More often today, busy people will purchase such shelters or saferooms from qualified builders. Either way, when done well, it is the ultimate step you can take to provide for your household's safety.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

What a Deal - BECOME A REFUGEE!

Become an officially sanctioned Refugee. A Refugee from what, you ask? Let's call it becoming a Refugee from post-disaster FEMA dependency.

What does it take to be a Refugee?
  1. You've already met the first requirement ... you're here at the Refuge blog. You obviously have an interest in being ready for potential calamities.
  2. Almost as easy, you need to post a comment to one or more of the Refuge blog posts (click on the "x comments" link at the end of each post).
  3. After posting a comment, email me at jcrefuge@safecastle.net with your email address and username, mentioning you want to be a Refugee.

Note that email addresses are not shared with anyone outside our Safecastle LLC organization and will never be used for purposes other than those described below.

Refugees are subject to administrative approval to prevent unproductive intrusions. Refugees must adhere to commonly expected standards of behavior and decency and may be removed from Refugee rolls at the sole discretion of Refuge blog administration.

What comes with being a Refugee?

  1. As a Refugee, you are welcome to submit suitable content for possible publishing at the Refuge blog under your username or real name (contributing is an option, but readers can be Refugees too). Content is subject to editorial input, after which your final approval will be needed before posting. It is recommended that you contact me, JC Refuge, before drafting your article to ensure it meets with the site's current focus.
  2. All Refugees' user names will be listed on the site unless exclusion is specifically requested.
  3. Refugees will periodically be emailed special discount offers for purchases from the Refuge crisis-preparedness store. The current offer available to Refugees is an across-the-board 5% discount on any items in the store (shipping is not discounted), with the exception of the steel shelters and saferooms. The offer is valid until further notice. (You must mention the Refugee Discount at the time of placing the order.)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Preparing Does Not Make You a "Doomer"

My last post was entitled, "Foreseeing the Unforeseen." Before going into more specific preparedness tips for those considering the need to better "insure" their future, it seems like an opportune moment to address a fundamental, defining decision all of us have to at least subconsciously make ... some, on a continuous and determined basis.

I'm talking about how we choose to view the world and our surroundings.

There is a stereotype out there for folks who store away food and supplies in order to be prepared in case our days turn dark. That is, those "hoarders" or "survivalists" are kooks who become so obsessed with society's pending demise that they actually have started to hope for it to happen, and in the most extreme cases they criminally take destructive action to help that process along.

As with most stereotypes, there is some basis in truth for it. I hate to say it, but sure, there are folks who, once they begin to store away supplies for a rainy day, find themselves drawn too deeply into it and some do start to exhibit almost cartoonish behaviors that give rise to that broad image problem that taints the rest of us.

Any pursuit, or hobby if you will, can eventually become an unhealthy obsession for a small number of those who are involved. In preparedness circles, it might show itself in a number of ways, but it could manifest itself in ways such as withdrawal from family and friends, putting too much money and time into preparing, watching global events and consuming news stories in such a fashion as to filter out everything but the bad news or the distorted perspectives that will somehow support their view that the world is about to fall apart. In essence, those who take it too far lock-in on the "pending doom" and they fail to recognize most anything else as being important.

It happens. But it doesn't have to, and most who choose to practice prudent preparedness techniques continue to do so all their days, quietly, in moderation, and with a solid balanced approach that appreciates all areas of daily life. As I've posted before here, it's all just common sense.

My Own Temptation

I fancy myself a pretty decent judge of sociological and geopolitical trends and developments. There are occasionally times when I look at what is happening in the world and I recognize that there is some new potential for things to go very bad.

What helps me get through any times when I'm tempted to zero-in on what will surely be the big one, is to stop taking myself so seriously. I need only recall my most recent false alarm, whatever that might have been, and have a good chuckle. After all, as great as I am in the analytical department ;-) , none of my worst-case expectations have ever come to pass. Maybe that says something insightful about how deep and frightful my spectrum of potentialities run, but regardless, the most obvious lesson I take to heart is that we as people, and as cultures and as nations today are resilient and innovative in our abilities to overcome even the biggest hurdles that crop up. The clocks and calendars continue to plod along and we continue to get through the tough times (in large part due to someone's preparedness planning, no doubt).

Does that mean our future is as bright as it can be? I can't go that far. After all, I'm a "prepper" and I continue to recognize the need to stay ready for any eventuality. Uncertainties continue to rule our existence. But I'm not a "doomer" and to my way of thinking, that's an important distinction.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Foreseeing the Unforeseen

Integrating a comfortable level of preparedness activities into our lives is something ALL of us should do. To fail to do so is to accede our future well-being to the government and in fact to trust our very lives to the bureaucracy's ability to provide for all our needs in the event of any potential calamity, large or small.

For many who hesitate to devote any time or money to mitigating their own disaster risk, it might be that they are not cognizant of the actual risks. As a former gambling addict, I can sympathize. After all, without full understanding of the odds, you're doomed to lose in the end. And in this game, we all have a big stake in each other's hand--if there are too many losers out there, we can all end up worse off.

Risk assessment and risk management--it's big business across the globe. Nations, corporations, and organizations are fully invested in these disciplines in an effort to minimize the effects of disaster of all kinds. Of course, there is little to be done to fully avoid most potential calamity--after all, how much control do we really have over the bigger picture? So what it comes down to, when the worst does happen, is how well-positioned one is to recover.

Individuals are well-rooted into this global multi-billion-dollar risk-management leviathan with their various insurance policies--life, health, auto, home, and more. Still, even when fully insured, there remain substantial gaps in "coverage" if a household is not actively working to manage and mitigate their day-to-day and long-term risks.

What Risk?

Positioning your family to be able to survive potential calamities is a basic, common sense responsibility. Given the wide range of possible dangers out there, it can seem overwhelming and pointless. But the good news is that many things you would do to prepare for the disasters likeliest to transpire will translate well to all of the other risks as well.

First, let's simply list the types of risk we might want to consider, if not actually specifically prepare for (you can add to the list depending on your own situation):

Widespread or localized
Man-made:
Terror attack
Acts of war
Economic upheaval
Civil strife
Power blackout
Hazardous material accident
Natural disaster:
Earthquake
Hurricane
Tornado
Volcano
Tsunami
Blizzard or Ice storm
Wildfire
Drought/food shortage
Disease pandemic
Personalized
Criminal assault or trespass
Sudden loss of income
Physical disability
House fire
A major global reinsurance company, Swiss Reinsurance, provides periodic public information and analysis through their SIGMA publication, as well as through other vehicles. Their statistics show that, in 2004, insured global losses approached $50B US, and almost all of that total was from natural disasters.
The staggering general trend in insurance losses, measured at 2004 price levels has risen from only $2B in 1971. In the last 15 years, total annual losses have shown a clear majority of losses to occur as the result of natural catastrophes ... other than in 2001 when the losses of 9/11 dwarfed that year's acts of nature.
What does this tell us? Well, if I was still a betting man--and of course, in a sense I am since I am looking to mitigate my household risk and maximize the possibility for a winning future--I would start my disaster preparedness with an eye toward the types of natural disasters that I am vulnerable to in my geographic region. (On the other hand, if I lived in New Your City, Washington, D.C., or London, I would probably initially focus on terror risks.)
Where to Start Preparing
Much more on this in future posts, but a good starting point in preparing for most bad scenarios is to be sure to be able to provide for your family's most basic human needs: drinking water, food, and shelter. I'd also throw in special health-concern considerations--as in assuring access to prescribed medications, etc.
There are many ways to look at each of those needs, and how you approach them is dependent upon where you live and other factors such as how much "disposable income" you have, if any, to invest in preparedness.
Of course, past those basic survival accommodations there are other simple measures that can be taken to make disaster recovery far easier to accomplish, such as records and physical asset protection and electrical power storage and generation.
Then, beyond the widely applicable, common-sense crisis-planning moves, there are a multitude of special-needs tactics that can help you prepare for specific risks, given your situational planning.
There's much to think about, yes, but taking the most important first steps are not at all difficult.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

London Terror Redux Heightens Preparedness Anxiety

Whether the current, ongoing London terror scare, two weeks to the day from the July 7 attacks, is actually more "scare" than an effectively violent attack, this can't help but raise public awareness another notch. (See foxnews.com for the latest.)

Of course, today's "series of events" in London's mass tranportation system is at this point far less impactful than the tragedies earlier in the month. Nonetheless, the very fact that this is happening as it is today calls to mind the fears and anxieties authorities have had about repeating attacks that chop away at the public's confidence over time. And of course, that consumer comfort level has a direct bearing on the global economy, the stated target of Islamic terrorists.

Only two days ago, news outlets reported that a survey of New York City residents indicates almost nine in ten stock emergency supplies in case of an attack. More than half have an emergency plan and 55% have a "go-bag" already prepared to take with them in the event of the need to evacuate. Two years ago, the city's Office of Emergency Management launched a "Be Prepared" campaign.

Still, 51% of those surveyed felt inadequately prepared for a disaster.

Anxiety in London is certainly at a peak as of now with the uncertainty of where and when the next attacks may take place. And it's a fair assumption that people in New York City and Washington D.C. are feeling a bit more anxiety today as well.

With the extreme unlikelihood of a sudden outbreak of global peace and a worldwide epidemic of brotherly love anytime soon, the best approach for people around the world to dealing with the stress of living in a world of terror is to indeed do what they can to prepare for all possibilities in their own situations ... at least to the best of their ability. To do so is a positive step toward taking some small level of personal control over their situation.

Realistically, the alternative is to give in to an encroaching paralysis of fear if attacks happen to increase in frequency and intensity.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

To Be Reasonably Ready for Contingencies is to Be Slightly Atypical

As in any other slice of America, there is a wide and diverse collection of individuals in this land who dare to prepare for the worst, just in case.

Though from one to the next, there are as many differences between the individuals who practice common-sense disaster readiness as there are similarities, there are at least a few common traits that are probably present in the majority.

Note that these are my own personal observations based on many years of personal and professional interaction ...
  • One, those of us who dare to prepare tend to take some pride in being atypical. That is, we relish our individuality and often refuse to take the most traveled path in whatever journey on which we find ourselves.
  • Similarly, we are stubbornly independent in whatever personal views we develop. Often, these views are gained offline from standard learning nodes such as schools, universities, popular media outlets, and even peer groups. Of course, those institutions remain integral to varying degrees.
  • Those who choose to plan for contingencies in their lives tend to be slightly more cerebral, though not necessarily more intelligent. I simply mean to say here that we often put more thought into the details of our outlook than the average citizen today.
  • We typically embrace a practical, hands-on approach to tasks and challenges, more unusual today but once universal.

Otherwise, Who Are We?

Western religions of all stripes are represented among us, as are people who are averse to spirituality. Political views are widely represented, though it appears, to use standard labels, that conservatives and independents are predominant. Wealth has little or no bearing on one's predisposition to readiness, as all income levels are involved--probably proportional to income segments in the broader population.

I have to admit, I have less of a feel for racial and ethnic breakdowns. I am myself of northern European descent and I find that within my circles, white Americans are a clear majority. But somehow, I feel that in any ethnic group, there are people who live in anticipation of potential misfortune and prepare accordingly. I certainly invite input on this.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Undeserved Malice

Being prepared for any eventuality is really just common sense, don't you think?

Most people will likely agree with the statement, "I want to be ready for whatever tomorrow might bring and not be caught in a situation where I have to struggle because I failed to anticipate developments."

In many ways, smart folks (and effective organizations and entities) try to stay ahead of the curve. It's never a good thing to be caught with your pants down, so keeping an eye out for visitations of circumstance outside of the routine is, or ought to be, S.O.P. Yes, in many senses of the word, "preparedness" is just part of life, and the way to conduct business as well.

So it can be a bit puzzling to try to understand how America has gotten to the point of stigmatizing people who take disaster preparedness to heart. Certainly, disasters are not obsolete, restricted to the history books. And I don't get the sense that Uncle Sam really wants people to put all their trust and hope in big government to take care of 100% of everyone's needs when the worst comes to pass. Reality is that they simply can't do it all even if they have to indeed try to do a great deal in large-scale recovery operations.

My feeling is that we are dealing with a public relations issue, and unfortunately we have no PR or lobbying firms working to restore this common-sense trait to a level of popular respect and acceptance in America. It was back in the '80s when "survivalism" became a dirty word. It was the beginning of the P.C. (politically correct) movement, and the media seized on a few cases of small, racially intolerant groups retreating to their backwoods fiefdoms, storing up guns, ammo, and supplies for the coming race wars they were counting on to "cleanse" the nation.

Suddenly, not only was the backwoods survivalist approach demonized in the popular media (and thereby innoculating the entire culture against its evils), but by association, so was anyone else who was crazy enough to want to put up any kind of stores for future needs (now commonly mislabeled as hoarding).

Funny how that works, huh? It is certainly a good lesson in the power that the media wields. Still, I have to believe that most folks today are more aware and less vulnerable than they were 20-25 years ago to the power of media suggestion.


But that initial stigma against even common-sense prudence remains ingrained.


Thursday, July 14, 2005

"Be Prepared"

Think about it ... it's interesting to note how western society has come to view "preparedness" in recent years ... how far we have come, and how foolishly deep we as a culture bury our heads in the sand.

It wasn't that long ago that our instant-gratification culture, brought on by the technological maturation of "just in time" supply lines, was but a fanciful science-fiction plot detail. Communities then were actually built on internal cooperation and interdependence. And households lived everyday with a comfortable focus on the changing demands that tomorrow might bring.

This transformation has been longer in processing, but the end to the period of proud American self-reliance arrived perhaps about 15 years ago or so.

It's still easy to recall how, years ago on a community level, some folks specialized and thrived providing what others couldn't for themselves. Yet most everyone tried to make do, learning the widest range of life-skills possible to build their lives brick by brick. And helping others to do the same.

Of course, it was necessary to develop oneself in hands-on skill sets, and it was a fact of life that members of communities complemented each other to the point that, together, they could provide each other with much of or most everything they needed to live. Indeed, it's very possible that money was less a valuable commodity in those days than time and ability in terms of building true quality of life.

Alas, high technology and economies of scale in product manufacturing, distribution, and transportation, as well as the advent of persuasive mass communication channels and techniques changed all of that.

Today, there's probably not a community of any size in America that would not be very hard pressed to be able to feed and support its own members. In fact, given the wholesale exportation of our manufacturing capability overseas, the nation itself would be extremely challenged to provide for our own if international trade was to suddenly grind to a halt.

Still, conventional "wisdom" says, it doesn't matter ... it can't happen, right?

Well, at the risk of obvious oversimplification ... it's an extremely complex and interdependent world we find ourselves in today. When things are running as a masterfully engineered, well-oiled machine is capable of doing, the very sound and feel of it humming along endows us with confidence we can't help but embrace.

But as any technician will tell you, the more elaborate the design, the greater the likelihood SOMETHING will go wrong eventually. And in the case of our brave new global economy, the countless multitude of components are made up of imperfect human beings, not perfectly machined steel parts.

So here we are, living the dream. It's a beautiful life when we don't even HAVE to leave our well-appointed homes to pull in a paycheck or to make the multitude of purchases that keep us fed and clothed. It's all literally at our fingertips today. When the world is our personal oyster, we need only venture offline if we choose to pursue our "right to happiness," causing us to partake of interesting diversions wherever those whims might lead.

Preparedness is a High Credit Limit

Today's definition of "being ready?" ... It seems prudence is a line of credit and a full raft of insurance policies.

The old ways of planning for future needs, and perhaps even anticipating potential downturns or disasters is a quaint characteristic of less advanced cultures, right? Root cellars, full pantries, a barn full of tools, implements, and materials. It wasn't that long ago that even fallout shelters were the norm.

But that was then. This is now.

We've got it all figured out and we don't have a worry in the world. Leave the big picture planning and long-range contingency arrangements to the experts in charge of it all.

Taking Real Precautions

Unfortunately, I believe this is all a fair reflection of what mainstream America has become. It's real and pervasive, this eternally numb, but sunny outlook. It feels good today, but how will it feel tomorrow?

Fortunately there do remain folks out there who practice personal preparedness to the extent they are able, with the realization that America is more vulnerable today to accidents or intentional attacks resulting in possible total system failure. But it's no longer a group effort.

Communities are no longer equipped to withstand a full system-level disaster. They are wholly dependent on assistance from outside. But is it not possible that a disaster, natural or manmade, could far surpass local definition to become regional, national, or even global? Of course it is. Those scenarios have made a lot of people big bucks in Hollywood, but being on the big screen doesn't make some of them any less plausible.

What would be the prognosis in your community if the food and supplies stopped coming in, and the "system" had little chance of recovering in the near-term?

It's not a pleasant "what-if" to contemplate. But for those who do take the time to think through the possibilities, personal preparedness planning is the only option.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Anti-Blogger Succumbs

Do we all really need to be heard? Perhaps so. Though I suspect there are many who don't know quite how to say what they're yearning to express.

Asked another way ... do we all really expect to be read or listened to? Well, I believe there are many who think LOUDER and/or more OUTRAGEOUS will generally accomplish that objective. And why not? ... loud and outrageous IS the hottest selling upholstery over today's swivel-chair culture.

With time and unavoidable maturation, I have come to the point where my own need for a platform is minimal. I have learned to relish more the elusive moments of peace and solitude than today's pervasive, envigorating opportunities to engage in aggressive "change management initiatives," in whatever form those might take.

To believe many with the loudest amplifiers would mean to follow the ideology that change is the be-all and end-all. But quite simply, we do not need to be embracing change so religiously in all aspects of our lives. Perhaps my view that too much change in the wrong places is actually intended to simply destroy America is a telling, definitive sign of my encroaching conservatism.

Preparation Saves

I'm sure we'll follow those paths in future posts, but I want to try to be more concise than I've started out here, so let me quickly get to the main intended point of this, my first blog post ...

Why should I choose to blog when there is really no shortage of voices out there already, competing to be heard?

For me, it boils down to a personal understanding that, at least in spirit, I represent a strong, if not overwhleming demographic segment in America that remains largely passive and detached from much of the turmoil taking place across our culture. Not that we aren't aware, because yes, we surely are watching and making our own judgments about how things are going. At some point, we are the ones who will make the call ... and make all the difference.

Bottom line is, we are the progeny of those who built this nation and made it the greatest in the history of the planet. We honor and respect those prior builders who faced often mountainous challenges. And we accept the responsibility of today sustaining our anchor position of stability versus the multitude of forces seeking to throw us off our feet.

We are prepared to defend our way of life as a nation, and we are prepared to stand up for our own way of life in the countless small communities we live in and call home.

Key to being today's sustenance, is indeed being prepared for whatever comes. Those who push chaos upon us belittle the quiet confidence and practical ways of those who hold our nation strong. We who typically hold our tongues, are not deterred.

In fact, some of us decide to take up the blogger's call to action.



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