Readiness & Survival in an Uncertain World – Three Things You Can Do to Prepare
What will be the synergistic effect of these five trends as they begin to collide — Population Growth, Global Warming, Doomsday Predictions, Technological Interdependence, and Economic Collapse? Imagine an overpopulated planet suffering from dramatic and unpredictable weather, fighting for scarce resources in what is likely to be the worst economic crisis in history, with millions of people looking around the corner expectantly for the apocalypse, all the while depending on outside technologies and institutions for personal survival… Sound like a crisis in the making?
Perhaps, or it could be an opportunity. General Honroe, the commander in charge of the post-Katrina recovery, suggested that the most important lesson we should have taken from the Katrina disaster is that we have, as a population, lost our ‘survival’ instincts. In a pre-world war II society, argues Honroe’, Americans maintained a ‘culture of survival’ where independence, self-sufficiency and rainy-day preparation were simply a way of life. Long term food and water storage and collection, along with essential survival tools and skills were commonplace in those days; people were realistic enough to know that in a severe emergency, they would have to rely upon themselves, not FEMA. In fact, FEMA didn’t exist, at least not in the form or function as it does today. Our complacency toward personal survival today, argues General Honroe’, has crippled us.
This is particularly unsettling given the trends discussed above since many of us are woefully ill-equipped to meet the challenges of our increasingly uncertain world.
So, what can we do to re-acquire General Honroe’s culture of survival? I recommend two things to my customers and clients: first, you should begin to think differently. By this I mean that you need to acknowledge that we live in extraordinary times, and that these times can present extraordinary challenges. You should also recognize that in a severe disruption or emergency (say, for example, 4 Katrina-scale events hitting in a two-month span of time, or a profound financial depression), that you will need to be able to rely upon yourself for personal survival. And last, you need to face up to the possibility that it can happen to you, whatever ‘it’ is. In my more than 25 years working in public safety, I have learned that this is where people struggle the most. Why? Because we always assume that ‘it’ will happen to somebody else. Only by changing the way we think can we then begin to change how we act, which takes me to my second recommendation.
Get Prepared! Take a weekend morning, schedule a family meeting and walk through a typical ‘day-in-the-life-of-our-family’, with one exception – you have no power, no infrastructure, and no assistance. You can’t go to the store, can’t use your car, no power in the house, no plumbing, and definitely no iPod. Everything that you will need for personal survival has to come from what you already have around you.
Think this through carefully. You will quickly discover that you are trapped almost from the very moment you wake up. If you are like most people, you will get up, brush your teeth, use the toilet, brew some coffee, and read the news on-line. However, if you don’t have stored water, you can’t brush your teeth, use the toilet or brew coffee. You obviously can’t get on line! You can’t call FEMA or 911. You can’t get cash because the ATM’s have no power. You have no idea what is going on around you because you have no means to get news. Your refrigerated food is rapidly souring and your pantry is half-empty because you intended to get groceries tomorrow. If you are up north, you are likely cold; down south, hot. And so on… Now, multiply that one ‘day in the life of our family’ by 30.
How did you do? Will you survive, and for how long?
This is a great exercise and one that tends to get people’s attention quick. By walking through a typical day, you quickly realize that you need to stock up on supplies in three main categories: Food & Water; Medical & Hygiene; Protection & Self Sufficiency. These three categories should constitute your family’s Disaster Survival Kit, and if adequately stocked, will give you the necessary supplies and equipment to weather almost any disruption. Let’s take a brief look at each.
Food & Water
We recommend that families keep at a minimum 7 days of non-perishable food and water storage on hand, preferably a 30-day supply. You should look for food products that have extended life-spans, such as Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), dehydrated foods, beans, rice, wheat, nuts, and so on. There are a number of reputable businesses that offer these types of prepackaged meals and non-perishable foods. You should also consider power bars or energy bars, foods high in caloric and protein content and rich in nutrients. These bars store well and go a long way in an infrastructure disruption. For water, you should plan on 2 gallons a day for each person; this includes water both for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Don’t’ forget that you will need to purify your stored water, either through filtration or other purification techniques. Many people use 15-55 gallon drums for long-term water storage and collection. Others, such as me, use large capacity vessels for rainwater collection and water storage. You decide what works best for you and your household, and prepare accordingly.
Medical & Hygiene
Both personal and medical hygiene refer to practices that ensure good health and cleanliness, such as bathing and washing your hands, maintaining good sanitation and waste management practices, keeping perishable foods refrigerated and free of contamination, proper management and treatment of injuries and the like. Cleanliness is easy in this modern age thanks to running water, soap, dishwashers, toilets, and sewers. But the minute we remove these conveniences, we are instantly transported back into a day where poor personal hygiene was a leading cause of disease, infection, and even death.
Your family’s Disaster Survival Kit needs to include medications for multiple illnesses including antibiotics and pain/fever medications, a complete first aid kit for managing injuries, and hygiene products such as anti-bacterial wipes, toilet paper, bleach, soap, portable toilet, blankets, towels, and more. (Don’t forget infant formula and diapers if you have little ones around.)
Protection & Self Sufficiency
To survive on your own, without all the modern conveniences offered by today’s infrastructure, you need to ask yourself a simple question, “What tools, equipment, materials, and skills do I need to live productively and safely through at least 30 days without support?” As you go through this exercise, you will quickly realize that your Disaster Survival Kit needs to include products for light, shelter, heat, power, water purification, and emergency communication. Your Disaster Survival Kit will need battery operated radios, cooking stoves and fuel, fans, knives, can-openers, utensils, water proof matches, duct tape and more; you will need ropes, hand tools, saws, and skills to improvise your own repairs to your home and survival equipment.
What you include in your Disaster Survival Kit depends on your individual needs as it relates to personal protection and survival. These include where you live, the hazards you may face, your current level of survival skills and experience, and your long-term cache of supplies and equipment. For more information on disaster preparation lists, see the department of Homeland Security’s site, Ready.gov.
Creating a Culture of Survival in Your Home
Always remember the following maxim: When the time for action is upon you, the time for preparation is gone. In these extraordinary times that we live in, it simply makes sense to equip your family with the tools, knowledge and supplies to weather the coming storms. Consider it an insurance policy, because President Obama was right, there are gathering clouds and raging storms on the horizon.
The question is, are you ready?