Disaster preparedness has gotten a bad rap. Television shows like Doomsday Preppers would have you believe that people who prepare are bunker-dwelling paranoiacs, ready to shoot our neighbors over a jar of applesauce. Reality is different. Doctors and teachers, seniors and young couples, homesteaders and urban dwellers are all preparing and for very good reasons. We don’t really expect to have to deal with zombies but all of us know that the potential for a crisis is always present and the people who survive and thrive are the ones who are ready for whatever life tosses at them. Here are five kinds of disasters that you must be ready to face.
1. Personal Catastrophes: House fires, job losses, serious illness, these things happen and being prepared to navigate through them is critical. Do you have backups of your personal information stored in a secure location so starting over after a fire is easier? Do you have six months of living expenses saved for a rainy day? Have you got a community to step in to lend a hand should you need it? This a basic level of preparedness that all families should strive for.
2. Neighborhood Dislocations: Utility shut-downs, active shooters, chemical spills, these are the kinds of things that might make it necessary to either shelter in place or quickly evacuate. The good news is that they are generally short-lived occurrences but still, you don’t want to be caught without a plan. Is your car in good working order and do you keep your gas tank at least half-full at all times? Do you have some extra cash on hand? Can you secure your home quickly? You may never need to exercise your plan but you need to have one at the ready.
3. Regional Shutdowns: This is a common occurrence. Severe storms or a grid failure can shut down large transportation routes including airports and train stations. Perhaps supply chains are interrupted and basic supplies are hard to come by. Utilities will be at risk. Something as simple as flushing your toilet may be impossible. This is another level of preparedness. Can you shelter at home for several days or even weeks? Can you manage to keep warm, prepare food and communicate with loved ones? How will you manage hygiene? I wrote Just In Case: How To Be Self-Sufficient When The Unexpected Happens and Prepping 101: 40 Steps You Can Take, to help families prepare for events that are more common every year.
4. National Emergencies: This is a less common (thank goodness) but all-too-possible scenario. A cyber attack or other terrorist plot has the potential to seriously disrupt the lives of all Americans. The good news is that being prepared for something as common as a severe winter storm or Catagory 5 hurricane means that you are also prepared for this. The more information you acquire, the deeper your pantry, the better your community connections, the more likely you will be to recover as a family, a community and a nation. At this stage, you must also ask what you can do for those people who are not prepared. Can you join a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) or volunteer at a feeding station? Do you have valuable supplies or skills to share? If your family is prepared, it takes some of the burden off local emergency response personnel. It’s your civic duty to care for yourself if possible so vital resources can be diverted to the most vulnerable.
5. Global Apocalypse: So, what if the zombies really do come? Well, maybe not the actual walking dead but many infectious disease experts say that a global pandemic is a question of when, not if. International travel make the spread of emerging diseases impossible to contain. People who fear this extend their preparations out for a full year and include things like open pollinated seeds in their stores as well as tools for starting over. Is that life for you? Maybe not, but learning as much as you can about navigating through hard times is never a bad investment of your time and treasure.
I don’t wish for bad things to happen. I don’t worry excessively. I don’t own a tin hat. I do think that preparing now for an uncertain future makes it easier for me to go about my daily business with confidence that I’m ready to care for my family and to support my community no matter what happens.