20 August, 2013

An explanation of why I prepare.

To some degree we all prepare.  For example, if you suspect it might rain you will usually take an umbrella with you.  You have home insurance in the event something happens to your house.  You might park your car in a well-lit area to reduce the temptation for a thief to break into your vehicle.  Preparing does not have to be severe and, in my mind, it shouldn’t be taken to extreme limits.  Moderation is, as always, the answer and so it really depends on how far you want to take this.

Why do I prepare?  The initial reason is because I am a father.  I feel that one of the most important roles of a parent is to provide for the family and ensure their safety.  My wife feels the same way and she has told me that she is confused as to why mothers wouldn’t prepare, at least for the sake of the children.  In our minds, preparing is an integral aspect of being a good parent.

As George Santayana famously wrote in Reason in Common Sense, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”1.  I have studied history and I have seen that disasters occur and things do go wrong.  Incidents that have occurred throughout the history of our society have shown that humanity is not able to control everything.  While our species has attempted to control and prevent the undesirable outcomes of naturally occurring or man-made events, we are unable to really do much to protect ourselves.  History is littered with occurrences that demonstrate how little we control the world and make humanity appear insignificant.  I believe that (as Louis Pasteur stated) “Chance favors only those minds which are prepared2” and as such I need to put my family in the best prepared position that is possible, so that their continued safety and security are maintained.  By being prepared I will not be a drain on an already taxed disaster recovery system should some upheaval occur.  We have all seen the advertisements on television that show survivors in Haiti of any of the recent disasters they have suffered, or children starving in a war-torn country.  These are real people surviving disasters and they cannot do anything to protect themselves.  Let me ask you, can you not imagine your own children in such a disaster?  I believe it is a very narrow sighted person who cannot see that similar incidents could occur where we live and I know that I do not want my children being forced to beg for food from anyone, be they charities, government agencies or foreign powers.  Media outlets reported that two days after Hurricane Sandy left New York, families were lining up on the streets to take turns at “Dumpster Diving.3” I have seen footage showing a young New York family lowering their children into the dumpster of a well to do neighborhood to look for edible food while a line of local residents waited behind them.  This demonstrates that these families had so little food on hand that they needed to get food that had been thrown into the trash to feed their families.  It also shows that despite the residents having almost a week of warning before the storm arrived, some obviously had not planned correctly.

Preparing is not always about the big events or even the dangerous ones.  It can be as simple as having food and beverages on hand when it is a public holiday and the shops are closed.  Has anyone witnessed the panic buying on the day before and after a public holiday?  As unbelievable as it is, I have seen this with my own eyes.  Preparing can be about having a torch on your key ring allowing you to walk from your car to your front door and not trip over anything.  We enjoy the benefits of our prepping on a daily basis.  One obvious example is our food stores.  When we run out of milk in the fridge there is no need to worry, we simply check the pantry to take out the next carton of UHT milk.  There are also financial benefits to storing additional food.  By having a selection of food stored we are not reliant on the supermarket having items in supply, we can purchase additional supplies when the item is on special and save money, and we are also not going to the supermarket as often so we are saving money on petrol.

As I mentioned earlier, when examining history it should be obvious that disasters occur.  These can range from the small, such as a power outage or a tree falling across your road, to a hurricane or a global pandemic.  The adage that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” is well known.  When discussing my views I often point out that as a parent it is my duty to be prepared.  Most responses range from comments on the end of the world to questions as to whether I own a bunker.  I point out that preparing for the little things are more important than the larger things.  Preparing can be seen as an effort to reduce the amount of impact felt from a disaster or negative effects that arrive when things “go wrong”.  People should not ignore this threat, history shows disasters occur.  People do survive and live through these events, yet you should ask yourself – do you just want to survive or you want to thrive?

A storm can be a common occurrence and with storms there is the possibility of power failure.  It might not be a big deal to an adult, yet when you are a parent you need to consider your children.  Having no power from a blackout means no lights in the house at night and that can be a serious issue for your child – therefore a serious problem for you.  How will you feed your children without electricity?  It is also common for children to become sick in the middle of the night.  Not having common medicine and medical supplies on hand could mean a night with no sleep as you sit up with your sick child or could potentially be life and death for some situations.  The list of common situations that can be rectified, or at least alleviated, by some contingency planning is too long to be documented here.  As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, things do go wrong.  I believe that it would be wise to examine some examples of this from history.

In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall.  This caused significant damage to the area and the area’s levees, which were not able to hold the large influx of water… leading to massive flooding and loss of life and property.  In the aftermath nearly 2000 had died and more than 100,000 people were left unemployed.  In an effort to prevent the looting, shooting and lawlessness, nearly 50,000 National Guards and troops were mobilised to provide law enforcement.  Around 300,000 people became refugees and were relocated to Texas.  This resulted in a 23% increase in violent crime in Houston, Texas4.  Many people who could not afford to evacuate were left in their homes to fend for themselves (usually ending up being airlifted to safety when the flooding didn’t subside for days) or were waiting in the Astrodome… a large heavily populated building filled with a bunch of strangers.5

Many of the problems which resulted from this event were unavoidable, in so far that the nothing could prevent the hurricane from landing.  Due to this, other types of preparations may have helped, such as:

·         Having a dedicated bug-out location already established, so that there was a safe location to which to evacuate.

·         The area seriously affected by the hurricane and the flood were below sea level.  Choosing the location of your home with consideration to the geography and possible issues could have prevented some of the problems for some of these people6.

·         Having food, water, power and defenses on hand would allow people to safely and comfortable remain in their home.  Depending on your location it would reduce your need to evacuate and would mean that you would not need to go seeking supplies to live.

In 1918 a flu epidemic called the “Spanish Flu” ran its course for a year and has been estimated to have killed between 50-100 million people worldwide.  This killed between 3 – 6% of the entire population of the globe and has been estimated to have killed more than 25 million people in the first 25 weeks7.  Improved technologies in travel, such as ocean liners, was one of the factors that allowed the rapid and extensive spread of the flu.  Imagine a similar outbreak today with our much improved methods of transport and it is reasonable to assume the outcome would be many times more disastrous.  If a similar outbreak occurred today, a prepared family that limited travel (no need for supermarket trips would be a good start) would fare better than other families.  People who wore face masks and took other, suitable, precautions would also have a better chance of survival.

In the recent US census it has been found that almost 50% of Americans are living on the poverty line8.  It has been reported that around 146 million (48 of the American population) live on or just above the poverty line.  According to the National Poverty Centre, around 16 million children in America (or 22% of the population of children) are living in poverty9.   What is considered poverty?  What would you do if you and your partner lost your jobs?  Some people have taken to living in cheap hotels or in their cars10.  While there is little you can do to avoid losing your job due to the state of the economy, you could prepare for this by ensuring that you have as little debt as possible.  Having several months of food stored could mean that if you lose your job, your family can eat while you seek new employment… one less worry.  If you grow your own food it could mean another means of income or food.  If it can happen in America it can happen here.

During the Great Depression, in the 1930s, Australians had to make do with what they had to hand.  People were close to starving, having often to rely upon food coupons or begging to have enough food to eat.  Could you imagine what you would do to ensure your children and family had food to eat and not go hungry?  Those families who had land fared much better than those without such an asset.  They could grow some of their own food and have a few animals to help take the edge of the hunger.  These families had something with which to barter, which also helped them thrive.

1.       Reason in Common Sense, George Santayana, 1905.

2.       LOUIS PASTEUR, University of Lille, Douai, France, December 7, 1854.—A Treasury of the World’s Great Speeches, ed. Houston Peterson, p. 470 (1954).

3.       http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2226640/Sandy-aftermath-Shocking-photos-desperate-New-Yorkers-digging-dumpsters-food.html

4.       Louisiana Gangs That Fled Katrina Heighten Houston Murder Rate, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=az6n8C6gsqf0

5.       http://www.katrinadestruction.com/images/v/houston_astrodome/

6.       Image of New Orleans elevation. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b2/New_Orleans_Elevations.jpg

7.       1918 Influenza: the Mother of All Pandemics, Jeffery Taubenberger and David Morens, http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/12/1/05-0979_article.htm

8.       http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/15/census-shows-1-in-2-peopl_1_n_1150128.html

9.       http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/

10.       http://www.npc.umich.edu/poverty/

11.   http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2013/02/06/3684714.htm

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