I’m not a gung-ho “survivalist“, one of those who gets ready for the end of the world as we know it, with food and supplies for at least a year stashed away, and the necessary firepower to keep it from the ravening, unprepared hordes who want to take it. I think that’s a pipe-dream. If things get that bad, very few will survive, and then only because luck went their way. Having been in too many Third World hell-holes for comfort, I know all too well that no amount of preparation can guarantee survival when society disintegrates around one’s ears. There are too many variables.
Nevertheless, I’m a strong proponent of preparing for emergencies as best one can, and being ready to make it without outside assistance for a few weeks to a couple of months. I learned a lot traveling through those Third World hell-holes. I’ve been through four hurricanes in the USA, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (about which I’ve written extensively), and experienced the Nashville floods of 2010. I’ve seen enough to learn a number of important lessons. The photographs of damage and destruction after Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria over the past few weeks have merely reinforced my determination to do all in my power to have emergency essentials on hand, just in case.
What boggles my mind are the reactions I’m already hearing about (from friends in local and state law enforcement) among those who rushed to get gasoline, and panic-bought bottled water, bread, beer and other essentials (?), when they knew the storms were almost upon them. Now that the storms have passed, and rescue and recovery have turned into repair and rebuilding, how many of them have bothered to restock their emergency supplies? How many of them would be prepared if another Atlantic storm system strengthened into a hurricane, and headed their way? (We’re only halfway through hurricane season, after all.) I suspect relatively few have even considered the possibility.
I’m equally baffled by the nonchalant attitude of those living outside the hurricane-stricken areas. We’ve all seen the photographs and video clips of the damage to Texas, Louisiana, Florida and a number of Caribbean islands. (Here, for example, is the Atlantic’s photo essay of damage caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. It’s worthwhile viewing. Ten days ago, those neighborhoods looked like many in mainland USA. Now . . . not so much.) We know what Mother Nature can do when she sets her mind to it – and that’s not just involving hurricanes. Scenes of disaster after tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods and the like are all too familiar, and have been splashed across our news media for years. Newspapers regularly publish scare stories about “the Big One” in California, or the Yellowstone “supervolcano” letting go . . . but most of those living in the danger zones for those hazards carry right on as usual, doing little or nothing to make what preparations they can in case such an emergency should arise.
I don’t understand that. OK, I’ve seen more than my fair share of disaster situations, but even so, everyone else I know has seen them too, albeit only on TV or in newspapers. Why the mental switch-off? Why the refusal to heed the advice of FEMA and other official resources, all of whom recommend that you maintain at least a minimal level of emergency supplies? Why the resentment directed by so many against “preppers”, when they’ll be the first to ask those same preppers for help if disaster strikes their area, and resent the hell out of them if they don’t share what they’ve put aside to help their own families? Why the refusal to invest even a hundred dollars, over the course of a year, in building up a three- to seven-day reserve of food and potable water? If you put $2 to $5 every week into buying a couple of extra cans of food, or a flat of bottled water, or other basic needs, at the end of a year you’ll have your basic minimum emergency needs covered – so why not do it?
I’ve gone further than the minimum. Miss D. and I have invested in our preparations, and expect to spend more over the next year or two, providing additional resources such as a small generator. We don’t have every “i” dotted or every “t” crossed – we can’t afford to – but we’ve covered most of the basics. Following the lessons I learned during Hurricane Katrina, I’m fairly sure we’ll need to help friends and acquaintances, too, so we have enough put aside to do that if necessary. We’d all get tired of rice and beans, but we’d survive. What’s more, if things become untenable locally, we can load our food and other gear into our vehicles, top up their tanks from our stored supplies, and head for safer pastures. We won’t be an immediate burden on those at our new location.
There are those who argue that, if they’re not in an area prone to hurricanes or similar major emergencies, they don’t need to make such extensive preparations. That’s their business, of course. However, hurricanes are far from the only major threats. Where we live now, in northern Texas, we could encounter the “triple whammy” of earthquakes to our north, in Oklahoma; weather emergencies coming in from the west, along the “dry line”, including torrential rains and the risk of tornadoes in summer, or ice storms in winter (as Lawdog can attest); and wildfires or floods, both of which are far from unknown in this area.
Any one of those would be bad enough. Two or three of them at the same time would stress every resource we’ve got, including the transport network through which assistance and supplies would have to reach us. That stress would be made worse by the need to help other communities, perhaps worse off than we might be. We might have to wait until their immediate needs were met before we received help and supplies ourselves. That’s not being paranoid; that’s being realistic, and is entirely in line with historical reality. I’m sure, if readers check the history of their own areas, they’ll find similar risks for which to prepare.
It worries me very much to see how few people around here have taken any precautions against or made any preparations for emergencies, even after official advice to do so, and after the recent hurricanes have demonstrated so clearly why that’s a good idea. In the event of real need, what will they do? They’d better not come knocking at my door, because my reserves will go to my wife and our small local network of close friends. That’s what they’re there for – not for public distribution!
In a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?”
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”
“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.
Then the Grasshopper knew…
It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
The revised version is somewhat different.
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, laughs, and dances and plays the summer away.
Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.
CBS, NBC and ABC show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.
America is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be, that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?
Kermit the Frog appears on Oprah with the grasshopper, and everybody cries when they sing “It’s Not Easy Being Green.”
Jesse Jackson stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house where the news stations film the group singing “We Shall Overcome”. Jesse then has the group kneel down to pray to God for the grasshopper’s sake.
Al Gore exclaims in an interview with Peter Jennings that the ant has gotten rich off the back of the grasshopper, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the ant to make him pay his “fair share”.
Finally, the EEOC drafts the “Economic Equity and Anti-Grasshopper Act,” retroactive to the beginning of the summer.
The ant is fined for failing to hire a proportionate number of green bugs and, having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes, his home is confiscated by the government.
Hillary Clinton gets her old law firm to represent the grasshopper in a defamation suit against the ant, and the case is tried before a panel of federal judges appointed from a list of multi-generation welfare recipients. The ant loses the case.
The story ends as we see the grasshopper finishing the last bits of the ant’s food while the government house he is in, which just happens to be the ant’s old house, crumbles around him because he doesn’t maintain it.
The ant has disappeared in the snow.
The grasshopper is found dead in a drug related incident and the house, now abandoned, is taken over by a gang of spiders who terrorize the once peaceful neighborhood.
I fear those of us who prepare for emergencies are more likely to encounter the second version . . . but that doesn’t make preparations less worthwhile. I hope, dear readers, that you’re doing the same – and not being grasshoppers. There are altogether too many of them for comfort.