In preparing for an emergency, flexibility is vital

Ferfal over at Surviving in Argentina makes a very important point.

I was reading about this in a forum. The guy lives in South Carolina, spent a lot of his money over the years prepping his home yet when evacuating because of Irma all he actually ended up putting to use was the gas (and vehicle). He mentioned that he felt he failed at prepping because he didn’t build his house of reinforced concrete.

I don’t know all the details of this particular case, or even if it’s true at all, but I do understand what it means to put all your eggs in one basket and see it disappear right in front of you.

. . .

You need to plan for what’s likely, but you also need to think about those worst case scenarios.

There’s more at the link.

Ferfal is right.  We can make the best plans we can for what we think is likely to happen, and prepare for it – but what if something else happens?  What if we get Disaster A (for example, a hurricane) combined with Disaster B (for example, a failed dam or levee some distance away sends floodwaters into areas that have never before known that problem)?  Our preparations might be adequate for Disaster A, but completely inadequate for Disaster B – even more so if both happen at the same time.

Due to my partial permanent disability, there’s not much point in my planning to “bug out”.  I can’t walk very far without increasing pain, and my endurance is very limited.  Therefore, I plan to remain in my home during a disaster, if that’s possible, and I prepare accordingly.  Nevertheless, it might be unwise to remain where I am, for any number of reasons.  In that case, I’d better be ready to move, whether I want to or not!  I have to ensure that my preparations are packaged in totes, five-gallon buckets, and other storage devices that will allow me to load them onto a pickup truck or a trailer and depart, if that becomes necessary.  If I leave them scattered around higgledy-piggledy, it’ll take far too long to gather them up and pack them, and I’m bound to forget something important – so my preparations need to take account of that before the need arises.

There’s also the problem of being too attached to “things”.  I’ve known many people who suffer from this.  For example, a friend has a large collection of firearms.  He can’t bear the thought of leaving them behind for “looters” in the event of disaster, so he’s hardened his home as best he can and made preparations to stay there during any emergency, to defend his collection.  Nevertheless, the time may come when he’ll be safer leaving than staying.  In that case, he’ll have to “bite the bullet” (you should pardon the expression), take the guns and ammunition he needs to ensure his personal safety and that of his family, and abandon the rest.  He may not like the idea, but when the devil’s pounding at the door with blood in his eye, it’s best not to wait until he gets inside!

(While on the subject of emergency-use arms and ammunition, be practical.  Take what you need, with the understanding you may have to carry them – so don’t get too heavy!  Keep your emergency-use magazines loaded with ammunition.  You may not have time to load mags when you need them.  Full mags take as much space as empty ones to store – but you save on the space you’d need for ammo boxes.  [If stress on magazine springs is a potential issue, download them.]  Make sure you also have belt pouches or web gear to carry them all, too.  If you have to abandon your vehicle, you need to take them with you;  and you can’t do that if your hands are already holding a gun, or something else, like a child!)

The same principle applies to everything else you own.  Be prepared, if necessary, to take the essentials and get out of town.  If you lose the rest . . . well, that’s what insurance policies are for.  You can replace things.  You can’t replace your life.  Make sure that your emergency preparations reflect that reality, and give you the flexibility to either stay, or go, depending on the nature of the emergency and other factors that you may not have considered at all.

An example of the latter hit many towns and cities after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  Thugs, gang members and criminals from New Orleans (which had a surfeit of them) were evacuated to many other locations.  When they got there, they carried right on with their criminal activities – and the crime rate in those locations skyrocketed.  I wrote about this at the time.  For one city’s experience of the problem, see these news reports (and don’t believe later, politically-correct reports “whitewashing” the problem out of existence):

That’s certainly a factor I must consider in my own emergency preparations.  I live in a very low crime area . . . but a major metropolitan area is only a couple of hours away by road.  If it evacuates many of its residents in our direction, I can expect to see similar problems arise here, with little or no warning.  I need to include that possibility in my emergency preparations, and ensure that they’re flexible enough to deal with it, if need be.



  1. Absolutely agree. War story follows.

    So there I was, knee deep in mud in Albania in the spring of '99 in support of the Kosovo war. (Others may have not even noticed it happening.) My team go a call to go out in support of another unit, leaving in 30 minutes. It was an overnight outing, out and back to the base area. We were honestly looking forward to spending some time out of the mud.

    Interesting side note – the Tirana airport is built on flat land between the mountains and the sea, where two rivers meet. The area has been used as sheep pasture for all of recorded history, and probably long before that. Guess what happens here in the spring, when the rains come and the snow melts? Now, guess what it smells like. And how deep it is when thousands of troops walk on it for weeks on end, not to mention vehicles. This is where I learned the real reason for tracked vehicles. Over 90% of the deployed troops developed foot infections and injuries. MY boss and I personally saved one young woman's life one night near the port-a johns. Which, incidentally, didn't get emptied for three weeks, because the honey trucks couldn't drive through the mud. You couldn't dig latrines in it, either.

    Anyways, we threw our rucks in the truck, along with a couple boxes of MREs and jerry cans of fuel and water, and spent the next twenty minutes getting the truck moving. (You know the mud is bad when you have to dig down so you can open the doors of a HMMWV.) We eventually got moving, and found the unit before it moved out the gate. The convoy was about an hour late, because the planners aren't the ones who have to dig the vehicles out of the mud. So, off we went into the evening light, looking to our overnight excursion.

    We came back 40 days later. We hadn't packed up any cots, so we slept sitting up in the seats. (The driver got to sleep on the hood.) The body armor and helmets really helped to keep us warm at night, because we couldn't use the sleeping bags while sitting up in those cramped seats. I did mention that it was spring, right? Forty degrees and rainy.

    Shared misery builds strong teams. You learn to make do, or do without. What you need is really a small fraction of what you want. Bring everything every time, because you never know. Food, water, fuel, ponchos, and dry socks are necessities.

  2. Irma was a great opportunity for lessons learned for me. I found some holes in my prepping scheme and some places where my plans worked well. Watching the mistakes and successes of friends and neighbors helped, too.

    Some of these were pretty funny- when we dragged in the potted plants and my wife's many, many orchids, the chorus of tree frogs at night in my dining room and garage was actually pretty damn loud. Batteries were found to be dead, some scentless candles absolutely reeked. My house IS stressed concrete, and a few miles from the beach here in S. FL, so staying was always the go-to position. However, I had no idea how badly panic-buying would affect fuel supply and topping off my stores. I have an armed guard that mans the gate into my community, but in my last round with the neighbors before locking the final door, the guard had quit, left and opened the gates to my neighborhood. Luckily there was no looting. I made the assumption that we'd have some defense against such things. Stupid assumption.

  3. "Make sure you also have belt pouches or web gear to carry them all, too…"

    And actually TRY THEM OUT! Like outside of your backyard.

    I thought I had my gear pretty squared away…until I went on a winter night hunt several states away. The gear that worked ok locally in predictable weather was a brutal failure when it was warm enough to raise a sweat hiking during the day then changed to 1000% humidity and 20 degrees at night. And I couldn't head home to swap gear to try something different.

  4. I read once that you can't plan for the unexpected, by definition. A corollary to that is just because it worked the last time doesn't mean it'll work the next time. (The extreme example of this is Custer. His tactics at the Little Big Horn had worked every single time in the past and worked again in the future. That day? Not so much.) Lessons of what not to do may be even more important than lessons of what to do.

  5. abandon the rest, and much more, but maybe spike the guns one way and another as by pulling the bolts or firing pins or…….

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