Sunday, August 9, 2015

Prepared vs. Prepper

When I talk to people these days about the importance of being prepared for a disaster, they sometimes edge away and say "I'm not one of those extremist prepper people!"

You don't have to be. Personally, I think if there's an entire collapse of civilization, I'm doomed anyway, and I'm not sure I'd want to be the last one standing after a nuclear holocaust or asteroid hit. Furthermore, the likelihood of those is remote, so I don't worry about them. (If you do worry, and go the whole prepper route, and can afford to spend the time and money on it, good on you.)

What I would like you to think about, though, are the disasters that actually do kill people and are likely in your area. You needn't prepare for The End of The World. But do prepare to avoid the possible end of your world.
Red Cross Emergency Kit. Image FEMA

Number one on your list of preparations to make should be not for a natural disaster but the common house fire. 2,650 deaths per year in the US are due to these, and you'll see proportional numbers in other countries. Make sure your smoke detectors are working, check the expiration date on any fire extinguishers you own, and run a fire drill for your family once a year. Choose an annual date: your birthday is good, or use ShakeOut Day (October 15), a good day to think about disasters beyond earthquakes, too. Have your plan in place, and practice. The more that people practice what to do in such a situation, the more likely they will survive.

If you take care of no other preparations, please, take care of that.

Anyone can lose electricity due to weather extremes or brown-out. I'd rank this area of preparation next, particularly if you live somewhere it gets well below freezing or above 90F/30C. If you have insulin in the refrigerator, you need to think through what you'll do with it if the power is out for a week. If your continued existence depends on a breathing device that runs off electricity, you need a plan for producing electricity. While it's true that homo sapiens existed for hundreds of thousands of years without electricity, and most of us could probably survive a week without if we had some canned food and crackers, being prepared for the loss of power is a good idea.

Still with me and have more energy for preparing? Next on your list should be preparing for the one most common natural disaster in your area. If you live in northern Minnesota or most of Canada, that's going to be cold weather and blizzards, and I bet if you do live there, you're prepared for it, with extra clothes in your car, road flares, chains, and possibly a generator at home. If you live in Oklahoma or northern Texas or Kansas, you're going to know what to do in the case of a tornado. Coastal Californians think often about earthquakes. (And people in Memphis and St. Louis and Seattle need to think about them more--they're rare but can be terrible there when they do arrive.) The Gulf Coast is prepared for hurricanes. Hawai'ians know the tsunami evacuation routes. My readers in Australia know a good deal about wildfires.

I happen to live in a place with almost no chance of any natural disaster, but there are nuclear plants upwind, so I'm prepared for that sort of disaster. I have a bug-out kit in my car trunk, and I never let the petrol get below a half a tank in my car. In most disasters, sheltering in place is the smartest option, but with hurricanes/typhoons and nuclear plant disasters, evacuating is the preferred response. Preparing for it took me a few hours of buying and packing supplies over a week's time, but it only takes me a few minutes a year to make sure they're all still in place. I could be on the road in less than five minutes.

To summarize, please prepare for these: 1) Home fire. 2) Loss of electricity. 3) The number 1 likely natural disaster for your region. It's not extremist to do so--it's smart.

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