Prepare for the worst; hope for the best.
That’s basically my life motto, well, one of them. Bad things happen. All you can do is try to be prepared for them when they do happen. There are those out there who make fun of people who prepare. We are called crazy, paranoid, pessimistic, and a host of other unfavorable adjectives. I actually used to be one of the people who made fun of preparedness minded individuals. I remember the first time I heard of “Bug Out Bags” I thought it was ridiculous. In my defense, the individual (who shall remain unnamed) selling them is/was crazy. Their presentation of the bags as something everyone should have in case the “sh*t hit the fan” (SHTF)and the world as we know it ended seemed silly to me. At age 20(ish) I couldn’t fathom the world as I knew it ending.
Fast-forward 10 years and now I am a “prepper”. Not the kind that lives in a bunker with 30 years of food stored, but the kind that recognizes “life as we know it” is fragile and can be disrupted in the blink of an eye. The end of the world as *I* know it could end without anyone but me noticing. The end of the world as *I* know it wouldn’t take much. It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again. So, we do what we are able to ensure we can carry on through any scenario that may befall us.
[UPDATE: I have always wondered what would happen if someone did the math to calculate probability of each kind of potential “disaster”. Then, you could add the probability of all those various kinds of life interrupting disasters together and calculate the odds that you would experience something like that in your lifetime. I intuitively though that the number would be quite high… but I don’t have the math knowledge to actually do the calculations. I came across this very interesting article that does just that, for a single disaster type. It’s quite eye opening and I felt it should be added here.]
For us, preparedness is and forever will be, a work in progress. No one is ever 100% prepared. There are people who will tell you they are, but there is ALWAYS room for improvement. For us, improvement does not mean just buying more and more supplies. Although we do buy some supplies, a huge part of being prepared (that a lot of people, even preppers, forget) is knowledge. Having a generator will do you no good if you don’t know how to use it. Having a cache of weapons will do you no good if you don’t know how to use them and don’t have awareness of your surroundings. Living in the woods will do you no good if you don’t know how to take care of yourself in the wilderness. Learning how to forage and live without electricity is a prep that cannot be lost or taken away from you. Knowledge is power; never forget that.
So how did I go from laughing at preppers to being one? The first step was understanding that “prepping” is not like it’s presented on TV, where people prepare for the “apocalypse”. For us, part of being prepared meant moving to a new area and changing our lifestyle from one where we were always completely dependent on other people and the systems of our society, to one where we are pursuing self-reliance and get closer and closer to independence every day. YOU don’t have to move to the woods to prepare though, you can work toward preparedness anywhere. Your preparation may just look different than ours. Preparedness isn’t an all or nothing thing. You aren’t “prepared” or “unprepared”, it’s about degree of preparedness. You can prepare to a level you are comfortable with.
Contrary to popular belief, most of prepping is being prepared for smaller, more local, events. The place to start is with yourself and your family. What can happen to you and your household that would significantly disrupt your life? Major illness, loss of job, house fire, etc. Many people prepare for those things by getting insurance and saving a little money. But you can do a little more than that and be significantly more prepared. Gardening and having food storage is helpful if you lose your job and need to save money on groceries for a while, not just if the SHTF. I keep a Get Home Bag (GHB) in my car that contains what I’d need to get home from wherever I am. It also contains things I might need if an emergency arises. This is a simple thing to do, but will leave you infinitely more prepared. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used something from that bag since I put it in my car a couple years ago. Just be sure to replace any items you use right away so you don’t get caught without something you need.
Let’s zoom out in scope a little. What could affect your community? This could be things like an active shooter situation, flood, or wildfire. Seeing people on the news flee their homes with a raging fire bearing down on them encouraged me to re-think Bug Out Bags (BOB). If you have only minutes to get out of your home, this bag is something you could grab, throw in your car, and go- it should have things like important documents/identification, change of clothes, food, and first aid supplies. You can Google and find great, comprehensive lists of BOB (and GHB) supply ideas.
Zoom out a little further. What could affect your state or region? This may be things like hurricanes, earthquakes, larger scale wildfires, and things like that. When a hurricane approaches the unprepared masses run to the store and buy water, bread, canned food, batteries, and anything else they decide they don’t want to be without, and they buy ALL of it. With our “just-in-time” delivery of goods to stores there is no back stock to deal with these panic buys. This is why before a hurricane the selves end up bare and people end up desperate. If you’re already prepared with several weeks (minimum) of food and the other basic supplies you need long before the hurricane even starts to form, you don’t need to contribute to the scarcity that the impending disaster creates when unprepared people descend on the stores like locust. So, being prepared helps your community, in addition to yourself.
Now, let’s zoom out even further. What could affect your country? This is where you start seeing more of the apocalypse scenarios like economic collapse, terror attack, and things like that. This is the level where people start to feel like preparation is unreasonable or crazy. But, people who lost everything in the “Great Recession”, or lived through the 9-11 terror attacks, or the people who are living in Venezuela right now, will tell you preparation for these scenarios is still important. While the likelihood of these things happening in your lifetime is less than the likelihood of the lower-level, more personal, emergencies we talked about, the effects could be even more devastating if one is unprepared. If you start with the small stuff and work your way up, by the time you get to the big stuff it won’t seem so overwhelming. A lot of the “preps” you made for the personal disasters will be the same things you need for big disasters.
The Survival Podcast is a great place to start exploring the idea of preparedness. Their motto is “Helping you live a better life, if times get tough, or even if they don’t” which really speaks to what we’re trying to do. We’re designing a life we love that is better for us physically and emotionally now. That life also puts us in a better position to deal with disaster. Here’s a podcast from TSP that discusses the various preparation levels in more detail. It’s a great one to listen to if you’re relatively new to prepping.
FEMA says you should have 72 hours of supplies to prepare for a hurricane. But, after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast people waited significantly longer than 72 hours for help (I won’t even go into what Puerto Rico dealt with after they were hit by Maria last year). People lost EVERYTHING. Many even lost their lives, not just from the storm but from what came after… A lot of people think they will just go to a shelter. But, even the shelters ran out of supplies and the shelters were NOT safe. After hearing what happened in them I knew I would never go to one, I’d rather sleep in the woods. So, I am prepared to do just that, if necessary. I looked back at what others went through and realized I had to be prepared to take care of myself. The government was not going to save me.
Around the time I had these revelations, I started getting into apocalypse novels. I don’t know what made me read the first one but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Sure it’s fiction, but the books provide a mental exercise of “If this thing happened, then what?” which allowed me to think of possibilities that hadn’t occurred to me before. I started to apply those lessons to real life. If there was a terror attack resulting in a widespread grid-down situation (like in the famous book “One Second After”, the premise of which has been acknowledged by members if our government as possible) what would I do?….. Well…. Prior to my preparedness awakening my answer was simply “hope that doesn’t happen” or “go to a shelter”. Now, my answer involves a number of actions we’ve already taken (like moving to the mountains, growing a food-forest, educating ourselves on off-grid living, foraging, and other skills we would need), and a number of actions we would take at the time (ramp up food production, initiate security protocols, and so on).
Our area experiences relatively few natural disasters but we are currently preparing for hurricane Florence. The preparation for a hurricane here in WNC is a bit different than it was in Florida. Here in the mountains we don’t have to worry about hurricane force winds (they’re expecting winds of about 15 mph near us for Florence), our roof isn’t going to be ripped off, there’s no need to board the windows or anything like that. There will likely be some flooding in the area. It’s been a wet summer; the creeks and rivers are already high and the ground is already saturated. When looking at homes, we immediately ruled out anything in, or close to, a flood zone, so WE won’t flood. Our only real worry is losing grid power or something preventing us from being able to leave our property (by vehicle) for a while (like a mudslide or flooded roads). Neither of these things concerns us much, because we’re prepared for both scenarios. We’d actually enjoy being trapped on our property for a few days. Lol We’re not expecting Florence to get here until Sunday but we may see some bands of rain before that. Assuming we have internet/cell signal we will keep you all updated throughout the storm. If we don’t have signal, we’ll update you when we can. In the meantime, we’re prepared for the worst but hoping for the best for ourselves and everyone else in the path of this storm.
I’ll leave you with this thought, a quote I heard years ago that I’ll never forget:
“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.”
― Terence McKenna