My usual blog topics are American politics and the media, but this post is about my inadequate emergency preparedness efforts and total fails..
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that [is] it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not before.
Interview to the Wall Street Journal, November 19, 2008.
Although this Emanuel quote referred to using crises as a vehicle for ruthless political opportunism, for me COVID-19 has been a wake-up call about my own family’s emergency preparedness planning fails. When the “15 Days To Slow The Spread” mitigation effort began a few months ago, I felt rather confident and a bit smug that I had enough food and supplies to manage just fine for 15 day and we did have plenty of food and supplies for two weeks.
Then the lockdowns around the country continued and the partisan political opportunism did jump into high gear, along with skyrocketing unemployment, some continued supply issues in American stores, and civil unrest around the country. All of this, coupled with mercurial political decision-making in some states and in Washington, challenged my rather self-satisfied confidence about my emergency preparedness.
By May, I started taking stock of my family’s basic preparedness and found that I am truly not well-prepared and that much of my overconfidence stemmed from gearing my emergency preparedness toward the natural disaster most common here in coastal GA (hurricanes).
Hurricanes arrive with days, often weeks, of advance warning, as we follow the track as they head towards the US coasts, so I always could mosey on down to Walmart and pick-up plenty of water, long before the mad rush began. I also never had a long-term food storage plan, beyond stockpiling regular groceries. I had no clue about what foods can be stored for years or how to store them.
A few months ago, I scoffed at people buying up all the bottled water at the store, confident I had no need for a lot of stored water, beyond the distilled water needed for my husband’s oxygen machine and my c-pap machine during this pandemic. I didn’t even realize how critical it is to have a sufficient emergency water supply stored – at all times, not just when there’s a hurricane heading our way.
I never imagined America dealing with multiple crises at a time. I never prepared adequately for a sudden emergency. And I certainly never imagined America’s food supply chain being vulnerable to small failures, let alone serious ones.
By May, my attitude evolved to being an engaged prepper in my own home, except that “prepper” label comes with a lot of negative baggage. My challenge was trying to find common sense information on how to begin becoming better prepared when the entire “prepper” culture seems permeated by doomsday hysteria, zealous anti-government/arm yourself to the teeth preachers and starry-eyed homesteaders dreaming of living off the grid, without modern conveniences. I don’t want to set off to live in the wilderness, build a bunker in the backyard or turn my home into an armed fortress. All I want to do is become better-prepared and supplied for sudden emergencies and longer term crises.
I watched a lot of You Tube videos and did a lot of googling on emergency preparedness and learned there seems to be way more useless survivalist stuff, bad information and hysterical doomsday videos than practical information.
By far, the most clear and concise prepper information I found on YouTube is The Provident Prepper channel, produced by Jonathan and Kylene Jones. Jonathan has worked in civil defense planning and emergency preparedness and he served as vice president of The American Civil Defense Association (TACDA), while Kylene has served in an advisory position with TACDA. This couple lives in Utah and unbeknownst to me, emergency preparedness is an integral part of the Mormon religious practices and culture. The Joneses also have a website packed with practical information, to include action plans to get you organized, and they’ve written a book on emergency preparedness. The Provident Prepper – A Common Sense Guide to Preparing for Emergencies.
The Mormon food storage practices are based on preparing to have enough food and water stored to last at least two weeks and then to build up stores to last longer, by buying gradually, not panic-buying. Their preparedness also goes to having money saved for emergencies too. This isn’t like the “prepper” craze that took hold in recent years; it’s a practical approach to emergency planning:
” According to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), there are many reasons for having a food storage program. One source of this maxim is the command, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing,” (“Doctrine and Covenants”, Section 109:8). By being prepared with a basic supply of food, water, and monetary savings, a family can survive short-term and long-term adversities while being a resource to others in their community.”
I came across an entertaining read, The Stockpile of Food in My Garage, from March of this year, written by McKay Coppins. Coppins humorously explains life growing up in a Mormon family where stockpiling extra food was the norm. He expressed how he did not embrace the Mormon preparedness ethos, but his in-laws foisted large cans of emergency food supplies on him and his wife as Christmas gifts for several years. He kept the cans in the garage and didn’t pay any attention to them until the pandemic panic-buying hit this year:
“A few nights ago, after an unnerving trip to a local grocery store that had been picked over by panic-shoppers, I came home and sheepishly suggested to my wife that we go out to the garage and take inventory of our food storage.
I had never actually looked closely at the cans, and as it turned out, the collection was less grim than I’d imagined. Yes, there was plenty of dehydrated broccoli. But there was also brownie mix and granola and something called “chocolate-milk alternative”—foods that actually seemed edible (or at least servable to our young children).
I knew that the sense of relief I felt as we examined the cans was irrational. Our fridge and cupboards were full. The grocery store would get new deliveries the next day. The likelihood of a serious food shortage in America remained, according to experts, extremely small. But the ritual of counting and stacking and sorting the cans—like so many rituals of faith—offered something more abstract than physical sustenance: peace of mind, a sense of hope, something to grip while the world is unraveling.”
American culture gravitates towards fast and disposable, but our ancestors were onto something with focusing on frugal-living, setting up food to see them through the lean times and focusing on the basics of taking care of their own family and community first. In the digital age, it’s easy to get swept up in political causes and activism or to get caught up in trendy items to buy and social media “influencers” to emulate. Even with “prepping” the trendy gears and gadget survivalists and living off-the-grid social media types garner large followings, but truly the Mormons are onto common sense and practical steps to take with their “provident prepping” belief system and planning ideas.
I’m working on planning, building and organizing our short-term food storage for 3-6 months, then planning to push that out to a year. After that, I plan to work on building a long-term storage plan.
2 responses to “Recognizing my emergency preparedness fails”
Well, if I’m ever in Georgia and hungry I know where to go for a meal!
Lol Sam, my youngest daughter, in her early thirties, lives in TX and she called me this morning. I was explaining my thought process on wanting to build up a 3-6 month food supply and she told me that’s nuts, but then again she’s been trying to cure me of my “hoarding” tendencies for years now. With the craziness this year in America, storing more food doesn’t seem crazy to me at all.