When the pandemic mess moved into high gear last spring with the “slow the spread” mitigation efforts, many previously happy-go-lucky Americans became interested in emergency preparedness, especially acquiring a supply of toilet paper and emergency food.
Before talking about this past week’s blizzard that left TX in a huge mess, it’s easy to point the finger and try to attach blame in every crisis, especially in America, where everything now turns into a partisan political controversy.
Politicians and the media seem to delight in hyping hysterical people in emergencies, using these personal tales of woe to frame partisan political spin attacks. So, in this TX crisis, a reporter interviewed a couple who burned pieces of furniture in their fireplace and had a stack of small branches gathered from their yard.
Another media story was about a lady burning some of her art canvases to stay warm. People burning furniture, treated wood and random household objects in their fireplace isn’t a great survival story, it’s dangerous. Treated and finished wood can give off toxic fumes, as can many household items.
While it may sound mean to say anything negative about actions people take in a crisis, it’s irresponsible for media to elevate people, doing unsafe things, as heroes. The lady who got in her car, inside her garage with her child, and ran the car to try to stay warm wasn’t a hero, she was a panicked mother making a tragic decision. She and her child died from the carbon monoxide. There were also reports in TX of people bringing their gas and charcoal grills inside and lighting them to try to stay warm.
Despite media and politicians amplifying stories like this to heighten the drama and hysteria in a crisis atmosphere, the more disturbing thing is portraying these people’s actions as heroic tales of survival, when the sad truth is, they’re more object lessons of people reacting in panic, because they weren’t adequately prepared for a cold weather emergency. Many people make no emergency preparations before bad weather events, even when the coming storms are reported several days in advance. These are the people who will likely fare worst and make panicked decisions, because they never gave any prior thought to: “What would I do if this happened?”
Since the pandemic hit last year, emergency preparedness has become something I’ve tried to learn more about. Those lockdowns and shortages of items in grocery stores served as a wake-up call for me to start assessing my emergency preparedness, because honestly, I considered most of the “prepper movement” as Domesday kooks, anti-government radicals, bunker in the backyard alarmists, and a lots of gung-ho gun & ammo preppers,
It seems a very dramatic change from the emergency preparedness my parents and most people where I grew up practiced when I was a kid (they had stopped the nuclear attack drills in schools by that time, lol). Their preparedness efforts were geared mostly to weather and natural disasters, plus the everyday emergencies, like the car breaks down and emergency first-aid skills. Now “doomsday” preppers and “survivalists” turn into media sensations and there’s a huge prepper industry selling high-priced gadgets, gears and guns, that often come attached with a lot of anti-government and far right-wing political overtones. The same thing goes for this blizzard in TX last week. I didn’t want to hear about political garbage from the green energy left or the fossil fuel right. Political leaders should have been providing useful information and focused completely on assisting efforts to help the people impacted.
In my family, I have always been the first person to get out a flashlight and have it right beside me when I hear a storm starting (or reported heading our way) and I go pull out any supplies I think we might need. Often I preemptively lit a candle or two, just in case, so we weren’t left in the dark feeling around for a flashlight, if the power goes out. LED camping lanterns have now replaced candles in our house (although I still have a lot of candles on hand, just in case).
My husband and kids used to make fun of my storm rituals, which I calmly went through, no matter what they said. I didn’t care how much that they made fun of me; I did what I thought was sensible to BE PREPARED. My family, by the way, always used the candles and flashlights I got out. However, I never considered myself a “prepper” and have had a rather negative view of the “prepper movement” that has developed in recent decades. Although, I am very conservative, I just don’t want emergency preparedness to be a political issue at all.
Since last year, my attitude about emergency preparedness changed. I don’t care if anyone calls me a kooky prepper, a hoarder, ridiculous, or stupid. I hope people all across America have this change of attitude too and start learning to be more prepared for emergencies. Being unprepared, especially with basic food, water, and supplies leaves you trying to play catch-up in a crisis environment, where people are rushing to stores and panic-buying or stores are closed due to the emergency situation.
Way back in 2012 when I started this blog, a friend, Gladius Maximus, wrote a piece, Gimme A Knife, which I’ve quoted several times since then:
I understand that folks growing up in the cities don’t have some of the outdoor opportunities that some of us have, but I am convinced that there are opportunities to develop individuality, independence, self-confidence and other survival skills without having to spend a year in the Rockies on some kind of sabbatical. Survival is more a mind-set than a setting. Attitude is everything.
Being innovative and imaginative is essential whether you’re in downtown Houston or central Nebraska. Skills of observation and patience are not natural talents, but acquired skills; both are essential and both can be acquired through discipline. The ability to reason and employ a rational, decision making process is needed in order to survive and thrive. Again, that is an acquired skill. Determination, grit if you will, is a trait to be cherished, not erased.
Gladius was right. Survival is more a mind-set, but part of that mind-set has got to be learning to stay calm in emergencies. Being prepared isn’t just about running out and buying food, water and supplies; it’s about building up some emergency preparedness knowledge and acquiring skill sets. People can survive in very formidable cold conditions, even with very few supplies:
As an outside observer to this cold weather emergency last week, sitting cozy warm in GA, I learned a lot of emergency preparedness lessons. My youngest daughter, son-in-law and 4 month old grandson live in TX and their power went out and stayed out shortly after the storm rolled in. They went to a friend, who had gas heat working, Monday afternoon, when the temperature in their house got down in the low 50s. Early Tuesday morning their power came back on, which they knew because the baby monitor over the crib came back online. It was 35 degrees in the nursery. They went back home once their house had warmed up some. My daughter told me that my grandson didn’t like being in a blanket tent in a cold house and he didn’t like sleepovers very much either. My oldest daughter and grandkids live in Indiana and they didn’t experience any problems with this storm.
Sure, it’s easy to think the people who burned furniture or lit their gas and charcoal grills in their homes, to stay warm, were idiots, but that’s not what I took away from these stories. Where I live in southeast GA, we rarely get freezing temperatures. We hardly ever use our fireplace, but we have a couple days worth of fire logs (going to buy more) in the garage. We aren’t well-prepared for a cold weather emergency either. I did a lot of googling cold weather survival information this past week. What’s become a go-to prepper source for me is The Provident Prepper YouTube channel. They have several cold weather and power outage videos. They also have a website and a book with a vast amount of emergency preparedness information :
A closing thought on the TX cold weather emergency is that surely there will be investigations into what all went wrong with their power grid in this crisis and lots to learn there. Knowing what went wrong there is important, so changes can be made to assure it doesn’t happen again. The military does after-action reviews and uses this process where leaders share information and use this information to figure out what went right and what went wrong and use those lessons learned to improve performance. Taking a little bit of time to talk to your family (if they are on board with prepping) or if you are the lone prepper in the family taking a little time to calmly assess things you did that worked, things that didn’t and unforeseen problems will help you learn and be better prepared next time. The worst thing to do is not learn anything from this weather emergency and just brush it out of mind.