We should just forget about TSHTF. Just plain forget about it.
Yesterday I mentioned survival gurus who make our heads spin with elaborate, daunting, expensive advice. Newbies — and too many non-newbies — read this stuff and simply freeze: “If preparedness is that hard, I can’t do it!”
But the head spinning isn’t all the gurus’ doing.
Watch: Any discussion of preparedness among ordinary, aware people is likely to leap rapidly to this assumption (I exaggerate only slightly): “The S hits the F. The zombies attack. If you don’t have your own private Maginot Line, you die. If you survive you have to eat dehydrated fruit galaxy and/or protect your home-grown string beans from marauders for the rest of your life!”
You see it time and again. In thinking about preparedness, people leap straight from kits and plans for routine emergencies to the zombie apocalypse. Boom! Nothing in between.
And of course, preparing for the apocalypse is more than most of us can handle. People love to speculate about it. But as a motivator for practical planning, it’s usually a distraction.
So let’s just forget the you-know-what and the fan and the zombies and all of that.
The first questions in setting preparedness priorities are:
1. “What bad things are most likely to happen to me?” and
2. “What do I need to cope with that?
We often think quite sensibly about short-term emergencies. We can wrap our brains and our budgets around making plans and building kits to deal with hurricanes, winter storms, fires, vehicle breakdowns, earthquakes and such. Even governmental advice can be helpful there.
We’ve talked about bug-out bags, vehicle emergency kits and such before. Blessedly, more and more people are getting wise to the need for such things. It’s after that that preparedness falters.
So what’s the next most likely problem we need to prepare for — after prepping for short-term emergencies?
No, clearly it’s not the arrival of zombies on our front porch. It’s not the need for picking off starving city dwellers with a .308 or hand-to-hand combat to keep our neighbors from raiding our veggie garden.
Hm. What might it be …?
- We lose our job and can’t find another
- We get sick and can’t support ourselves or our family
- We get sick and can afford to support ourselves, but the budget hurts
- Food prices double
- We have to take in grandchildren or other (expensive) relatives
- Our old car breaks down and we don’t have the money to fix it
- A drought or a season of excess rain or some other unknown limits our income
- A strike somewhere makes certain goods hard to get
- Fuel prices triple
- A natural disaster has harsher or more long-lasting consequences than we anticipated when we built our three-day kits or our one-week kits
- We have to make an urgent, unexpected trip
- A nationwide depression is here to stay
You can probably think of dozens more life difficulties that fall between one-week kits and zombies. Something happens that makes life just a little — or a lot — more difficult than it presently is. We face the need to cope. Those are the things most of us should focus on preparing for.
And how do we prepare? I hate to disappoint the drama-gurus, but as often as not the biggest part of the solution (and certainly the beginning of the solution) is something as simple as: Look around. See what you need to maintain a decent existence even when things go slightly south. Gradually build up a supply of everyday essentials. Get out of debt. Set aside an emergency cash stash.
Oh my, that is nowhere near as exciting as going out and shopping for that Super Whiz-Whacker 3000 long-range rifle. But it’s also less daunting. And less difficult than many of the uber-cool solutions the gurus present us with.
Re-roof your house with metal so you can better collect rainwater?
Only if your house needs a new roof. Otherwise, there are less elaborate ways to handle water supply.
Move across country to some “safe” redoubt?
Only if you already know you don’t want to be where you are or have specific, realistic reason to believe you’re in unacceptable danger in your present location.
Build a bunker?
Only if you want a bunker or really, really, really think a bunker will help you get through a situation you’re likely to face.
Buy 40 off-grid acres?
Only if you’re pretty sure you really want to live like that. (Been there, done that, and while it has its virtues, it’s not as easy as online yammerheads say.)
Collect military weapons?
Terrific if you happen to like military weapons.
Elaborate, expensive, high-tech, uber-paranoid preps are fine. I have nothing against them for those who have the time, the money, the desire, the skills, the inclination, the degree of alarm, or whatever else it takes. If I were a bazillionaire, I’d live in a bunker, too. Surrounded by 50,000 acres of woods and an electrified fence with razor-wire on top.
But first things first. If you are a newbie to preparedness or a person with a low income or a lot of existing obligations and commitments, believing that you need to do a thousand fancy, expensive things is likely to keep you from doing the dozen or two things that would give you some modicum of security and comfort in tough times.
We need to stop focusing on planning for the worst, most scary, most intimidating eventuality.
We need to begin putting our money, energy, planning and time toward the most realistic eventualities.
Basic preparedness can be done anywhere. It can be done on virtually any budget.
It can be done with some simple home canning. Buying in bulk. Making a hunting trip that puts venison in the freezer. Spending $5 extra on canned goods every time you go to the grocery store. Or squeezing $100 a month out of expenses to pay a little extra toward the credit cards or stuff into an envelope.
It can be done by buying a generator just big enough to keep your freezer running a few hours a day when the power’s out. It can be done by keeping a few 5-gallon containers of gas around (treated with Sta-Bil and rotated, of course). It can be done with monthly trips to the dollar store, where they have low-cost bags of nuts, emergency candles, $1 jars of pickles and condiments, first-aid items, soaps, shampoos, bleach, vinegar, and cleaning supplies. It can be done by gardening. By taking advantage of two-for-one sales.
It can be done by making sure your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are working. By installing a couple of security cameras.
It can be done by taking the old, unfancy pistol or shotgun you already have and making sure it’s ready to use and that you and everybody in your family knows how to use it.
It can be done by being a good neighbor and knowing who’s likely to be a good neighbor to you.
All those things will get you farther than longing after some of the big, cool expensive stuff recommended by the more out-there “experts.”
Do those things fight zombies? No. But then, what are the chances you actually need to fight zombies? Or live the rest of your life off #10 cans of dehydrated and freeze-dried foods?
I’ll tell you, it takes a heck of a lot to reduce society to that level. Even during the Black Plague in Europe, that kind of savagery was rare. During the Weimar hyperinflation, life went on (as Erich Maria Remarque — who was there — described in The Black Obelisk, a not-great novel but a vivid picture of how people in Germany went about their daily business as they struggled to recover from war and their economy collapsed around them).
Prepare first for what you’re most likely to experience.
Once you get into that habit, you’ll have a better basis for preparing for anything else.
Tomorrow: The Rule of Threes and why our individual priorities may be different than what somebody else considers “obvious.”