, in which relatively young, relatively fit Thunder, Lightning, and Bobaloo boldly tested their grab-and-go kits on a cold January weekend. The letter writer wrote:
I have been wondering what happens to old farts like me that have congestive heart failure and type II diabetes when the SHTF [Stuff Hits the Fan]? I'm also 100 pounds overweight and I won't lie to ya I'd be dang lucky to haul a 10 pound pack around long.
Now [I've taken] several precautions ... [But i]n a SHTF scenario if we had to RUN in the woods I'd be wore out in 30 minutes or less.
Yep, I've been wondering what happens to old farts, too -- especially when a pack of 30-somethings had to abort their bug-out test and retreat to warm safety after less than one night. Or what happens to sick farts of any age who need special meds or care? What kind of short-term emergency preparations should they make?
So, over a plate of ketchup-laden homefries, scrambled eggs, waffles, syrup, bacon, and grease, I asked around.
"First of all," said Carty, "what are you planning FOR? Heck of a difference between planning for three days at a Red Cross shelter after a storm and planning for the Complete Collapse of Western Civilization."
"Yep," Nat nodded. "And this notion that ever'body has to prepare to live like Eric Robert Rudolph in an emergency -- running wild in the woods eating worms for two years -- don't make no sense."
"I'm not even eating worms for a single weekend," Bob-the-Nerd protested. "And why should I? The kind of emergency most likely to hit Hardyville wouldn't involve 'bugging out.' It would require 'bugging in' -- staying at home without power, maybe. Or bunking with neighbors for a few days after a fire."
"In a situation like that, neighbors and relatives would help," said Mrs. Nat. "Even so, it's smart to have a kit of medicines, clothes, tooth brushes and things. Even if you ended up using them at a neighbor's house, in a tent in your own backyard, or in a vehicle for a few days, you'd be glad to have a supply of your own life's conveniences."
Right. Plan first for the emergencies that are most likely to happen to you. Plan for what you are most likely to need and what you are personally capable of doing in those specific emergencies. Only after that, extend your purchases and your preparations to other scenarios.
"If you live on high ground near a flood zone or if you live not far from a city that might get hit by a terrorist attack, you've got an entirely different set of problems than the person who lives in the flood zone or the city." Dora pointed out. "Your problem might not be the need to 'bug out' but to cope with unprepared people expecting you to help them with their bug-outs."
"Yeah. You might need a shotgun to run 'em off," Carty growled.
"OR," Dora and Mrs. Nat chorused, "extra supplies to share with those in need."
"But back to being fat, unfit, and fifty," I said, just as Doc (who wouldn't be caught dead eating at the Hog Trough) walked through the front door and headed toward the feed side of the operation with a delivery of horse medicine. "What about people who have risky medical conditions or are dependent on difficult-to-store prescription drugs like insulin?"
"Ah," said Doc, turning in the doorway, "Type I Diabetes Mellitus. Insulin dependency. Did you know this is the most common condition mentioned by individuals concerned about medical preparedness? In point of fact, insulin can be kept up to 30 days without refrigeration, rendering it practical to use in even an unusually lengthy power outage or forced removal from one's home. After that, one could provide refrigeration via spring house, generator ..."
"Yeah, but getting meds for emergency storage is the hard part," Marty Harbibi objected. "Used to be a sympathetic doc could prescribe a little extra and you'd go out and fill the prescription on your own. Nowadays, with docs scared witless to 'overprescribe' anything and insurance refusing to pay for more than a month's supply at a time, you're screwed."
"Unless you buy drugs offshore," I shrugged.
"Alas," Doc sighed, "the Washington government in its dubious wisdom decrees free-market purchases of pharmaceuticals to be illegal. Outside of Hardyville, that is."
"So what isn't illegal these days?" I shrugged. "Anyhow, if you have to pay for extra drugs on your own, offshore is usually less expensive than your local gummint-approved drug dealer. Maybe that's not a way to get something delicate like insulin. But painkillers, anti-depressents, blood-pressure meds ... thousands of drugs can be gotten that way if you're willing to take the small risk of getting punished by our supposed 'protectors.'"
A silence fell as we all contemplated the many ways in which Our Glorious Leaders have "helped" us.
In the silence, Bob-the-Nerd tapped a few taps on the keyboard of his ever-present laptop and added, "Here's a PowerPoint presentation on managing diabetes for a short-term emergency. The part about carrying around your SSN on an emergency card is stupid. But the rest of it looks sensible."
Tap, tap, tap.
"And here's an emergency medical guide for yachtsmen and people caught on isolated islands.1 Heart attack ... appendicitis ... other panic-generating scenarios and how to treat them. I guess we're all 'islands' when the S hits the F." Tap, tap. "And here you go. Harvard University offers its own online family emergency medical guide. Lots of sites like these on the Net."
"Mos'ly," observed Nat, "the thing is that, whatever you've got to work with -- bad joints, bad heart, no money, and all -- you've just got to lookit your own situation, read up on how to manage it, study up on likely emergencies ... then do something, howsomever small, to be ready to take care of your own."
"And that means both laying in supplies and having a plan," his Mrs. added.
"And a backup plan," Carty nodded. "A failsafe."
"And it should be your own plan," I nodded. "No guru knows your situation as well as you know it yourself. Read up on what 'experts' recommend, but put your own reality check on everything you read."
"Okay, Fine. People get sick or old and have to deal with it," Carty barked (covertly flexing his disgustingly taut muscles). "But why the hell is anybody 100 pounds overweight? If you're carrying around 100 pounds of useless fat, drop it. And get fit."
Skinny Bob-the-Nerd nodded agreement. "Yeah. They say diet and exercise are still among the best ways to control conditions like type II diabetes. It's not all a matter of stockpiling meds.
"Not always that easy to lose weight," I protested (discreetly sucking in the five vanity pounds around my waist that I've been vainly trying to lose). "And what if you're still struggling to go from fat to fit when a disaster hits?"
"Then don't plan on having to run anywhere. Don't build your short-term emergency plan around some fantasy of playing Jim Bridger in the woods. Build it around living in your car for three days. Or camping in your backyard. Or getting to the nearest Red Cross shelter."
"And what if something happens that forces you to run? Or to camp out in horrible conditions?"
"Then you're SOL, aren't you?" Carty shrugged.
The truth is, anybody -- young, old, healthy, sick, fit, unfit -- might be SOL if the emergency that happens is vastly different than the emergency they've prepared for. ... Or if they've laid in supplies but never learned how to use them. ... Or if they've laid in supplies then let them go obsolete. ... Or if they're injured. ... Or if they can't get to their bug-out bag or other emergency-preparedness supplies. Or if they've left out some crucial item (as Thunder and Lightning left out ground pads). It happens. We can only do our best.
But the fact that nobody can plan for everything doesn't mean that we shouldn't plan for anything -- even if we aren't Ragnar Benson, Bradford Angier, or James Wesley, Rawles.
1 Unfortunately the table of supplies the author mentions in the yachting emergencies article is missing from the web posting. But most equipment and medications can be inferred from his text.
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