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What happens when the sky looks like this? Here in the midwest, we get severe thunderstorms and tornados in the summer and snowstorms in the winter. Maybe you live in an area prone to hurricanes and there’s a storm coming. Maybe you’re traveling or camping off the beaten track and the weather comes on suddenly. Maybe you’re at home and the lights go out. What are you going to do?
Severe weather and natural disasters are the most common challenges you may want to be prepared for. What are some of the others? Instead of making up hypothetical situations, let’s examine ones we already know happen in the real world.
- Weather events such as: hurricanes, tornadoes, ice storms, snow storms, and derechos. These events happen and they can cause tremendous damage and lead to (usually) short-term loss of services that we take for granted and in some case are critical to our survival. These include utility power outages, water service outages, outages in natural gas infrastructure and short-term stress on the supply chain and availability of food staples and possibly medicine. The effects can be local, or in some rare cases impact an entire region.
- Medical emergencies such as trauma from auto accidents, criminal attack or animal attacks/bites, falls or the aforementioned natural disasters. Other emergencies arise from chronic illness or other disease. Here in the United States our healthcare and emergency medical infrastructure is second to none, but if we couple these emergencies with other factors these systems can be be taxed beyond capacity. The recent Covid19 pandemic is a perfect example.
- Supply chain failure. I think this was once considered a very unlikely event. The Covid19 pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in the globalization of economic systems and the risks of just-in-time inventory models in manufacturing. Being out of toilet paper is unpleasant. Being out of supply when it comes to food, medicines and baby formula could be it’s own kind of disaster.
- Man-made disaster. The war in the Ukraine is the most recent illustration of how human-kind makes its own disasters. But even civil unrest can be dangerous. We have seen time and again criminal violence and looting in the wake of a natural disaster or during riots and violent protest. Couple a natural disaster, with attendant power outages or shortages of basic supplies and human nature can turn unpleasant and even dangerous quickly. We’d like to think the best of our fellow men, friends and neighbors but when people start to go hungry and feel threatened our sense of community tends to tighten up a bit.
Faced with these very real possibilities there are many folks who simply have no response. In many cases we expect someone else (the government, relief agencies etc…) to take care of us. In the days of maximum convenience, everyone has a mobile phone, and when things go wrong, we expect that we will call someone who will come and make it all better. But current events are highlighting the fact that sometimes help is not simply a phone call away. In a disaster or at the height of the pandemic the every-day resources of first-responders were overwhelmed. Sometimes help was not forthcoming and resources were simply not available.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic those who focused in any way on preparedness were objects of curiosity, at best or suspicion and derision at worst. This may be changing. Popular opinion about preparedness at some level, is changing. Take for example this article in ‘The Atlantic’.