You're Likely A Lot Less Prepared For Crisis Than You Realize

by Chris Martenson, Peak Prosperity:

It seems as if Mother Nature is waking up. Either she's trying to send humans an important warning, or perhaps she's just out to kill us all.

Massive storms across the globe, earthquakes, and collapsing ecosystems all combine to remind us that we are indeed intimately connected to our planet's natural systems. And that our well-being rests on staying on Mother Nature's good side.

Well, Mother Nature has seemed pretty pissed at us of late. Her recent punishments should be taken as a disciplinary wake-up call: It's time.

It’s time to prepare, everyone. Way past time.

And it’s time to recognize that there are multiplying failure points across the many systems we depend on for our way of life -- both natural and man-made. For example:

  • The wealth gap between the rich and the poor is now grossly obscene and yet still growing wider.
  • Our industrially-farmed soils are being depleted of their nutrients.
  • Species are going extinct every single day.
  • Global oil consumption ticks higher every year.
  • Stock price overvaluation is about the highest it's ever been.
  • Bonds have never been more expensive (i.e. yields have never been lower) in all of recorded history.
  • Debt levels have never been higher (both globally and, in most cases, locally).
  • The planet's population continues to explode (7.5 billion today, 10 billion by 2050) while key resources deplete at accelerating rates.

Only the foolish, or the seriously self-deluded, would think that these observations and trends will be consequence-free. 

Which means we have to begin doing things very differently. We have to change who we are, the actions we take, the investments we prioritize, and even our most fundamental values and priorities.

However most people simply will not prepare, not notice, and not change anything until they are forced to by crisis. And even then, some will resist any notion of change until they’ve lost everything.

The recent destructive hurricanes have been literally and figuratively instructive in this regard.

When To Stay And When To Go

The first lesson we learned from the hurricanes was this: Stay if you can, leave sooner than everyone else if you cannot.

Evacuating has a host of problems for those caught up in the exodus. Traffic jams, lack of fuel along the route, and having to drive for many hours only to end up in a distant hotel in a town probably not ready for a massive influx of people are just a few of the stresses. Living out of hotels and away from your job is also very expensive, especially for a nation where more than 75% live from paycheck to paycheck.

As the people of the Florida Keys learned with Irma, once you’ve evacuated, you're then unable to return until authorities have decided you can, creating enormous stress for people who want to check on their properties and (possibly) pets left behind, put tarps over damaged roofs, etc. The lesson many claimed to have learned from that experience was to not evacuate in the first place.

After reading enough accounts of people who regretted evacuating, coupled to the relatively low loss of life even in places like Dominca that took the full brunt of a Cat 5 hurricane where people live in less-than-ideal structures (flimsy, wood frame, tin roof affairs), it would take quite a lot for me to decide to not ride out a storm.

I’d have to have some special mitigating factors to impel me to evacuate -- like tall trees next to my house, being in a flood plain or near a flimsy dam or dyke, or having special needs people under my care who might need electricity or other services to remain alive.

I’ve never sat through a Cat 5 storm, so perhaps I’d change my mind if I ever did. All reports are it's an extremely terrifying experience: loud, violent, and seemingly endless. But I’m pretty confident that I’d choose to wait out a Cat 3 or lower in my house.

That said, I'd have a pre-arranged and well-defined evacuation plan in place, just in case. The experiences shared below have convinced me of the high value of doing so.

Getting Prepared Beforehand

We've had several PeakProsperity.com members write in who were in the direct paths of Harvey and Irma and came out from the storms OK. One best practice they shared in common was they were already fully stocked with emergency provisions well before the hurricanes even began forming way out in the Atlantic. These were folks who had prioritized being prepared for *whatever* future disaster might arise.

Despite this, they still experienced some surprises. No matter how well prepared you think you are, reality has a way of exposing your overlooked weaknesses.

Here's an account from one of our readers (Rector):

We live south of Corpus Christi and Harvey just missed our area. We began the usual fire drill of preparing for the hurricane, but it veered north just in time. Bizarrely the follow-on weather was delightful - sunny, crisp, and breezy - while the rest of the gulf coast became an apocalyptic nightmare. As I watched the news I was painfully aware of how close we came to being flooded, displaced, and disrupted.

As a card-carrying member of the Peak Prosperity Preparer's Club - I came to the realization that Chris articulated - nothing can prepare you for this kind of Black Swan event. No matter what - losses will occur. My takeaways after being grazed by the Harvey bullet are (so far):

1. Be prepared to accept refugees. Family members are on the way (I think). At this point they are without resources and fractured. Dad is a cop and cannot leave Houston. We are happy to accept them into our home - but it wasn't exactly planned. In a wider emergency the same might happen and I will say yes then too. I need to expand my preparations for the likelihood of more people camping out with us. Turning everyone away outside of a pandemic scenario is not an option (really). What's the point of all this anyway if you can't help people?

2. Being 5% prepared is WAY better than zero. As I watch people in Houston it has occurred to me that I need a boat. I live on a body of water which has flooded before and will flood again. I built my home well above the flood plain - but Harvey just made a joke out of that math. As I watch people wade in chest deep water while others float by in boats; I'm buying a boat. Today.

3. Being prepared is great! I needed to do NOTHING to get ready for the hurricane at my home. Turns out that was really helpful because my time was spent getting other people and places prepared. All of my employees (save one) asked for the day off (to get their homes ready) leaving me alone in my preparations. Thankfully I didn't have to waste time at the gas pump, ATM, or the grocery store.

4. Evacuation plans are a real priority for me now. With four kids my mental default position has been to "hunker down". "We don't evacuate for hurricanes here" has been the attitude because we are prepared and have always done well. Harvey has demonstrated this is NOT ALWAYS POSSIBLE.

I will now focus my considerable prepping energy to developing a viable evacuation strategy. Not an overland hike in ghilli suits - but a real strategy to get this group of people somewhere else quickly and safely. Routes in every direction. A list of destinations. Checklists for packing, securing, and evacuating. Documentation, asset relocation, etc. I am even going to develop a plan to go into Mexico. I had a day and a half between threat presentation and expected landfall. Some events may present even less time.

5. I need to be able to execute a plan at less than 100%. As luck would have it, I pulled a muscle at CrossFita week before and would have needed to do all the above while limping around in pain. I represent the lion's share of muscle power for the family - but can they execute in my absence or incapacity? Hmm. . . not ready for that.

6. It is possible for two bad things to happen at the same time. The financial crisis could begin, North Korea could strike, or any of the other crap I worry about could commence at any moment. WHILE LIVING IN A FEMA SHELTER because I hadn't planned on evacuating. Am I ready to execute trades, etc. while in that shape? Hmm. . . not ready for that either.

I am thankful that we were spared the apocalypse but it has (again) identified holes in my plan that are the result of false premises. Challenge yours because you just can't make this stuff up.

Rector

(Source – Peak Prosperity)

So many lessons packed into that experience! Huge thanks to Rector for sharing that all with us. The part that really caught me and made me rethink my entire levels of preparation centered around just how unprepared I would be if I had to completely bug out and leave my home behind.

Harvey (and Katrina) showed that sometimes you have to do just that. So has Maria, which is going to leave parts of Puerto Rico without power for possibly several months, maybe as long as half a year.

Would you be willing to live without power in a tropical climate without power for 6 months? I wouldn’t. Just keeping food from spoiling would be a hard challenge, but just one of many -- including sleeping without A/C or fans (or rather trying to sleep I should say).

The other important lesson to take from Rector and other like him is that if preparing beforehand is comparatively easy. But during a crisis? It becomes very hard and sometimes impossible. Another reader account, this one from Morpheus who was in the direct path of Irma for time, confirms this:

I live in Palm Beach City Florida and right now both the US and European forecasting models have a Cat 4/Cat-5 eyewall slamming right into my house.

Maybe not as bad as a currency collapse, but it will be worse for me. Anyways, to make a long story short, we think that we are well prepped, at least we thought so.

But crisis' of this magnitude get you to think even deeper than you normally would. And boy o' boy, I wish I had thought deeper.

We're better prepped than 99% of the population out there but now all that procrastination over the years is grating on me like sandpaper.

Ohh the easy things that I could have done a month ago, 6 months, a year ago.

(Source – Peak Prosperity)

The message is clear: Even for those who think they are well-prepared, a true emergency can shine a harsh light on your shortcomingsThe best time to prepare is as far beforehand as you can manage.

The vast majority of people will ignore this message. Take this story that made the rounds during Irma:

Like many Floridians racing to buy food and supplies before the arrival of Hurricane Irma, Pam Brekke found herself miles from home today, desperately hoping to score a generator.

According to ABC affiliate WFTV-TV, Brekke, a Sanford, Florida, resident, had spent days waiting for empty shelves to be restocked and searching for a generator.

She said today that she'd traveled more than 30 miles to Orlando to a Lowe's Home Improvement store that had received a surprise shipment of a little more than 200 generators.

Within two hours, however, the generators were sold out and Brekke, who had been next in line, was empty-handed.

A heartbroken Brekke then began to cry. Ramon Santiago, who had gotten one of the generators but had not purchased it yet, noticed and insisted that she take his.

"She needs the generator," Santiago told WFTV-TV. "It's OK."

Brekke shared with Santiago that it was her ailing father who needed the generator to power his oxygen supply.

(Source)

A heartwarming story to be sure, and we can all applaud Mr. Santiago for his actions, but it's also an instructive tale that reveals the extent to which many people fail to think through their plans until forced to.

An imminent hurricane should not be a required prompt to begin thinking about scoring a generator. Look, if I had an ailing parent that required electricity in order to survive, hurricane threat or not, you can bet I would have back-up power already on site and thought through. Hey, sometimes the power goes out. Hurricane, blown transformer, or errant squirrel. It's insane to think it will always be available, uninterrupted, 100% of the time. 

So while this story had a happy ending, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

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