Thursday, January 21, 2010

"Just In Case"

Haiti...

Regular commenter here at the AEC, Kathy Harrison of History Channel fame, has an excellent best seller called "Just In Case".

We bought the book last year, and have just gotten around to reading it (we have been somewhat overwhelmed by the recent additions to the family, both of whom are still in diapers). Actually, to be fair, my wife (who lived in Kobe, Japan during the 1995 earthquake that killed 7,000 people in that city and left them without water or electricity for over 3 months - this has left her very motivated to have preparations on hand) had pointed out that while our farm is about as well stocked as it gets, our florida home was not prepped at all (and we live in "hurricane alley").

Stay with me, I am getting to the point...

During the big hurricane seasons in the middle of the last decade we saw people in lines for water and food the very day after the hurricane struck. Even our officials, who normally don't require much in the way of personal responsibility, were dumbfounded that so many people did not have any ability to provide for themselves for even a few days until emergency crews could get on the ground.

Like them, I was dumbfounded too - until I spent the last few days making sure our Florida home was properly stocked:

To prepare a home for a family with children in a hurricane vulnerable area like Florida will cost between $1000 and $4000 (and that's the bear minimum; I am not talking comforts and generators and such) and will take you several days of time. In a nation with 17% REAL unemployment and ZERO savings this just ain't gonna happen, and can you imagine what would happen to food supplies, etc... if millions of people decided to have several months worth of supplies on hand? That means storing propane, food, water, fuel (gasoline or diesel), first aid, emergency lighting, etc... Our "just in time" retail distribution system has 3 days of consumption in inventory. So, even if the government sent every home a check and people actually complied with the spirit of the check, it could not be done.

The military has a saying that goes something like: "Amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics". Or as Napoleon famously quipped: "An army marches on its stomach."

Every talking head on TV gives air to the idea that the response to Haiti or Katrina or the next disaster was fumbled by incompetent, bumbling idiots... and that is not the case at all... responding to events of this magnitude is simply not going to happen in a time frame that will ensure that the next meal won't be somewhat late... or even to ensure that the next 21 meals won't be missed entirely. Think about that.

If you have children or seniors depending on you, this is something to take into consideration.

15 comments:

Donal Lang said...

One of the interesting results of the cheap-oil age is that far too many people rely on technology to make life comfortable, or even possible, in places which don't readily support humans; think far-north without cheap heating and imported food, or Las Vegas without aircon and pumped water, or Saudi without desalination.

Wealth and technology also can protect us from the worst effects of many natural disasters until the 'Big One' swipes it all sideways, usually as a kinda payback for complacency and arrogance. Like living in an underwater city in Katrina Alley! (Or maybe posh apartments on a sandbar in Florida??)

A slide into poverty will put many people in the way of disasters of all kinds, all over the World, including in rich countries. Either we need to be better prepared for them (MUCH better than Haiti or New Orleons)or accept that we can't afford to do much and turn off the TV news.

Anonymous said...

The one thing that most peeople do not understand or forgot with our food supply is that it takes time for things to grow. 3-4 months minimum during the growing season to replention stocks. Animals even longer. If a strain were to be but on the supply,i.e. warehoused food,we would most likely have months for things to return to normal. Maybe. There are numerous reasons to have a full pantry at minimum. Loss of job,hurricane,ice storm,etc. Unfortunately, I was resently chastised by people close to me for even considering such provisions. We have lost our ability to even self -preserve,sad.

Oh,I still push on though, Haiti just reminded me of that.

peace

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Young people and people without children are perhaps not as keenly aware as parents just how vulnerable we are...

The process was no big deal... in our case, all it took was $2,500 in bulk foods, $250 for 13 gallon per day gravity water purifier, and about $250 in equipment (propane stove, water tanks, propane tanks, adaptor hoses, lights, etc...) and about 2 full days of shopping (shopping is slow with 2 babies).

I am not talking crazy survival stuff here... just being able to feed and water everybody for about 6 weeks with no electricity - which is how long we were without power after Hurricane Wilma came through in 2005, and that was only a Category 1.

Of course, there were only 3 of us then.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

The real issue is that our system is not capable of providing for everybody in any big natural disaster - our retail distribution system just does not have the inventory for it...

So blaming FEMA or GWB for Katrina or BHO or the IMF for Haiti is just BEYOND silly. Life is imperfect - keep your own house in order.

Or as my late father once said: "The best thing you can do for the poor is to make sure you and your family are not one of them." Brutal, but accurate.

bureaucrat said...

Some comments on MY attempt to defend myself against a financial or other disaster when it comes to day-to-day living ...

Having a lake (like Lake Michigan) becomes a REAL asset. :) I guess I need some of those potable water tablets to clean it.

Only list I could find on foods that won't expire in storage has three items: white rice, white sugar and honey assuming there is no water in it. Food is made of water, and water evaporates, making the food stale. Even most canned goods don't last beyond 2 years. Meat in the freezer last 6 months if you're lucky. Sooo, if we are talking food here, try those sites Savinar recommends for freeze-dried food. "Mountain House" or whatever. Those cans last 25 years before they expire.

Paper goods, like paper towels, toilet paper, napkins and tissues of course never expire. I got lots of that now. :)

The hard part has always been stocking up on food, as it doesn't keep as long as people think.

Anonymous said...

B,

Right on with the expiration. I found that multiple things need to be incorporated to pull off any thing that resembles pre disaster cooking. I.E. vac packing,canning for short term usage,freezing,canned goods that rotate out.

We went through two hurricanes in the mid 90's lost electric for almost two weeks, then an ice storm hit a few years back. Some people went with out elcetric for weeks. A few tricks though and things are possible,like don't use hot water unless needed. The Water stays hot for while. There should be a course in high school for this sort of thing,like drivers ed.IMO

peace

Donal Lang said...

...and don't forget the loo paper! ;-)

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Who says long term?

Kathy has a line in her book "Organize, Acquire, Rotate".
Food goes bad, but putting together a water/food/hygeine/fuel plan for 6 weeks just ain't no big deal - IF you have the money.

The vast majority do not, hence the need for Emergency Services... but FOR PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN OR THOSE CARING FOR ELDERLY relying on the government for life support at a time like this is beyond irresponsible... the problem is, if poor people WERE responsible, they likely would not be poor... That does not mean they are less human than you - it does mean that if you have the means it would certainly help the disaster response if everyone who could afford to take care of themselves does so... I think....

bureaucrat said...

The world isn't going to collapse tomorrow, nor the next day. The Haitians were just unlucky -- they shouldn't even be there in the first place. :) It would be cheaper in the long run to declare war on Haiti, win the country in a long weekend, and rebuild it to American standards. Would cost less than this short-term, never-ending, keep 'em alive crappola. Plus with us owning Puerto Rico down there already, it would totally piss off the Castro brothers. :)

Anonymous said...

B,

That is the exact thinking that gets people into trouble. It won't happen to me or I have time...

I have told my wife before during these sort of discussions that we need a plan and don't, yet we spend more time and money on cable TV then emergency provisions. Her take was it won't happen to me.

Famous last words of many,I am sure!

Donal, paper is a huge one. Try doing ANYTHING with a dirty,you know. I always say if I am going to hell I am taking S-t paper with me.

peace

kathy said...

Oh my goodness!!!! Thank you Greg. This was so nice of you. If I could change one thing (out JICabbeyond the editorial mistakes) it would be a more pronounced emphasis on community preparedness. I think Rawles may well be a cock-eyed optimist if he believes it's possible to store enough to last for years. What we need, beyond personal preps, are communities that function and have the social capital to take care of their citizens.

Greg T. Jeffers said...

Kathy:

I have no idea what can be done in a city like Boca Raton, Fl as far as community preparation goes, but I do know for sure that we are responsible for ourselves and our families.

But I am sure of one thing - most people do not have the resources, time and/or money, to put a plan and provision together. Those that have the resources, should - but don't. I was the perfect case in point. Haiti kind of woke me up to the fact that you never know, and the farm is a long, long way from Boca Raton.

kathy said...

We agree on that. In a larger city there is some safety in anonimity but in a town as small as ours, there is nowhere to hide. We are responsible for our neighbors.

Dan said...

I can’t imagine having less than six weeks on hand. Until recently I went grocery shopping once a month and still do for everything but fresh vegetables. The more you go to the store the more you are likely to blow on junk you don’t need. Rotation is a breeze, when one side of my coffin freezer gets empty it’s time to go shopping and start eating from the other side, KISS simple. I rotate most of the pantry by shelves and it’s just as simple. When one shelf is almost empty, for some reason the freezer always seems to run out first, I move what’s left to the front of the other shelf with the same stuff.

The misses thinks I’m eccentric and lazy, which is partially true, but if I told her there were other reasons I do what I do she would probably think I was nuts as well.

On the expiration date of canned goods, it is a freshness date not a safety date, and it’s temperature dependant. If it’s in a cool area it will last longer conversely if it’s stored in a hot garage it will develop an off taste even sooner. Shouldn’t be an issue since almost all canned food tastes bad to begin with.

Dan said...

Mormons typically have an incredible amount of stored food. I think they are suppose to store a few years worth, if you are planning to go all out they would be the people to consult.

Second site listed from a search of “Mormon food storage