Having a Plan

It seems that there’s a misguided notion of what it means to have a plan for an emergency, worst-case scenario. Having a plan for a worst-case scenario does not mean that you are afraid of what might come. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have faith in God to look out for you. It doesn’t mean you want or are expecting “the apocalypse” to come. In fact, it surprises me how resistant so many people are to the idea of coming up with a plan for such a situation, and have the naïve notion of “it could never happen to me.”

I don’t mean to sound like I am picking on anybody, because I am not. I just don’t know how else I can bring this subject up without explaining why it’s so important for people to start taking this situation we find ourselves in more seriously. If anything, I am sharing from the perspective of a person who has repeatedly found myself unprepared in a situation I could/should have been better prepared for.

I can’t speak for the rest of the nation or even my state for what people were taught growing up, but as a kid in school, I learned how to avoid dangerous people, how to partake in a fire drill, how to put out a kitchen fire or get help, stop-drop-and-roll, we learned how to do CPR and the Heimlich maneuver, we had tornado drills… and then we practiced some of those things at home. We came up with a tornado plan, discussed what we’d do if there was a fire, we had a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors. We see it as vital to have plans for such scenarios. We know they could happen, and even if we never have to go through those scenarios, we at least have a plan to better ensure our safety and the safety of others.

And yet, despite the fact that our own government encourages people to keep a pantry stocked with food for at least two weeks, we are encouraged to have a “go bag,” to have enough money in savings for several months in the event of a job loss, it’s not taught in school. People don’t take it seriously. Maybe that’s because where I live, we are relatively free from major disasters and turmoil. We aren’t a coastal state, so hurricanes aren’t an issue. We don’t live in a state with earthquakes. Wildfires are a rare occurrence, and even though we’ve had the occasional run-in with tornadoes, it’s not something that we have to deal with on the scale of those who live in “tornado alley.”

The CDC might focus specifically on health and natural disaster emergency plans, but FEMA has a more thorough checklist of things you should have planned out, including terrorism. I know a lot of people tend to think that the fire department, EMTs, police officers, and government will take care of us if there is an emergency, but that’s a short-sighted view of things. It’s true that in most circumstances, yes, those groups of people will do what they can to help, but it’s our duty to our families, friends, and neighbors to be well-prepared and ready to help.

Having a plan isn’t about being afraid for the worst, it’s about being prepared for the worst, because if the worst happens, you can help your community prevent, protect, mitigate, respond, and recover. Prevention is like teaching people fire safety. They know how to be safe around fire, and watch for things that could be hazardous. Protection is like having a fire extinguisher in your home. Mitigation is like knowing how to do CPR… you can reduce the chance of death or injury by knowing how to do it, and it can help you to better help somebody in the future. Having a response is like having extra food and blankets in your home to be able to care for the needs of your neighbors if you are all stranded because of a blizzard. And recovery is how you plan to fix things when everything is over. The recovery from the fire in our chicken coop has been a slow one, but in the days after it burned down, we came up with a plan as to what we would do going forward. From clean-up to rebuilding.

It’s never foolish to have a plan for a worst-case scenario. It doesn’t mean we live our lives in dread and fear of what could happen. Having a plan means that we help ease the work load of our fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, doctors and nurses, our government, and yes, even our nation’s armed forces. Are we keeping our communities calm? Do they know that we can count on each other to build one anther up? Do your neighbors trust you if there’s an emergency, and do you trust your neighbors? Panic makes people act irrationally, or not at all. People feeling isolated and alone are vulnerable to depression and it’s dangerous side-effects. If we feel we are always competing with each other, it builds resentment, not trust.

I’m happy to see so many people around the country stepping up to help their communities right now. It’s a wonderful thing. And I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I know that here in the U.S., when disaster strikes, we witness an outpouring of compassion and of help. That’s how we get through something like “The Great Toilet Paper Crisis of 2020.”

While it’s great that people are being hopeful and helpful, we still need to do more, and it starts with you and your family, in your own home. How ready are you for the next wave of hardship? Because it’s coming. We still haven’t seen the peak of the Coronavirus in the U.S. People will be out of work for months. Despite the stimulus package that is slated to arrive in the next month, it’s not going to be enough for those who will have to be out of work for months. We can’t sustain to have millions of workers in the United States be unemployed for months on end. So the questions you need to consider are: how prepared are you? And what will you do to help your neighbors?

I could be wrong… things could turn around quickly. But if we watch what is happening in other countries and the especially hard-hit areas of our country, we can figure out how long this might take. I know people want to look to China for answers, but it is so obvious that they have not been forthcoming with information that we need to be watching how this plays out in other places. There has never been something quite like this to play out in the history of the U.S. or the world. Yes, we can see how things were handled in 1918, but it doesn’t completely compare. We are far more of a nationalized country than we were then. States are trying to ban people from New York from crossing their boarders because of the scale of the epidemic in New York.

It might not affect us here in rural Wisconsin in the same way as it will in Chicago just a few hours south, or how it’s hitting Milwaukee just an hour south. But it’s still impacting us, and it will continue to impact us, so we should have a plan.

What is your plan for food if your food supply chain continues to be further disturbed? We all saw what happened a week or two ago. Shelves across the nation were wiped clear of food on a scale we’ve never witnessed before. People who got to the store too late couldn’t pick up some of the things they planned to get. For families with kids that normally go to school during the day, they are realizing just how much their children would eat if they were home full-time. People who eat at dine-in restaurants regularly can’t go eat their regular meals. For now, drive-thru and delivery continue to be an option, but pretty soon, they might not be.

If your job is possibly on the line right now, what will you do about food when the paycheck stops coming in? What if trucks have to stop running? I know they are doing everything they can to keep the wheels in motion, but there isn’t a guarantee that our truckers don’t get sick, or that a business gets hit with Covid-19 hard enough that they have to shut their doors. Do you have a plan for that? How well-stocked is your pantry? Do you know how to cook or bake? Do you have plans for a garden this year? Do you know how to preserve the food you grow?

What is your plan for health care if you aren’t comfortable going in to see a doctor? Do you have your GP, pediatrician, hospital, or specialist’s phone number easily accessible? Did you know that you can often speak to a doctor or a nurse and ask questions so you do not have to come in and get sick during flu season, or bring an illness in that might be treated from home? Do you have your basic first-aid kit at home? (Band-aids, peroxide or alcohol for cleaning wounds, ice packs, wraps, and pain medications…) Do you have your normal medications at home? Seasonal allergies are almost upon us here in Wisconsin, and before all this started, I picked up my allergy medicines so that I wouldn’t run out when things were crazy. If you don’t have the basics on hand, pick up a few things the next time you have to go grocery shopping.

What is your financial plan if you are out of work, or could see yourself out of work in the coming months? We can’t just count on unemployment or a government stimulus to take care of our financial needs. It’d be wise to maybe cut out non-essentials from your life for awhile if you need to start building a savings buffer. Cook from scratch, stop getting delivery, don’t rent a bunch of movies online, cancel the subscriptions… We have to be careful with this however, since everybody cancelling things all at once would only further the problems we are about to face.

It’s a good time to reassess your budget. If you have activities or things that you would normally be doing right now and paying for, save that money for harder times ahead, or better yet, start investing it into things that could help your family for when the hard times come. There are a ton of great blogs, articles, and books out there to help you make changes. I’d definitely recommend reading Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey if you need to reassess your budget.

And as much as I hate to even bring it up, do you have a plan for the safety and well-being of your family if things got out of control? How secure is your home? Do you have locks on your doors and windows? Do you have a basic self-defense plan? Do you carry pepper spray or some other self-defense tool, or know any simple moves for protection against an attacker?

If the area you live in doesn’t feel safe, do you have a place you can go that is safer, and will you be able to get there in time? Like I said before, there has been talk about completely banning New Yorkers from leaving the state. It’s already been met with a lot of backlash, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen and isn’t happening. Florida is already taking steps against New Yorkers, and while Rhode Island made certain threats, they have walked those threats back a bit. My point is, do you feel safe where you are? If you don’t, do you have the ability to leave without risking spreading an infection you might not know you have? Do you have family or friends or do you or they have another home where you could ride things out, particularly if you are off of work?

There’s some backlash against the wealthy who are leaving highly infected areas because they are traveling to areas where the hospital systems aren’t meant to take care of such large numbers of people, and if they bring in a virus, it could overwhelm their system. But I think it’s understandable that somebody with health issues might consider finding a safer place to “shelter-in-place.” Families with single, adult children are seeing some of those children come home to live with mom and dad because they are out of work, and honestly, it might be better for the mental well-being of such people to be with their family.

And of course (this ties into having a medical plan), are you ready for the possibility of you or a family member to get sick from Covid-19? I would assume most states have a page similar to the one Wisconsin has specifically for this situation, so if you are living in another state, take the time to look it up and keep up with the news.

I completely understand that this whole situation is overwhelming for just about everybody. It feels easier to say “I’m not going to read the news, it’s too depressing overwhelming.” or “It makes me too agitated.” I get it, but being ready to properly protect your family is really important, so it’s important for you to stay informed. Remember, there is a lot more at play here than just being sick. This is going to affect our economy , it’s affecting morale, and it could have a domino effect into our lives that I know most people can’t even begin to think about.

Well, I hope that wasn’t too depressing or frustrating to think about. Start going over your plan. Identify what areas you are lacking, and come up with a plan to fix it. What is your home protection plan? What is your food plan? What is your power outage plan? What supplies do you need to get to help you or your family be better prepared? Do you need to get a first-aid kit? Do you need to stock up your pantry? Could you start saving money? Do you have a fire extinguisher? I know that it might seem silly to prepare for everything all at once. A fire extinguisher might not seem too important right now, but that’s beside the point.

A worst-case scenario means you are prepared for just about anything. If possible, take care of the items most pertinent to the situation we are in right now (probably food and medicine/emergency kit), and from here on out, work on filling out the other areas you feel you are lacking as you are able to. It shouldn’t make you feel stressed if you find that you don’t have any kind of plan for most emergency situations. Just start making a plan.

If you have questions about how you can get better prepared, feel free to leave your questions in the comments. If you disagree with me, that’s okay, too, and you can feel free tell me. What I keep telling people is that it doesn’t hurt to have a plan, but it might cost you everything if you don’t have one. This goes for all emergency situations, not just for the current situation that we find ourselves in…a fire, a tornado, a choking person… It’s like the saying “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of the cure.”



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