When Disaster Strikes
Far, far too often the word “preparedness” gets a bad rap today. September is National Preparedness Month, and the U.S. government, along with other governments world wide and at the local level take a month to encourage citizens to be prepared for varying emergency situations and disasters. Throughout our nation’s history, citizens have been encouraged to take a variety of precautions from boarding up windows during hurricanes to keeping enough clean water on hand in case of power outages, to victory gardens and other wartime mitigation measures, and even suggests you have a go bag for scenarios like wildfires where you need to go, quickly.
If you just type “National Preparedness Month” into a search engine, you should find a variety of agencies and their suggestions for emergency preparedness. It’s worth taking the time to read through them and get an idea of what kind of supplies you should keep on hand and what resources you may need. Since they have suggestions on what you need per person per day in an emergency, you can take those numbers and increase to accommodate the amount of a safety cushion you build for your family.
As a homesteader with particular life goals, we’re probably a little more prepared for emergencies than your average person. It took us nine years to get even close to growing enough food for our family for a year, and that’s not because we’re really worried about something happening, it’s because we want to live off the land. We have our areas of preparedness that we’d like to do better on. We have a lot of people come and go from our home, and so for us, being able to care for extra people is always a part of our plan, including things like having extra pillows and blankets on hand, as well as resources to share.
Today, I would really like to address this issue of being prepared to help others. So often, when we hear about preparedness, we think “What can I do to help my family survive in a disaster?” but how often do we think “How can I help others in the event of a disaster?” To be fair, I think it’s difficult enough for people to face the reality that disaster can happen at any given moment, and there’s not a whole lot we can do to prevent it from happening. No, we often can’t prevent disaster from striking, but we can take measures to make it less catastrophic.
Having gone through some unfortunate situations in life without having ever really considering the odds it could happen to me or what I’d do, I recognize the value in having a well-thought out plan: a fire escape plan, a water plan, a light plan, a heat plan, a tornado plan, a medical emergency plan… Each of these things and more could mean the difference between life and death under certain conditions.
Which Type of Person Are You?
As humans, we like to avoid thinking about disasters and worst-case scenarios, because it’s dark and depressing to think about. How would we survive a fire? What if my spouse died?… It’s not fun to think about, and what’s worse, it’s usually stuff that we’d be completely helpless in preventing in the first place. Nobody wants to feel helpless, so we think “It could never happen to me.” When bad things happen to good people, we often try to rationalize it by somehow implying that these people deserved their bad luck. We don’t think like that because we are trying to be stupid or cruel. It’s self-preservation. We do it for our sanity, often without even realizing it.
Conversely, there are those who run into disaster head-on, and when it strikes, they always look for someone to blame other than their selves. They make a life-threatening mistake due to recklessness or inattention, and rather than accept the blame they rightly deserve, they try to pass the blame to others. In terms of being prepared for disaster or hard times, it’s kind like the story of the ant and the grasshopper. I’ve read different versions of this where the grasshopper bullies the ant into sharing their food, where they try to blame the ant for their lack in lean times, and I’ve read versions where the ant is much more forgiving. In an emergency situation, people like me are the ant. I may be willing to help out, despite the fact that other people maybe could and should have gotten prepared, but not everyone like me will.
Both of these attitudes are concerning. I think there is a greater sense of trauma if you convince yourself that nothing really bad will ever happen, and if you always pass the blame, you create a trail of needless complications, and your bad attitude negatively affects those around you.
But there are plenty of people who have at least thought a little about what they would do in the event of a disaster, yet their plans have maybe not progressed because they lack the resources or money to implement their desired plan. If that’s the case, they should be talking to the people around them to see how they can get help or work with others to make those plans a reality, should it be needed.
Of course, there are those (like myself) that you know you could probably go to for help. They grow most of their own food, keep a well-stocked pantry, have a heat source that doesn’t rely on power, or they live where there are lots of free resources are available.
When Your Plan is to Rely on Others
We’ve got plenty of family and friends who have said things like “If I ever need help, I’ll come to you.” I’m glad to be a resource, and I’m happy to help. A big part of my Christian mission in life is to serve others. But I am a little concerned with things being what they are, that if disaster of some kind did strike, we could end up with at least 50 people at our door (that I know of), seeking help. How many more people could we help, if the people who would plan to seek us out would take at least one measure to be able to offer something in return? I’m not talking about attaching strings to our help, but spreading the blessings.
Think of it like the story of stone soup. We’ll pretend that we’ve got the big pot. If you bring water, and she brings salt, and he brings potatoes, and they bring carrots… before you know it, we’re able to stretch a little to feed a lot, but it comes from everybody chipping in. If, heaven forbid, some kind of disaster would strike, we would want to help as many people as we can: family, friends, neighbors, and strangers. I don’t have the resources to help that many people. But I could, if they take the time to do a little prepping of their own. It doesn’t have to be much; maybe they buy bag of rice or stock up on medicine or bottled water.
If you fall into that category of not having the right resources, or if you are struggling to confront those emergency scenarios, it’s time to reach out to the people you plan to go to if you would need help. Let them know you’ll need help BEFORE you actually need it. Let them know that they are your emergency plan. If you think you’d camp there if you lost your home, have you talked to them about it? If you want to forage of their land, have you discussed it? Do you intend to garden there next year, and if so, have you talked to them about it? Like I said before, I’m happy to help if I am able, but I will be better equipped to help if you at least take the time to have a serious discussion with me about it. The same probably goes for a lot of people who live like I do in some shape or form.
What will be far more painful for all of us is if you don’t give me any idea of your plans, and I have to say that I can’t help because I no longer have the time, space, resources, or ability to help you. There could be a lot of hard decisions to make in a disaster, like how to ration food, clothing, heat, blankets, medicine, or more. Yes, I can probably make some adjustments if an unexpected face shows up, but the more people I know would intend to seek my help, the better equipped I will be to handle that situation. Even though I suspect we could have upwards of 50 people show up in the event of a disaster, only a handful have actually had a serious conversation with me about that possibility. And depending on what’s needed, I’m not currently equipped to help 50+ people.
What Will You Contribute?
Even if you need to rely on others in a disaster, consider what you do have to offer. Maybe it’s your time, some resources or materials you have, a skill, or maybe you have things you can barter with. When hurricanes and fires and tornadoes hit, we hear news stories of how somebody shared their supply of rice, or handed out blankets they made, or watched the children while others worked on cleanup and repairs or somebody was in the hospital. They make mittens and hats when the bad weather hits, or pass out the soap that they make as a side job, or maybe they help tend to the sick or injured.
Perhaps you do have the money to get prepared, but you don’t have the time or energy. If you’re older, maybe that’s not something you are physically equipped for, or you’d like your children to help you out. If your job doesn’t allow you time to prepare, somebody else might be able to do a bit of the legwork for you if you pay them or donate extra resources to their emergency preparedness plan.
Why This Matters Now
I sure hope that things stabilize and we don’t need the preps we make, but personally, I don’t really want to take the risk of not being prepared. I know what that feels like, and it’s not fun! Just watching the weird weather phenomena in recent months (like tornadoes in northern Italy or the record-breaking flash floods in Europe) is enough for me to want to take some extra precaution. But the economy is rocky, inflation is rising quickly, and things aren’t exactly stable world-wide, so it feels like maybe it’s wise to do a little extra, just in case.
I hope you’ve been able to come up with some kind of a plan in the last year, and I hope you (like myself) continue to grow that plan! If you haven’t already started discussions within your family, friends, or community about how to handle different emergency situations, especially if you are counting on others for help, I hope you will begin opening dialogue about it.
There’s a needless stigma associate with the word “preparedness”, but we shouldn’t let that stop us from talking about it or from making a plan. People throughout history have taken steps to prepare for the coming seasons, coming disaster, and more. They stored up food, readied their homes for winter, came up with plans as a community, and we should too.
If you would like discuss this more, you can reach out to us through our contact page, or leave a comment!
Love and Blessings~ Danielle
Well written. Keep up the good work and keep encouraging everyone! You know we’re here for you too!
Spring Lake Homestead
Thanks for the sobering reminder. I basically live week to week… sometimes day to day. We have no real emergency plan and also no one to go to either.
Spring Lake Homestead
Don’t be discouraged! It can feel daunting to begin, and like you do not have the money or the resources, but you may be surprised once you begin. For under $5, you can start doing little things. Start with a 72 hour plan. Try getting ahold of a 5 gal. bucket with a lid. You can get these for free from bakeries and delis sometimes, and if not, you can pick them up for $3 or less in most hardware stores. A bucket is a great place to store dry goods like rice and flour. Just keep things bagged if the bucket is not food-grade.
As for having no one to go to, remember, you can work with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, or church members. Just because you don’t feel like you know somebody with a lot of resources doesn’t mean you can’t work within your community to come up with a good plan. Feel free to email me if you want to brainstorm more ideas!