Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fighting To Survive

Long after the storm has passed, the fight for survival goes on. 

This is the nature of urban survival after a natural disaster. It doesn't matter whether it was a hurricane, a tornado, an earthquake, a flood, a wildfire … the aftermath is always worse than the event that caused the human suffering. The ground only shakes for a few minutes, but the chaos that follows goes on and on.

The East Coast is feeling that now. Weeks after the big storm passed through, leaving millions without power, without homes, without normal lives, the struggle continues. Residents live in cold, dark apartments or homes. Neighborhoods no longer have operational grocery stores or gas stations or laundramats or pharmacies. Some residents are afraid to leave their apartments or home after dark, so they feel trapped.

Many of the people are not prepared to take care of themselves, so they wait for the government and for utility crews and for the rebuilding of their communities. In the meanwhile, they sit and suffer the loss of services they have become accustomed to having around them, easily within reach.

One resident on Coney Island said, "It's very hard. There are no stores here anymore. There's nothing. We can't even come out of our apartments at night. We need a curfew on Coney Island."

A woman who set up a relief center to help neighbors said, "A lot of us are fighting for our lives. A lot of people are desperate. They don't know where they are getting their next meal. We are fighting among ourselves here because we are tired, and we are frustrated."

Out of all this suffering and desperation come some lessons for us. The problem is that we tend to think disasters happen only to other people, so we get complacent and fail to prepare for the day when our own world runs amok. We need to stop thinking that way, and start taking steps right now to prepare.
  • The first three letters of the word PREPARE are PRE — that means "ahead of time." We must prepare before the need arrives. When chaos strikes, the opportunity to prepare is past. 
  • Those people who don't know where their next meal is coming from were not prepared to live without an active grocery store nearby. We need to stock up on essentials like food, medications, toiletries and other things we use on a daily basis, so we could comfortably live a month or more without going to the store. 
  • The same goes for water. Store bottles and jugs of drinking water under the bed or in a closet so you don't have to suffer dehydration when suddenly the water supply is either cut off or contaminated. 
  • Have a backup cooking method available. This can be a simple camp stove and fuel canisters sufficient to keep you going for a month or more. 
  • Have backup illumination methods — candles, lanterns, flashlights. 
  • Make sure your medications are up to date and you have enough on hand that you can do without the pharmacy for a month or more. 
  • Toilet paper — what are you going to do after you unfurl the last square off the roll? Take the hint — stock up. 
  • Soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, all the things you consume daily — stock up on these items. 
  • Have a manual can opener so you can get into the food supply even if the power is out. 

The point is that we need to examine the way we live, decide what we need on a daily basis, and stock up on those items. If you are prepared, you can rest a little easier knowing that even if a disaster hits you can survive comfortably on the supplies you have set aside for just such an event.

It's the old story of the ant and the grasshopper. The grasshopper didn't concern himself with preparation, because he just refused to believe winter would come. 

But winter does come, and it's only a matter of time before it comes calling on us.


  1. There will always be people that are not prepared even though they may have a weeks advance notice in this modern age, for whatever reasons, maybe they don't think it will be that bad, and then get hit with a slammer. They shall be known as fools.

    As an experiment I bought a cheap ($1.99) 5 LED light like you would put in a pumpkin in place of a candle, and got 3 AAA batteries at the Dollar Tree for a buck.

    It's been burning for 28 hours now but is starting to dim. Conclusion, reasonable performance for three bucks.

  2. You're so right. Some folks will never catch on to the need to provide for themselves. They expect some government agency or relief organization to save them. Those who fail to prepare to take care of their own needs impose a burden on the agencies and taxpayers. There was a time when being an American meant being self-reliant and willing to help one's neighbor. Now it's all about expecting government to take care of problems.