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Western Washington Disaster Prepardness

This page was last updated: March 26th, 2020 19:00 PST

Lessons learned from playing the far.

We are now about 3 weeks in this thing as of March 23rd...well, at least since it became apparent that we were all screwed anyway. The situation continues to change daily and while I don't know where we stand, I'm pretty sure it is not even close to half-time. Since we are all pretty much sitting in self-quarantine, it’s a good time to reflect on what we have done right and what we would have done differently. I'll will go through a few of my thoughts and some experiences here and I encourage you to do some self-evaluation as we go. These are not listed in any particular priority.

Lesson one: You do not get to pick the disaster, nor the time and place

For most of you who identify as "preppers", this is game day! That is, this is what you have trained and prepared for. Sure, it's not the zombie apocalypse that we have all dreamed about (admit it!), but it is a disaster none the less. The lesson here is mainly that the epidemic/pandemic scenarios' are very, very different than many of the other more destructive disasters we could face. Preparing for the "Full RIP 9" is one thing, but it doesn't translate over as well to the current one.

This is both better and worse. The nature of this disaster is such that there is no infrastructure damage to contend with. You can still go to the store and buy things (maybe not toilet paper) and you can get a pizza or Thai food delivered. You can still get gas, and the Internet works. Amazon is still delivering, albeit with some delays.

What further makes this disaster different is the duration and intensity. Looking back to the disaster continuum, "most" events have a very short duration and have a relatively fixed intensity of an appropriate amount based on the disaster. Then the recovery time falls into a fairly well defined recovery period.

Of course, the “bigger” the disaster or event, the rarer or less likely it is to occur, but the more disruptive it will be…An epidemic generally falls in the "severe event" category while a pandemic falls into the "catastrophic event". Further, the pandemic increases in intensity AND duration as times goes on. That is until a vaccine can be developed or an 'R naught' of <1 is obtained. So that means we are still in the actual disaster window and nowhere near the recovery phase. It also means that as long as we are not in recovery, the longer the recovery phase will be. Even if we got a cap on the virus today, we would be looking at months if not years of recovery for the economic damage that has been inflicted.

There are not too many disasters that match this type of event.

Lesson two: This disaster is just as much about self-preservation as any other disaster, just the method is different.

As the situation is now, we have four groups of people.

Group 1: The frontline troops

These are the healthcare works, doctors, nurses, paramedics, 1st responders, virologists, and epidemiologist that are battling this monster for all of humanities sake.

Group 2: "essential" personal.

These are the people that are keeping the lights on like people working for the power companies, telecommunications, the gas service attendant, the grocery store clerk, etc. These are the people that are working, at great personal risk to themselves, to keep society functioning. That also means the delivery drivers.

Group 3: The Victims

This group should be obvious. They are the sick and the dead. This also includes the high risk people that will likely die if infected.

Group 4: The rest of us.

This is the group where most of us fall into. It is our duty to honor the groups 1, 2, and 3 by staying away from them. Stay at home. Self-quarantine, etc.

Part of the prepper ethos dates back to 500 BC with Aesop's fables and the tale of the ant and grasshopper. Everyone should know this story. The difference here is our neighbors are not going to come steal your food (at least, not yet) as they can go to the store and buy whatever they need (at least, for now). So this is a "peace time" disaster. There is no major contention for resources. The water is still running, you can still watch Netflix. As preppers though, we are generally ready for this situation to change to an adverse one. In the meantime, self-preservation and protecting ourselves and families is basically 'stay at home'.

Lesson three: General preparedness is not enough

As it turns out, a pandemic requires special sets of supplies and skills. Who knew? Well, most of us did know, but like all things, we are limited by our resources. Not everyone can stockpile all the supplies we need for all situations. I've stressed over the years that knowledge is the best investment for your preps. That is, you could spend $100's of thousands of dollars on supplies, but a full RIP 9 and the associated liquefaction could swallow it all up deep underground. Now what? At least if you have knowledge, you can carry on. Of course, given a choice, I will take my stockpiles of supplies. For a pandemic, knowledge is great, but as it turns out, having a core set of supplies would have been VERY helpful. Things like hand sanitizer, toilet paper (lol), N95 and better masks, and all the other items we have come to discover are "essential" in a pandemic. Many of these things were very cheap a few months ago when nobody cared about Mr. SARs-CoV-2. Good luck getting them now. Anything needed is now being prioritized to the frontline troops that need it the most.

It has been speculated that the warmer weather will greatly reduce the virus impact. There is some historical evidence with this with the 1918 pandemic. However, it also came back in October for round 2 and SARs-CoV-2 is NOT the's something worse. So we may not get a cease fire to resupply and regroup in the summer. If we all now know what to buy, right?

Lesson four: A pandemic was never a bug out scenario (for me)

Thanks to our awesome Dr. Disaster and her July 2018 presentation on pandemics, many of us were more prepared than we would have been otherwise. As a result of that, I was able to plan and evaluate the risk and various strategies to deal with one. I determined at that point that "bugging out" was not a good strategy for this disaster scenario. Me and my family are better off staying home with all our crap then bugging out to "somewhere" and all the associated problems with that such as: loss of job or stability, lower access to medical care (non-pandemic related) and medicines, etc. In hindsight, I think that was a good choice. I am still employed and able to work from home. The supply chain system is still functioning, so thanks to Group 2!!!

Everyone's situation is different, and for some, maybe bugging out or moving out of the dense urban environment is a good option. The point being is that the time to have planned for that and made those decisions was back before Oct 2019. So if you did not think about what you would do in a pandemic, you are stuck playing the hand you are dealt and rolling with it. I would use this time to think about other scenarios and come up with a plan now, so you are ready when that time comes.

Lesson five: Vigilance

While we are in the middle of a disaster right now, nature is under no obligation not to wreck your day further. What if we got hit with the full RIP 9 today? History shows us that most everyday or routine events are not life changing on the their own, but can become disasters when a series of small innocuous events get stacked on top of each other. Just talk with any homeless person about how they got there, and most of it is just the result of a series of compounding events that stacked up to ruin their lives. Any one event should have been recoverable, but the combination was to much for their level of resiliency. So while group 4 is sitting comfortably, and perhaps a little bored, waiting to get to the other side of this thing, any new event that comes along could be that proverbial straw that ends it all.

Lesson six: Use the time you have been given

Again, most of us in group 4 are fritting away our time watching Netflix or managing children. This is an opportune time to take stock in your position. Remember one of the core rules of prepping: Always be improving your position. So take time now to plan, prepare, and help others get ready for whatever comes next. Afterall, we are far from this being over anytime soon.

Lesson seven: Ignorance combined with fear is deadly

The news is filled with correct, helpful, wrong, blatantly wrong, mis-leading, or otherwise mis-information, and other falsehoods. Sadly, this is the day and age we live in where information is weaponized and trolls run rampant. In these times, fear also runs rampant. It's kind of expected given the situation. Your best defense is education and a sharp mind. That means diving into the topic of interest with academic rigor and learning the foundational knowledge of the topic. Then applying that knowledge to new information received from the media or your "Uncle Joe who knows a guy who heard a Doctor tell someone that".

Test the information. Consider the source. What is their agenda? Are they recognized experts? Do they have credentials or references that speak to their knowledge? Can the information be confirmed by multiple credible sources? Failure to 'fact check' can result in someone's death.

Understand the Dunning-Kruger Effect (DKE) and other Cognitive Biases. These are the gapping holes in all of our plans. If you understand these and how they play against you, you can overcome the onslaught of information and sort through the garbage to find the gems

Knowledge is power. Combined with rational thought, it can defeat fear. We have enough fear right now. We need to dilute it.

Lesson Eight: There is no support structure

The nature of most disasters is that they bring humanity together. Communities' can rally around each other, and families support each other. In many of the world's disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes, we see the best of humanity come out and people from faraway places show up to help dig through ruble, bring food and water, and rebuild. I'm always amazed at some of the responses I see around the world in a disaster and it offers hope for us all.

The pandemic is its nature, it drives us apart. It forces us to separate ourselves from those we care about or need our help the most. It drives a wedge between our emotional bonds and pounds on it with a hammer. We are social creatures. Even the introverts among us long for connection.

In this time, we must find ways to connect and maintain our connection to our friends and family. Even if it is looking through the glass window of a hospital room or through the blue led lights of a tablet. Find a way to reach the people that need you the most.

Lesson Nine: Financial defense

Ask any financial planner and they will likely tell you that you should have 6 months' worth of cash to live off in the event of a loss of a job or some other calamity. While this is sound advice, it is the hardest for the people who work in the service industry and small business owners to do so. It's hard for most people period, but especially for this group.

Most disasters are regional or smaller in nature. This means that help from neighbors, NGO's, and government agencies are going to available to help. Having insurance for the particular types of disaster can provide a huge buffer and aid in recovery as well. In a theater wide event or larger disaster, then all bets are off and your stores of "canned food and shotgun shells" is probably the better insurance.

Once again though, the pandemic is different. As we are seeing, the main defense (herd immunity) is to Social Distance to slow the spread of the virus and provide a barrier to the most at risk. This means a shutdown of all non-essential activities. Naturally, a huge portion of the population, like the estimated 20% who work in the service industry, and the countless small business owners, are going to be the most negatively impacted by this measure (besides of course the people who actually die from it). Our economy is such that we are all intertwined in this so that even those who can work from home or are "essential" will still feel the impact in other ways. It is without a doubt though, that the service workers and small business owners are going to bear the brunt of the effects.

All disaster planning should incorporate some form of financial preparation in it. For some disasters this may be precious metals, vodka, and cigarettes to barter with. For others it will be money in the bank and insurance policies. For the pandemic, it's planning for the total loss of income for the duration. When things start to get really bad and good people turn to crime to survive, then the 'other' preparations will start to come into play. Or maybe it will be the national guard on every street corner. Who knows and I hope we don't find out.

With that said, my kingdom for a quality therometer...

Questions to ponder:

Q: Are you "ready" for an event multiple? I.e. a second or compounding disaster

Q: Are you ready for the financial impact? Loss of a job, retirement, etc. What can you do about that now?

Q: Knowing what you know now, what items would do you wish you had purchased or stocked?

Q: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?

Q: Round 2 may or may not happen as well as a summer reprieve; but if they do, how will you take advantage of the summer to prepare for Round 2?

If you like, post your thoughts on our Facebook group.

This page was created on: March 23rd, 2020 12:00 PST