Genesis, part 2: Clean-up in Aisle 5 Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

The other defining moment was a year or two after the night when everyone went motionless in the dark.

The news for the past month had been non-stop images of Katrina’s aftermath. Now Hurricane Rita was bearing down on our area. Although I had food and water stored, we were expecting friends who were evacuating from the coast so I decided to make one last run to the store for some odds and ends. I headed down the main street in our little town along which all the stores are located.

I was immediately struck by all the huge “NO WATER” signs in front of every grocery-type stores, from tiny dollar establishments to big box stores. Only one small store had a sign that they’d just received a single shipment of bottled water; I stopped in, out of curiosity.

The typically near-vacant parking lot was crowded, the store was charging twice the usual price and people were jostling and anxious as they edged into line. A police officer walked out with several flats of bottled water and put them in the back of his cruiser.

Things began to feel a bit surreal. I turned and left, distracted by what I’d seen, and continued on down the street.

I ended up in the biggest grocery store in town and was shocked at the scene. It made the day before Thanksgiving look like a ghost town by comparison. People were wild-eyed, dashing around with their carts, barely suppressing their panic. The canned food aisle was stripped bare, with ~ I am not kidding ~ only store-brand jalapeno-flavored Spam left. No tuna, no soup, no beef stew, nothing.

Ditto for the bread, granola bars, crackers and snacks. All bottled water of any type was gone. (And just a few days before, as Rita’s path became more defined, I’d been teased by strangers for being a chicken when they saw me picking up extra gallons of water.)

There were only a couple of bottles of sports drink left and two women were loudly, angrily arguing about who got there first and should get the bottles. I truly thought they were going to come to blows. (A friend later told me that she HAD seen two women get into an actual fist fight over the last flat of water.)

Since I was well-stocked on the essentials I left what few items remained for those who were in full panic mode and went back home. I was stunned by how post-apocalyptic it had all looked, how angry and afraid everyone had been, how willing to take down anyone in their way.

That combination ~ so many people being unprepared in the face of potential impending disaster and their sheer animal panic ~ really threw me, coming as it did on a still-sunny morning in a quiet little town.

It made me realize how fragile the basis of our system is, both in terms of supply and emotions. I’d known it in theory, but to see it played out right in front of me was something completely different.

The still-vivid image of that morning is the other main seed that eventually grew into this blog:  I want so much for people to get out of that loop of need and fear, both for their own sakes and to save what resources remain in those situations for those who didn’t prepare, practically and emotionally.

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Genesis, part 1: The Big Freeze Sunday, Feb 28 2010 

Two incidents in particular were the genesis for this blog. Both happened 5 or 6 years ago.

The first was at an evening meeting of nearly two hundred parents and children in a large, windowless upstairs room. It was nearly time for everything to begin and the room was full of people milling around. I was on the board of the group, but one who worked more behind the scenes.

I went downstairs for a last-minute preparation, had a short conversation with a pregnant mom and her children who were stepping into the elevator for the ride up, and then headed back up to the main room. Just as I got there, there was a loud pop and all the power immediately went out.

Ok, so the lights went out. We’ve all had it happen. But what happened next surprised me so much that I still wonder at it, over half a decade later.

Everyone froze. Instantly. Totally. A few children cried, but overall it was an immediate, eerie suspension of everything. Nobody moved, nobody spoke. It was so dark I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face.

I waited for someone to do something, say something. But nobody did. Everyone just waited in frozen silence.

I still couldn’t tell you why, except that it was obvious that someone needed to do something, but I spoke out, even though I am usually the quiet one in large groups. My voice felt like it echoed in the darkness.

I asked anyone with flashlights to get them, asked anyone who might have contact numbers for the pastor or administration of the church in which we were meeting to come to the front, asked someone to call 911 because I knew for a fact there was a pregnant woman in the elevator.

And people did it.

It was as if once I spoke, the spell was broken and people sprang into action. Many suddenly responded and took over. But I spent the rest of the night (and many of the days since then) wondering at that moment.

Why did everyone freeze? Why didn’t anyone do anything? Why did I? And why did they listen to a voice in the darkness when they couldn’t see who was even talking?

It was a glimpse into a mindset that I am still trying to understand, trying to encourage others to see. Maybe if people are more aware of it, it will have less power…..

Thus one reason for this blog.

Top Ten Reasons I Prep Saturday, Jan 2 2010 

“They who are well prepared have half-won the battle.”  Proverb

As much as I dislike the word “proactive” and think it’s horribly overused, all of my reasons for embracing emergency preparation are just that, proactive, not reactive or based in fear. So why do I do it?

*I do it because it makes good financial sense to stock up ahead of time when items are on sale instead of paying full price later (or more, when regular prices increase).

*I do it because it lets me have a larger variety of items on hand. I have more OTC meds to cover different home-care illnesses and injuries. I have more types of food from which to choose in the pantry. The kids love going to our ‘store.’

*I do it because I really hate going to the store for odds and ends; I like the simplicity of having things on hand. It helps with gas mileage, too, to not make multiple trips back and forth for just a few items.

*I do it because with “just in time shipping,” most stores’ inventory is only what is on their shelves. They don’t always have what I want when I want it. It just makes sense to buy extra while they have it in stock.

*I do it because of the larger ramifications of JIT inventories. Supply lines can be disrupted, for common reasons like weather or trucking issues but also less commonly from larger disasters. With no back stock, the stores’ already limited inventory is immediately depleted with no means of quickly replenishing.

*I do it because I’ve seen people panic in the stores and fight for precious resources like bottled water. (Yes, literally fight for bottled water, like they did before Hurricane Rita blew in on the heels of Katrina.) I don’t want to be caught in that mess, do you?!

*I do it because if I have water (or tuna or TP or batteries) already in my home, I can leave the few remaining on the shelves in those crisis situations for those who need them. It’s also one less cart in the aisles, one less car in the parking lot, one less person in the checkout line. All that is possible because I bought those items when they weren’t in high demand.

*I do it because I know that emergency responses are limited, stretched thin by budget cuts and natural constraints. When I prepare, those scarce resources can go to others who need it and the emergency responders and aid groups can focus their efforts more precisely.

*I do it because I have lived through emergencies, both short-term and long-term, where the steps I took in good times made the bad times more bearable.

*I do it for my children’s sake…but that would be an entry on its own (and probably will be).

I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more but would love to hear why YOU prep. 🙂