December 11th, 2020
A visit to the local supermarket prior to a major weather event can suggest that Americans are convinced that having a substantial store of particular objects will save them from whatever is coming with a natural, or human-induced substantial event. While being prepared should be an absolute requirement for every American, the idea of buying everything off the shelf at the local market, at the last possible moment, could conceptually be counter-productive to the survival of one’s family members. The idea that each of these natural, or human-induced, events to include locally imposed “lock-downs”, produces a run on the local markets that clearly demonstrates that many individuals are not prepared for what could happen at any time. More concerning is the ability of many Americans to quickly forget their needs following these substantial events that happen within our communities, quickly after the event subsides.
Whenever we are engaged in a conversation about the effects of a major weather event, or human-induced catastrophe, we must take into consideration our local supply chain. When considering the fragility of the global supply chain, one has to consider that even a small run against the local markets will produce empty shelves, as well as limit the availability of particular products via mail order due to the supply being diverted from the manufacturers to the retail outlets, thereby eliminating the availability potential to online retailers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the nation’s retail outlets converted to a “just-in-time” inventory management system, meaning that the required storage for mass inventories, such as warehouses, were minimalized to an absolute minimum, usually leaving the retailer dependent on just what was in the store itself. This meant that even small runs could potentially empty store shelves as the retailer joined the other retailers in the area, and scrambled to re-acquire the missing inventory objects from manufacturers. Most, if not all, of the automated inventory systems deployed throughout the retail industry, do not factor in the potential for these “runs” caused by a localized event, which added to the potential of failure under the strain of the runs caused by these localized emergencies.
If you will recall, the imposition of localized “lock-downs” back in March of 2020 created a nationwide shortage of toilet paper and hand soap, and while many made online memes mocking those perceived needs, the reality was, most Americans tipped the scales in favor of hoarding in-lieu of preparedness during that event. Yes, in some cases, the hoarding was driven by greed, as they attempted to capitalize on the perceived needs offering those items to unprepared families at a substantial profit margin. We see this same cycle repeat itself over and over, particularly when nature rears its head. Massive snowstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, as well as flooding events seem to drive many Americans to recognize the need to have everyday supplies within their local residences. However, the disconcerting aspect of these events, is that many American’s quickly forget their needs of preparedness soon after the event completes and life returns to normal. However, there are other national events that have just as much potential of crippling the supply chain, that may, or may not, be visible to the end customer. Throughout the nation, we have witnessed an unprecedented infection of American’s, with, thankfully, only a small percentage of the nation’s shipping industry workforce affected. However, even this small impact has had a rippling effect throughout the overall retail industry, causing other manufacturers to increase their production to fulfill their needs.
There is, however, a key to success for each American, to escape this vicious cycle that repeats itself every time something outside the normal scope of everyday life happens. That key is to become prepared. Now, as I’ve mentioned above, there is a difference between being prepared, and becoming a hoarder. The idea here is to become prepared for one’s family members, remaining self-sufficient throughout the event’s lifecycle. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), an agency within the United States Department of Homeland Security has created a multitude of documents to help us become and stay prepared for these events. Here are some general “rules-of-thumb” when it comes to becoming prepared for natural or man-made disasters.
FEMA recommends having at least three (3) days of emergency supplies (i.e., food, water, hygiene essentials, etc,). However, I would submit, that if you do not reside in a major metropolitan area, you might want to include several weeks instead. With the fragility of the supply chain to the local retailers, receiving a re-supply may be a little further than three days out. Here in Alaska, and many other locations throughout the country, I think it’s safe to include three (3) weeks as the base supply. That way when the event subsides and life returns to a semi-normal state, we can simply restock what was used during the event. If each American created a food store that would last three weeks, this would permit the local retailers to be able to bulk up their inventories thereby allowing many to resupply after the event. This would allow individuals whose food stores were damaged during the event to have the availability of life-sustaining products to purchase and use during the recovery period.
This is what local preparedness would look like. With each participant storing a portion of the food stores, thereby allowing the local retailers to focus on getting in additional inventory, for the replenishment of individual smaller stores, as well as the support of individuals directly impacted by whatever event happened. So, what does three (3) weeks of supplies for a family of four (4) contain? Let’s break it down.
- 4 members x 3 meals a day for 21 days
- 63 meals per individual, for a total of 252 meals
- Extreme weather (either hot or cold) will adjust this number by 1.5 due to the increased caloric need for survival.
- One gallon of water, per person (and pet) per day for a total of 84 gallons of water.
One of the greatest gifts we can offer ourselves and family members is consistency. By switching diets to “get-through” the disaster, we could potentially set our family up for failure and/or sickness, so keeping stores that contain familiar foods would be optimal. Serving meals at “normal” times further supports the consistency mantra, and allows our family members a multitude of benefits:
- Allows us to remain healthy, by keeping our bodies regular.
- Allows us to essentially tell time, by knowing what meal it is. This is critical here in Alaska where the sun may not be up for breakfast or dinner.
- Provides normalcy for small children, allowing them to receive some comfort.
We all know by having ingredients goes further than if we purchase pre-packaged meals. The other facet to consider here is having the resources to prepare the meals, as well as an alternate. If you have an electric stove for preparing the meals, what is the plan if the electricity is out, due to local flooding? Having a safe alternative for preparing the food for consumption by family members, is a critical aspect of being prepared. The idea behind becoming prepared is that we are completely self-sufficient in providing as much of normal life as possible, regardless of the scenario happening around us. Being able to prepare meals, maintain hospitable temperatures, and dry, clean, space within a residence to “rest and restore” is what survival (or emergency preparedness) all boils down to.
To properly define the difference between prepared and hoarding is to identify who the supplies acquired are going to be used for, and for how long are we relying on those supplies. If you can honestly say that the supplies are going to be used for family members, and for less than six months, then this is emergency preparedness. Any other answer to either of those questions, and now, the balance shifts towards hoarding, and is counter-productive to the community’s survival.