Preparing for calamities

Don’t want to feel vulnerable in times of uncertainty?  I don’t blame you.

Whether a catastrophe is man-made, whether it materializes by freak accident, or whether it’s the product of Mother Nature, the last thing you want to do is panic and not be able to think straight.  Keeping a cool head so that you can think quickly and decisively with complete clarity can save life and limb.

You have to prepare.  You have to put things in place and put some work into it in order for things to fall into place and everything work out just fine when disaster strikes.

For instance, you may have a functioning smoke detector in your house.  Has your family actually had fire drills where you evacuate the house and have everyone accounted for?  I don’t think your kids will think it’s weird if you have family fire drills.  After all, they have fire drills at school.  Schools also have tornado drills and lock-down drills.  You might practice those, too.

If a blizzard snowed you in for four or five days, would you have enough food on hand?  How would you keep from freezing if the blizzard also knocked out the power lines?  Don’t think it could happen?  Well, it happened to our family back in January 1978.

What about a flash flood warning and your house lies in the flood plain?  You have precious little time to round up everyone and get the heck out of there so you don’t get swept away and drowned by the swift currents.  Are you able to just grab something that will tide you over for the next 72 hours or so?  Or will you escape with just the shirts on your backs?

Even if you have more time to evacuate, such as an approaching hurricane (if you are living on the Gulf Coast or Atlantic Seaboard), are you all in agreement about what goes with you in the car and what gets left behind?  Or will you be squabbling about it when it’s time to hit the road?  You could practice packing the car with everyone in tow so that you know what will fit and what won’t, plus you’ll know how to fit it all in.

Or, instead of having a plan for any of these scenarios, will you just take your chances and wait for FEMA to save you?

I don’t know about you, but as for me, I’m not waiting on FEMA.  If you followed the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, you know that depending on government help isn’t your safest bet.

  • Practice, practice, practice.  Have drills until everything happens smoothly, and revisit the practice and drills from time to time. Time yourselves.  If any of you have physical disabilities, you’ll have to train even harder.
  • Have an evacuation plan. Know how you’ll discover if all persons are present and accounted for, especially when every second counts.
  • Have a plan if you’re stranded in your own house.
  • Have a 72-hour emergency kit already prepared in a location already designated so that you can just grab it and get out of there in a matter of seconds.
  • Have alternative energy plans so that you have light and heat in the house when the utilities have been knocked out.
  • Have food and even some huge jugs of water (you know, like the ones they use for the water cooler in your workplace) that can last you for a month, maybe more.  Actually use the stored food so that the oldest stuff doesn’t go bad, and keep replenishing the stockpile with new stuff.  By rotating through the stockpile, you’ll also discover what stuff works and what doesn’t: For example, storing wheat makes no sense if you can’t grind it into flour, and storing flour makes no sense if you don’t know how to prepare food from scratch or follow recipes, and following recipes to make food from scratch makes no sense if you’re family hates the taste of it and refuses to eat it.  You’ll need to know which foods you can prepare without going to the grocery store for missing ingredients.  You’ll need to know which foods can be prepared without running water, natural gas, or electricity.  You’ll want to have some food, perhaps in your 72-hour emergency kit, that you can just eat as is, like beef jerky or trail mix, plus some bottled water.
  • Have your vehicle in good enough condition so that it can be relied upon when it really counts.
  • Go camping.  It’s good practice for “roughing” it.
  • If you have a yard and if zoning ordinances permit it, plant a vegetable garden this spring.  Maybe you’ll even want grape vines or fruit trees on your property.
  • Encourage your neighbors, friends, and relatives to prepare.  If a tornado rips your house to shreds, or a fire burned your house to the ground, or a flood washed your house away, it probably wiped out your food storage, too.  But if your neighbor, friend, or relative also prepared and has stored food, they can share.  In your neck of the woods, the more households that are prepared, the more likely you can all band together and help one another out in times of crisis.

If you are prepared, then you need not fall victim to fear, confusion, indecision, panic, or paralysis.  Just proceed according to plan, and if a monkey wrench is thrown into the mix that screws up the plan, you’ll be able to think on your feet and compensate more quickly with a Plan B than if you were caught totally flatfooted with no plans at all.

Be survivors, not casualties.

Should a state be able to declare bankruptcy in Federal court? NO!

Oh, those rascal politicians on Capitol Hill in Washington DC.  Oh, those rascal politicians in state offices scattered around the country.  What do we do about such rascals that have bloated government spending for decades and decades now?

So many states are facing red ink, and so many of those states won’t solve the problems on their own.  Instead?  Look to the federal government for bailouts of states.

But wait!  The federal government spending even more?  For more bailouts?  How?  How can the federal government keep coming up with more dollars out of thin air?  It’s unfathomable.

So now there are some tongues wagging on Capitol Hill to provide relief to fiscally undisciplined states without committing even more federal dollars to bailouts.  It’s called bankruptcy.  Legislation may soon materialize that would allow states to declare bankruptcy.

If you are one of the lucky Americans that hasn’t been wiped out in this disastrous economy and it just so happens that you’ve invested in municipal and state government bonds thinking that they were safe bets, well, all that could change.

If it changed, then where would you invest your money that would allow it to hold its value?  Every investment that’s only on paper or that’s only a few bytes on a computer chip has its risks, and the risks are getting bigger by the day.

Workers are already being punished by this economy by losing jobs and not finding new jobs.  Perhaps it’s time to punish the investors, too.  Well, at least punish the investors who don’t own stock in financial corporations that are “too big to fail.”

If a state were to declare bankruptcy under the proposal that’s wagging tongues on Capitol Hill, bondholders would be unsecured creditors.  So, how do you get your money from cashing in bonds from a bankrupt state?  I don’t know.  With no collateral, there’s nothing a bondholder could repossess that would coax the state to pay up.  Perhaps you could take the matter to court and seek a judgment against the state, but what good would that do?  There’s no mechanism at your disposal that would allow you to collect the money the state owes you.  Futility.  Utter futility.

Oh, and state pension funds?  Gone.  Sorry about your retirement.

What if bankruptcies spread through the states like wildfire?  Is it conceivable that the federal government might do likewise?  And then what?

I think this bankruptcy idea is dead in the water, as I don’t see how it could gain any traction with voters.

Sorry, all you political rascals.  You’ll just have to learn fiscal discipline.  Unless, of course, your objective is to cause the collapse of America as we know it.