A question often raised by newcomers to the subject of disaster preparedness is, “Why should I prepare for a disaster?” Perhaps you are asking this question or your friends think you are crazy when you talk about having an emergency kit stashed in the basement.

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” –Proverbs 27:12

Preparedness use to be normal. As recently as my grandparent’s generation it was simply common sense to prepare for the unexpected emergency or disaster.

But we have become complacent. We have enjoyed long periods of financial ease and few, if any, problems in availability of goods and essential services. When we do hear about disasters, we think they won’t happen to us. We have been lulled to sleep and do not realize what may lie just around the corner.

Disaster Preparedness and Dependence

We are completely dependent on the infrastructure around us. We expect the grocery store, the power grid, our credit cards, and the stock market to keep moving along with the same success it always has. And if it does break, we look to the government to fix it.

It is time to stop expecting the fragile infrastructure around us never to break. It is time to stop expecting the government to fix everything that goes wrong. (As hurricane Katrina in 2005 sadly demonstrated, our hope in the government is often unfounded anyway.) It is time to be wise and prepare for the unexpected.

Disaster Preparedness in a Tightly Coupled World

Our world is full of tightly coupled systems. When one part fails, it automatically means that the other parts that depend on the failed system will also fail.

For example, say there were six cars traveling closely together down the interstate at 65 MPH. The first car has a tire blow out and spins sideways in the lane they are all traveling in. The five cars behind the first are following so closely that they have no time to react and all subsequently crash into each other.

The six cars, because they were traveling closely together, are tightly coupled. A failure of one of the cars automatically caused the others to crash. Had the cars not been so close, and thus not tightly coupled, they would have had time to stop and avoid the first car and each other.

Grocery BagOur food supply chain is a tightly coupled system. Grocery stores can only stock several days worth of food on the shelves. They depend on the regular delivery of food to supply their customers. If anything happens to the delivery system there will soon be no food on the shelves. (And if people know something is up, there will be a run on the stores and those several days of supplies will last only a few hours!)

Terrorism, natural disasters, fuel shortages, labor strikes, widespread power outages, financial collapse, and even computer network or telecommunication failures could all cause a disruption in the supply chain and your ability to buy food.

I won’t discuss them here, but our power grid, financial systems, fuel supply, and transportation systems are a few more examples of tightly coupled systems.

A loosely coupled system is much more resilient to failures. Your disaster emergency preparedness kit is like putting space between you and the car in front of you in the example above. You eliminate the tight coupling between you and the grocery store or the power grid and create a system that can survive a disaster.

Disaster Preparedness is Your Duty

If you have a family, you are well acquainted with the responsibility that comes with caring for them. Preparing for a disaster is simply part of providing for and protecting your family. Not to prepare would be like failing to provide a warm coat for your child on a bitterly cold winter day.

It is also your civic duty to prepare. Part of being a good citizen is not being dependant on the government, especially after a disaster. Emergency services will be stretched extremely thin in the aftermath of a disaster. Preparing for an emergency allows first responders to help those who truly need assistance instead of helping you who (now) know better and could have prepared.

Disaster Preparedness Objections

But, I can’t afford it!

Much of the world truly does not have the financial means to prepare for disasters. They are lucky to get food, water, and shelter each day – much less after a disaster. This however, does not include you. You probably have ample clean water to drink, plenty of food to eat, and even own your own computer. You also probably spend a considerable sum of money each month on non-essentials, such as sodas, entertainment, junk food, and clothing you don’t really need.

So, what it comes down to for most people is a matter of priority. You can afford it if you want to. You just have to want to.

That said, I do realize that you don’t have unlimited funds. I try to keep my kit recommendations to the essentials and give cost-saving ideas as I am well acquainted with tight budget constraints.

Preparing your first emergency kit is inexpensive if you initially skip a few of the costlier items. In fact, you can assemble many of the items for little or no cost. So, start with those components. Then systematically work your way through the rest of the list, purchasing an item or two each time you get a paycheck.

Also, developing an emergency plan will cost you noting at all and will put you ahead of most of the people around you.

But, I don’t have enough room!

If you live in an apartment or other small space, you may be concerned about storing your disaster preparedness kit. If you are talking about preparing for a yearlong disaster, then, yeah, you have a problem. But, an apartment normally isn’t appropriate for weathering a long-term disaster so storing a long-term kit there isn’t a concern. The always-carry-gear emergency kit is no bigger than a backpack or messenger bag. And the home evacuation kit can be creatively stored in various ways. Think outside the tubs I recommend on my emergency kits page.

Disaster Preparedness Now!

You can do it. All it takes is a little discipline and creativity. Start small and work your way down the list. See my emergency kits page to get started on assembling your emergency kit!