Murphy\’s Bye-Laws

Law #4: Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. –H.D. Thoreau

Point of Diminishing Returns in Disaster Preparation

Posted by PintofStout on April 6, 2006

I’ve been meaning to make bug-out bags and bug-in preparations at home for well over a year now; I’ve accomplished exactly nothing in both respects.  Backwoods Home Magazine (link in the blogroll, too) was my main source of reference, and the Claire Files Forum was another good source of information and discussion of the issues of survival and preparation.  In the process of preparation you have to decide what you are preparing for.  This could be the most important question asked, and while sometimes easy to answer (harder to imagine realistically, though), it also leads to deeper questions of what is important in life and what constitutes a life worth living in the first place.  The deeper questions have to be answered by individuals, but the first one there is lots of help for.

I’ll address the easier first question now and brush over the deeper question at the end.  One event to prepare for may not require a stockpile of material as much as a good contingency plan.  What I’m thinking of here is unemployment or the loss of a job or income.  A box of emergency food and dry goods may come into play, but chances are a mortgage and other debt will rear their heads before food becomes an issue.  In the case of a dramatic reduction in income, a thought exercise is in order and maybe some financial planning based upon your thought exercise.  For some people this may be the most likely of scenarios that would try our fortitude, based on geographic location.

The other most likely events all revolve around Mother Nature.  As the hurricanes of 2005 illustrated vividly, the most likely need for emergency prep is weather.  In the car, you may need to be prepared for a breakdown, flooding, or extreme snow that could leave you stranded.  You may also need things in your car in case you need to leave somewhere in a hurry – for weather-related reasons or other reasons.  The same concept could be applied to the stockpiles or bug-in bags in your home.  If you are unable to leave for reasons of weather or other human-initiated reasons, then having proper supplies on hand is a major plus – it is better than freezing to death or starving, right?

In the various preparations, self-defense is always a consideration; as the hurricanes of 2005 illustrated again, the government probably won’t protect you.  A scenario that is bantered about often on the Claire Files is “the shit hitting the fan” (TSHTF) or “the end of the world as we know it” (TEOTWAWKI).  This is implying major natural disasters like meteor impacts, major earthquakes, and disasters on a much broader scale than usually experienced, but it also implies the nightmare scenarios of government collapse devolving into civil war, nuclear holocaust, or the more personal Waco or Ruby Ridge type scenarios where your household may be the only target.  We can plan for this sort of thing almost infinitely, but at what point is survival of this type worth it? (This is where the deeper questions come into play).

I examined, and am currently examining in this very post, the limits I would prepare for.  At first thought, I figured it’d be better to plan to survive as long as humanly possible.  Then as I thought about what that might be like in terms of quality of life, rather than quantity or duration, I began to wonder if surviving some scenarios would be a sentence rather than a salvation.  It is the most fundamental animal instinct to try to survive, and you would have to be suicidal to just let yourself die out of plain ignorance and indolence.  After a major, life-altering event, things may be dire, but it is then that the important things determine the quality of your life.  In my case I ask myself:  would I be left without my wife or family; will the rest of my life be spent in jail; will I be a severely disabled person who lives in unbearable pain; will I never be able to settle anywhere or will I be on the run forever?  All of those questions would isolate me from friends and family to different degrees.  What these questions tell me was what was important to me.

I could spend all of my time and resources planning for all conceivable (and inconceivable) contingencies.  Or, I could balance my time planning for the more conceivable occurrences with spending my time and energy enjoying the people and things that make life worth preserving.  How you balance your time depends on what makes your life worth living, and where the point of diminishing returns for your preparation and preservation of your life is.


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