Slow Disaster Preparedness

Who came up with the word, “preparedness”? Preparations should be good enough. Regardless, one of the signs of adult responsibility is being prepared for disasters. FEMA and the Red Cross suggest each of us having days of supplies and a list of emergency gear for unexpected emergencies. It is easy to plan and prepare for quick catastrophes; especially, if those catastrophes never happen and those preparations aren’t tested. The slower the disaster, the harder it is to generate enthusiasm for the task of preparation; and, the longer the trial that tests our plans. As I type this I also realize that the reverse is true.

Wham! I live in an earthquake zone. My home is over one of the busiest faults in Washington State, a geological region that gets fewer but much bigger quakes the California.

Looks sweet, and the fault goes under that point of land.

Looks sweet, and the fault goes under that point of land – and the tsunamis sweep past it and up the bay.

Subduction zones do that. Without warning and within seconds the ground can raise or lower a dozen feet or more. It’s happened before. It will happen again. It is the same situation that caused devastation in Indonesia and Fukushima. There’s no warning, so everyone is recommended to keep those days of supplies at home, and to keep an earthquake kit in the car. Bridge failures, of even just the worry about them, are enough to stop traffic and strand people. Make sure you have good walking shoes.

Tsunamis happen. There’s a bit of warning. If one happens because of a local earthquake, then the quake should be the biggest alarm bell rung as warning. Drive around Whidbey and find plenty of Tsunami Warning Zone signs. A tsunami in my neighboring Cultus Bay could wash away the only road leading to hundreds of homes. Ah, but there’s an informal plan for that. I suspect we’d find some way to wind up and down through private driveways and across large estates if the damage lasted too long. The main preparation, if you’re worried about waves, is don’t live at sea level.

Within a few minutes walk or drive I can see three volcanoes. They give a bit more warning. Make sure there are air filters for people and the cars. Hope the highways and railroads don’t get blocked by ash in the mountain passes. Food might be scarce in that case. Of course, earthquakes could ruin that avenue of food too.

The most warning we get are from the same hazards experienced worldwide: storms. Thanks to satellites, computers, and meteorologists we get days of warning. Their accuracy isn’t 100%, but weather forecasting is far more accurate than earthquake, tsunami, and volcano predictions. It’s because of storms that I have plenty of flashlights and batteries, canned food, candles, warm blankets, firewood, bottled water, and such that just happen to be useful for the other disasters. (I think that’s an excellent excuse to maintain stores of wine and cheese.)

I could be quite proud of myself for my preparations. I even carry enough gear in my car to chop through downed trees, drive through deep snow, and camp in my car if necessary.

The planning can actually be entertaining. If this happens, I’ll use it as an opportunity to do that. Resourcefulness gets tested. I think that’s one reason survivalists can get so involved in preparations; there’s a lot of opportunity for resourcefulness, which is another expression of creativity.

Frugality is a natural preparation for necessary resourcefulness. The appreciation of a thing’s value opens a lot of potential.

The harder disasters are the ones with the least warning. Personal illnesses and financial misfortune can encroach into lives gradually. Optimism sometimes wins and situations improve before the worst occurs. Hopefully, optimism doesn’t delay remedies. Pessimism can inspire immediate action, but over-reacting can cause problems and even invent non-existent ones. Hypochrondia and paranoia happen. Guessing at the right pace of response is never a sure thing. That’s why it is to plan for old age and retirement. Look at global warming and the questionable financial system and realize that the same thing happens on a grander scale. Unfortunately, global crises happen so slowly that urgency doesn’t arise until damage is done.

I plan a lot; not just for geological and meteorological disasters. I had plenty of plans for my investments and my life. The current assessment of those plans is insufficient to appease the mortgage company and my expectations. Simply said, Plans A, B, C, and D haven’t worked well enough. (For a primer on my Plans, read Backup Plans.) My home, house, mortgage will probably go into foreclosure within the next week. Even consulting with agents and a lawyer hasn’t revealed what I should plan for. Do I lose my home in weeks, months, or years?

Of course, I plan to pay my bills, my debts, and fund my future. That’s why I am actively executing Plans A, B, C, and D. Working on so many plans is also why I don’t get out much. The currently insufficient performance is also why I buy lottery tickets.

Winning the lottery would be as sudden as an earthquake, but far more welcome. Selling my house would be more like the positive (though bittersweet) version of a tsunami. Home For Sale A recovered stock portfolio would be more like a welcome storm. Getting a good job, or my business becoming profitable enough for me to live comfortably would be more like the long term systemic plans – wait – they would almost exactly overlap those examples of retirement planning I mentioned above.

The last few weeks have been a challenging turmoil of bad news with threads of good news. Money owed to me is being paid back. Reciprocal sales are causing money to go from person to person and back to person again with goods and services exchanged in the process. Except for that more than pesky foreclosure, life is improving. And maybe that bit of life will improve too. I’ve made many preparations. Now they are being tested, slowly.

But, really, all debates aside, winning the lottery of gaining some other windfall would be so nice. Who knows? I might get to tell that story too. There’s probably no way to prepare for that one, though.

About Tom Trimbath

real estate broker / consultant / entrepreneur / writer / photographer / speaker / aerospace engineer / semi-semi-retired More info at: and at my amazon author page:
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