Small Space. Big Life.

Emergency Preparedness for Minimalists, Part II: Get a Lane!

“Can’t bowl without a lane.” – Bowling alley attendant on The Simpsons

When I first started learning about emergency preparedness, I was so overwhelmed by the amount of information I stumbled across (and the dire predictions about the future and commands to ACT NOW!) that I did what I suspect many people do in this situation: I went out and bought a lot of stuff.

Did I say a lot of stuff? I meant I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff. Mostly canned goods. I shoved them under our bed by the case.

Two years later, we are **still** eating them. Except for the Spam and the military-grade MRE that snuck in there. (What was I thinking? That foods ridiculed for being yucky are magically transformed by disaster into yumminess?)

Even after all this buying, I couldn’t shake the sense that I wasn’t prepared. So I fluffed around for a while, putting cases of water and granola bars in the cars (which we are **still** eating…) and ordering extra sets of identification tags for the dog, just in case she loses her collar but we don’t lose her (Again, what was I thinking?) But I still didn’t feel prepared.

Then one day I realized that the reason I didn’t feel like I was prepared for an emergency was that I had not really given much thought to what emergencies I was preparing FOR. I didn’t have a plan. I had a bunch of canned goods and some bottled water. That’s not a plan!

I had Band-Aids, too. Guess what? That doesn’t make a plan, either.

So I decided to get a plan. This is my first emergency preparedness recommendation. I think it’s more important (though less retail-oriented) than any other emergency preparedness step you can take. You have to decide:

What emergencies are you preparing for?

You heard me. Emergencies. Because, believe it or not, you need to be preparing for at least three emergencies. The odds that you are going to be affected by at least one of these in your lifetime is nearly 100%. I’ll call them The Big Three. In no particular order, they are:

  • Illness (ranging from influenza to cancer)
  • Job loss (of the involuntary variety)
  • Temporary disability (maternity leave, paternity leave, on-the-job injury, or other temporary disability)

I’d like to say that if you’ve got these three covered, you’re probably good to go, but you’ll notice that none of these are natural disasters. And if you live on planet Earth, the odds are pretty good that you live in a region prone to at least one type of natural disaster. If you’re particularly lucky, like us, you live in a region prone to multiple types of natural disasters (wildfires, earthquakes, drought, flooding, mudslides, tsunamis and tourist season). In other areas of the country, heat waves, blizzards, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, riots, hazardous materials leaks or spills and power outages are the winners of the Disaster of the Day contest. I’m sure this list is not exhaustive.

My point? There are multiple things that can derail your life with little notice. Preparing for each of them takes a slightly different approach. So if you want to be prepared for emergencies, you need to decide what emergencies you are preparing for.

In our case, our emergency plan covers:

  • Illness
  • Job loss
  • Temporary disability
  • House Fire
  • Wildfire
  • Earthquake (not just any earthquake. Californians eat little earthquakes for breakfast. We’re talking about the Big One here).

So sit down for a moment and make your list. Put the Big Three on it. Then add the natural or man-made disasters (nuclear power plant meltdown, anyone?) likely in your area to your list. Not sure what disasters lurk in your neck of the woods? Visit the helpful folks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (aka FEMA) and their Hazard Index. They’ll give you a list of disasters, help you determine how likely they are for your area, and remind you of a couple of big ones you forgot (Dam failure? Volcano? Oh boy. I think I’m going to need more Band-Aids).

Now you have a lane, a way to channel your activity to achieve an end result. Let’s go bowling!


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