We've had a rough two weeks.
From high profile cases of law enforcement's use of deadly force, to five Dallas law enforcement officers being gunned down while providing security at a peaceful protest against law enforcement's use of deadly force, to the terror attack in Nice and a coup attempt in Turkey, much in the way of violence, strife, uncertainty, and angst has captivated the world's attention.
And next week, we begin the two week process of the national political parties hosting their respective conventions, both of which will no doubt be controversial and inspire more protests about the state of things in America.
We're in for a long summer, I am afraid.
So it comes as no surprise that the internet - which does a lot of wonderful things for us - is inundated with news stories, opinion pieces, memes and other messages relaying not only the latest news but also attempting to rally people to a particular side of an issue. It's a free country, and we celebrate the First Amendment that gives us the right to do that.
With this inundation comes reaction. Some react by sharing thoughts and articles on social media, which no doubt makes the social media stakeholders happy. Trending news stories and opinions drive traffic, which in turn creates opportunities for internet marketers to click bait readers into other articles or advertisements.
Yet for those of us who want to encourage meaningful culture change, we're well aware that there is no one weird trick to get people to focus their energy on productive ways to improve society. We also know that doctors do not hate treatment or prevention regimens that make the public healthier, smarter, or more active in the community. And many of us wish the cameraman would in fact do more recording....of things that actually matter that showcase efforts where people and neighborhoods are becoming more resilient and solving problems themselves.
In short, using social media is not a good substitute for doing your own due diligence and taking meaningful action.
I've been reminded of that a lot lately, as friends reach out to me to ask what steps they should be taking to be better prepared in the wake of recent events and the angst that can be felt when perusing social media feed. I'm telling them to do four things:
Do the basic preparedness tasks that FEMA, the Red Cross, myself, and a bunch of other people have been encouraging Americans to do for quite some time now. This involves having some food, water, cash, and medical supplies stored at home. It means having a "get home bag" in your vehicle, suitable for you and your family's unique situation. Most people can do that over a weekend.
What we are seeing, however, is that many beginners are overwhelmed when they first get started in preparedness. If you're new to prepping, start with this simple checklist. Following the checklist will put you in a position to be prepared for 72 hours; I would recommend you bump that up to two weeks. If you are prepared for two weeks, you will be able to handle most emergencies.
Experienced preppers should be checking their supplies and plans to ensure things are up to speed. Check your batteries. Are your supplies adequate? Does all of your gear work? Do your plans need updating? What deficiencies can you find in your supplies or planning?
Help your family make its own plans. One of the things I am working on this weekend is creating some emergency planning and guidance for my stepdaughter, who will be a freshman at an out of state university this fall. (I hope to post more on that in the next couple of weeks.) What do you want your family to do in the case of an emergency?
Our "family" may not just be the residents of our household. They could include relatives living across town or across the country. It might also include close friends and neighbors. Make sure these folks have what they need in terms of supplies and planning.
If you are a person of faith, use that as a way to prepare your mind and to guide your actions moving forward. Our faith can be a wonderful tool to improve ourselves and our outlook on things. It can motivate us to be stronger, better prepared and more helpful to others. Pray for guidance, wisdom, and peace. Pray for families directly affected by violence. Pray for the healing of our nations.
Get active in the community. This is where I lose a lot of people. "Paul , what does being active in the community do to make me and my family better prepared?" It does a lot. For example:
And a few things not to do:
Retreat into an echo chamber and not take any action. Visiting with like minded friends is fine. But if that's the only thing you're doing, then you're not helping yourself. No one ever got prepared by complaining about the current state of things.
Fall for the false choices presented by those who want to promote strife. The conflict industrial complex wants us to believe that there is in fact one side you should take, and that by taking that side, you'll be pitted against another group of people you're told hate you anyway. This conflict creation is done by design by those who have a vested interest in creating strife. You do not have to be against one group of your fellow countrymen in order to be supportive of another group of your fellow countrymen.
Believe that we are doomed. Like many of you, I think we face some difficult challenges and times ahead. The last two weeks are proof of that. And things could in fact get worse. But as I have said before, we are resilient species and a resilient nation. We have accomplished much and overcome much as well. We get to create our future. Be prepared and realistic about what challenges we may face, but don't forget we can also set a better course for our future.
There is no "one weird trick" that will fix what ails our nation. The only people who "hate" something beneficial are those with a vested interest in seeing us fighting among ourselves. And in the modern era of the citizen journalist, you can be the cameraman that reports what's going on in your life and community that will make us stronger. In short, take the actions you can to prepare yourself and then be ready to help others.
This weekend, I celebrated our Brexit Anniversary by auditing most of my preparedness supplies and weeding out items that are no longer helpful in my plan.
One of the more labor intensive tasks was to test the inventor of GoalZero Nomad 7 solar panels and Guide10 rechargers that I have.
Seeing how I have nine Nomad 7 panels (got them on sale a while back), I wanted to make sure each panel continues to function within its normal limits. The first thing I did was to get out the label maker (something that brings me great joy on any occasion!) and number each panel. By doing so, I'm able to keep up with them and, more importantly, definitively identify which ones are not performing as expected.
I then checked the amperage of each panel using a multimeter. Here's what I found:
Panel Number Amps
Look closely at panel 7's results - a paltry 0.4 amps, compared to the average (excluding panel 7's results) of 0.788 amps. I wouldn't have known panel 7 was such an outlier had I not tested each of them.
So what should we do with this data? For starters, panel 7 will see limited use moving forward and will be relegated to trickle charge duties as opposed to more strenuous recharging tasks (to the extent a 0.78 amp panel can strenuously recharge anything).
Preparedness is not glamorous. As I often tell people, "People want to be preppers until it's time to do prepper stuff. And if you find your preparedness chores boring, that's a good sign that you're doing it right."
Don't buy your gear or food, throw it in a closet, only to be brought out in a power outage or severe weather. Check it regularly. Make sure it all works. Make sure you know how to make it work.
I noticed it's been a month since I blogged. June was a rather hectic month here, with a high school graduation and out of state travel for work on multiple occasions. I'm hopeful things are calming down.
I'm taking this weekend - which I am now referring to as Brexit Anniversary Weekend - to go through all of my preparedness supplies, test gear, and otherwise make sure I have what I need. I'm also culling out a few items that no longer fit my mission.
I have a couple of items to brief you on regarding some new thoughts on preparedness planning and training. Let's get started:
Grasshopper Nation: Planning For Those Who Aren't Prepared
This article has been making the rounds over the last month, and it's easy to see why. Adam Taggart lays out the current state of things - the lack of retirement savings for most Americans, the declining labor force participation rate, and disruptions in the financial markets (while the Brexit reaction took place after the article was written, it's another case in point).
But many in the preparedness community are well aware of the headwinds we are facing. What's unique about Taggart's article is that he walks through his expectations on how the unprepared will react in times of a crisis, and more importantly, how we might start preparing ourselves to help those who are unprepared in a time of crisis.
I talk about this situation in Pivot Points (if you've already read it, please do me a huge favor and write a review on Amazon) quite a bit:
One thing holding us back in creating a culture of preparedness is the mindset that preparedness is an individual sport. Many who engage in this project fear nefarious elements will learn of their supplies and efforts, making them a target during a disaster. Others are concerned that the government will attempt to take their supplies during a crisis, so that they can be redistributed to those who fail to prepare.
In some respects, we in the preparedness movement are our own worst enemy. While we’re waiting and preparing for that worst case scenario – where society descends into full bore collapse - to tell all of our haters “tough luck,” what are we going to do in the meantime? Shouldn’t those with a passion and knowledge share it with others? Isn’t the goal of this effort for us and our communities to survive? What’s the point in individuals surviving if you’re left with chaos and the collapse of services, resulting from the fact that others didn’t prepare? We need a change, away from an “I’ve got mine…too bad you don’t have yours!” attitude to a more patriotic tone, where we work to create a culture in which people make preparedness a priority – as in it becomes second nature to us.
I am not judging those who think that way, for I myself have been guilty of such thinking in the past. Tired of the ridicule and criticism from those who thought my need to be better prepared was a quirky hobby at best or symptom of a mental illness at worst, at times I found it hard to justify efforts to help others learn to prepare. Winning in preparedness – being able to feed, hydrate and shelter yourself during an extended emergency when others cannot – may make you feel better now. But in the long run, humans have proven to be incredibly resilient. Many who didn’t prepare will not perish. They will still be our countrymen after the crisis. Preparedness puts you in a position to be a leader in that inevitable rebuilding process, during which we can improve our communities and society. And being a leader means we have to set a good example now so that people will follow our example during and after a crisis.
Similarly, Taggart touches on many of these themes in his advice to be ready to help others. I encourage you to read this article and take his ideas to heart.
The Next Iteration Of Preparedness Training
Last Saturday, a friend of mine and I hosted a preparedness seminar for beginners. That is not newsworthy in and of itself. However, we used the seminar as an opportunity to beta test a new method of entry level preparedness training.
The genesis for this new training strategy began at a reception last September. I was talking to a co-worker (actually, it was someone much further up the food chain than I, truth be told) about getting started in preparedness. This fellow employee stated they wanted to get better prepared but felt overwhelmed at the process.
That bothered me. Greatly, in fact. This individual is very bright and has plenty of resources to be well prepared. If they were struggling, it's fair to say a lot of people are having the same problem.
Matt Davis, Ph.D., who has written extensively on the issue of the psychological issues stemming from disaster preparedness, refers to this situation as a lack of self-efficacy. Again, from Pivot Points:
A major factor in why people do not take actions is a lack of self-efficacy. This means that they feel there is nothing they can do to remedy that situation or that they lack the skills or ability to take action. Self-efficacy, or lack of it, is not a personality trait... it’s situationally dependent. I have low self-efficacy regarding whether I could fix my car if it breaks down, but I have high self-efficacy regarding preparing a lecture for a community group. My self-efficacy could change if I took an auto mechanics course or if I was going in front of a group of experts that I suspect might be critical of me or know more than me.
What I have found is that taking disaster prep courses increases people’s sense of self-efficacy... they begin to feel that there is something they can do or that they have the skills to start taking action. If you can increase self-efficacy, and salience of the problem, you can increase preparedness.
(pg. 21, emphasis added)
And so to combat the issue of lack of self-efficacy, we designed the seminar to strip away all of the things that typically overwhelm people when it comes to starting a preparedness program. This seminar really focused on four things:
We didn't spend much time on firearms, precious metals, night vision, biohazard suits, and all the other things that tend to derail the discussion and/or dampen the budding enthusiasm of the nascent prepper. This was an opportunity to teach people the basics of preparedness - that if they can feed and hydrate themselves, charge up their phones and flashlights, and take care of their pets, they will be better prepared than most people.
I believe this is the next iteration of preparedness evangelism - short seminars showing people how to prepare for the most basic needs, omitting the discussions about buying a closet full of guns or fancy hand cranked shortwave radios. Those things have their place, but when we are dealing with beginners, we need to get them to execute the basics well.
Here's where I tell you what I think about things I think about.