(This article is from February 10, 2020, please keep that in mind.)
Long post alert: (brace yourselves)
So, I’ve had several people reach out to me this weekend about the coronavirus, my thoughts, and what they should do to be prepared. I’m not a “survivalist” or disease expert, but I do encourage preparedness… and now teach classes on firearms, preparedness, and whatnot on the side, so I figured I’d share my thoughts in case other people are getting anxious about it.
1. Should I be worried?
I get why people are freaking out. The lack of reliable information about (thanks, Chinese government) and rate of contagiousness of the virus are concerning. The mortality rate is higher than influenza, but nothing approaching the levels of the Spanish flu (20%!!!), even in the most conspiratorial of reddit threads. If you are of the persuasion that history tends to run in circles, we’re overdue for a civilization crippling plague.
But in reality, the end is always near in one way or another. Civilization is connected enough and fragile enough that there are always a dozen events we could be panicking about (remember, we were all supposed to have been wiped out by WWIII with Iran a couple months ago). There’s a reason stoicism is making a roaring comeback amongst Millennials (says the Millennial)- the core idea that it’s not worth wasting emotional energy on things that are outside one’s control has rarely been more relevant than in the breathless world we live in.
In short, yes, there’s some alarming numbers and models about the coronavirus. But there’s a dozen other threats, both known and unknown that are equally dangerous to us, such as earthquakes, cyber attacks, tornadoes, wildfires, blizzards, sun spots, and more. It’s better to have a general level of preparedness all the time than to stock up on N95 masks and emergency rations every time there’s a crisis.
2. What should I do?
The question that most people are asking behind this question is: what can I buy to make myself feel safe? This is why there’s a run on N95 masks right now, why people bought iodine after 9/11, why generator sales spiked during Y2K, and why bread and milk are always gone in every grocery store that is about to experience a major weather event.
There’s no doubt that lack of gear in certain situations, can be a major set-back. The 9/11 report found that people who carried pocket flashlights had a significantly higher survival rate in evacuating the towers. Go off the road in a blizzard wearing only business clothes, and you’re going to have a bad time. But gear will never be a substitute for skill, fitness, and resourcefulness. The question: what should I do? Is actually the right question- preparedness is something you should do all the time. Little things like having enough food to last for a couple weeks, making sure your gas tank doesn’t get more than half empty, keeping a “go/get-home bag” in the car, making a habit of walking 3+ miles with a weighted backpack on- these are things that are in your control and will dramatically improve your ability to cope with emergencies big and small.
So, with that philosophy in place, let’s look at some things you can do in the short term to help prepare yourself for this crisis if you feel the need, and some good long term practices too.
- Decide what you’re most likely to have to deal with.
If you’ve read this far, the answer is probably a world-wide pandemic. That’s pretty extreme, but also think about more common regional emergencies. Forest fires? Earthquakes? Tornadoes?
Blizzards and extreme cold and road emergencies are my biggest threat up here in the north. Power outages don’t happen that often (we bury our lines to prevent the ice from messing them up), but when they do happen in -20 temps, they’re nothing to screw around with.
Prioritize your skill development and gear purchasing in light of what you’re preparing for. Fire-starting might not be a big deal if you live in AZ. It can be the last big deal of your life if you are wet and it’s below zero out in the north.
- Have a go-bag/get-home/48-hour bag.
We’ve had this conversation around here before, but it bears repeating. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, and you need to keep it light enough where you could carry it for several miles without trouble. You should include: food, first aid, fire starting, water carrying and filtration, shelter, illumination, navigation and ID in this. It needs to fit YOUR circumstance. If you live in Arizona, you don’t need winter weather clothes in your bag. I do, because I work a corporate job and drive to work in a place where it’s not unusual to have temps below zero for large portions of the year. Keep it light, adaptable, and update it once a year. Don’t make it too complicated – an empty bottle and a few filtration tabs are fine- think simple and useful. I use my matches, multi-tool, gloves, headlamp, and clothes from mine quite a bit. I used to carry a fishing kit, mini-saw, and glowsticks. I never used them, and ditched them a couple years back. Throw a couple N95 masks in yours if you can find them – (this is why it’s best to prepare before the emergency/panic hits ). Otherwise, if you’re worried about it, buy a 3M respirator and some filters from your local Home Depot or Lowes. I would definitely do this if I lived in a city that had an earthquake danger or an area that was prone to wildfires- particulates can mess you up.
- Keep a backstock of 2 weeks of non-perishable food.
This what FEMA recommends, but it doesn’t need to be MRE’s and survival rations. Next time you are going to buy a can of beans or box of pasta, buy two instead. Go to the grocery store before you run out of these supplies, and keep rotating them toward the front of the cabinet. This way you won’t spend a fortune, and you will constantly be refreshing your supply.
- Have a way to filter or treat water.
- Be fit enough to walk 12 miles in a day with your go bag.
How far can you walk in a day? If you can’t hit that goal now, then start bringing a bag with you on walks and find out. Fitness is critical in most emergencies, and it doesn’t cost any money.
This is a good start. After that, pick one skill a month to work on. Sign-up for a first aid class. Learn to navigate via map and compass (and go to a state park to test your skills!). Start a fire without matches in wet conditions. Learn how to tie a bowline, tautline, and square knot. Get a HAM radio license (radios are useful for getting weather and emergency reports in remote areas- I use this all the time while camping). Sign up for your local CERT chapter and volunteer to help your community. What you do is up to you, but pick one skill and work on it next month. It’s fun and you’ll find yourself a lot more confident and useful to the people around you afterward.
Thoughts? Things I missed? Things you disagree on?