since coming to seattle, i have realized that people here really care about disasters. my bff in canada said that people on the west coast seem to be anticipating “the big one” at any time. when we had our water heater replaced prior to moving into this house, the person who did the work (we were still in oak park, so i have no idea who this was), put a bunch of brackets and anchors around the tank. i guess it is now earthquake-proof. commercials on local radio advertise for gold and mylar-packaged food and emergency generators. at the school where i send my 2 youngest they ask (read: require) parents to send in an “emergency kit”.

in addition to sending in a change of clothing, there was a rather long list of items to be packed securely in its own plastic box. i kind of wish i had kept the list, but we needed to send protein that would not spoil, granola bars (no nuts cuz of the allergic kids), snacks, drinks, and i think a bunch more. but perhaps the most disturbing was the suggestion that you include a letter to your child and a family photo. in case there actually is some type of disaster, these will help to comfort your child.

oh boy- do you have any idea how stomach-churning stress-inducing throat-tightening it is to have to write a letter (open seal in case of emergency…) to your child who may or may not be injured, traumatized, or kept apart from their family? i tried to write encouraging things. i tried not to be specific since this letter would have to be one-size-fits-all for any situation where the kids would be locked down in school. i tried to keep myself together and not picture my kids, frightened and upset, having to actually read this letter. inhale. exhale. inhale. exhale.

being a good mom (i hope), and fairly organized, i figured i’d better get on the preparedness bandwagon.

i have emergency water and canned food. i have candles and matches and an extensive first aid kit. i have extra blankets and batteries and flashlights. i own a crank radio and other assorted stuff that i stashed away “just in case”. we have guns and ammunition. and i hope we will have each other.

i can’t even imagine having the family separated if there ever is a crisis. it makes me want to keep the kids home and make *h work from the garage. when i hear people who make up a designated meeting spot for their families, i always wonder if i’m missing something- if something bad happens, wouldn’t we just want everyone to make their way home? and wouldn’t we do our best to get them there?

but the real problem is that unless you have a virtually self-sufficient and isolated homestead, you are gonna be unprepared for a disaster.

i have most of our stuff on the lower level of the house. but what if we can’t access it?

i assume that home will be our base, but what if our home is destroyed?

but perhaps the most frightening question of all is this: could i really let other people fall by the wayside when/if we are doing ok?

could i refuse food to a hungry neighbor who doesn’t have some stored?

would i refuse shelter to friends who lost theirs?

am i actually prepared to protect my resources at any cost?

this should be a slam-dunk question. of course i would do anything for my family. but it’s not slam-dunk at all.

i have a friend who used to shop in a mennonite market a few times a year where she would stock up on staples (bulk oats, bulk flour, etc.). some of the folks in line got to talking about gathering resources “just in case”. but there was a man in line who said, “i don’t need to store any supplies except weapons and bullets. i know where the amish people live and i know who in our community has what. if there was an emergency i wouldn’t need to have anything stored up. i will just go to people who can’t defend themselves and take what they have.”

that’s sobering, huh?

i would hope my neighbors are all civilized people. but people will do some crazy stuff when they feel their well-being, or that of their family, is at stake.

it’s hard not to even know what i am supposed to be prepared for.

what if we have no power? no water? no gas? what if it is winter and it is freezing? what if it is summer and our food spoils? what if it is one of those times when canned food in the pantry is running low and i am due for a big shopping trip to restock?

what if what if what if…

you could go crazy trying to anticipate each scenario.

maybe i need to get antibiotics. i probably won’t have internet access, so i probably should find out about medicinal and edible plants in our area.

and then we have the brass tacks: i am on a boatload of medication. what happens to me if i am suddenly without it?

and we (collective we and my family we) are spoiled. we don’t tolerate being cold or hungry or dirty or thirsty or overheated. we aren’t used to eating what we don’t like because that’s all there is. we lost the depression-era art of knowing how to deal with physical discomfort.

should i periodically deprive my family so they can toughen up? should i have the kids take cold showers in the winter (don’t worry- i would never actually do that) or crank up the heat in the summer so my kids can learn to suck it up? obviously not.

we just watched a series on netflix called “colony”. the premise is that there is a viral outbreak in las angeles that wipes out almost everyone and a group of survivors has to rebuild and survive. the group is laughingly unrepresentative of society; they have an engineer and an ER doctor and a trauma nurse and an astrophysicist and a computer/technology guy. they have a marine biologist and a contractor and a general handyman who can do miraculous stuff. if there ever is a crisis, i hope i have a crack team like that in my house!

they are given an abandoned warehouse, which contains lots of tools and materials to make things, like solar panels and engines and generators. they come up with ways to purify water and open the cans and make trashed vehicles run again. they did stuff i would never conceive of doing, much less know how to do.

so, ok, we know this is not real reality. but they still had a hard time.

and they had no kids.

and no sick people.

and no injuries.

and they still had a hard time.

i found it quite interesting, but also anxiety-provoking. because if disaster strikes, we don’t know what it will be or how long it will last or what we will really need as opposed to what we think we need.

i have read the survival blogs and the books and the articles. but trying to anticipate all of the various issues that would come up in a real disaster are mind-boggling in the truest sense of the word.

so, i do what i can do. i try not to be irresponsible but not to let it carry me away either. i don’t want to be paranoid, but i don’t want to be unprepared.

so, i’m curious- how do you deal with disaster preparedness without it turning into a disaster?