We all know that it is prudent to have a financial emergency fund in place and most of us strive towards that. Normal living can throw curve balls at us, unexpectedly. The washer finally gives it all and stops working or the car blows the transmission and you have to deal with it immediately. That’s what our financial emergency fund handles.
But what about other types of emergencies, the ones where a quick purchase won’t solve the problem?
How well would your family fare if your electricity went out for a week? How about a month? If the public water supply was contaminated by terrorists, how many days could you survive without lining up at the store for scant supplies of bottled water?
Most of us know the solution (to at least short term disasters) – but how many of us actually implement it? Do you have a ‘disaster kit’? Have you enough food and water to last 3 days for your whole family?
2012 was, to my mind, the year of the survivalist. Many are extreme – spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to prepare for any conceivable type of disaster, from nuclear war and dirty bombs to biological and chemical warfare to the more mundane issues of natural disaster such as fire, tornado, hurricane or earthquake. Will they have the last laugh in the end?
America, the land of self-sufficiency?
Just a few generations ago, most American families were fairly self-sufficient. A lot of us were farmers. We had wells for water, kerosene lamps for light and wood stoves for heat and cooking. Our plumbing was outdoors and we owned and knew how to use guns and plows to hunt and grow food for ourselves. Most of us even had cellars stocked with last years garden harvest.
We’ve lost our self-sufficiency. We depend on our governments, communities and each other for basic necessities of life – food, shelter, warmth and water.
Our own federal government (in the form of the Federal Emergency Management Agency – FEMA) strongly encourages citizens to achieve at least some degree of ability to care for ourselves in a disaster.
But how far should you go? What is the cost of preparedness? How much should you spend to mitigate the risk of physical disasters of various types affecting your family?
How much should we spend to feel safe?
As a project manager, I learned to try to identify, understand and deal with risks to a project.
Sometimes the risk frequency and consequence was so small that we could choose to just ignore the risk. Other times, the risk frequency was minimal but if that risk did happen the consequences to the project were horrendous. In this case, we would most often choose to take action to mitigate the risk. Other times, the risk was very real and occurred frequently, in which case we would try to find a way to prevent that risk from happening.
Each type of risk action has a level of cost – either in time or money.
Likewise with disaster prep. If you live in a flood plain, the risk of flooding is frequent and high. You probably want to take steps to avoid that risk (maybe by moving off the flood plain!). If you live in the middle east, the risk of bombings seems to be high and frequent. You may want to take strong and costly measures to protect yourselves if you can’t leave the area.
Although most of us in America today have enjoyed decades of peace along with plentiful and consistently available conveniences (like electricity, running water, heat, good roads and etc), that doesn’t necessarily mean that things have always or will always remain that way. The nation and world are full of threats that could realize unexpectedly and affect us negatively.
I believe that each family has a different tolerance for the risk of disasters and therefore a different cost involved to deal with that risk. One family, over time, may also have different disaster-preparedness needs.
However, I do think that a basic level of self-sufficiency is something we all should desire and strive to attain. What does a basic level of self-sufficiency cost?
72 hour Disaster Kit
You can probably put one together from what you have on hand. According to FEMA:
“Commercially available disaster kits can range from $75 to $300 and up, but most of the pieces of a disaster kit are already in the home and just need to be gathered together and stored in one place.”
Keep cash available as well – do you remember 2008 – when the credit market almost screeched to a halt? Credit cards were refused in the stores.
One year of disaster.
According to Life Training – you may want the below in your years supply of food, in addition to your 72 hour kit.
Costs for these items would depend on your area and the time of the year and would not be limited to the actual purchase price. You have to store those grains and legumes and sugar where the bugs and critters can’t get into them. You have to keep them dry and fresh and you have to rotate through the goods so you aren’t eating 10 year old corn when the time comes.
|Grains:||400 lbs.||Includes wheat, flour, rice, corn, oatmeal, and pasta.|
|Legumes:||60 lbs.||Includes dry beans, split peas, lentils, etc.|
|Powdered Milk:||16 lbs.|
|Cooking Oil:||10 quarts||16 pounds shortening equals 10 quarts of oil.|
|Sugar or Honey:||60 lbs.||67 pounds of honey equals 60 pounds of sugar.|
|Water (2 weeks):||14 gallons||Suggested for a two week emergency reserve.|
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints officials have long encouraged members to be prepared and suggest the following be assembled – most of which could be gathered from current household items or added slowly over time:
- Three-month supply of food that is part of your normal daily diet.
- Drinking water.
- Financial reserves.
- Longer-term supply of basic food items.
- Medication and first aid supplies.
- Clothing and bedding.
- Important documents.
- Ways to communicate with family following a disaster.
Taking it further.
A book I recently read, Family Fortunes, by Bill and Will Donner suggest that your family should have a ‘bolt hole’ – somewhere for the whole extended family to gather and be safe while living through natural, economic, political, nuclear, biological or extraterrestrial disasters.
Companies that manufacture disaster shelters claim that the shelters have been installed in all major cities in the country. These puppies can be quite luxurious and cost tens of thousands of dollars. They are a far cry from the backyard fallout shelters everyone was building when I was growing up in the 1950′s.
Individuals, as noted in this CNN Money article , have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try to ensure that they and theirs will survive a nuclear or other holocaust and be able to lead the straggling survivors into a brave new world.
Would I love to be totally self-sufficient? Sure. To me that would mean that if need be, I could use my own never ending supply of water, fuel, power, food and sanitation – for as long as need be. To me, that would mean that I own land, have a well, lots of trees and a wood burning stove – as well as an electric generator with backup fuel, an outdoor privy with an indoor commode, a garden, a caner and jars and a means of hunting meat. But, I don’t have these things and at my age, I’m not likely to pursue them because I personally don’t think the consequences of the risk of total disaster to my family are large enough. But, I do need to get that hand crank radio, duck tape and sheets of plastic!
What level of self-sufficiency do you think is needed to prepare your family to survive and thrive in an emergency or disaster?