Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where to Start?

The most important thing is that you actually get started.

You read awesome things all the time that you intend to follow up on. But you know what happens? Life. Something steals your attention. You don't have time right now. You're uncertain how to start. You've slept since then and forgot. You simply forget.

Don't forget this. Do something to prepare yourself for an emergency. Right now. DO EET.

Here's quite possibly the easiest place to start: Grab a bag. Any sturdy bag will do, even a gym bag (you're not actually going to the gym, are you?) or a reusable shopping bag. A bag with a zipper is best.

Now walk around your house and throw everything in it that could be useful in an emergency. Hopefully at least some of these things are already grouped in one place, such as flashlights, batteries, and an emergency radio (you have a battery-powered radio, right? Oh well, we can fix that later). Also include things like a few candles, matches, some basic tools (screwdriver, hammer, wrench, pliers, assuming you have any of those), a garbage bag or two. In other words...anything that seems like a good idea.

When you're done, place the bag in an easily-accessible location (especially if you have to find it in the dark). The floor of the front hall closet is a popular choice.

All told, this shouldn't take you more than 15 minutes. It's possible to do it in five. Just do it. Right now. Yes, step away from the computer and don't dare show your face here again until you do it.

Did you do it yet? Yes? Good.

Guess what? Now you've got an emergency bag. You're awesome. Go relax and have a glass of wine to celebrate! You're already more prepared for an emergency than most people you know.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Should We Really Be Concerned About Asteroids?

Several blockbuster movies terrify us with an asteroid strike. Is that realistic or Hollywood fluff? I wasn't sure until I came across this passage in a book criticizing NASA plans to prioritize a manned mission to Mars and/or an asteroid:
"[NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office in Pasadena] claims to have accounted for 60-90 percent of all civilization-wrecking objects, mostly asteroids, but only about 1,300 potentially hazardous asteroids have actually be [sic] catalogued so far. These objects are at least five hundred feet in diameter and pass within 0.05 AU (about 4.65 million miles) of Earth. However, the number of NEOs [near earth objects] increases sharply as their size decreases. We are more likely to be hit by something too small and moving too fast to be detected in time to knock it off course. People in the path of the object, like those living along the path of a hurricane, would have to be warned and evacuated beforehand.
Recall, too, that the Earth is 70 percent water and that we inhabit less than 1 percent of its surface, mostly along coastlines. In the worst case, the next big meteoroid event would resemble the 2004 Indonesian earthquake and tsunami that killed 230,000 people [note that this number is much higher than it would have been in a country with more developed infrastructure and buildings]. If NEO control officers stay alert, we should have time to move people out of the way and prevent mass casualties. On the whole, it seems more sensible to worry about a terrorist with a suitcase bomb or a deadly global pandemic than about being hit by a massive space rock."
Mankind Beyond Earth by Claude A. Piantadosi (published 2012), page 222. [Emphasis mine.]
I didn't consider an asteroid strike as a disaster threat until I read the novella An L.A. Asteroid Impact. The ebook uses a story to introduce and discuss the "bug out bag." Personally, I find the idea awesome, really concretizing the ideas. But don't think this is Shakespeare; it's certainly not. The premise is that a fictional couple gets 15 minutes notice that small asteroid is about to strike somewhere in the Los Angeles area. Thankfully, they're together, at home, and luckily happen to be watching the news at the time of the public announcement. I thought this seemed like a really far-fetched idea even before you consider the lucky coincidences just mentioned. Fifteen minutes notice for an asteroid over a major American city? That's ridiculous. Well, it's not so ridiculous anymore.

I'll admit I wasn't paying much attention when a much-publicized asteroid struck Russia earlier this year. I knew it happened, I saw the videos, and I even learned why there were so many videos of it, but I never stopped to think about the implications. Who wants to think very hard about that? An asteroid. Hit. Earth. A populated area. NASA was prepared for another asteroid pass that day, but totally missed this one. (Have to love the title of the NASA article: What Exploded over Russia?) If you were a Russian on that day, what would you have thought it was? How would you have reacted?

Here is NASA's cheery last thought on the subject:
"Preliminary reports, mainly communicated through the media, suggest that the asteroid was made mostly of stone with a bit of iron--'in other words, a typical asteroid from beyond the orbit of Mars,' says Cooke. 'There are millions more just like it.'
 And that is something to think about as the cleanup in Chelyabinsk continues."
While an asteroid strike may seem (and hopefully is) quite remote, it should not be ignored. Thankfully, as asteroid evacuation alert would be treated like any other evacuation alert, but don't let the subject matter of the evacuation make you freeze. Or disbelieve it because it seems ridiculous.

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

...Ok, probably not. But that's no excuse for being unprepared when an emergency (inevitably) happens.

The immediate reaction to a disaster is the most basic level of preparedness you should aim for, but longer-term emergency plans require at least some self-sufficiency knowledge. Even better, self-sufficiency increases self-esteem, feelings of competency, and saves you money! It's amazing to learn to rely on yourself more, whether it's repairing your car, growing your own food, or fixing your toilet. Some people become fully self-sufficient (aka "living off the grid"), but every person should learn how to mend a torn shirt.

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” -Seneca

Prepping gets a bad reputation in a lot of circles. Doomsday preppers, preparing for the Apocalypse, Michigan militias hiding in the woods, white supremacists, people who believe economic collapse is imminent in America, people who believe our government is one step away from concentration camps, etc. etc. That's not me. And that's not a lot of other preppers in this country, though they may be the mostly-silent majority.

I'd just like to survive Sandy again. But I'm open to the idea that other disasters are possible and should be planned for. Disasters happen far more frequently than we think, whether it's a brush fire, an earthquake, a house fire, a flood, a tornado, a tsunami, a drought, a job loss, an asteroid, riots, economic collapse, or the zombie invasion.

This isn't a conservative or liberal topic. It's not a male-dominated field. It's a matter of taking the best care of yourself and your family that you can under various circumstances. The stereotype is a middle-aged white Christian male gun-advocate who lives in a suburban or rural community. Well, I'm a flaming liberal young orthodox Jewish woman living in NYC. If that isn't breaking the prepper stereotype, I don't know what is.

Why a Jewish-specific site about survivalism and disaster prep? Because Jews who follow Jewish custom and law (however they interpret that) have special needs and considerations not being covered by what passes as the "mainstream" sources in the topic. You have special needs and our community has different questions to ask. For example, when would you feel enough in danger to eat un-hechshered food you believe is kosher? What about actual treif food? Would you choose to be vegetarian/vegan instead, even though it might affect your health and chances of survival? I don't have answers to those questions, but I hope to raise the questions so that you and your family can consider what is best for you.