You Do What You Can


One of my hobbies prior to having children was hiking and camping. Okay, that’s not true. I really didn’t have any hobbies pre-parenthood, because I was so busy doing other stuff that could hardly be defined as anything remotely resembling a hobby. But if I did have a hobby before I had kids, it would have been back-country hiking and camping.

When I was finally in a position where I could pursue hiking and camping as an actual hobby, I had years worth of pre-conceived notions of what that experience was going to be like. Unfortunately, those notions didn’t take into consideration that a 3-year old can’t be expected to hike multi-day treks along backcountry goat trails. Since we couldn’t exactly leave him at home, my wife suggested I needed to figure out how to be okay with a 1-2 mile stroll in the local park, until we could work our way up to something more closely resembling the cover photo on Outdoor magazine.

Emergency preparedness can be like that too.

One of the frustrations I frequently hear is, “how am I supposed to do or get all of those things on that list?” There’s so much to do, there’s so many things to get. The list they’re referring to…well it’s any of them really. Go to any emergency / disaster preparedness website and pick one. The good ones focus more on actions you should take to prepare, versus the “stuff” you should acquire. Anyone who has attended one of my preparedness seminars know I have a bias against pre-packaged “disaster kits” – simply because it’s just too tempting for the average person to buy a kit, throw it in the trunk or the closet, and call it good. No plan. No conversation with the family, or the kids’ school, or the boss at work. “Hey, I got a kit  – isn’t that good enough!”

No – it isn’t. But at least it’s a start. And for those of us who are in the preparedness evangelism business, it’s often the best we can hope for. But we can still dream. And when we do dream, we dream of families sitting around the dinner table and playing the “what if?” game. It goes something like…

Dad: “Hey kids – what if tomorrow there was a really big earthquake. What would you do?”

Jr.: “Gee dad – I’d drop, cover and hold, just like you showed us!”

Susie: “Yeah! And then I’d secure my school emergency kit from my cubby, while I waited for the school administration to realize their earthquake plan didn’t consider anything beyond ‘drop, cover and hold,’ and now half their staff want to leave because they have their own kids at home, or in daycare.”

Mom: “That’s right Susie. And fortunately, because we know it might take a while for your Dad or me to get to there, we’ve made arrangements with our good friend Betty who lives right next to your school to come pick you up until we can get to her house. And we’ve included her on the emergency contact list at your school as someone authorized to pick you up during those types of incidents.”

Dad: “Mom’s right, kids. It could take a while for one of us to get there. But the maps we’ve put in all our kits highlight what routes each of us will be most likely to take, and have also indicated all the possible emergency shelter locations along the way – so that way we all have at least an idea of what each of us will try to do – or where we might be depending on the conditions.”

Jr: “Gosh dad – tomorrow night can we do a ‘what if’ we wake up in the middle of the night and smell smoke?”

Dad: “You bet son! And that reminds me, it’s been at least six months since I replaced the batteries in the smoke detectors. I’m going to take care of that while you and Susie clear the table.”

Can’t you picture it? Sure you can. Just like every Thanksgiving at your house resembles a Normal Rockwell painting, right?

But why not? Preparedness isn’t about doing everything all at once. It’s little actions here and there that over time add up. It’s the periodic (but regular) “what if?” conversations at the dinner table. It’s changing out the batteries in the flashlights. It’s picking up a few extra cans of food for the pantry. It’s refreshing the 5-gallon gas can you keep filled for the generator in the garden shed. It’s asking your co-workers if they’re ready for the approaching winter storm, and offering some encouragement via a few of easy preparedness tips. All little things you can do here and there, because it’s become a part of your “resilience culture” mind-set. And if just one of those things is all you can do this week – so be it.

But do what you can, when you can, and eventually you’ll have done a lot.


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