Hurricane Irma could have been a devastating event for me. One of the things I stress in my financial writing is preparation. Prepare for the worst and be mildly surprised when it doesn’t happen. It’s a similar mindset to the so-called “Prepper” community.
Preparedness is not about being paranoid. Though, if you aren’t careful the mindset can veer off-course towards paranoia.
No, preparedness is about defending yourself and your family against extreme future outcomes that you are unlikely to encounter but that also pay you dividends in the interim.
For my wife, Camille, and I, the prep for Hurricane Irma started a week ago, the morning after Labor Day. She came upstairs with that look I know well and I stopped writing my latest column to discuss our plan of attack.
Because we’ve been ‘preparing’ for the last fifteen years in one way or the other, the conversation was a short one. First, we defined the limit where we would evacuate — Solid Category 3. Then we made a shopping list – Gasoline for the generator, some plywood to harden the porches, animal shelters and certain windows, two cans of propane (we have four) and, if possible, a battery backup for the DSL router in the likely event that phone service would come back before the power, which it did.
Everything else was already done. Our stove is propane as is our grill. Our heat is wood. We keep a supply of batteries for the various head lamps and flashlights all the time anyway. And the pantry is always stocked with a few weeks of food.
Camille and I were a little over-confident. We forgot to buy toilet paper until it was $20 a brick. No sale Dollar General.
We have a dairy goat operation but no barn. The goat logistics could have been untenable had we not smartly been accumulating/building things over time.
A handful of 20-gallon plastic drums for drinking water. 55-gallon drums for the animals. They cost us the princely sum of $60 off of craigslist last year.
Half a steel cistern that makes a great emergency shelter once the front is boarded up and will take a tree falling on it ($125 with hoof-trimming stand, again craigslist). We know this because it happened.
A 17-foot trailer we use as for hay storage now doubled as a waterproof feed storage container ($1500). It’s also our bug-out trailer.
Three raised beds full of sweet potatoes. A freezer full of meat and chicken stock. Milk from the dairy goats. Eggs from the ducks. All of this stuff which is a bit of a burden to manage in the run up to the storm makes it easier for us to ride out the after-effects of the storm.
And invites went to all of our friends that we could take them in if they felt unsafe. Because what’s the point of all of this if you can’t share it with those you value?
And yet, we were still slightly underprepared. With the tracks looking like we could get hit with Cat2/3 winds because Irma pushed farther west than originally anticipated we still needed a second trip for plywood Saturday morning.
We wound up not needing it as we got tropical storm winds and a bunch of rain. But, so what? I’ll use the plywood somewhere.
Those were the current prep decisions. But, when we went to build our house (which we did, by hand, in 2003) we chose the highest point on the property which happened to be the highest point in the area. And the field it sits on is a 15-foot tall berm of sand. Sand equals good drainage.
I know this because I looked up the USGS soil survey on the property before I bought it. I worked at the University of Florida Soil and Water Science department. Serendipity? Maybe. But, I also knew what to look for and saw the value when I bought the land.
The important point here is that when you make your choices in lifestyle and living arrangements you are weighing options. We chose to ensure our odds of being stranded, flooded and/or starving in a natural disaster were minimized. Does it have its drawbacks?
But are those drawbacks evident in the run up to the storm? No.
We purposefully made choices while building the house to ensure it would survive anything we were willing to ride out. And the house was cheap enough to keep our life affordable regardless of financial conditions.
Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
If you prepare properly, with the right mindset, when that once-in-a-lifetime event comes upon you, the first thing you do is you won’t panic. Instead of freaking out and buying a bunch of bottled water or gasoline you don’t need you say, “Okay. We’ve done what we could. If this happens we do that. If that happens we could be screwed.”
But, at least you made your decisions without fear. Sometimes we Floridians spend a little too much time saying “Hold mah beer” and not enough weighing the real risks to life and limb.
The key to surviving any kind of crisis be it a hurricane, a civil war or a market meltdown is to know what you need to survive, make contingency plans and have your defenses ready.
While no plan survives contact with the enemy or a crisis, having one and altering it is better than not having one and getting wiped out.
Follow Tom’s work at his blog Gold Goats ‘n Guns as well as his contributions at Russia Insider and Seeking Alpha. Support his work at his Patreon page where you can sign up for the monthly Gold Goats ‘n Guns Newsletter for just $1/month.