The Top 5 reasons I hear for not taking the first steps toward a more prepared lifestyle:
1. Looks complicated and involved. Too much to learn and do (I find it adventurous and empowering).
2. I’m not organized. Nor handy. Nor outdoorsy (I’m only one of the three).
3. Seems fringe — usually followed by “Not you. You’re not weird” (Thanks, I think?).
4. I don’t have room for a year’s supply of freeze-dried food (me neither).
5. My partner/children/roommate will never go along (OK, I’ve got this one).
Then, while putting together an evacuation bag and post-earthquake plan for my 85-year-old mother (a blog post of its own. Stay tuned!), she worryingly added #6:
6. You can’t possibly prepare for everything.
True. That is a worry, isn’t it?
Indeed, if one thinks even a little deeply about it:
To prepare is to voluntarily acknowledge the existence of chaos.
Why do that?
It’s not like we don’t already know that earthquakes and wild fires are a fact of life here in California. Why actively engage with this reality day to day?
At the risk of being too spiritual for some: because I believe we’re meant to.
There’s a reason why nearly every human culture, religion and civilization has an origin story in which order is carved from chaos.
For me, purpose, meaning and growth actually require engagement with encroaching chaos (when is it not encroaching?). Be it on the micro level of one’s room, one’s job, or emergency preparedness.
Regarding cleaning one’s room, yes, I’ve watched Jordan Peterson videos — primarily his lectures on The Psychological Significance Of The Bible Stories which I found profound and illuminating.
If you don’t have 30 hours to spare for the bible series, check out this 10-minute clip that’s primarily about Noah and the Flood. More broadly, it makes the case for how preparation — at whatever scale you can manage it — is a mitigator of chaos at least and, at best, an anvil against which to forge a better self.
Even if you don’t subscribe to my spiritual perspective, the fact remains that preparedness as a lifestyle generally reduces negative variables and increases options.
As I’ve noted before, it’s empowering, mind expanding, and physically challenging. It incorporates elements of adventure, curiosity, mindfulness and spontaneity; health, diet, fitness and travel; civic engagement, financial planning and personal security; and relationships and family.
As importantly, at at time when the world feels so divided, readiness celebrates and encourages the power of community as a hub of shared wisdom, compassion and resources.
And, to my mother’s point, though no one can be disaster proof, one can strive to be disaster resistant.
So whether you’re a regular reader or new to the blog, let’s take this opportunity to begin. In my case, begin again as we recently moved from Los Feliz to Sunset Square and our new house doesn’t suit most of my old preps!
In Los Feliz we had a cozy bungalow with heaps of clever storage. In Sunset Square we have far more bright and airy living space but far less storage.
And since not every emergency will require or allow for evacuation, bespoke local knowledge and planning around where you live is crucial.
There are many future blog posts to be devoted to specific elements of planning and preparedness around the home, but in the spirit of a simple first step, I’m starting by creating a Risk/Resource map of my new neighborhood.
It’s easy: type your home address into Google and take a moment to note obvious highlighted risks (gas stations, for example) and resources (hospitals, supermarkets, schools). Schools, you’ll be pleased to learn, are among the safer buildings in Los Angeles as well as a natural community hub for triage, information and support).
Here’s our new map. Not bad! A school, fire station and grocery store all within a half mile! And a hospital just off the map four miles to the east. I’d love to tell you that was by design, but honestly it just worked out that way.
Augment your map further by getting out on foot and annotating elements not visible online. These could include neighbors with special skills (we discovered a nurse in our old neighborhood) or less obvious resources like a community garden.
The key is to start creating community and community resources around your home.
If you want to dig deeper, the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services features a California MyHazards tool in which you input your California address and it reveals larger potential hazards such as tsunami risk areas, flood plains and liquefaction and/or earthquake fault zones.
There’s also the NextDoor App, which, if you can get past the tendency of some comment threads to go off the rails, remains a potential resource for localized emergency information. Contributing to reuniting owners and pets is also a plus. There is also FEMA’s earthquake website and earthquakecountry.org/ as well as the ShakeAlertLA app which is worth checking out.
Another good and simple prep: Home Décor
Review the location of furniture and objects with an eye toward gravity. In a strong earthquake, objects can become airborne and potentially harmful.
Easy Step: Repositioning heavy objects
Consider where you can move heavy objects from higher shelves to lower ones in cabinets, book cases, armoires, etc. Generally speaking, heavy objects are better off at waist level or lower. This includes wine bottles and spirits.
Easy Step: Securing small, valuable objects
Family china, curios, and other emotionally or financially valuable objects can be easily secured with museum wax or quake hold.
Easy Step: Separate bleach and bleach-based cleaners from the rest of your cleaning supplies.
Bleach mixes dangerously with the chemicals in many other household products. In a kitchen fire, they could mix under your sink to additional danger. Household products containing petroleum (some insect sprays, for example) are also best stored on their own.
Future Steps: latches, straps and fasteners
In the kitchen, consider latches on cabinets, particularly those holding glass or crockery.
Tall appliances like a refrigerator can be secured to walls with an earthquake appliance strap.
In living rooms and bedrooms, consider securing tall or top heavy bookshelves, armoires (taller than waist level) to walls with flexible fasteners. Review whether you have hanging pictures, mirrors, shelves, or anything else sharp-edged or heavy above a bed.
Finally, we need to start training our minds — the ultimate survival tool. There is a deep well of academic study and published literature on the impact of stress on the brain. It’s a master class unto itself.
If you want to read a fascinating, profoundly human and useful overview from someone who knows from whence she speaks, check out Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes — And Why.
See, we’ve begun!
Glad to be walking the preparedness path with you all. More soon!