Although I rarely talk about it, in my ‘former life’ I used to be a professional firefighter in Los Angeles. What most people don’t realize is that firefighters (at least in the LA area) mostly deal with non-fire emergencies. Where I worked, over 95% of our calls were for medical emergencies, technical rescues, hazardous material mitigation, and whatever else the cops didn’t want to deal with. (Just joking… kinda…)
I usually worked on an ALS (advanced life support) fire engine, but I also worked on the hazardous materials team. This required months and months of training to first become a hazardous materials specialist and then I went on to get training in explosives, live agents, and nuclear threats. This training required me to physically go to several different US military test sites where we tested, handled, and witnessed unique experiments.
While I can’t share everything… I can tell you a couple valuable lessons I learned.
First of all, I didn’t see aliens, there are no huge conspiracies, and everyone I met at these different test sites were genuinely good people who were just doing their jobs like every other US citizen. Perhaps there are deep dark secrets out there, but I didn’t see any. I will say, however, that the scale and technical abilities of these sites were mind boggling.
Now, the second lesson I learned had to do with the people who were operating these locations. Like I said, they were genuinely good people, who you would walk right by on the street without even knowing what they did for a living. None of them had an agenda to push and they certainly were not working under some secret evil directive.
Once I realized this… that all of these seemingly complex and secretive locations, that deal with extremely dangerous and sophisticated technologies… are run by regular people, who just like you and me have families and normal everyday problems… I started to think, “Wait, what happens when something really bad occurs? Where are ‘those people’ who will come to save the day when a natural disaster, or worse, something like a pandemic happens?”
Oh crap… I was one of those people who was supposed to come and save the day. I was the one who was getting trained on how to handle this stuff. I was the one who was supposed to stay at work to help other people, while my family stayed at home by themselves.
So here is my confession:
I’M A PREPPER!
There! I said it! Whew! I feel so much better!
I’ve got the food and water supply, the protection, and all the other weird supplies that you’d assume a crazy guy who always wears camouflage and lives in the middle of the forest has. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just Google ‘prepper’ and you’ll see what I mean.)
I’m not one of those extreme preppers with an underground bunker and attack dogs… but I probably have a lot more supplies than the average household. I’ve also played out all the unimaginable scenarios in my head, about how bad things could get in different disaster cases.
Admittedly, my imagination has been able to wonder further than the average person, knowing how our emergency support systems are woefully underprepared to actually respond in a meaningful way to a major emergency.
To be clear, there are generally adequate response systems and services to solve local and regional disasters. However, when it comes to a country-wide crisis, our emergency services will be stretched beyond their limit.
Recent events in the US, such as hurricanes and wildfires, have illustrated how quickly things can get out of control. During the last wildfire season in California, entire cities were burning with nearly zero fire department response simply because there were not enough resources. The finger can be pointed in many different directions, but the bottom line is that there just simply aren’t enough personal or equipment to provide solutions to large scale disasters.
One of the major reasons why this is happening is because the general public is helpless when it comes to saving their own butts. People call 911 for the most ridiculous reasons (the State of Oregon just put out a press release requesting that people stop calling 911 for toilet paper).
Just a century ago, people not only felt more responsible for their personal safety and well-being, but they also took measures to ensure that they could provide those levels of personal comforts on their own. Today, I seriously doubt that the average household has much more than a weeks supply of food. And when it comes to a stash of money, protection, or other basic necessities, you’re guess is as good as mine… people just aren’t prepared.
So, back to the part where I repeatedly played out different scenarios in my head. Have you tried to think through how different events will roll out? Have you thought about what would happen if basic supply chains break down for a week? A month?
How will you personally deal with this? How desperate will your neighbors get?
This is starting to sound a little alarmist, and that is definitely not my intention. I generally believe, especially in the US, that people find ways to overcome obstacles in a collaborative way. The chances of strangers banding together to help each other in crisis is much more likely than people fighting each other.
This is a conversation that could go on forever, so I won’t go down this rabbit hole. Instead, I want to focus on thing, which is preparedness and the risk of thinking this pandemic is worse than it actually is.
There is no risk to over preparing.
Last week, we sent home our office employees and told them not to meet with each other face to face. Does that sound extreme? Maybe. But, as a business owner and operator, we cannot afford our entire team coming down with a virus that will prevent them from getting their work done. We are not only looking out for our business, but we are also looking our for our employees. If the business can’t survive, our employees don’t get paid.
Most of our employees thought we were nuts for sending them home. One of them literally laughed because she thought it was totally unnecessary. We were sure to promptly tell her how she should take this seriously if she expects to continue to work with a company that is taking proactive measures to ensure future success.
Personally, we’ve also started self-isolation, which includes having our two kids (under the age of 3) in our house and yard, 24/7. Anyone with kids who is doing the same thing understands how difficult this is, especially if you are still running a business from home. We’ve also stocked up on pretty much any consumable product that we use on a daily basis. (Don’t worry, I did this back in January before the recent hoarding issues started!)
Some of our friends and family members have looked at what we’re doing with raised eyebrows. However, today, those same people are starting to question what they should be doing, as the reality of the situation is starting to become more apparent by the hour.
I share all of this with you not to say ‘look what I did!’ Instead, I’m just encouraging you to take this situation seriously, as there is absolutely no downside to over preparing. If anything, this can just be a practice drill for you, your family, and your business. The worst case scenario, if nothing comes of this pandemic, is that you know you are prepared for a future black swan event.
In the event that this global pandemic actually turns out to be what most experts are predicting (or worse), then you will be glad you made those ‘crazy’ preparations.
One final note: The world will go one. Humans are resilient. There will be incredible opportunities coming in the near future. This is both a scary and exciting time. But the time is now to decide where you want to be positioned if the the worse case happens.