Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What if they don't listen?

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a YouTube documentary based on Everett S. Allen's 1976 book "A Wind to Shake the World: The Story of the 1938 Hurricane."

Largely forgotten now, the 1938 hurricane is "estimated to have killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at US$306 million ($4.7 billion in 2016)." This tragic event was one of the most damaging hurricanes prior to Katrina, and the book's author was a young reporter, literally on his first day on the job with the New Bedford Standard-Times and wondering what his first story would be. Despite the slightly ridiculous overly-dramatic narration, the documentary --which was made in 1988 -- is fascinating.

It's worth noting one of the reasons the hurricane was so devastating was the lack of early warning system. It struck almost literally from a clear blue sky, and within hours hundreds of people were dead and thousands of homes destroyed.

Remember that point: no early warning system.

What struck me most in this 1988 documentary was an interview with a weatherman named Bruce Schwoegler with WBZ-TV (at about minute 42:00 in the documentary). He makes mention of Hurricane Gloria in 1985, which at the time was described as the "storm of the century" by the media.

Armed with the best technology 1988 had to offer, Mr. Schwoegler says:
The hurricane of 1938 is extremely important because it should have taught us lessons, and it didn't. Some of those lessons involve the media. I've got all the bells and whistles here -- radar, satellite pictures, computers -- and I'm going to be conveying the very latest information on any major storm that comes our way to the public, directly, immediately. That's my job. However ... what if they don't listen? What if, because of scares from the media in the past -- storm of the century! Gloria, heading toward New England! -- what if such scars have created callouses? 'Hey I'm tough, I've lived through Gloria, I can handle this one!' -- or another callous: 'Hey, those weathermen, they're gonna blow it again, I'm gonna keep that house on the south coast here for another week, I'm not leaving' -- what if that happens?

In spite of all the modern technology that I've got here, all the latest knowledge that I'm pouring forth on the tube -- what if they don't buy it because of all this 'Boy who cried wolf' in the past? If that's the case, in spite of all this modern technology, we're going to have a major catastrophe on our hands.

We have more people living along the coast. We have more infrastructure developed along the coast -- real estate, condos, three feet above sea level. What does it mean when a big hurricane like the storm of '38 hits that coastal zone? ... A lot of people just don't understand the tremendous force in nature. ... And in spite of me telling them that it's coming our way, they're going to be out surfing. Not realizing they're going to be blown away, and the water is going to rise 20 feet in the storm surge, and that all their escape routes are going to be cut off. And all this [early warning system] has to be done well ahead of time because if it isn't, they're not going to get out if the waters continue to rise.

So we're facing a very delicate situation. A catastrophic situation. If and when we get another hurricane of 1938 -- and you can bet that we're going to get another one, sometime, who knows when -- you can bet that it's going to be one of the biggest stories, not only of that year, but of the decade and perhaps even the century.
What Mr. Schwoegler is referring to is commonly called the Normalcy Bias, sometimes termed the "It can't happen to me" syndrome.

In a blog post, "Self sufficient man" Tim Young discusses what he calls the "deadly grip" of the normalcy bias:
Normalcy bias is simply the belief that tomorrow will be pretty much the same as it is today, and it has a firm grip on our psyche. When presented with sudden change, unprepared people seize up and the normalcy bias renders them unable to cope. As you’ll see, at no time is this truer than when their lives are at stake, for normalcy bias gets people killed.

I believe it is also the reason why so many people fail to prepare for disasters and life-changing events. ...

[T]he barrage of so many doomsday predictions paralyzes the majority of people. Rather than taking steps to prepare, they simply ignore the threats, essentially burying their heads in the sand. ...

The problem is that “most people go their entire lives without a disaster,” according to Michael Lindell, a professor at the Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center at Texas A&M University. “So, the most reasonable reaction when something bad happens is to say, this can’t possibly be happening to me.”

We have every imaginable early warning system clanging bells at us regarding the economy and the dangers our nation faces ... and yet people can't even spare the money for a bag of extra beans for their pantry. At what point do we give up trying to warn them?

Take a look at this sobering article on how the middle class in Venezuela is liquidating their life savings just to buy a bit of food to put aside. Remember, Venezuela is currently experiencing 700 percent inflation.

Referencing a young couple named Tebie Gonzalez and Ramiro Ramirez, the article notes, "[W]hen the Venezuelan government opened the long-closed border with Colombia this weekend, the couple decided to drain what remained of the savings they put away before the country spun into economic crisis and stock up on food. They left their two young sons with relatives and joined more than 100,000 other Venezuelans trudging across what Colombian officials are calling a "humanitarian corridor" to buy as many basic goods as possible. 'This is money we had been saving for an emergency, and this is an emergency,' Ramirez said. 'It's scary to spend it, but we're finding less food each day and we need to prepare for what's coming.'"

But of course, this could never happen here, right?

Recently ZeroHedge posted an article entitled "If you can't touch it, you don't own it." Quoting from the article:
Presently, the UK, EU, US, et al, have created a level of debt that exceeds anything the world has ever seen. Historically, extreme debt always ends in an economic collapse. The odoriferous effluvium hasn’t yet hit the fan, but we’re not far off from that eventuality. Therefore, wherever you live and invest, a spike such as the one presently occurring in the UK could result in you being refused redemption. Should there then be a concurrent drop in the market that serves to gut the fund’s investments, you can expect to sit by and watch as the fund heads south, but be unable to exit the fund.

As stated above, excessive debt results in an economic collapse, which results in a market crash. It’s a time-tested scenario and the last really big one began in 1929, but the present level of debt is far higher than in 1929, so we can anticipate a far bigger crash this time around.

But the wise investor will, of course diversify, assuring him that, if one investment fails, another will save him. Let’s look at some of the most prominent ones and consider how they might fare, at a time when the economy is teetering in the edge.

The article concludes by advising, "This evening, take account of all your deposits and investments and determine what percentage of them you do truly own. If you decide that that percentage is too low for you to accept, you may wish to implement some changes... before others do it for you."

There's only so much emergency responders and early-warning people can do. After that, it's up to individuals to take personal responsibility for their health and safety.

Just sayin', folks.


  1. This so true on so many levels. Recently, my wife and I had to take steps to prepare to evacuate our home, should the Fire Dept. fail to halt an approaching wildfire a mere 2 miles from our home. Fortunately, geography and the weather allowed the fire to be halted before anyone lost a home. But during the running around, gathering papers, photos, clothes and provisions, my wife kept muttering to herself - "I can't believe it, I can't believe it!"

    I hope now she will be more 'pliable' when I suggest we prepare for possibilities.

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

    1. Thank you Steve. This just reminded me that I have been too lax as a prepper. I was all prepared for anything and everything a few years ago but... time goes on. You can't let prepping run your life but.... I see now that I have 'lost my edge', for better or for worse. Some of this is pride in having put away so much emergency stuff (this smug face needs a slap) as well as seeing that not much has happened since God advised me to prepare things for my family and neighbors a few years ago. Just lately I have been prompted to have a serious re-look at everything from a few different corners. (Disclaimer: no, this isn't a prophecy) I think it's just a sign of the times and the need to be ready for anything as a good citizen and a decent human being.

      It is now time to go through the Bunker as well as my emergency Bug Out Bag/Survival Kit that I always carry. Things need to be revisited in new ways with a fresh eye. The excessive HEAT and DRYNESS we have had here in MA has probably ruined some of what I carry daily, as well as taken years off the dates of our food stuffs in the bunker (now waaaaaay too hot). Never factored any of this in before. Never had this much heat and dryness before.

      Bottom Line: God is still in charge but we need to be ready because these are unsettling times. Thank Patrice for this blog and all of your readers.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

  2. I read advice recently about having a change of clothes outside your home, outbuilding, at neighbors, etc., in case you are forced outside in your underwear by a fire.

    There a many, many threats and it is hard to prepare. You can mostly just work on improving your capabilities to put together what you might need from some basics. That requires a thought process, skills developed, basic tools and supplies.

    And in the grand calamity, keep in mind you can't eat gold or silver. When Rome was collapsing, Britannia's industrial (single/few crop) farms collapsed due to the dangers of transportation with the rise of robbers and raiders. The cities collapsed and everyone got back to subsistence farming. For centuries, they had a food-based economy. Food was the currency. It was grown, a portion (usually to the point of near starvation) was paid to the lord, who in turn give his food-rent to the king. The king and his "entourage" travelled the land, not only to keep it secure, but mostly to consume their "taxes" as it was more efficient to eat the food-rent at the noble's than to have it go to rot being transported to some "capital".

    1. jk
      so that's why the court was always on the move!
      i bet the landholders thank God for refrigeration otherwise the queen would be on the doorstep!
      i didn't realize the taxes were not all durable goods.

    2. You definitely need food and water stored away for an emergency. HOWEVER, while you might not be able to eat gold and silver, you can certainly trade for food and many other necessities with precious metals after the SHTF. Us older folks with bad knees, backs and such can't very well tend a garden, so to be able to barter for necessities is an option we can't ignore! --Fred in AZ

  3. I have been prepping for what seams like years. I was thinking about this bent of mine and realized that I felt that way even back when I was a teenager. (that was a LONG time ago) I have no idea why I felt that way but I just always have. For the last 15 years I have been trying to prepare with water, food, arms, and information. I do really like your country living series. I guess I will keep trying to prepare as I can and hope it is enough. I wish I had a big chunk of money I could drop on this but I can't.

  4. I can certainly understand why so many were killed in the 1938 Hurricane.

    But we live in the 'Information Age' today. Some seek knowledge and take action. Most don't. Psychologists coined the fancy term 'normalcy bias' in lieu of what Grandma would have used. I'll stick with Grandma.

    Isn't it odd that the level of information and that of common sense seems to be inversely proportional?
    Montana Guy

  5. Excellent article. Would love to read that book.
    We had a fire on our property last year. I still have my pictures in a box I could grab and go if I had to.
    If you are scared, you will do anything to be ready next time. Another fire year upon us and clothing and camping supplies are in an easy grab and go boxes.
    Are you ready to run?

  6. Katrina would not have caused so much damage except that over the last 20,30,40 years the money to mitigate hurricanes was basically stolen by the various boards of each NO Parish. The pumps failed (which is incredibly irresponsible since most of NO is below sea level). The levies failed. Literally billions and billions of mostly federal money had been pumped into NO over the 40 years or so preceeding Katrina and a lot of the local politicians stole that money. The list of mistakes including intentional acts that made Katrina worse is very long. And for what it's worth none of them was Bush's fault.

    1. anonymous,
      thanks for the information.
      government is only as good as the members thereof.
      some argue that the NO corruption is why there should be federal oversight and management.

  7. First responder here... Oddly enough, the assumption in cold war civil defence was that in the event of a nuclear exchange or comparable disaster, there would simply not be enough emergency personnel to manage the event. So, planners assumed that the response would be mostly done by people with no or minimal training, with trained responders providing the direction and the backbone of the response. As I watch the slow erosion of volunteerism, I'm foreseeing a return to precisely that way of responding to disasters in future.

  8. We are firm believers in "5-Minute Grab and Go Lists" to pre-prioritize key items and actions to save critical time.
    Just two of us normally live in our home. We have TWO '5-Min. Grab & Go' lists (hidden of course). The lists have no overlap in locations for efficiency. My wife grabs things at locations A and B. I grab things at locations C and D. This saves time by not having to decide what to take, its location or asking if it was already packed by the other. The lists include actions too, like reminding us to shut off the propane, move gas cans, etc.
    Incidentally, the first items are securing our pets. They will likely get anxious in the inevitable commotion. The last thing you want is to be ready to leave and not be able to find Miss Kitty.
    Montana Guy

  9. For what it's worth the U.S. never took civil defense seriously except for the politicians in DC. There never were and never will be shelters for the citizens or food for the aftermath. Switzerland does it. Russia and China do it for strategic populations and industries. Everyone else is bare naked survival. No shelter, no plan, nothing. If you survive the initial attack it is likely you would die within the next 6 months to a year. Our government is betting/hoping that there won't be an attack. If there is; it over, done, fini. And remember this, the Chinese will have protected 4 million soldiers and the Russians will have protected 2 million. Where do you imagine they will send them after our country's defenses are wiped out?

    1. Anonymous, you are correct that the US government never took civil defense seriously. However, they know a nuclear attack on the US is INEVITABLE. And incredibly, their plan is for America to take a devastating and crippling first strike! Like you say, they only care about saving themselves.

      As Americans we are responsible for our own personal safety, not government. The truth is that the vast majority of Americans located (or can evacuate to a rural retreat) outside major US cities COULD SURVIVE an all-out nuclear attack and live through the difficult post-attack years. But they have to get off their butts and do some work.

      What can a family do? I’d recommend that they PRINT THIS FREE .pdf file. It is a great plan with one exception: Gather Supplies (Item #7) NOW! Do not wait until nuclear attack is imminent!

      Montana Guy

    2. I wonder if a strong focus on individual preparedness is a problem, when individual or family survival becomes an end in itself. I'm often struck by how many prepped people seem to concede that society can go hang if a catastrophe strikes.

    3. Stephen, first responders such as yourself are awesome. Thank you. We are in a small rural town and our local volunteers are excellent.

      You mention civil defense and volunteerism. The federal government basically killed both in the process of killing America. Hence the strong emphasis on ‘individual preparedness’. What is the alternative?

      You mention 'society'. Personally, if catastrophe strikes, saving 'society' in not even on my radar screen. Rebuilding society would come later. But first you have to live through it.
      Montana Guy

  10. Montana Guy is so right! We are responsible for our own survival, and we should be. Our liberal-progressive politicians want to control us until a disaster strikes and then we're on our own. Those of us who know this also know we can't trust our leaders, so we HAVE to be prepared for the worst! Liberal-progressives think those of us who prepare are a bunch of "kooks." We're also looked down upon if we suspect a conspiracy or illegal shenanigans are being perpetrated by our government. They don't want us passing along any "conspiracy theories," so they label us as nuts and "conspiracy theorists," which of course is politically incorrect! That's just another way for those in power to control us all. There is nothing wrong with being paranoid... if what is causing the paranoia is true! --Fred in AZ