I've been reading alot about this swine flu, as I'm sure others have, and it sparked a need in me to be prepared. I'm not panicked, as right now this flu--even if it spreads everywhere--hasn't been so bad in the U.S. and is about like any other flu. But two things bother me: first, I have read that the virus can mutate as it passes from person to person and thereby become more serious. Second-- hurricanes Rita and Ike taught me that often the bigger problem is not the disaster itself, but the chaos created when people panic. It seems to me that some media outlets are sensationalizing this issue, which could lead to unneccessary panic and the spread of misinformation, neither of which is a good thing. So right now, I'm getting myseld prepared so that I can sit back and know that the family I'm responsible for will be fine in the unlikely event of an emergency.
So what did I do? To the tune of $300, I stocked our pantry with non-perishables. We have food galore, diapers, medicine, paper goods, hand sanitizer--anything we might need to hunker down and avoid going out for a while if worse comes to worst. At the very least, it will mean far fewer trips to the grocery store and will eliminate running out for just one thing, which means less opportunity to be exposed to germs. We have hand sanitizer for the car, my daughters backpack, my husband's desk at work and for the house. I hope we don't need any of this, but if we do it is there. And actually, this is all a little less extreme than it sounds because we'd have to do this in about 6 weeks anyway in preparation for hurricane season.
Which brings me to my next issue--what the hurricanes have taught me about the chaos created when people panic. I learned after riding out hurricane Ike that the things I thought I should prepare for weren't the things that were problems. I was prepared with water, batteries, and canned food to get us through the power outage and the week or so that it should take to get things back in order. I figured if things got any worse than that, we could head out to my parents place further inland where they have a huge garden, cattle and otherwise plentiful sources of food. What didn't I anticipate? At the mention of a hurricane, store shelves were wiped clean of perishable items. You couldn't get bread, milk, cheese, anything. Then the stores closed. And people who needed shelter came to stay with us, dwindling our food supply. The hurricane itself was ugly to live through, but the next day we were fortunate to have only minor damage and the power was out for only 24 hours. But that wasn't the end of it. Stores had lost power, and what little perishable and frozen food they had was destroyed and had to be thrown out. They couldn't open, because too many employees had evacuated and they had nobody to work. Trucks couldn't get in to deliver food, so when they did open they had very little to offer and couldn't take credit cards because lines were down. One couldn't get cash out of an ATM for the same reason, and the banks were closed. Schools were closed for a week due to power outages, an inability to provide food service and the fact that so many teachers had evacuated. Once we started to run low on food, we thought about plan B, which was to leave town to head to my parent's place. Well, we didn't realize that traffic would be gridlocked in both directions--inbound, from all the people who had evacuated and wanted to get back in and assess damage, and outbound from all the poeple who had initially stayed but needed to get out of town for the same reasons we did. Gas was in short supply, and grocery stores and convenience stores were out of food. What a mess, and completely different from what we expected the aftermath to be. I learned in all of this how dependant we are on this commercialized way of living modern life, and how much chaos can be caused when the chain of commerce is disrupted. And I also learned, above all else, to be prepared. So that is what I'm doing!