Disaster Preparedness: Supply Lines

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On May 7, 2021 a U.S. fuel pipeline operated by Colonial Pipeline was shut down due to a ransomware attack. The attack resulted in the shutdown of the computer system operating the pipeline and temporarily created fuel shortages across parts of the Southern United States. As a result, several people took the opportunity to be complete idiots in an attempt to hoard gasoline in unsafe containers from their local gas stations. To my knowledge no one was killed as a direct result of their actions, but at least one woman was severely injured when she crashed with her gas “loot” while trying to evade police for failing to stop due to a traffic infraction.

A year before this event we had the start of the Covid-19 global pandemic. When it originally hit the U.S. for some reason people decided they needed to hoard toilet paper. In my own community, browsing through local Facebook pages was rather surreal. On one page a woman shared a picture of her daughter’s 4ft high castle made out of toilet paper rolls. Just below it, an eight-month pregnant woman was begging for someone to spare her a roll or two. She couldn’t find any anywhere after going to five stores. The juxtaposition of the two posts were frustrating, annoying, and unnecessary.

Today, June 1st,2021, I have just finished my weekly grocery shopping and just sat down for lunch when I saw another ransomware attack has occurred. This time the target was the world’s largest meat processor working in the US and Australia, JBS Corp. I’m not surprised. If you’re surprised, then please pay attention. Things are going to get worse. The more these attacks are successful the more they’ll keep trying. For me, disaster preparedness starts with recognizing my place within the grander scale of concurrent spheres of impact. Sometimes I’m the drop. Sometimes I’m the fifth ripple.

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Focus on what’s within your control, not what’s out of your control.

I can’t control when a ransomware attack will occur, when the next pandemic will occur or when the next earthquake will strike, but I can mitigate my family’s risk with a few simple steps.

  • Plan for reoccurring events. We have a few good wind and snow events every winter and yet people panic at the first mention of possible snow. They stress, they get grumpy and then they go stand in long lines at the grocery stores to get whatever it is they think is “essential.” I on the other hand pull out my battery-powered lanterns. I track the storm and plan according; brew coffee and put into thermoses, make dinner early or change to a shelf-stable dinner option from things already in the pantry. If you have to go through something every year, take the extra time to plan for it before it becomes eminent and save yourself the stress! It’s a snowstorm not the end of the world.
  • Stock up when select items are on sale. In my region, the Northwestern United States, canned food usually goes on sale in September. I can get cans of beans 10 for $10 and soups at nearly half off. I often make chili and cornbread before a storm since most of our storms tend to come at night. While hot chili is preferred, I don’t mind eating cold chili for lunch the next day if the power is out. Our power outages average about 2-3 days. For longer power outage we cook on the pellet grill. Before we had the grill, we used a small camp stove. If you have the outdoor space, a fire pit is good too. If you live in an apartment, save some cash to take a ride to a restaurant in an area of town with power or stay with a friend or family member for a night or two if you can.
  • Support locally grown foods. Supporting local growers helps provide jobs in your community and shortens the supply chain between you and your foods. Look for Farmer’s Markets in your area and give them a try. Also look for local co-op stores that support locally sourced products. Investing locally helps you and your neighbors. Pay attention to when things are in-season. They are fresher and offered at a better price. Freeze, pickle, or ferment what you can save for later. It will be interesting to see how vertical farms affect the future of growing produce. I would like to see the innovation of vertical farming (a type of aquaponics) come into urban areas and reduce the effect of “food deserts” found in poor, urban neighborhoods where fresh food is scarce and access to alcohol and processed food are high.
  • Make friends with all different kinds of people. As I get to know more and more people in my community, I pay attention to what their skills and abilities are. There’s nothing wrong with making friends with someone just because they’re nice and you like being around them, but it’s also nice to make a mental inventory of who’s good at what. It’s a game I like to play in my head.  It the event of a real apocalypse, who would I want to track down to be part of my survival team? Humans are a group-oriented species. If you learn nothing else from disaster movies, it should be that the lone wolf rarely survives. I know a guy with a welding shop and another with a carpentry shop, some nurses, some women who sew better than me, the local co-op, a couple of local farmers and a dairy over yonder. I also know a ton of Real Estate Agents, I’m sure I could find a way to put them to good use! If nothing else they’re well-connected to people and properties that could be leveraged as assets. I really need to find someone who knows the hot air balloon guys. In case a post-apocalypse aerial scouting mission is needed, of course! So even if you’re a declared introvert like me, get to know people around you. If you need to come together as a community, it’s good to know where to start. If you think you have no useful skills, there’s no time like the present to learn some!
  • Make it fun, make it informed. Play the game, “What would I do if….?” Walk through scenarios in your head about what you would do in certain situations. Do this with your family and friends. People who are skilled at making quick decision and saving lives didn’t get that way by luck. It comes down to training. As you walk through scenarios think of things that would help make it easier. Having a first aid kit in the car. Having a fire extinguisher in the kitchen (or you can smother a fire with flour or corn starch if you have enough on hand.) What if there was an extended gas shortage and you had to get to work? Could you walk? Bike? Call someone to share a ride with and offer to bake cookies in exchange or something?

Final Thoughts:

I really feel we need to focus on making ourselves adaptable and resilient at the individual level and scale it up to the community and society level. My biggest concern is that we won’t adapt fast enough to climate change while politicians bicker and corporations drag their heels on innovative climate initiatives. I have no control over what the politicians and multinational corporations do, but I do have agency over myself. I can choose not panic buy or stress over every snowstorm. I can make myself strong and support members of my community when they need me most. You need a roll toilet paper, darling? I got one for you. I planned for this.

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Penny for your thoughts?

Philosophical Roadkill

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I believe that creativity begets creativity. I like the word “beget” because it reminds me of my days as a young teenager when we would encounter the word during bible study and it gave us something to snicker about. All the while waiting for the next appropriate passage of time to ask, “Can we go outside yet?” I require fresh air. Not just the exchange of fresh air coming through a ventilation exchange system, but the whole experience of fresh air: to see the day/night cycle, bugs, birds and to hear the sounds of life around me. I’ve worked in big factories during all hours with no windows, just huge noisy machinery in a cavernous warehouse space. It always made me feel disconnected. Like a flower cut from the stem and forced to live in a windowless vase. A biological entity consumed to keep the heartbeat of a great mechanical beast going. For what? A paycheck.

Those types of jobs can cost you a body part or more if you don’t pay attention. I’ve always had a good mechanical aptitude. I can often see how individual components make up a larger system be it mechanical, biological, or social. When I got my first car there was a whole lot of pavement underneath the hood. I often joked it was powered by a hamster and a couple of rubber bands. It was a 1978 Ford Mustang II with T-tops. After taking it to auto mechanics for this problem or that I discovered that they were taking advantage of me. They advised me to replace parts they had replaced only two months earlier. They’d wrongly assumed I wasn’t paying attention. How many alternators does a girl need? Only one and it shouldn’t need to be replaced so often. Then I discovered a clean knife cut 1/3 through my radiator hose shortly after getting my car back. Fortunately, the radiator hose had been long enough I just finished the cut and clamped the hose back on. Problem solved for free, by my hands.

I whirled into automotive garage like a tempest, a 16 year old girl, and threatened to rip all their balls off and wear them as a necklace. The guys panicked. It was comical to see a bunch of big guys with beards and tattoos forced to scurry about like mice caught in the pantry. Just short of turning into a full force hurricane the Manager offered to take me for a ride while the guys fixed my car, free of charge this time. I took his keys and drove his car around for about an hour while he sat in the passenger seat and apologized profusely. After about an hour I got my own car back and never returned there again.

Shortly after that a boyfriend convinced me to leave my car parked in a shady part of town for the night. Against my better judgement I did. When we drove back the next morning my car was there but the passenger window was broken and the ignition switch had been sawed off. It appears the thieves didn’t know how to drive a stick shift. So sad for them! They ended up taking my car battery. “You owe me a new battery.” I said tersely. He agreed. I was grateful the thieves hadn’t damaged any of my library books in the back seat. Then I’d have felt obligated to hunt them down and beat them up for disrespecting books and libraries.

There weren’t any cellphones back then. So while my boyfriend paid for the battery I borrowed the auto supply store’s phonebook and found a listing for a junkyard. I went alone to see if I could replace the window and ignition switch by myself. The key worked, but you could take it out while the car was running if you wanted too.

The junkyard was fantastic! I should have tried to get a job there! Sweetest junkyard dogs you could possibly meet and the guys were really nice too. They’d drive me out to the section of the yard where we’d find the right vehicle to strip for parts and take them back to the front office for checkout. I’d fix my car right there. They would lend me their tools and tell me how to do it. The guys would hang around like old friends and tell me stories while I worked when they weren’t busy. Unfortunately, with the T-tops, they didn’t have a model exactly like mine and the best window we could find for replacement left a little gap where the window top and T-top met. I drove around with a complimentary towel for any poor passenger stuck riding with me when it rained.

So why is this post called “Philosophical roadkill?” Well, it was beget or inspired by another blogger’s post who likes to do a “Word of the Day” and the word for that particular day was Sumpsimus.

sumpsimus [ suhmp-suh-muhs ]

noun, plural sump·si·mus·es for 2.

1. adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term, holding to a precise practice, etc., as a rejection of an erroneous but more common form (opposed to mumpsimus). 2. a person who is obstinate or zealous about such strict correctness (opposed to mumpsimus).

Dictionary.com

When I first started entering the waters of social media I had a desire for being sumpsimus about grammar and writing etiquette. It didn’t earn me many friends. I learned to adapt and embrace that this is a living language; with each generation and social revolution language changes and so does the acceptability of the norms. This doesn’t mean that I’ve swung to the opposite side, mumpsimus; but that I accept in ways my opinion doesn’t matter and it’s not a battle worth fighting for as far as I’m concerned.

However, I do not let my husband off the hook so easily! First, he knows better. Secondly, he’ll do it intentionally to mess with me. Whenever we see roadkill, usually a dead squirrel, he’ll call it an “ex-squirrel” because he knows I hate it. I always argue that the squirrel may have become divorced from its body, but it probably has a little squirrel spirit floating about the æther somewhere. I propose that the squirrel of matter is now the squirrel of anti-matter. Some essence of squirrel carries on in that spark of energy that once gave it life in the form of matter. Some Scientists argue that the æther doesn’t exist at all. I would argue that its just not well understood and no one should take mythology built around the natural order too literally anyways. We continue to unlock so many mysteries about the human mind and the universe itself. I see us as cogs in many wheels: within society, within nature, within the universe. I believe this is the dimensionality of our existence. You matter not because someone else says so, but because you belong to a larger order. Squirrels who forget about a cache of nuts and grow new trees. Insects who avoid predation and insecticides to breed another generation as food, as composters, as a ripple effect in the larger sea of climate change. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, it transitions.

Maybe I passed through this physical world as a squirrel once before. Why could such a thought be so impossible to believe? I have yet to discuss Disaster Preparedness on this blog, but when I see the squirrels hiding caches for winter it reminds me to check my own cache of disaster supplies. I live along the Pacific rim where we’re expecting a really big earthquake within the next 100 years. Even if I should become divorced from my body before or during the big event, if my supplies help others survive then I feel I’ve fulfilled part of this niche for this cycle.

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What do you think? Do you have a sense of purpose you’d be willing to share? Other thoughts?

For reference:

Try Working This One Into a Sentence | Schingle’s Blog (wordpress.com) April 26th blog post re: sumpsimus.

My mustang wasn’t as fancy as this restored and upgraded one, but it still has the original body. Blue 1978 Ford Mustang Cobra II Hatchback – MustangAttitude.com Photo Detail