In Part 2 of this series, we discussed collecting information about the stores and products that might be available to buy as the disaster unfolds. In Part 3, we practice using our plan before the crisis occurs.
Make a Trial Run Before Your Last Run
I know this sounds counter-intuitive in the face of TEOTWAWKI, but if you have time, it’s always better to do a test run of something that has the potential to fail or be physically dangerous. If you have the opportunity to go out and observe what actually happens during a crisis event before one can negatively affect you, you will be surprised at how much you can learn.
Last winter, with a major snowstorm on the immediate horizon (and actually starting to come down), I took what was, for me, an unprecedented step. My family has been active preppers for more than 10 years and could certainly get through something so ordinary as a snowstorm. “Snowmageddon”, a monster storm that hit the east coast several years ago, hardly registered on our radar, even though it dumped more than four feet of snow on our farm and obliterated power for a large part of the nation’s capitol area. Despite knowing that we were in really good shape to literally “weather the storm,” I was curious to see how my smallish, semi-rural county would react.
I was surprised, to say the least.
As the storm began, I drove to the major shopping areas within a reasonable distance from my home. My four-wheel drive Suburban was certainly roadworthy, so I wasn’t concerned that I would get stuck in a half-inch of snow. However, there’s a fair number of urban transplants in our area, and everybody knows that “city folk” go absolutely nuts when it starts snowing. Their lack of driving skill is far more dangerous than any weather event could be. Still, I figured the benefits of gathering useful information far outweighed the potential risks.
At this point, there were very few people driving, and almost all of them, bless their li’l country hearts, were in 4WD pickups, Suburbans, or SUVs. Many of them, it turns out, were dropping first responders and medical personnel off at the regional hospital. The sheriff had put out a call for 4WD owners to help out, and help out they did.
Apparently, most people who shop at the mid-priced grocery stores (we have no “affluent” yuppy-type stores in the town) had heeded the weather warnings and had already completed their shopping. Only an intrepid few were in the parking lot, topping off their beer and chips. I went inside several of the stores and found them completely stocked with just about everything and prepared to stay open until the power failed. The larger stores also had extensive backup systems to keep their refrigerators and freezers operational. They were in for the long haul. This was mid-afternoon in some stores, so I asked the managers how much traffic they had had all day. The answer was “not much” to “about normal”. I knew then that my favorite chains would probably be in good shape for a few days if I needed them to be.
(I did buy more bread, milk, orange juice, cookies, and toilet paper just because I could. Never let an opportunity go to waste.)
The Walmart was another story. There were many more cars in the lot and people rushing in and out with canned goods, bottled water, even expensive snacks, frozen foods, and goodies. Almost no one had anything that I would have thought to buy, staples like rice, beans, flour, salt, seeds, spices, soap, OTC pharmaceuticals, et cetera, that would be necessary if the snowstorm or electrical outages lasted for a prolonged time. While some people obviously knew that there might be trouble ahead for them and their families, many acted like they thought that the snowstorm was just some huge party waiting to happen.
On an earlier trip, I talked to the Walmart manager about stocking emergency supplies and was pleased to see a few weeks later that they had put together major displays of supply “packages” with the typical emergency household items, like matches, radios, space blankets, hand warmers, and candles. They also regularly stock Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) and brought in multi-day emergency buckets of food. Most of these sold out very quickly and, by the time the storm actually arrived, they were long gone.
Across the road from Walmart, the Lowe’s was awash with people still trying to find emergency supplies (candles, flashlights, batteries, and generators). Those items were also sold out, and the expressions on the peoples’ faces as they exited the store were tragic. If they had thought to go to a smaller store with less competition for scarce supplies, they might have fared better. Expensive items like generators sold out immediately and were being resold in the parking lot for exorbitant prices. Even those disappeared quickly.
I did not risk going into either store. Perhaps the most important maxim of preppers everywhere is to keep away from crowds.