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The 5.4 temblor that hit Southern California Tuesday morning didn’t cause any major damage or injuries. But in the dozen or so seconds of wondering whether the crescendo of shaking was going to be the Big One before it became obvious that it wasn’t, I had plenty of time to remember that I hadn’t recently checked the expiration dates of the food the three people in my household have stashed in our disaster kits. That’s one kit for each car – food, bottled water, a change of clothes and shoes, a mini-flashlight, sunscreen, assorted first-aid items, some cash and batteries. My wife and stepdaughter also have small kits at their job sites.

At home, we have cached 180 gallons of purified water and enough packaged meals-ready-to-eat for two weeks, battery-powered lanterns, candles and several other just-in-case items. We also have a plan for how to get back together if we are separated when something major happens.

A few friends think we’re a little deranged. What surprises us, on the other hand, is how many people have made absolutely no preparations in case a disaster strikes. It’s almost as if they, like the people of Bali, refuse to buy vehicle insurance because this is like daring the gods to do something bad to you. When the subject came up at a party some years ago, one person excused his lack of preparation on the grounds that he refused to be ruled by fear, as if stocking up on spare water and sundries is akin to building a bunker to shield against an asteroid strike.

Being prepared depends mostly on where you live. We don’t keep any hip-waders around. For many Kossacks, however, that might be a good idea.

Three years ago, shortly after Katrina wrecked the Gulf Coast, killed nearly 2000 people and left tens of thousands stranded without power or potable water for days, the Kossack AlphaGeek, a Silicon Valley technical executive with professional  experience in risk assessment and disaster-readiness planning, performed a tremendous service with a five-part series on the subject.

In his introductory piece, he wrote:

The psychology of disaster preparedness

In order to effectively prepare for disaster without becoming overwhelmed, you must be able to make realistic judgments about risks.  On one hand, it is an effort for most people to "think the unthinkable", to contemplate scenarios which are far outside the routine of their daily lives.  It is difficult for most people to imagine a world where fresh water does not flow from the taps, electricity is something you can't take for granted, and the grocery store shelves are empty... assuming the stores are even open.

On the other hand, there's a phenomenon I think of as the "armageddon fallacy".  This is the temptation, once that our Pandora's Box of fears and concerns has been opened, to imagine extremely unlikely events as real threats.  We must be cautious to exercise good judgment when considering risks, as the "armageddon fallacy" is a surprisingly easy trap to fall into.  Keep in mind that your plan, at some point, will be shared with friends and family.  This incents most people to stay clear of the Crazy Talk Express to Armageddon Town when making a plan.

Here are links to all five parts:

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 1 of 5 - Assess your risks!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 2 of 5 - Plan to survive!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 3 of 5 - Plan to survive!

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 4 of 5 - Gear, supplies and training

Are YOU ready for disaster? Part 5 of 5 - Conclusion

+   +   +

The Overnight News Digest has been posted, including a story on Audit questions millions in Blackwater contracts.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 09:44 PM PDT.

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