Thursday, January 7, 2010

Contingency plans, the 7 Ps, and what that means to you and I, Part 1

The recent weather extremes here (as well as across the country) have really caused me to sit and think about "what ifs"....not to say I've never sat and given them any thought before, because I have. But sometimes, circumstances will occur that make you sit back and re-evaluate your previous "percolations" on a subject, and honestly, this time of year, combined with spending the last two weeks primarily in my house (leaving only for one trip to Mass, and one trip to the grocery store, since two days before Christmas), aside from the daily trips to the chicken coop and mailbox, has caused me to reconsider my plans and priorities, as well as giving more serious and sustained thoughts to the "whys, wherefores, and how-tos" of contingency planning...

When my beloved El Husbando was in the Army, one of the things he would say every so often, was something about 7Ps. I never paid that much attention to it, until one day I finally asked him what he meant by that...surprised that I didn't know, and hadn't asked him before, he explained, that the 7Ps stood for Proper Prior Planning Prevents Pi$$ Poor Performance (pardon the language, this was the Army non-com talking. Ahem). It meant that they planned, planned, planned, and planned for any and every possible contingency that could, would, and likely, HAD come up in a given situation. They made sure that they had ever bit of redundancy, every bit of double and triple checking. They tried to avoid catastrophe, by simply sitting down, and thinking, before they went off "half cocked" and really dropped the ball on a given mission.

Now, obviously, when one is talking about military units, the 7Ps are really life and death, particularly in combat operations. But even training can be deadly if the 7Ps are not followed...

But what about civilian there a place in civilian life for the 7Ps? Well, yes. Most definitely.

Think about the massively awful winter weather the Northern Hemisphere has been having (oh yeah, btw, Al Gore called and said they'd called off the Global Warming for this month) . People dying from a lack of heat, grocery stores running out of food (because roads are closed in every direction, and truck shipments cannot be brought in to resupply), houses burning down because people have not considered what they need to do when the power is out, and its 20 below 0 outside, before the windchill...Folks being trapped in their cars, with no supplies, no way of getting out, and freezing to death because they were ill-prepared for what they encountered...

While it seems like such extreme happenings "can't happen to you"--they *can* happen to you. I can guarantee you, none of the dead had thought that they would die because of their action/inaction/poor preparedness level...

Yes folks...I said it. Preparedness. Now, before you go running screaming for the hills, let me elaborate...

Preparedness is *not* just for Luddite, 2d Amendment quoting, y2k leftover paranoid nutjobs whose dream is to move to Idaho and to never again see another person who looks different from use no electricity and drink water from the stream out back...

No. Preparedness is, in fact, for everyone. Little do you know, who around you, might be a "prepper". 99.9% of them, will never come out and say it. You may never know. They look like you. Like your neighbors. Like the cashier at the hardware store. The little old lady at church, who has lived in your town her whole life, never married, and is the one who brings that phenomenal coconut cake that no matter how hard they try, no one has been able to wheedle the recipe out of her (sounds like I know someone like that, doesn't it? ;-) ). Yes. People who are prepared are, well, dare I say it?


Yes. Believe it or not, being UNprepared, is abnormal, as history goes. Think on it. For thousands upon thousands of years...there were no grocery stores. There were no electrical power plants. There was no shipping of perishable fruits FRESH across large expanses of territory, expecting them to still be fresh when they got to their destination...meats were salted, brined, pickled, smoked, you name it, it was either eaten immediately after butchering, or it HAD to be preserved in some way, cause freezing was not a reliable option...

Instead, people planned ahead. They stored (like squirrels...ants...honeybees...)food for the winter. Anything and everything that they could "put up", they did. I'm sure some of you, had grandparents and older relatives who would can every summer. If it wasn't nailed down, it went into a mason jar, and got pressure canned, hot water bathed, or got dehydrated, frozen, or otherwise 'stored' in some way. They remembered the Depression. They remembered having nothing but lard and biscuits to eat--and being grateful for it!

They had plans for how to heat their homes, that didn't necessarily rely on the power company. The men and boys would spend their 'down' time, cutting, hauling, and splitting wood for fireplaces, wood stoves, and the like. They'd stack up cord after cord after cord, and then some...More modern efforts, not reliant on a steady wood supply, would be kerosene heaters. Less work, more expense.

As times changed, and motor vehicles were entering the scene, those inclined to be prepared (following the Boy Scout motto), would make sure that they had water, any medicines that they HAD to have, warm clothing, shovels, kitty litter, spare tires/jacks, jumper cables, warm clothes, blankets, good walking footgear, food, etc, for themselves and their passengers, were they to get stuck somewhere in a wintry climate, or water, and the appropriate clothing and gear for a summertime breakdown/disaster while on the road.

Today, however, we have people going on journeys into snow country, in winter, with a light coat, if water, no food, no way to signal help (cell phones may not work), no extra clothing or good walking footgear. They don't know how to use their car to keep themselves alive until help comes (the car won't make it, but you will!). And days, weeks, months later, they are found, frozen to death, near death, frostbitten, or just plain old COLD and HUNGRY, because they weren't prepared for the situation they found themselves in...

We have people who literally have no more than a day or two's worth of food in their homes, for themselves and their children...they panic at the mention of "snow" and run to the store and grab bread, eggs, milk, and toilet paper. A few might sensibly grab some vienna sausages, some canned soup, or some Chef Boyardee. But by and large, you can tell when snow is predicted, by the store shelves in your local stores...

We have a generation of people (actually, more than that) who have no idea where meats come from...I saw an opinion piece some time ago...a woman wrote in, telling people to "buy their meat at the grocery store, where no animals were harmed"...ummm, lady, you DO know where that steak came from, right???? Children who think milk comes from the store...that meat is just "popped into existence" in styrofoam platters at the local grocery store, and wrapped in shrink wrap...

Yes folks, we are raising a whole lot of people, who have absolutely no clue what manure is (and if they do know, they likely use another, four letter term for it, and rarely if ever use it in its proper context) idea about how to grow food, what various garden crops look like at various stages of to cook food from scratch...what "from scratch" means, even...

Now, given that you are reading this blog, I doubt you are one of these people. I like to think that the (admittedly, few) folks who read my blog, actually are pretty smart. At the very least, you're not likely to think "Hmm, Rachel's gone off the deep end, what does she mean, meat doesn't come from the store! Hey, wait! I think I wrote that letter to the editor!" :-D

But the point remains...we have devalued the "currency" of being prepared. We, as a people, as a culture, have come to expect "services" to be available...what IF the ice storm of the century hits, overnight one night, when only a light storm was predicted...power's out all over, there's no heat, no electricity. Do you have the food you need? What do you do with your perishables in the fridge and freezer? How do you stay warm? What if something happens, a medical situation--not a life or death, but a situation not normally handled at you know what to do? If the ambulance, fire department, and police cannot get to you, they will be of no help--if the phone lines aren't down. You *will* be on your own....even if you don't do some things in every day life, it would be valuable to have resources at hand, to take care of such situations...books, manuals, etc...experience, even once or twice, would be better than nothing...

It seems as if, in our pursuit of the "now", we've forgotten that tomorrow does come, and it may not be as rosy a picture as today...

As I am sure you have guessed, if you've been reading this blog for long at all, I believe that our country is very very close to an economic collapse. Maybe not tomorrow. Or next week. But the state of our economy is fragile right now...despite what certain persons in power would have you believe, an economic recovery is not coming right away...our bond market is tanking. The dollar is being devalued against foreign currencies...other countries are refusing our goods...the agricultural sector of our economy is in extremely poor shape, and only likely to get worse this next year. We have little to no reserves (there used to be food reserves, did you know that? There aren't any more--we sold some and used the rest), on a national level. Enviromental and agricultural-fiscal policies have resulted in an absolute horror of a situation. The main agricultural region of California, has been denied the water it needs to grow the foods that are the mainstay of the Central Valley's economy--foods that we consumers in other parts of the country, have come to count on. The citrus crops in FL and other tropical coastal regions, are being affected by this incredible Arctic front that is hitting the entire United States in one form or another. The droughts in late 2008, early 2009, freezes early in 2009, massive rainfalls in the central part of the country all summer long, ruined crops all over the US. Crops failed abroad as well--rice, sugar, fruits...folks, it is a very very ugly picture. Combine that, with the demand for biodiesel corn, subsidies for NOT growing crops, the collapsing small farms, and we have a situation that could very easily topple over into something particularly ugly as 2010 progresses. Energy prices are on the rise (I'm sure you've noticed the price of gasoline rising? Well, the price per barrel of crude oil yesterday, was over $82...a week, week and a half ago, it was still under $80. We're going to see $3/gal gas again, soon, if you aren't already.

So what, you think...the problem is, is that that cost is applied to ANYTHING hauled by truck..the food cost is not only rising due to scarcity, but also because with the price of petroleum, goes fuel, fertilizers, herbi/pesticides...not to mention the sheer cost of manufacturing whatever food is getting processed..hauled to the processor, hauled to the packaging, hauled to market warehouses, hauled to stores...packaging costs see? There is so much of a petroleum base in our Western economy, the rising price of crude oil is going to cause a cascade of inflationary prices...

The big question is, can we (you?) afford it? Are you prepared, to be able to shell out that much money? Do you have the discretionary income, to 'cushion' the blow that such a spike in prices--of *everything*--is going to require?

How does one prepare for such events? A second Great Depression, I mean, really, how *does* one prepare for that?

First thing on *my* list? Get out of debt. As much as you can, as fast as you can. THROW money onto the debt. Make the sacrifices NOW, while the dollar is actually worth something (frankly, the way things are going, the old images of the Weimar Republic in Germany keep coming to mind). Skip eating out...throw the $20 onto another bill. Instead of buying presents for Valentine's Day, do that whole "coupon book" idea--actions, not gifts..make a niiiiiice dinner at home. Get the itch to redecorate? Either do without, shop the thrift and consignment stores, or, even better, "shop the house". Seriously. Think outside the box, and look around your home, and "repurpose" things. Move them around, and see if that doesn't work better for you. Save your money. Use any windfall money, to pay down debt. This is our personal plan, with our tax refund (and God willing, the sale of our old home this spring). Any and every bit of "extra" is going to the debt paydown plan. It *must* be done. *MUST*. And not just because I am tired of writing the checks. But because it does, in fact, make me a slave to those companies. We are working and slaving, merely to give them their pound of flesh each month. Repellent as it is, there you have it...

If you aren't in debt, don't go there. Stay put. DO NOT DO IT. I don't care what the motivation is "It's such a good deal!", "We'll never find something like this again!"--you know what, if you *know* a big purchase is going to be coming up, start saving. I know, I know, saving is a dirty word. Seriously. Pay cash. DO NOT get into debt. It is a very very bad idea at any time, and especially right now.

I can say that, because I have been--and am--on the debtor side of the page. When El Husbando was still in the Army, he was sent to Iraq. He was supposed to be gone for 18mos. Now, soldiers get a LOT more money when they are in combat zones, than they do when they are home. We planned to save up our money, pay down debts, and get out about 6 mos after he returned home. We figured we had a good 2 years before we had to worry about retirement and a lower income.

But we were wrong. Very...

Four months into his 18mos tour...a month after I'd had some expensive foundation repair done to our old (then, current) home...he was sent back early. Less than 5 mos after that, he was medically retired. Our income was more than halved. This is ugly at any time, especially with (relatively) so little warning. But with five children, a move, and two houses, this is particularly bad. The Veteran's Administration's process for determining disability (which El Husbando most certainly is) can take more than a year. We ended up maxing out the credit cards within 7 months. All of them. And then, just in the nick of time, the VA letter arrived. Thanks be to God, it came. And with it, money. We paid off some of the debts, but nowhere near enough, and unfortunately, we made some more poor choices, and ended up further in the hole shortly there after.

So, now, we are using any and every penny to dig ourselves out of the hole of our own making. We have the heat as low as we can stand it, lights go off and stay off, Christmas was fairly small. We aren't buying much of anything but bare necessities and pantry stock ups (because with five children, you can imagine what the cost of food rising is doing to the budget--stock up while you can, folks!). We aren't going places, having date nights, or even hitting the thrift stores lately (the children got clothes for Christmas, thanks be to God).

But we have got to get out of it. With what we believe to be hyperinflation looming only around the corner, the cost of everything on the rise, the sensible thing to do, is to be paying down, paying off, debts. Not getting into any new ones (paid off cards get cut up, except for one frozen into a block of ice in the freezer). Is it fun? No, not really. Do I miss certain things? Yes. Would I change the past if I could? MOST DEFINITELY--which is why I am warning YOU.

You may be tempted...lured in..convinced that the economy is going to turn around. That the money train we've had for decades, isn't coming to a screeching halt on the side of a mountain with a tunnel painted on it. That "we can afford to do/buy X on the card--we'll pay it off over the year"...don't count on it. Pay cash, or don't get it. Save up. If it is really a need, you can make yourself save up...Such "economy" will cause you to really think about what needs versus wants.

If you are already out of debt, good on you. I mean that. But then the question becomes...are you prepared in other ways?

I think what I am going to do, is going to make this a multiple part "series"...rather than trying to cover so much material, in one day's tune in tomorrow for more...


  1. Well atta girl!! Finally, someone else is seeing what a few of us have been seeing..thank you!!!

  2. Reading your post today has really helped me to get focused again. Over the last few weeks I have been exhausted and not paying attention like I was. BAM! You hit the nail on the head and woke me up from my exhausted stupor. Time to get the notebook out and get my plan revamped and back into action. THANKS and God Bless! Helen from Catholic Homesteading

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