Wednesday 25 March 2020

How to Prepare for a Future Crisis

Just two years ago, in March 2018, I published A Sensible Prepping Guide. I was inspired to write it in the aftermath of the Beast From The East, the big freeze that left roads blocked with snow and railway lines frozen solid. During those few days, the just in time distribution system broke down completely and the only reason why the shops did not run out of food altogether was that most people could not get out of their houses to panic buy groceries. That said, there were shortages and had the arctic winter lasted longer than a week they would have become as critical as they are right now.

In A Sensible Prepping Guide, I argued that we can no longer rely on the distribution system working in the event of an emergency in the way that it did in the past. I used the example of the Berlin city authorities in April 1945 who distributed froward rations to the people that were to be consumed when their local distribution points were overrun by the Soviet army. They also continued to distribute rations form those points to the shops that then sold them to the people right up until the fighting reached the area concerned. By the end of April the city had more or less fallen, and by the end of May, just one month later, the new Soviet rulers distributed their own ration cards to people and food began to be issued via them.

In Britain, during the terrible winter of 1962/63, the country was pretty much frozen solid from late December to mid-March. Yet, supplies got through because councils employed an army of workmen who could be sent out with shovels to clear just enough of the roads to allow supplies that reached the railway stations to be shipped to the wholesalers and from there to the shops.

What kept Berlin and Britain alive during those terrible times was the redundancy that was built into the respective systems. If one part of the system collapsed, people could be shifted to another part to ensure that supplies got through and we do not have that these days. What we have is a super-sophisticated, computer run distribution system that works perfectly until it doesn't, and when it doesn't people who have not thought ahead start to go hungry.

Funnily enough, the people who may be coming through this crisis better than anyone are the residents of the council estates, that are called council schemes in Scotland. Many of them still do their weekly shopping in the parade of shops that are on their schemes. Just today I saw a family walking home with their shopping. Dad had a massive bag of potatoes over his right shoulder and a shopping bag in his left paw. Mum walked just behind him pushing her wheeled shopping trolley and one of the sons brought up the rear carrying a massive multipack of toilet rolls.

Today is a Wednesday and for many people it is payday. It also a benefits' payout day so shops such as Farmfoods are well stocked in anticipation of the windfall that will come their way on this and every other Wednesday and Thursday. The middle classes who shop online using their credit cards are only dimly aware of the council schemes and are terrified of the schemies who live in them so there is no competition for local groceries in local shops.

The way that the schemies live is the way that everybody used to live and will probably have to start living again. We have now had two near disasters in 2018 and again in 2020 when the distribution system has broken down. The theme that ran through A Sensible Prepping Guide was that we cannot rely on the system to always work and we have to be prepared for life's little vicissitudes.

It makes perfect sense to keep a goodly stock on hand of tinned and dried goods that can be used as part of day to day living and then restocked on a one for one basis as they are used. That way, when the next crisis hits us we will not see people desperately stocking up on anything and everything.

It is not about preparing for the end of days: it is about accepting that the system that we live under is just prone to failure and getting ready to ride out the next failure when it arrives.

Which it will.

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