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September is National Preparedness Month

National Preparedness MonthI’m not sure whether to be cheered that we have a National Preparedness Month, or depressed. Monday is the start of National Preparedness Month, as decreed by the Department of Homeland Security . On the one hand, it depresses me a bit that it seems necessary to make such a big deal out of what ought to be simple, commonsense efforts I’d like to believe everyone would take to be ready for whatever comes our way.

Okay, I admit that this isn’t a very realistic expectation. More like wishful thinking, considering human nature. So, on balance, I guess it’s a good thing that preparedness has now become a national level campaign, even if it isn’t yet part of the national consciousness. It’s somewhat ironic that it comes as a major hurricane is once again bearing down on New Orleans, three years after Katrina taught many that depending on government to take care of you might be foolish, or perhaps stupid is a better description.

The sad part is so relatively few that weren’t directly impacted learned that lesson. And, even many in New Orleans still haven’t, but their government at least seems to be reacting more responsibly and they may comply with evacuation orders this time. The vast majority living in the U.S. are still unprepared and still expect the government to come riding to their rescue. Does that make them foolish, stupid, or just lazy? Regardless of the cause, it irks me all the same. Certainly, there will always be a portion of our society that simply cannot prepare themselves for whatever comes their way, whether due to physical, mental or financial issues. However, those are just as certainly the minority of the U.S. population. The rest have no good excuse.

Basic preparedness is not something that requires a lot of money or any extraordinary effort. The basic 72 Hour Emergency Preparedness Kit, as outlined in this article here on Equipped to Survive, is not difficult or expensive to assemble. Those too lazy to assemble one themselves can find lots of vendors selling what I refer to as ”better than nothing” kits at modest prices (just do an Internet search on “72 hour kit”). While I may not think those kits are great, they really are a major improvement over doing nothing. And, some of these kits are actually not too bad at all, though very few include adequate amounts of water or quality tools such as flashlights or knives. But, those failings are easy enough to remedy.

So, why don’t they do it? No doubt some are just plain stupid. There’s plenty of evidence that a significant portion of the population can be described as dumb, stupid or ignorant. That’s just the way it is. But, anyone reading this is unlikely to be labeled as such, except perhaps by those of the opposite political persuasion. I suspect that for the rest of you it’s got a lot more to do with laziness and ingrained habit.

As a nation, we are lazy. One only has to look at the growing girth of society to find evidence that this is a problem. Too many don’t want to make the effort simply because it does take some effort, even if only minimal. Watching TV is easier. Have I ticked you off yet? If so, perhaps you need to do something about it.

Ingrained habit is another way to describe the 9*1*1 effect, and I suspect the primary reason. We have gotten into the habit of calling 9*1*1 when something goes wrong. As a society, we have developed the expectation that someone else is going to take care of the problem, we don’t have to. People who live in rural settings are generally much more self-reliant because they have to be. Help is not just five minutes away. The majority do not live in rural American anymore. These folks have become almost totally reliant on others to solve their emergencies, whether it is emergency services or just calling a plumber or electrician instead of doing it themselves. As a society, we no longer expect to do almost anything ourselves. We expect others to do it and it’s become the only way we know to approach problems.

Even with the lessons of Katrina and other natural disasters, we still don’t want to face reality. You cannot depend upon others in a crisis. Even the government has admitted that, to one degree or another, evidence being this self-declared National Preparedness Month. The more of the population they can convince to be prepared, the more likely they can help the rest with whatever inadequate resources they can bring to bear on the problems created by an emergency. However improved the response might be as the result of lessons learned from Katrina and elsewhere, it will never be fully adequate.

I suppose that National Preparedness Month is a good thing to maybe convince some small portion of the majority of the population that they need to take on a little personal responsibility. Maybe over time, it will help make a dent. For those who have not yet done so, get off your duff and get to it. It can be a liberating experience and it could save your life or that of loved ones, or at the least, make a very difficult and unpleasant experience a whole lot less difficult and much more pleasant.