Any person who has begun to seriously prepare has had to make compromises between current wants and future needs, how much to spend on preparations, and how many people to stock supplies for. If you’re married, you need to have a spouse that shares your concerns or you’re going to fight over every #10 can the mailman delivers. I don’t need to go into detail on how much you should store, how to store it, or what makes the cut on your List of Lists. The purpose of this article is to help communicate the need to prepare with those in your family that you want to help without alienating them or downgrading your own preparedness plans.
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I am a professional firearms instructor and am also employed full time as an emergency management planner. Due to my job, my hobbies, and my personal beliefs, my former mother-in-law delighted in trying to insult me by calling me “Sgt. Tackleberry”. She was unreachable, and I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince her of the importance in prepping. She would rather buy timeshares of vacation property than spending money on a basic 72-hour kit. That works for her, and I cannot judge her, but she would not be invited to,“come live with me if it ever did happen,” as she believed.
Other members of my family have thought my preparations were a “phase”, or some harmless idiosyncrasy. Those family members did not have a negative view of my preparations. They mostly looked at my preparations with amusement. They tolerated my teenage experiments with wild foods or earthquake kits. As I have grown older and they have seen things on the horizon that will personally impact them, they have begun to ask me for my opinion on coming winter storms or whether they should buy gold or guns.
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It’s like being a firearm instructor and people asking you which gun to buy. If you do your homework and build credibility, people respect you more. If you take the long view and work diligently. these members of your family might be “converted” with patience and work. While I cannot assume responsibility for them and make them prepare for disasters, I can be a role model and sounding board to help them understand the issues at play so they can build a plan that works for them.
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If the world as we know it collapses, it’s not only about survival. Once your survival needs are met, you’re going to have to rebuild and continue with your life. Having your loved ones with you makes that a lot easier. The problem is that each person I add to my retreat lowers my safety margin IF MY SUPPLY AMOUNTS REMAIN FIXED, but if those people I add to my retreat bring their own supplies, it dramatically increases my safety margin. To me, it is definitely worth it to help your family prepare.
I have a few precepts that I use when dealing with family or friends on this subject.
- My first precept of dealing with family is not to preach. My preparations are based on my needs and the things that I believe are important. Each person has their own priorities and preaching that you are right and they are wrong only pushes them away from the direction you need them to go.
- My second is never to prepare for a particular event. I am sure there is still a lot of rotting food out there that was bought in bulk specifically for Y2K, and some of those that bought it are convinced it was a waste of money. I tell my family that my food storage can be used for Y2K, Armageddon, TEOTWAWKI, Pandemic Flu, Nuclear Winter, Job loss, or when I just don’t feel like cooking. By having an all-hazards approach and building capability and skills rather than building for specific events, my planning work gets more bang for the buck. The first time I read of the “Deep Larder” was an “ah-ha!” moment for me, and changing my terminology has worked well in changing the response I get from my close loved ones.
- My last precept of helping my loved ones see the need to prepare is to foster an appropriate mindset instead of concentrating on gear acquisition. I could buy my mom a Springfield Armory M-14 and 10,000 rounds of match ammo, but it would be much more effective to get her to go with me to the range a couple times and practice with a .22. This would likely foster a desire to shoot, and then I could help her choose a firearm that fits her needs and desires.
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Whenever the family conversation gets around to disaster preparation I bring up concepts like:
- “Buying car insurance is considered a responsible action, but you don’t have any tangible benefit from buying it if you never get into an accident.”
- “With having a deep larder, even if zombies never attack, I still have the food.”
- Or as Dave Grossman has said, “You never hear of elementary schools burning down but they all have fire extinguishers.”
- My favorite is, “Noah built the Ark BEFORE the flood”.
I try to break everything down into manageable bites rather than cram it in and have them tune me out.
The best case scenario is that your loved ones will see the need to prepare for themselves and begin planning and be preparing on their own, therefore augmenting your plan. You cannot out-argue someone into adopting your position. As Dale Carnegie said, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still.” What has worked for me is a quiet and consistent approach.
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I love my family and want what is best for them. The best way I know to do that is to help them become more aware of the need to prepare. My goal is to foster a sense of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility and to help mentor them through the beginning steps of basic preparedness.
Think about how overwhelming it was when you first began to prepare. There is a LOT to learn and even more skills and equipment to acquire. We know that we cannot stock everything needed or prepare too much. The process of preparing is every bit as important as the items you acquire.
Researching and prioritizing is mental prep work so that when a large disaster occurs we are not comatose with emotional overload. If I coddle my loved ones and try to remove their responsibility to prepare by doing it for them, then I am doing them a disservice. When hard times come, they may not be emotionally ready to deal with the collapse. What’s worse is that making them dependent on my charity would cause strain on otherwise healthy family relationships. Because of this, I feel it is worth supreme effort to work with my loved ones to prepare so that we can grow together in adversity and make our family bonds stronger.
This year I had my breakthrough. My parents asked me what they could do to prepare. We had a very long discussion and came away with a workable plan. At the time of our discussion, their location was more favorable for a long-term retreat than my own, and they are going to provide the location and storage space for most of my preps. We both win in the end. Shortly after that discussion, our town had an unusually long cold spell. In the days before it, we talked more about our short-term plans and communication protocols and procedures. While we did not have to evacuate to my parents, it was nice having all the details ironed out in the event we had to.
Disaster preparedness is not a fad or a short-term race to buy a lot of cool gear. It’s a lifestyle choice and one that has a lot of benefits. However, it comes the necessity of taking off the rose-colored glasses. Not everyone is ready to do this, but if you want to set an example and truly influence others, you must understand what you do is much louder than what you say.
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