With states slowly starting to open back up, it's a good time to do a little self reflecting. The staff at Primer Peak was recently discussing what surprised us or caught us off guard about the shutdowns. It really got me thinking, and I decided it was preparedness reality check time.
We all like to think we are ready for just about anything. The fact is, most of us are not ready for anything at all substantial. If nothing else of value comes from this pandemic, let it be a realization of just how fragile our personal, social, and economic structures are.
My Preparedness Reality Check
They say the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. When it comes to preparedness, I definitely have some issues to address. I am self aware enough to know I am not ready for anything major, but I have always felt like I was better off than most. Hanging around the Primer Peak group the last year or so has really expanded my knowledge and opened up my eyes to a lot of things.
Fortunately, I have long been in the habit of planning meals out and buying for two weeks at a time. It helps me budget and I like only having to run out for perishables once or twice. I've also always made sure to have a reasonable stock of cleaning supplies around. So when shortages at the store started to happen I didn't have any worries in that area.
As a newer gun owner, I had not experienced a run on guns and ammunition before. I have to admit, I was pretty shocked. I always kind of thought the guys were exaggerating when they talked about getting ready for the upcoming election year shortages. Boy did I learn my lesson.
Lucky for me I have some great guidance from fellow Primer Peak writer Dan Reedy. He texted me one Saturday evening just as things were ramping up and asked my how much ammo I had for my Glock 48 and BCM RECCE. I'm embarrassed to admit it now, but I had less that 50 rounds of .223 and only around 75 of 9mm. He told me I needed to go buy as much as I could afford as soon as possible if I wanted to continue training for a while. I was able to get 500 rounds of each but that was it.
My biggest area of ill preparedness is definitely financial. I've spent several years recovering financially from a bad marriage and was just starting to get my legs under me again. I had a great job doing marketing for a large nationwide construction company. My debt was limited to a couple of charges on some store cards, a car payment, and student loans from a degree I recently completed. I had started to put some money in savings and had enough to support my shooting habit comfortably.
Then the virus hit. In mid March my company sent us all home to work remotely. It's what all the big, stable, secure companies were doing. Then on April 2nd they recalled about 100 people to the office, my entire team included, and laid us off. I assume layoffs happened at their other locations as well. Basically, if your position was not income producing then it wasn't necessary during an economic downturn.
Despite getting laid off, I am one of the lucky ones. I was able to apply for unemployment and get approved quickly. I used my stimulus check to pay off my smaller debts and May's rent. Then I used my severance pay to cover June's rent and get some things I had been putting off. Not everyone has been so fortunate.
What Caught My Friends and Family By Surprise
Since I learned so much from my personal preparedness reality check, I decided to ask my friends and family what they learned. I posted on my personal Facebook page asking people what had caught them by surprise.
My mom said she was not prepared to feed my grandfather. He's very picky and usually eats out several times a week. The few things he likes and will make at home were hard to find for a while. Both my brother and I checked several locations to make sure he had what he needed.
One friend commented that their biggest problem was education related. They discovered that they did not have enough headphones with mics to home school all the children in the house. Like many others, several people reported being surprised by the run on cleaning supplies. Who would have ever thought that toilet paper would one day top the list of hot commodities? An older friend said they struggled with having enough reading material. They usually get books from the library but they were closed. Her husband also has special dietary needs and they had a hard time getting things like gluten free flour.
What Caught Primer Peak Staff By Surprise
I also decided to ask my fellow Primer Peak staff members what, if anything, caught them by surprise. Some of the answers were what you would expect. A few reported deciding that 2,000 rounds of ammunition is not enough after all. Those who reload also reported not having enough reloading supplies.
Other answers were more interesting. With gyms closed down, one writer reported wishing he had more fitness equipment at home. He also reported wishing they had more books and things to keep entertained. While some people can sit and read all day, others require more active stimulation.
One writer was surprised at how quickly the general public reacted. From buying foodstuffs to the massive influx of new gun owners, the panic response has been shocking. The typical political divides are still present, but nearly everyone decided to hoard food, toilet paper, and ammunition. The sudden shutdowns of nearly every aspect of the nation was a surprise as well, both in scope and speed. The implications of both aspects are many, but the end results remain to be seen.
What Preppers Thought
One of our writers belongs to a few prepper groups and shared some interesting information from that point of view. He reports that they were fairly surprised how aware the general public was about what should be bought in a crisis. Many self proclaimed preppers seem to think they have some secret knowledge that no one else has. So they were surprised when normal people started stocking up on things like rice, flour, and ammunition.
Some preppers are excited to see more people embracing the idea of personal protection and self reliance. They also love to see people waking up to incidents of government overreach and questioning them. There has long been a stigma around the prepper community but this pandemic has made many of their thoughts and ideas more mainstream.
Lessons Learned from my Preparedness Reality Check
So what can you and I take away from this little preparedness reality check? Lots of things!
I listened in on a conference call held by Varg Freeborn recently. His top takeaways were the need for more food preparedness and better communication. He discussed how early models are always wrong and we are better off just ignoring them. All these early predictions do is cause stress. Seeing the divide caused by so much conflicting information makes this seem like sage advice.
Personally I have implemented a few changes and plan to make more as things return to a level of normalcy. Since my student loans are in unemployment forbearance, I have been depositing what I would have paid into savings. I am saving double what I could before getting laid off. My goal is to build up and maintain at least 6 months worth of income eventually. Because the kind of work I do is not essential in a crisis it's important that I have plenty of backup in the future. Ensuring financial security can be hard for those who live paycheck to paycheck, but it is probably the single most important thing you can do to be ready for next time.
Like many of my fellow Primer Peak staff members, I am woefully under-stocked on ammunition. Since I work part time at a gun range, I have been able to pick up another 1000 rounds of 9mm because I know when it comes in. Ultimately I would like to maintain closer to 5000 rounds each of certain calibers. I also want to make sure I have shells for my dad's old 12 gauge shotgun just in case. I'm also exploring getting into reloading once those supplies become available again.
Have you done a preparedness reality check for yourself? What kinds of things caught you by surprise? What changes are you going to make to be better prepared for next time? We'd love to hear what you have learned and any suggestions you have!