What If The Doomsdayers Are Right? Here’s How To Prepare For The Worst
Last year my pregnant niece, her husband, and baby had to be rescued from a second-story window during Hurricane Harvey in Texas. They climbed out of the window, dropped down into a boat, and rode to safety.
After the hurricane passed, they moved back into their house and started to rebuild it.
Their biggest concern was a car. Harvey had destroyed both of their cars. They’d been hauled off. Now they needed to buy a new car, to be prepared when the baby was due. Dealers were out of stock, though, and decent cars were hard to come by.
The family finally got a car, and a fine baby boy was delivered, but the incident got me thinking of how to prepare for an emergency, evacuation, whatever.
In another case, Argentine friends who live west of Houston assured us they were doing fine. Then one day I opened Facebook and saw their latest post on Harvey:
They’d prepared the house as best they could, put on rubber boots, and walked out with their two children and a few things in backpacks. Someone picked them up and took them to a friend’s house. Unlike my niece and nephew, these Argentines had a couple of days to prepare.
Last summer Vicki and I had a fire scare one morning in our hotel in Vancouver, B.C. The fire alarm insisted we evacuate. We and others had to decide, quickly, what to take. We grabbed passports, computers and cables, phones and money belts. Forget clothes, we decided. Even if we were in our pajamas, we could quickly arrange for new clothes.
Here Are Some Tips…
At home you should keep a list of what matters, what to grab in an emergency. You may want to keep certain papers in a fireproof box in the closet or in a safe deposit box at a bank.
If you travel, as most of us do, I propose what I’d call nightstand essentials. Keep these two essential items next to your temporary bed in a hotel room, friend’s house, Airbnb, whatever.
First, keep your valuables in a bag next to the bed. Valuables include documents, phone, money, credit cards, watch, and so on. I wear a money pocket under my clothes, and keep it stocked with passport, credit cards, and money. I stick the stocked pocket in the bag along with glasses and watch. If we’re at a hotel rather than a private home, we typically put our valuables in the hotel safe.
If you tend to grab your phone first thing when something out of the ordinary happens, by all means put the phone in that bag, too.
Important documents include passport, driver’s license, Medicare (or insurance) card, and checkbook. Keep a copy of your passport on a thumb drive or in the cloud. That way you can print a copy in case of loss. I’m told if you lose your passport but have a copy, U.S. consuls around the world will replace your passport in about two weeks. If you don’t have a copy, to get a replacement takes an act of God.
The second item next to your bed should be a flashlight, either on the floor or on the nightstand. Last summer a friend was visiting his daughter and her family in New Jersey. He got up in the middle of the night, tripped over something on the floor, and hurt himself badly. I hear of these incidents all the time. And a flashlight makes for a simple solution. Whether you’re simply going to the bathroom or responding to a fire alarm, grab that flashlight first thing.
So much for natural disasters, so much for emergencies. What about man-made disasters? Specifically, you and I have a few bucks in our pockets. But most monetary wealth resides in banks and brokers. We believe our money awaits because we receive statements, either online or in the mail, purporting to show our money awaits. If Bank of America says we have a hundred, we have a hundred.
But what if Bank of America no longer knows we have a hundred? What if some hacker attacks the global financial system so that reliable numbers disappear? What if hackers disable the internet, or connected computers, or backup systems?
North Korea, Russia, and Pakistan certainly have talented tech people running around. Those people, with or without a government request, might want to cause global chaos. Perhaps the biggest risk comes from Silicon Valley, from some techie who goes postal. Instead of shooting people in Las Vegas, he or she could tank the global financial system.
What Can We Do Now To Prepare?
First, we can recognize that in a collapse we’ll all be in the same boat. Everyone, everywhere, will lack access to hard numbers. We’ll all need to scramble, to keep our wits about us.
I think the chances of making it are pretty good. Vicki and I were in Argentina during the meltdown there back in 2001. Government incompetence caused paper money to disappear, banks to close. Argentines quickly adjusted. They moved to barter. Strangers did business with strangers on street corners. Various fiat currencies soon traded on the black market, including hand-written IOUs.
Within a few weeks it was over. Most people survived.
I also point out what will probably not happen…
We’ll likely refrain from violence as a first recourse.
I remember back before the Y2K crisis. You’ll recall that on Jan. 1, 2000, world info systems were going to collapse because of a programming bug. It never happened. But most warnings ahead of time centered around violence. People were going to kill for food. If you don’t have enough to eat, you come shoot me to get my food.
But as a first recourse humans tend to cooperate rather than kill, to deal rather than threaten. Some will cooperate more than others. Some are better at cooperation than others. Whatever, our first instincts will be to do what we always do, that is, take a reasonable approach, try for a win-win, make do.
Finally, perhaps the best preparation of all is to diversify. We can keep our wealth in different banks, in different countries, different currencies, different assets. All banks and other bodies will scramble to come up with good numbers. Some will do better than others, and just one will likely be enough to get you started back to a normal routine.
What are the chances of a global information meltdown? My gut says very low. On the other hand, the risk is high enough to make me think about it… and plan for it.