“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
—Publishers Syndicate, attributed to Allen Saunders in 1957
We all want to be ready when disaster strikes. That’s why you’re here, after all, learning about how to work toward self-sufficiency and disaster preparedness. Of course, we all know the best-laid plans can go awry.
When you’re just a newbie prepper, it can all feel so overwhelming. You’ve may despair ever feeling like you’re prepared enough. Perhaps you even find yourself thinking there’s just no point. It’s a tough question, but I looked into it anyhow to help you become better informed.
Why is prepping pointless? There’s just no way to be ready for everything that could happen in the world. Even when you do your best, circumstances can arise that you can never predict. Frighteningly, there are also things you can’t be ready for.
If the World Doesn’t End
Let’s start with the most obvious question. If you pay any attention to the world around you, then you know that people are in denial. Most people seem to insist that there’s just no way that their society or their planet could be in danger.
It’s even fair to say that, in many cases, generations have lived through relatively peaceful eras. In their part of the world, there wasn’t much need for concern. That changes a person’s perspective, but it doesn’t invalidate the need to be ready for likely problems. Fires, colds, rainy season flooding, mild drought, or congested traffic might be all those people had to tackle. Even then, life would not have been entirely without disasters; the problems were less, but not nonexistent.
While you can tread lightly through life and never face any real adversity, it doesn’t happen to very many people. You’re more likely to win the lottery or get hit by lightning twice. Sure, it can happen, but the likelihood of it happening to you is slim to none.
Preppers aren’t out on the street corners wearing cardboard signs with the legend “The End is Nigh,” even though people sometimes feel that way about us. Society doesn’t care if we’re capable as individuals. Instead of personal responsibility, the focus is on large interdependent group dynamics. There’s nothing wrong with that except that it means we’re losing our ability to care for ourselves.
When people treat emergency preparedness like mental illness, it’s because they lack education. However, that won’t stop you from feeling shamed when people treat you differently. I suggest you keep your preps to yourself within reason. Obviously, if you’re planning for your family, you need them on board, or the process won’t work.
There are real illnesses, like hoarding and schizophrenia, that can cause people to do things that look a little bit like what preppers do, but it’s unrelated. A warehouse does things that look a bit like prepping too, but it doesn’t matter. Don’t allow foolish people with misconceptions to keep you from trying to help your family.
What If I Really Am ‘Crazy’
Let me first say that ‘crazy’ is a relative term and not a pleasant or acceptable word to use for people who have serious problems. Americans who built nuclear bunkers in the ’30s and ’40s were called ‘crazy.’ No nukes went off here, so ultimately their preps weren’t needed, however, things could have gone very differently.
That isn’t true of Japanese people who took the same path. When Hiroshima was bombed on August 6th of 1945, anyone who had a fallout shelter in the area transitioned from ‘possibly nuts,’ to ‘smartest guy around,’ in a horrifying instant.
Is it possible that you could be prepping for the wrong reasons? Of course, it is. You can do anything for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way. Let’s take a look at some real problems that use ‘preparedness’ as an outlet.
First of all, hoarding is a blanket term used for more than one activity. In this case, I mean hoarding as a disorder. For your collection to be a hoard, it has to meet the essential criteria. Typically a hoarder has depression and attachment issues. More importantly, there are harmful effects on your life from hoarding. True hoards are comprised of things with no real value, like dirty socks. Though some useful items are bound to be present, they aren’t used.
Having a fully stocked, well organized nuclear bunker is an extreme prep. Having a house full of empty soda cans, you refuse to throw out because you might need them for some unknown reason is a problem. Resultantly ending up with ants and cockroaches, is typical of extreme hoarding disorder. Hopefully, you can see the difference.
Five Levels of Hoarding
There are different ‘levels’ of hoarding. The problem can range from mild enough almost to go unnoticed to so bad the neighbors can smell it from down the street. According to Aftermath.com, these are the levels of hoarding:
- Hoarding Level One: Clutter is not excessive at this point. All doors and stairways are still accessible and there are no odors. The home is considered safe and sanitary.
- Hoarding Level Two: Clutter inhabits two or more rooms, light odors, overflowing garbage cans or light mildew in kitchens and bathrooms is likely to be present. At least one exit is blocked, some pet dander or pet waste puddles are common, and there’s limited evidence of housekeeping.
- Hoarding Level Three: One bedroom or bathroom is unusable, excessive dust, heavily soiled food preparation areas, and strong odors throughout the home are immediately noticeable. Often an excessive amount of pets are present, and visible clutter has spilled outdoors as well.
- Hoarding Level Four: At this stage you find sewer backup, hazardous electrical wiring, flea infestation, rotting food on counters, lice on bedding, and pet damage to the home.
- Hoarding Level Five: In this case you’ll likely see rodent infestation, kitchens, and bathrooms are unusable due to clutter. Human and animal feces is present inside the home. Plus there’s disconnected electrical or water service.
In short, hoarding is a problem that takes up your space, time, and money in ways that are not good for you. Prepping is more like stocking up instead of hoarding.
Other Mental Illnesses
If you think the world will end, but medication and therapy change your mind, then you probably have a mental illness. Sadly, feeling like you need a tinfoil hat to keep the government out of your brain does not mean that it’s a bad idea to have a secret Bug Out Location. It just means you probably don’t need so much foil in your supplies. The world will eventually end, even if it takes until the sun burns out to get there.
I know I’m making light of a serious issue here. Humor is a vital coping mechanism. If you worry that your preps might be a result of mental illness, then you need to see a doctor ASAP. Mentally ill people can be preppers too.
If you have a disorder of the brain, then getting on top of it and keeping yourself well should be priority one on your prepper checklist. It’s a lot harder to survive if you can’t distinguish reality from a terrifying fiction in your head.
When Prepping is Not Enough
You can do a whole lot to make and keep yourself and those you love safe in an emergency. Before we can go any further, you need to take a deep breath and accept that you cannot be safe from everything that could happen. There’s no defense against brain aneurysms, or being at ground zero when a nuke goes off.
Emergencies You Can’t Defend Against
While you can work to prevent most things, but the reality of unavoidable disasters and inescapable death still exists. Acknowledging that you are not all-powerful is humbling. It’s also a step in the right direction for better preparedness.
• Nuclear Winter or Permanent Flooding
You can have a watertight, radiation-proof bunker. If you’re fortunate, you can have enough warning to get yourself and your loved ones inside and seal the entrances. If nothing else goes wrong, you’ll be okay… for a while. Unless you plan to live the rest of your very uneventful life on canned goods and die alone, you have a problem. Sure, the kids could inbreed. It’s gross, and your grandchildren might have congenital disabilities, but that’s not the problem. If you’re sealed in, how do you dispose of the bodies when someone eventually dies? A corpse is not sanitary.
Unless your bunker is like Cheyenne Mountain and buried miles deep, then you might survive the radiation of a blast. The overpressure and other effects will still be an issue in the end. Radiation from a nuclear blast will eventually decay into more stable elements, but you might be buried under a few hundred tons of debris by then.
If you watch disaster movies, then you have probably seen a fair few that feature escaped viruses. Air scrubbers and masks can only do so much for you. A sufficiently small virus might find a way inside your protective layers. Additionally, accidents happen, and a small tear or defective part could prevent you from being protected.
• Most Supernatural Events
Preppers aren’t the only ones who enjoy thinking about and discussing their zombie survival plans. That’s cool, but what if it’s not zombies? Most of us have some basic clue about how to theoretically fight vampires, werewolves, and maybe even mummies. (Get a cat and learn to read hieroglyphics.) That’s fine if it works the way the TV and literature say it should. There are other supernatural creatures. If we had to fight the fae riding an army of kelpies and dragons while slinging spells, I doubt there’d be any survivors.
• Aliens From Space
The universe is incalculably vast and mysterious. Maybe there are war-like conqueror species out there among the stars. Then again, maybe they are just cutthroat capitalists who don’t care who gets hurt as long as they get the resources of our world. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you can’t plan to fight something you know nothing about. We could defeat them with germs like War of The Worlds. However, I doubt an advanced civilization would show up without some sort of protective armor that’s a few thousand years more advanced than anything we possess.
Hurricanes and Tornadoes are bad enough, but there’s a nearby planet that shows us just how insane a storm can get. In fact, there are two. Both Neptune and Jupiter have storms on them as large as our planet, or bigger. While no earthly storm could become larger than the planet, a superstorm so large it wipes out everything on the surface of the world is theoretically possible. A bunker might not save you if the storm was bad enough to dig furrows in the planet.
• Tectonic Shifts
Earthquakes are terrifying. Small tremors can do damage on their own. Unfortunately, plates in the earth rubbing together can get a lot worse than some fallen crockery and busted picture frames. The 1960 Valvadia earthquake was around a 9.5 on the seismic scale and caused damage to hundreds of miles worth of countryside. Furthermore, it also caused Tsunamis, foreshocks, and aftershocks that did further damages. A bunker is not safe from earthquakes.
Rocks from space routinely pass near the Earth. Small bits of debris from planetary formation and other universal events can come streaking to earth as falling stars. However, a larger piece can turn you, your home, and even a hemisphere of a planet into a smoldering crater.
• Spontaneous Human Combustion
This is one of the less plausible options, but there’s some evidence that spontaneous human combustion might be a real phenomenon. Like zombies and ghosts, it’s up to you whether or not you believe. However, it bears noting that, for lack of a better explanation, there are several cases in recorded history.
• Landslides & Avalanches
When large sections of mud or snow come rolling downhill, the danger is genuine. Getting caught in a mass of sliding dirt or snow can kill you. More importantly, it can bury you alive, or cover the entrance to your home, bunker, or other essential escape routes. A buried BOV isn’t going to get you to safety, and if you’re inside suffocation is a serious concern.
The core of our planet is made of molten rock. It’s a liquid so hot and dangerous that all you can do is flee. Most volcanoes do us the courtesy of smoking and putting out warning signs before they blow. Plus they aren’t too common. However, that doesn’t mean they’re impossible. Anywhere there’s a weakness in the Earth’s crust there is also an opportunity for the superheated liquid rock to come bubbling to the surface.
• Ice Age
Ice ages happen every hundred thousand years or so on our planet. Humans have survived an ice age before. It wasn’t pleasant, and we were far more accustomed to living outdoors. If you can’t hunt, build fires and perform other basic necessary functions of a cave-dwelling ancestor, then you should be aware that all the prep in the world won’t save you. Frozen, canned goods are difficult to open, and the containers often burst as the contents expand inside the cans. We know they can hit so fast and hard they freeze a mammoth mid-bite as it eats. AN ice age could wipe you out before you saw it coming.
• Organized and Overwhelming Violence
With weapons like bunker busters and automatic riffles out there, it’s pretty hard to resist an organized force if they decide you’re the target. You can try to turn your BOL into a private Alamo, but we all know how well that didn’t work out. The truth is that most times a superior force with more and better weapons and good training will probably roll right over you.
• Failed Preps
We’re going to call this user error, though so many things can go wrong it’s not always going to be the prepper’s fault. When food or water is contaminated, or other critical systems fail, there’s not always an easy fix. Given enough time and the right tools, anything can be repaired or replaced. Unfortunately, a disaster is rarely one of those cases where you have all the time in the world to fiddle around.
With so many potential weaknesses in a disaster preparedness plan, it’s easy to see how folks can get hopeless. My best advice is to simply let it go. If an asteroid falls on your head before you can survive WWIII, then your troubles are over. Maybe some other hardy and lucky people will come along and use your supplies, but you certainly won’t need them. Short of the impossible to predict, your emergency supplies will still do you plenty of good.
Being prepared for most things will still save you hassle at the least and might save your life and those you love in the end. You may not be able to plan for everything, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to plan for anticipated events. Emergencies will happen in life. You can just about guarantee it.
You can spiral into an endlessly depressing downward trend until you give up on life, or you can fight to have a life worth living. The will to survive is the most essential part of any living being. If you’re not willing to try, you’re going to fail.
So, is prepping worth it? You have to decide for yourself. No one can give you the will to live, and all I can do is give you the information to equip yourself with the right tools and skills.