Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lessons from the Gulf.....

(image courtesy of

I am sure we all have been saddened by the ongoing Gulf Oil Spill Crisis.  The impact on families, the environment, and the wildlife are tremendous.  We can all argue the reasons why (regulations made BP drill so far away, BP didn't use safe practices, the government is not responding etc),  which the media is doing a fine job of transmitting.  However, there are practical lessons to be learned here.

The following comes from Survival Mom, and I think she has some important things for us all to consider not only with this situation, but others that may and will occur unexpectedly. 

Many years ago I had the opportunity to vacation, twice, in the beautiful warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Once, on the tiny island of St. George, off the coast of Florida, I was the only person on the wind-swept dunes looking out over the white-capped blue waters. It was heaven on earth to this desert rat. Now when I think of those same waters covered with sticky black oil and the thousands of birds and sea animals who have been affected, it is heart breaking. Add to that, the incredible losses to the families whose livelihoods depend on the various Gulf industries, and this disaster will be one of the worst our country has ever faced.

As always, there are lessons to be learned in even the most negative situations, and here are nine lessons from this one.

1.  An event hundreds of miles away can directly impact your life. Initially, those living closest to ground zero, so to speak, are the ones most impacted. However, this oil spill is having a long-term affect on the livelihoods of thousands of people, and over a period of time, thousands more will be affected in a chain reaction. In this highly inter-connected world of ours, we no longer have the luxury of saying, “Whew! I don’t have to worry about that event!” This is why it’s vital to stay up to date with current events. Threats by North Korea against South Korea and deals being made between such diverse countries as Brazil, Turkey, and Russia may very well develop into events that have repercussions a lot closer to home. Keep your eye on the news, preferably from several different sources.

2.  You cannot count on government assistance, and, in fact, the government may very well make a bad situation worse. This is happening in the Gulf, and is more likely than not to happen in an event affecting you and your family. As government agencies dilly-dally and fret over following thousands of regulations, sea life and invaluable ecosystems are being destroyed. The more self-reliant you can be, the less help you will need from government agencies bogged down with red tape and politics. Research, plan, and prepare as though you will be completely on your own because you very well may be.

3.  Sometimes it’s just easier to ask forgiveness than permission. I admit I’m a bit of a rebel on the side of common sense, and this morning I was thrilled to hear that Governor Jindal of Louisiana was moving ahead to build sandbars off the coast of his state. After weeks of waiting for permission from the federal government, he’s doing what should have been done from the start. I’m not advocating taking actions that would endanger lives, but there are times when common sense supersedes following the rules. It’s kind of like sitting at a red light early on a Sunday morning when no car is coming in any direction for at least a mile. You can sit there and wait for the green light, or just go.

4. Generic preparedness is never wasted. Extra food, bottled water, an evacuation plan, some saved cash will come in handy whether they’re preps for a hurricane, wildfire evacuation, a lay-off, or the devastation of your family’s livelihood. The beauty of preparedness is that if, for example, you prepare for a long-term power outage and, instead, you find yourself dealing with record flooding, you’re still prepared. There’s little doubt that Gulf state preppers will get through this crisis more easily than those who haven’t given preparedness any thought.

5. Financial preparedness may be the absolute most important thing you do. In this economy, I know it’s tough to hear that you should be paying off debt and saving money and buying extra food and supplies! This is the time, though, to work extra hours, start up a business that has few upfront costs, learn new skills, put old ones to work, get the kids out there earning their own “fun money”, and even (gasp!) selling some of those Big Boy Toys! In other words, this is get-serious time! The families in the Gulf who have additional streams of income and have little debt are far better off than those who depend entirely on that single source of income. Even paying off one bill or putting an extra $50 aside each month is better than doing nothing. If the only preparedness step you take is to get your finances in better shape, then do it.

6. Information during and following a disaster is vital, but be aware that you may be getting a skewed or altered version of the truth. I’ve heard reports from “eyewitnesses” in the Gulf that law enforcement officers have closed off beaches and prohibited cameras in the area. I’ve heard that beaches supposedly contaminated are, actually, as pristine as ever. Which reports are true, which are exaggerations, and who can you believe? In a crisis, it’s vital to stay alert and get your information from multiple sources. The major media outlets aren’t necessarily unbiased, but then again, they have more people and more resources to gather and report information. Still, be sure to access information from local news sources as well as national. This is when having a short-wave radio or your HAM radio license comes in handy. Accurate information can make the difference between life and death.

7. Community is everything. Already, thousands of people are volunteering to help clean up the beaches along the Gulf coast and many more will follow suit. Gulf families are banding together to pressure their government officials to provide common sense help and cut through red tape. In a crisis, the relationships we have with others become more important than ever. If you’ve ever been stranded somewhere alone, you can appreciate that fact. Facing an emergency, as well as an uncertain future, is easier with a circle of friends and family. Expand your circle of friends, make connections with each other, both online and in real life. You never know when you’ll be the one in desperate need of help or the answer to someone else’s prayer.

8. Disasters can quickly and unpredictably spiral out of control. When the initial explosion happened on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, who could have guessed it would be one of the hottest topics weeks later? The original event in a crisis will always produce a cascade of unplanned consequences. If the crisis is dealt with quickly and decisively, those consequences can be limited and contained, to a degree. Planning ahead and considering all the “what if” questions can broaden our thinking and open our minds to alternative solutions. Once you have an idea of what could happen, you can take proactive steps in case it happens. Being prepared makes it possible to more quickly grasp the reality of a situation and then being able to slow down or stop the cascade of events.

9. Be willing to consider a variety of solutions. Part of the problem with the expanding crisis in the Gulf is that initial, common sense solutions were delayed by people without common sense. There’s never just one answer to a problem, and sometimes the best solution can come from an unlikely source. Often, my kids come up with better ideas than my own! It’s folly to blunder on in a direction just because it’s the way things have always been done.

The Gulf oil spill was predictable just by the nature of an oil rig drilling at a depth of 5000 feet some 52 miles off shore. You can bet British Petroleum had crisis plans in place, had regularly scheduled drills, and yet, the explosion happened and the situation is far from being under control. As SurvivalMoms, we should be even more diligent as we consider our family’s safety and future. Learn from the mistakes of others! Common sense rules!

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