Saturday, August 27, 2011

Preparedness- Hurricanes and Financial Tumult

A lot of this blog has been basically what one would call academic.  We've discussed impending problems, the unfairness and injustices of the financial system both in the US and abroad and we've tried to stimulate thought- sometimes using shock, or humor or other persuasive methods as silly and admittedly embarrassing as swimsuit models to get people's attention to something more important.

But it may be time to slowly shift gears from venting on the evilness of investors, Fed Chairs, government leaders and a million other 'baddies' and start focusing on everyday reality, and demonstrating to people how to survive and cope amid all the turbulence which is to come.

Currently a hurricane named "Irene" is heading up the east coast of the US.  As this posting is written, the eye of the hurricane (the "eye" represents the most powerful and wind-concentrated part of the storm) is over Wilmington, North Carolina.  It eventually will affect the major Northeastern cities of Washington, Philadelphia, New York City and perhaps Boston. There is a lot of fear and concern over the weekend as to its impact.

Hurricanes are not a new phenomenon by any stretch but with very few exceptions, they tend to hit the southern states, usually affecting the Gulf Coast, Florida or Carolinas, and then because land breaks up the hurricane (when its over open water, it gains strength), as it travels up into the mainland, it breaks into tropical storm, then hard rains, and then eventually dissolves.  So even though hurricanes are quite frightful and cause great destruction, people in the South are accustomed to taking preventive steps necessarily to minimize loss of life, property and to survive the post-storm power outages.

~ Flooding in Toronto from Hurricane Hazel, 1954

Those who live in the Northeast are not naturally prepared.  The last hurricane to really affect that part of the nation was "Hazel" in 1954.  So what happens is people don't react at first.  The assumption is that all will be well- it will turn left or right or dissolve.  Then when that isn't the case, panic sets in-- What to do? What do i buy?  How much food do i need, and specifically what to buy?  How many batteries and candles is enough?  And plywood.. where does one find that?  Is my home structurally safe? ...

And those who procrastinate- the "Grasshopper"- he or she assumes everything needed will just be there when they feel like preparing.  They are oblivious and end up in shock when the store shelves are completely empty of bread, bottled water, canned foods, and other non-perishables.  They are dumbfounded that so many people are in line to fill their tanks with gas or take emergency cash from the bank... as if credit cards or personal check will be happily accepted when there's no power.

And what will these hurricane Grasshoppers do when they realize that they did not adequately prepare because they just assumed all will be well and the system would provide?  Why, they look to others--friends or family to help and allow them a place to stay or feed/shelter them after the storm; to place a burden upon the "Ants" who took the impending hurricane seriously.

~ House burning in aftermath of Hurricane Hazel, 1954- location unknown

Personally I hope Hurricane Irene causes no loss of life, as minimal damage as possible and passes by without disruptions of everyday life.  But I also know Hurricanes don't oblige wishes and hopes.  I also know this will be a good test, at least from an observational level as to how prepared people truly are for events beyond their control.

A hurricane is an act of God.  A financial crisis is an act of Man, and causes far more damage and destruction to normalcy than anything that swirls with high wind gusts and heavy rains.  A financial crisis like a true market crash means bank runs and 'holidays' where you can not get access to your money because they are closed.  It means empty shelves for prolonged periods and when supplies do come in, expect to be gouged..and you better have cash.  It means instead of a region or even a nation being affected, the reach will be felt globally.

And how will you survive?  What steps do you take while everything is calm to ensure that you can weather That storm?  Or do you just wait till the last moment and keep playing the fiddle and 'dance' like the Grasshopper'?

We will continue to be informative as to what's going on in the news and attack those well-deserving of scorn.  But we will also begin being more constructive as to suggestions to prepare and ways to take control of your lives so you can survive.

And if all ends up 'well' and nothing bad ever happens, what did you really lose?  Is possession of some extra cans of food or emergency cash in your coffee can really the Worst thing in the world?

~ Empire State Building (1954) clouds just before "Hazel" arrives

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