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Personal Preparedness and Obligations


Rick Cowles
March 13, 1998

from the Westergaard website

(I've only copied this onto my site because
I had problems downloading it several times,
so I thought I'd just give you a clean copy.
You can see the original by clicking on the
Westergaard site, above. -- Tom Atlee)

Personal contingency planning

I was curious about your contingency planning. You mention working to
keep your community together, and not heading for the hills. Please tell
me how you will help keep your community together if the power goes down,
or the banking system fails? How will you protect your family in the midst
of a starving, rioting, diseased populace?

This is a serious question. I remember that you live in the NE, surrounded
by millions of people. We've hit the iceberg and more than 4 compartments
are flooded. You're one of my chief testifiers to that fact. Are you planning
on going down with the ship?

What kinds of contingency plans will you help design and execute so that
most people can get into a lifeboat?

I don't see any from you so far, or anything from any other leaders.
Therefore I am heading for the hills. I would appreciate your answers so
I can see if there is a viable alternative.

I get a lot of mail like this, and truthfully, sometimes have a difficult
time responding to notions of gloom and doom and "End of the World
as We Know It" scenarios. The above e-mail was received in response
to the 2/27/1998 "Powerful Prognostications" column,
in which I wrote:
My own personal strategy does not include heading for the hills; it involves
trying to keep my community together, after I've ensured my own family is
prepared to the best of my ability. To poorly paraphrase, "No man is
an island.." That's where I expect to be spending a majority of my own
personal time during most of 1999.

The questions the reader raised were very serious, and similar to ones that
I've asked myself on many occasions. First, let's make something abundantly
clear that nearly everyone missed on first reading of the 2/27/1998 column
- my family comes first. If I feel that things are really going to get wacky
because of Y2K-induced systemic failures (not just in the electric industry),
I have personal contingencies in place, the worst of which would include
temporarily relocating my family to a more temperate and less crowded location
(my father lives in the high desert of the Southwest U.S.).

Now, in response to the reader's questions, let's define "community."
I live in a rural area of New Jersey. Believe it or not, there are some
really remote locations here. My town has a population of less than 5000,
with limited highway ingress and egress. There are quite a few churches
- easily 90% of the folks here belong to one congregation or another. So,
that's the "community" that I start with, in terms of education
and preparation - my own parish. There's also a local interfaith council,
and I'll be working with the interfaith council through my parish to reach
other local church groups and neighborhood organizations.

I have no false illusions that I'll convince everyone that there's a massive
problem. Not everyone will buy into the premise that it may become necessary
to rely on the community network to ride out the (choose your own scenario)
Y2K inconveniences or total social infrastructure collapse that might happen.
But it's my obligation, with the level of knowledge on this topic that I
possess, to do my best in trying. Most of the folks in my town are longtime
or lifetime residents, so we know one another. We can, and have, worked
together to overcome other community obstacles. That being said, this certainly
has the potential for being the biggest 'community obstacle' that anyone
has ever faced.

In the 2/27/1998 column, I quoted John Donne, saying, "No man is an
island." The full passage (from Meditation XVII) goes as follows:
No man is an island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,
as well if a promontory were, as well if a manor of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

In the final analysis, if people like you and I bolt for the hills, who
will be left to help put things back together should things really go south?

Perhaps you view Y2K as a digital Armageddon; you certainly wouldn't be
the only one with that view, in fact among those who are Y2K literate, you
might be in the majority. There are as many spins on this issue as there
are people. I'm witnessing people with the same general philosophic Y2K
view ripping each other to shreds in what is supposed to be civil discourse
over minor differences of opinion of severity.

Don't get me wrong. I know and completely believe that there are going to
be many problems, but for me, it's kind of like a choice I made a long time
ago during 'duck and cover' drills in elementary school: if the big one
hits, I'd rather be at ground zero, because what remains isn't going to
be worth living for anyway. My station in this thing is to make sure I stay
onboard as long as necessary to get as many people as possible into the
lifeboats. That's not necessarily a noble endeavor, in fact, it might be
dog stupid. But (visualize me shrugging my shoulders) - that's me.

(I recognize that my approach won't work in every situation and every geographic
location. Modify as necessary to fit your own community. Your mileage may