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How to help normalize general preparedness?

I find myself circling around the topic of “what can I do” to help educate and/or convert others as this global pandemic is a sort of a near perfect case study in why it’s not “crazy” to prepare at least a little.

To share my personal time-line:

I started paying attention to the “new virus” around January 17 when it showed up on The Prepared on a couple of blog entries.

On January 27 I started modestly stocking up on some supplies like hand sanitizer, wipes, etc.

As February unfolded I started shoring up non-perishable foods and other shelf-stable consumables.

But, and I’m not proud of this, I didn’t start prodding my nearby family with “do you have everything you need” hints and “hey, I noticed all the lysol wipes were gone at the grocery store” hints until March 3.  I didn’t suggest to a subset of my facebook friends they might want to start paying attention until March 5.  March 12 was when my employer granted more liberal telework, and then people started swarming the grocery stores near here on March 13 (that was a weird weekend…).

By then I was plenty prepared… but i was also wishing I had “warned” more people a little louder and a little sooner.  I didn’t do more because I didn’t want to come off as an alarmist, I was unsure of the urgency/impact, and I was perhaps slightly worried about being judged harshly by some peers (I shouldn’t care but I’m human).  As luck would have it most in my circles are largely fine but if things had turned out worse i’d be kicking myself that “I didn’t do more.”

So, along the lines of the blog post here ( https://theprepared.com/blog/warm-not-smug/ ) about welcoming newcomers, any thoughts on how best to spread the word without being too heavy handed? Even silly stuff like the 2-weeks of food and water [FEMA guidelines?] that i bet 70%+ of the population completely ignores.  Things like having a decent roadside emergency kit in your car.  I feel like that’s the kind of stuff parents tell their kids to do and hearing it from adult peers risks coming off as condescending if you do it wrong?  Have you found good ways to bring up this topic without getting ridiculed or dismissed, even in measured ways?

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  • Comments (4)

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      I suspect this pandemic will do much of the work for you.  Those who suffered from the Great Depression (my grandparents) were frugal for the rest of their lives so I suspect this will have a similar effect.  Prepping will be less marginal and more mainstream.  I think it will be similar to suggesting friends buy insurance – they may not do it, but they wont think you are strange for suggesting it.

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      Great question! FWIW, we’ve been collecting thoughts along the way to eventually publish a full guide just on this (and related topics like “what if your spouse thinks prepping is silly”). It’s a tough balance, particularly when talking to people who still have the outdated stigma that prepping = extremists.

      A lot of it comes down to the person you’re trying to convince. Do they think more economically? Then be logical about how a dollar today saves 10 dollars later. Do they think more about social justice and altruism? Explain how not prepping when you have the means to is selfish, since you’re relying on others to come save you + that saving means someone else with lessor means isn’t being saved.

      Some random examples of narrative devices I’ve seen work well:

      Instead of telling someone stuff, ask them questions that leads them to thinking it was their own idea. eg. in Feb/March you could’ve said to friends “Don’t want to be alarmist, but I’m hearing this pandemic could be a big deal. I’m trying to figure out what to do to get ready… what do you suggest?” People might be more likely to think positively about preparation if they feel like they are being the responsible one answering a friend, instead of being talked at. If they scoff at it, then they likely wouldn’t respond to any other tactic anyway.

      Sometimes I ask “well how much do you spend each year on things like fire insurance?” … “I spend $X,XXX” …. “Okay, and how much time or money have you spent making sure your kids survive a fire in the first place?” …. (crickets) … “Oh, shit.”

      Sometimes the best thing you can do is simply speak up and be reasonable. So many people think about these topics in their head, but are scared to pipe up. It takes courage to do so, but once you do, it tends to create “social permission” for people around you to engage / come out of the closet. Can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen this happen.

      ^ it’s similar to the tactics that worked well in things like the gay rights movement. For example, back in the Harvey Milk days when CA was considering a law to ban gay teachers etc, the tactic that helped turn public opinion was a campaign of normal gay people (not the caricatures common of the time) saying “hey, I’m your dentist, and I’m gay.” … “I’m the neighbor you’ve been watching football with for years, and I’m gay.” … and so on. The more personal the connection, the more people are willing to reject stereotypes and tribalism.

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      I wouldn’t beat yourself up on this.  I’ve given up on convincing people to get prepared.  I’ve tried many techniques including ones mentioned in this blog.  It might spark a few thoughts but rarely results in a call to action.  I suppose I’ll leave it up to others to convince people. It seems like most will need to have personal experience in order to change their behaviors.  My wife always wondered why I would stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, tissues, garbage bags, etc.  My family did listen to me to go out one weekend and get extra food, feminine products, coffee, etc. before the pandemic hit.  About 6 weeks in, she stopped me in the kitchen and started telling me her plan for stockpiling food and supplies.  I just looked at her and said ‘welcome’.  She said she never thought something like this could happen, even though she’s been through power outages and water main breaks.  Not trying to sound like I have an ‘I told you so’ attitude , but many seem to need to learn by personal experience.  My sense is that many will stop planning when things return to normal.  The good news is maybe we’ll get some good deals on eBay.  Remember all of the tri-fuel generators for sale on eBay after Y2K?

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      I don’t necessarily recommend it, but living in a city currently experiencing widespread, violent civil unrest has really opened these conversations among my Minnesota neighbors.