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Well, TP actually recommends A Paradise Built in Hell, and people like Solnit— and especially the disaster researchers deployed to calamities to collect firsthand accounts from research centers at universities— are professionals as much as a shelter manager or first responder or anyone running an EOC. The findings they make by methodically collecting data from multiple instances all over the world (including extensive interviews with witnesses and victims) deserve to be taken as seriously as the eyewitness accounts or allegations of any one other person acting in a professional disaster relief capacity. Also, worth considering that these two groups of people have very different jobs: Those who work in disaster response are paid to anticipate threats and prevent them; in that role, it would be irresponsible not to take stories about worst cases seriously and attempt to see danger everywhere, before it befalls the unsuspecting folks who have already been victimized by one disaster. That’s part of why we need social scientists and other researchers to put those worst cases in perspective and point out the truths that can hide behind conventional wisdom and common assumptions.  It’s also worth noting that we all come to this space with our own tools and skills for evaluating data and arguments. Just because we haven’t disclosed our experience and training doesn’t mean it’s absent or lesser. (Rebecca Solnit has also written about this, too. In a different book.)

Yeah, we did a lot of research before we bought ours and the main conclusion we drew from that research was that most containers advertised as “fire safe” really aren’t at all— and if you can pick it up and move it with your own two hands, it’s definitely not good enough. The one we picked was rated by testers as legit, it is almost impossible to budge, and there is hardly any room in it for documents because the walls are so thick, so I feel like our stuff has a chance, but only that. When it comes to documents, I think you just need to pick your electronic poison, pick your hard copy poison, and recognize that nothing you do is totally safe— fire proof containers fail, banks may be inaccessible, a thumb drive could be stolen (and the encryption broken) or just simply break, cloud storage always poses some risk of security breaches… This is a big reason I put off document preps for six years after I started prepping in earnest: It just seemed like every choice was a bad one. Obviously I’ve gotten over that. Now I actually take comfort in the fact that many people have lost all of their important documents in fires or floods and lived to tell about it— it’s not as if they have to wander the world as “non-people” because the state can’t verify that you exist after you lose a passport or a driver’s license. So worst case scenario, there is a process for reconnecting with identity, insurance, titles and deeds, etc.— everything just takes longer, is more frustrating, and costs you more money. (Well, worst case scenario is a full societal collapse, but who needs a renter’s insurance policy then, amirite? :D)

Here’s another perspective, from one of the many people who has done careful work documenting human behavior after disasters and reviewing scholarship and historical records on same: The image of the selfish, panicky or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it. Decades of meticulous sociological research on behavior in disasters, from the bombings of World War II to floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and storms across the continent and around the world, have demonstrated this. But belief lags behind, and often the worst behavior in the wake of a calamity is on the part of those who believe that others will behave savagely and that they themselves are taking defensive measures against barbarism. From 1906 San Francisco to 2005 New Orleans, innocents have been killed by people who believed that their victims were the criminals and they themselves were the protectors of the shaken order. Belief matters. – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell There’s nothing wrong with being cautious and aware of one’s surroundings, and I’m not advocating that anyone choose a public shelter over other places where they might feel more comfortable seeking refuge. (If you believe that other people are just murderers-in-waiting and that you can’t be safe in a high school gym without being armed, maybe it’s safer for everyone if you just hunker down at home?) But I think we should think twice about presenting public shelters— which are probably, for many people, the safest places to go and/ or the only options when their homes are destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by disaster— as rape-nests. Even if we decide that every debunked rumor about Superdome violence is actually true… part of the reason those stories were so shocking is that people have been using public buildings under the management of Red Cross, FEMA, local governments, churches, etc. as emergency shelters for decades and violence isn’t usually a part of how that all plays out. (I don’t even recall hearing reports of theft— which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, but again, not a major part of the narrative.) We can agree to disagree about Katrina and still find plenty of evidence that the danger of being hurt or killed in a public shelter post-disaster is pretty darn low…

@Gideon, I jumped onto this thread to suggest the Rapid Raft, but you beat me to it! I agree with Henry’s point about the superiority of hard shelled boats, generally speaking (though it’s amazing the level of abuse big commercial river rafts can take without tearing; I wonder what material they’re made of). I think the advantage of the Rapid Raft is for situations where you may not practically be able to store a larger and sturdier craft— e.g., my office— but don’t want to have to rely on a pump, either. I don’t know how the Rapid Raft compares on price to a hard shell boat, but that might be another reason to get one. If you have preps for hacking your way out of the attic… maybe it’s not crazy to stash a Rapid Raft up there. In any case, brekke mentioned kids, so whether it’s a kayak, the Rapid Raft, or something else, you might be needing multiple boats. Test deployments of the Rapid Raft taught my family that it holds one adult and one large dog. We ended up towing my partner across the river as he clung to a pool toy, which was physically challenging for me and for him, and emotionally challenging for the dog. Fortunately, the prepping purpose of this boat is to get ME across the river that runs through our city, as a matter of absolute last resort, since I’m the only one in the family who spends the day across the river from our home. I have a Plan A, B, and C ahead of the raft, but it gives me peace of mind to know it’s there.


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Well, TP actually recommends A Paradise Built in Hell, and people like Solnit— and especially the disaster researchers deployed to calamities to collect firsthand accounts from research centers at universities— are professionals as much as a shelter manager or first responder or anyone running an EOC. The findings they make by methodically collecting data from multiple instances all over the world (including extensive interviews with witnesses and victims) deserve to be taken as seriously as the eyewitness accounts or allegations of any one other person acting in a professional disaster relief capacity. Also, worth considering that these two groups of people have very different jobs: Those who work in disaster response are paid to anticipate threats and prevent them; in that role, it would be irresponsible not to take stories about worst cases seriously and attempt to see danger everywhere, before it befalls the unsuspecting folks who have already been victimized by one disaster. That’s part of why we need social scientists and other researchers to put those worst cases in perspective and point out the truths that can hide behind conventional wisdom and common assumptions.  It’s also worth noting that we all come to this space with our own tools and skills for evaluating data and arguments. Just because we haven’t disclosed our experience and training doesn’t mean it’s absent or lesser. (Rebecca Solnit has also written about this, too. In a different book.)

Yeah, we did a lot of research before we bought ours and the main conclusion we drew from that research was that most containers advertised as “fire safe” really aren’t at all— and if you can pick it up and move it with your own two hands, it’s definitely not good enough. The one we picked was rated by testers as legit, it is almost impossible to budge, and there is hardly any room in it for documents because the walls are so thick, so I feel like our stuff has a chance, but only that. When it comes to documents, I think you just need to pick your electronic poison, pick your hard copy poison, and recognize that nothing you do is totally safe— fire proof containers fail, banks may be inaccessible, a thumb drive could be stolen (and the encryption broken) or just simply break, cloud storage always poses some risk of security breaches… This is a big reason I put off document preps for six years after I started prepping in earnest: It just seemed like every choice was a bad one. Obviously I’ve gotten over that. Now I actually take comfort in the fact that many people have lost all of their important documents in fires or floods and lived to tell about it— it’s not as if they have to wander the world as “non-people” because the state can’t verify that you exist after you lose a passport or a driver’s license. So worst case scenario, there is a process for reconnecting with identity, insurance, titles and deeds, etc.— everything just takes longer, is more frustrating, and costs you more money. (Well, worst case scenario is a full societal collapse, but who needs a renter’s insurance policy then, amirite? :D)

Here’s another perspective, from one of the many people who has done careful work documenting human behavior after disasters and reviewing scholarship and historical records on same: The image of the selfish, panicky or regressively savage human being in times of disaster has little truth to it. Decades of meticulous sociological research on behavior in disasters, from the bombings of World War II to floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and storms across the continent and around the world, have demonstrated this. But belief lags behind, and often the worst behavior in the wake of a calamity is on the part of those who believe that others will behave savagely and that they themselves are taking defensive measures against barbarism. From 1906 San Francisco to 2005 New Orleans, innocents have been killed by people who believed that their victims were the criminals and they themselves were the protectors of the shaken order. Belief matters. – Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell There’s nothing wrong with being cautious and aware of one’s surroundings, and I’m not advocating that anyone choose a public shelter over other places where they might feel more comfortable seeking refuge. (If you believe that other people are just murderers-in-waiting and that you can’t be safe in a high school gym without being armed, maybe it’s safer for everyone if you just hunker down at home?) But I think we should think twice about presenting public shelters— which are probably, for many people, the safest places to go and/ or the only options when their homes are destroyed or rendered uninhabitable by disaster— as rape-nests. Even if we decide that every debunked rumor about Superdome violence is actually true… part of the reason those stories were so shocking is that people have been using public buildings under the management of Red Cross, FEMA, local governments, churches, etc. as emergency shelters for decades and violence isn’t usually a part of how that all plays out. (I don’t even recall hearing reports of theft— which doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, but again, not a major part of the narrative.) We can agree to disagree about Katrina and still find plenty of evidence that the danger of being hurt or killed in a public shelter post-disaster is pretty darn low…

@Gideon, I jumped onto this thread to suggest the Rapid Raft, but you beat me to it! I agree with Henry’s point about the superiority of hard shelled boats, generally speaking (though it’s amazing the level of abuse big commercial river rafts can take without tearing; I wonder what material they’re made of). I think the advantage of the Rapid Raft is for situations where you may not practically be able to store a larger and sturdier craft— e.g., my office— but don’t want to have to rely on a pump, either. I don’t know how the Rapid Raft compares on price to a hard shell boat, but that might be another reason to get one. If you have preps for hacking your way out of the attic… maybe it’s not crazy to stash a Rapid Raft up there. In any case, brekke mentioned kids, so whether it’s a kayak, the Rapid Raft, or something else, you might be needing multiple boats. Test deployments of the Rapid Raft taught my family that it holds one adult and one large dog. We ended up towing my partner across the river as he clung to a pool toy, which was physically challenging for me and for him, and emotionally challenging for the dog. Fortunately, the prepping purpose of this boat is to get ME across the river that runs through our city, as a matter of absolute last resort, since I’m the only one in the family who spends the day across the river from our home. I have a Plan A, B, and C ahead of the raft, but it gives me peace of mind to know it’s there.


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