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Disaster preparedness has disaster written all over it

Michael Swickard

Can you imagine that a disaster might just trigger you to shoot your neighbor? What an awful thought. Most people rarely if ever have those thoughts, thank goodness. Disasters make people do odd things.

New Mexico experienced a wide disruption of goods and services during the February cold wave. Some people were prepared, while others were not. There have been many disasters over the years. Some were relatively small and did not last long, like what hit New Mexico, and some have been large, like when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans.

For each event we find that often the disaster interrupts the social contract and people are left to fend for themselves. In the case of Katrina, people were on their own a long time. In Japan, the authorities reacted quickly, but still many of the Japanese citizens were forced to confront a lack of heat, water and food for days.

There has been lots of discussion about citizens being prepared. The core question: Should I personally prepare for my possible needs and those of my family, or should I rely on my government to provide what I need? Some people naturally want to be self-reliant, while others see no need.

Some will prepare; others will not

At the coffee shop the other day one person smugly mentioned having lots of water and food stored for any disruption, even if it lasts several weeks. He was not prepared for my question: “So you and your family have heat, water and food which are set to last a month. Tell me, do you have enough stored to serve all of your neighbors? What do you do when your cold, thirsty, hungry neighbors demand your supplies because they did not prepare? Are you prepared to use deadly force to protect your supplies?”


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That is the rub. Some people will prepare, but others will not. Your dilemma is that if you share your supplies they may only last a day instead of a month. Then what? That does not save the other people and condemns your family. If you were going to do that, why store food and water in the first place?

By preparing for a disaster you are hoarding food and water. Will you defend your hoard of water and food? Mercy! I think this disaster preparedness has disaster written all over it.

What does the government say as to the people who did not prepare? We might call them grasshoppers who did not set aside food for the winter as in the fable. What is our obligation to help people who did not prepare? Do we have an obligation?

Consider: You see a driver who is purposefully driving bad. Suddenly that bad driver ends up in the ditch. They are purposefully stupid. Can you legally ignore their dilemma? You cannot. You are required by law to render aid. Their lack of good sense makes no difference to your obligation under the law.

So, does that same concept apply to those who are not prepared? The law is silent on this point but I would imagine that our laws point to the rights of the have nots over the haves. So what to do? Should we even prepare for a disaster if all of the time and money we spend is immediately taken from us because others did not?

Clear instructions needed

I think we citizens need guidance on this point. Specifically, in an emergency does my neighbor have a right to my possessions based on my neighbor’s need? We are already a nation that takes from the rich and gives to the poor. What about those people who have purposefully not prepared? I am rich and they are poor because of each of our actions.

Certainly it does cause pause to think that all of the time and money I have used for the “just in case” scenario might not help me even one iota. In fact, it might get me in trouble as a hoarder.

Sure does seem that the government must give clear instructions as to preparing for disaster. If we do prepare, are we going to be prepared, or is there an overriding principle that haves have to give all they have to have nots?

Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on KSNM-AM 570 in Las Cruces and throughout the state through streaming. His e-mail address is michael@swickard.com.

3 comments so far. Scroll down to submit your own comment.

  1. Put Content In Its Place – When it comes to your property, what do you expect in case of loss, e.g., hurricane, tornado, earthquake, flood, fire? If you are like most of the insuring public you draw a blank on that question. “Control the element of surprise with the rule book by your side!” It’s the content that matters. http://www.DisasterPrepared.net

  2. Michael,
    Who could really prepare for an unseen disaster any more than a death of a loved one? We. as humans, do the best we can with the resources we have.

  3. “The rich are always giving to the poor”. Exactly what do you mean? I pay my taxes and some of that money goes to help those less fortunate than I, at least I hope. Lot of that tax money goes to fund the military-industrial complex. The corporations getting money from this are the rich. Oh yes, seems to be a lot of double standard in most of what you write, Mr. S.

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