News began trickling into the states at the tail end of 2019 of a novel virus spreading rapidly in China. By February, many in the States were closely watching the developments as the virus had quickly begun to spread. By March, the first stay at home orders were issued in states across the country. People began to lose their jobs, and grocery store aisles emptied. Now several months from the beginning of this disaster, though nowhere near the end, we can look back and learn a few lessons about preparation.
Who knew toilet paper would become scarce? A combination of genuine scarcity due to delays in the supply chain and nationwide hoarding behavior and panic buying led to shortages of staples like toilet paper, paper towels, soap, and hand sanitizer. Many also experienced weeks of empty shelves when searching for pantry necessities like canned beans and vegetables, rice, dry pasta, flour, yeast, and potatoes. The toilet paper was especially frustrating and comical- why would a respiratory virus cause people to hoard toilet paper?
The lesson to learn here is that you may not be able to anticipate what items will become scarce, and it may not make the most sense. So if you want to be prepped for a wide variety of disasters, make sure that you are completely stocked on all essentials, including those unique to your health situation, like contact solution.
Saving an emergency fund is a must. When states began going into mandatory lockdown, millions of people who were unable to work from home lost their jobs. Several months later many still haven’t been able to access unemployment benefits, and the ripple effects of the impact on the economy are also having a severe impact on those who were initially able to work from home for a time. Beyond storing emergency food, water, and essentials, it’s clear that in the 21st century, saving an emergency fund is necessary. Homesteading and living a prepper lifestyle is useful for those who have access to property and the resources to create a self-sustaining garden, but many of the 20+ million who have lost jobs (likely more, depending on how you count) are now dependent on government-provided unemployment funds.
The popular financial program Financial Peace University recommends saving enough for 3-6 months of expenses. Unfortunately, that isn’t the reality for millions of Americans who are not only stuck in debt, but now out of a job and unable to find a new one in the midst of a global pandemic. An emergency fund is absolutely necessary.
Plan for mental health. Across the globe, reported instances of domestic violence have doubled and sometimes even tripled due to the lockdown. There is also the concern over an increase in COVID-19 related suicides. What is apparent here is that global emergencies are astonishingly stressful, and harmful means of coping with that stress can have disastrous results. A slightly humorous and absurd evidence of the human need to cope with long stretches of quarantine isolation has been the nationwide shortage of puzzles.
So what can you do? Consider your personal mental health challenges and struggles. We can’t always anticipate the form that a severe stressor will take. Last year, a global pandemic that would force billions across the globe into lockdown was not on anyone’s radar, and few were prepared for the implications of being locked inside their home 24/7 for weeks on end. If you could go back and prepare better for the mental load, what would you do? Remember that going forward. Would you stock up on puzzles? Make an appointment with a therapist to make sure you’re in a healthier place before something stressful happens? Start marriage counseling? Take up a new hobby, perhaps start exercising? Your mindset and ability to cope with stress will make or break you during an emergency, so it’s wise to prepare yourself.
It’s a meme-worthy cliche, but there’s a nugget of truth in the statement making the rounds on social media that during a nationwide emergency we’re all in the same storm, but we’re not all in the same boat. While you may have been able to retain your job, perhaps your business was impacted by the tremendous civic unrest that followed in the initial footsteps of the pandemic. There are as many unique ways to be impacted by an emergency as there are people being impacted by it. We would all be wise to learn from this pandemic and all that has followed to help us better prepare for whatever the future has in store.