A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker



By show of hands, who went out and bought a few extra emergency supplies during the past week?

You weren’t alone.

Merchants around the country reported brisk sales of bottled water, canned food, flashlights, batteries, transistor radios, duct tape and plastic. And with good reason. Government officials in the United States had called for a high state of alert for possible terrorist activities, and citizens were encouraged to be prepared.

And so in the true spirit of free enterprise, we went shopping. We laid in a little extra peanut butter and Spam. We checked the batteries in the flashlight and the propane in the barbecue. We ran through the emergency exit drill a few times at home and at work. And we all felt a little better as a result.

Thankfully, nothing violent happened – this time. But it seems likely that something will happen – eventually. Even the most optimistic government sources indicate that another terrorist attack on the United States isn’t so much a matter of "if," but "when." And then there are the other sobering eventualities of life – earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and, in case you weren’t paying attention over the weekend, the Snowstorm of the Century (OK, so maybe the century is only three years old; it still was quite a storm, wasn’t it?). Whenever it DOES happen – whatever "it" is – we’re all going to be a little better prepared as a result of our recent efforts.

For many of us, the concept of preparedness hasn’t entered our minds much since we last heard the story of the ant and the grasshopper. You remember that one, don’t you? The grasshopper prefers to sing and dance and play away the summer while the ant works hard to store the food he will need to last through the winter. Of course, the grasshopper has a lot more fun than the ant – until the snow falls and he finds himself out in the cold, hungry and homeless.

Do the characters sound familiar? A lot of us can relate to the grasshopper. We’re inclined to live life for today without giving much thought to preparing for tomorrow. And we probably know people who, like that ant, seem to be so busy preparing for tomorrow that they never really have time to enjoy today. But isn’t there a happy medium somewhere – an approach to preparedness that stops short of boarding up the windows and heading for the hills?

I think there is.

It seems to me that it is just as foolish to become obsessed with potential disaster as it is to ignore its possibility. And so in a reasonable way we can prepare for any eventuality just as we prepare for anything else in life – a little bit at a time.

First, we can make sure everyone in the household knows what to do in the immediate aftermath of disaster – where to go, what to turn off, how to get help and how to handle critical first aid problems until help arrives. Then we can make sure we have on hand enough food, fuel, clothing and money to see us through for a few days. Then we can expand our supplies to include provisions for a couple of weeks. Then a couple of months. Then six months or a year.

It may take a while to pull everything together. But we can do it – a little bit at a time.

And once we have what we need on hand we can forget about it – at least as much as it is possible to forget about such things. Aside from an occasional update and rotation of food, clothing and batteries, we won’t need to worry so much about terrorist attacks, earthquakes, floods, fires or snowstorms (or, for that matter, the ups and downs of the economy) because we’re prepared. As it has been said: "If you are prepared you don’t need to fear."


Even if you are not, by nature, an ant.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through