We’re all sane preppers now: International Disaster Risk Reduction Day 2021

When even an expert can admit they’re not expertly prepared, you know something’s changed.

Dr. Samantha Montano follows disasters for a living. At 16, she volunteered in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; the experience moved her to get a doctorate in emergency management. She’s taught disaster preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation.

And even she doesn’t have a go-bag or an emergency kit.

The reasons Montano cites are common enough — time, space, money — but rarely top of mind when scolding people that they should get it together. (Recent example: folks riding it out during Hurricane Ida because they didn’t have the cash to leave.)

As she writes in the excellent “Disasterology:” (online) (library)

“As a graduate student, I struggled to afford rent each month. A $30 weather radio didn’t even register on the list of things I should spend money on. People who are unemployed, underemployed, live paycheck to paycheck, and rely on programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and local food pantries to get by on a regular day cannot be expected to stockpile extra food and supplies for some hypothetical future disaster. ”

What she has instead of an emergency kit is a typical, if shoulder-busting, purse. Contents include: A full water bottle, phone, phone charger, extra battery, snacks, a knife, a whistle, a scarf, enough cash for a couple of tanks of gas and, if not exactly a first aid kit, “an entire CVS.”

My major quibble with this strategy is shunning paper for Google maps (“which is arguably better than having a paper map, which I wouldn’t know how to read”) and assumes there will be cell phone service, but this bag-as-go-kit philosophy demonstrates the strength of practicality over perfection as disasters pile up more frequently.

Fall is peak nag season for disaster preparedness — National Preparedness Month, International Disaster Reduction Day, the Great Shakeout — and let’s face it, the fatigue is still real. It’s time to trade the finger-wagging for realistic strategies.

When I talk to groups about Resiliency Maps, I sometimes do a bag/backpack contest, quizzing people to see what they’re already carrying. (The winner gets a hair-clip size TSA-approved multitool, woohoo!) Most times, people realize they’re more prepared than they thought, which is good because I’ve just attempted to scare them straight by showing just how unaware they are of their surroundings. (Which is why you need an old-school paper map, folks.)

In the bag

After Montano graduated, gaining both the means and the space to kit out fully, she kept her prepping confined to her purse.

And that’s good enough.

“Much of what makes us prepared for a disaster is done without us realizing it will make us more prepared for a disaster. I didn’t intentionally turn my purse into a preparedness kit. These are just the things I carry out of daily necessity or convenience. It doesn’t matter why you have these items, just that you do. In fact, I would argue that keeping them in my purse, which is with me at all times, is actually more effective and efficient than having a separate kit in my apartment, in my car, and in my office, as recommended. ”


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