EDITORIAL: Prepping for the aftermath

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In a recent report from the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, the conclusion was that coastal communities in the Caribbean need to start implementing plans to be self-sufficient for up to three weeks if we are to cope with the fallout from climate change and the severe weather that accompanies it. The observation was made in light of the level of intensity experienced during the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season.  Basically, the expert opinion is: two or three days will no longer suffice.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season featured 17 named storms.  Let us not forget that of that number, ten were consecutive hurricanes. The devastation across the Caribbean was unprecedented and preliminary estimates put the economic losses of the costliest hurricane season on record in the region at U.S. $280 billion. Damage and destruction in Barbuda alone has been estimated north of $250 million.
Preparation for living for three to four weeks ‘off the grid’ is foreign to most people, but in the world of ‘preppers’, this short period of time does not even meet their minimums.  Preppers have been associated with doomsday scenarios and the general population thinks that they are a bunch of paranoid, conspiracy-loving, crazies waiting for the zombie apocalypse.  However, if you take the time to discuss their reasoning for becoming a prepper, you may soon see some of those survivalist tendencies beginning to emerge in yourself.  
Believe it or not, there are Antiguan preppers. These are not people living in the hills growing and living on produce and sipping goat’s milk; they are actually your neighbours.  The difference is that they have examined life in our bit of paradise and they have determined that our dependence on the outside world is too risky.  They can easily point to our reliance on imports for almost everything we eat as a single point of failure that is susceptible to a number of impacts that we have no control over.  
The topics covered in the UN-sponsored meeting to discuss the impact of weather has already been considered by most preppers.  In fact, they believe that the weather impact due to climate change is more manageable than the other potential man-made disasters (in the foreseeable future, at least).  They think of things like terrorist attacks and war!   That is why, when preppers think about survival, they think in terms of months, not weeks, and certainly not days. Strangely enough, it is the thought of war that keeps them anchored to our bit of paradise as they believe that it is a likely safe harbour when the craziness starts.  In fact, they are keen to point out that if a world war were to erupt and supply lines were interrupted, the ‘crazy’ preppers would suddenly become the smartest people in the room.  Your survivalist senses are beginning to tingle, aren’t they?
Our own Philmore Mullin, director of the Antigua and Barbuda National Office of Disaster Services, was one of the experts present at that UN confab, and he spoke about the many challenges post hurricane.  In discussing the power and communication outages, he said, “All communication networks on the island were shut down till 4 p.m. on the second day, and it was impossible for us to know what was happening on the other island (Barbuda).” Who could forget the anxiety we all felt not knowing what had happened to Barbuda? That knot in the stomach, not being able to call a family member or friend to hear that they were alright?  Really, who could forget?
The answer is … hardly anyone.  Because, we are fairly sure that few would have changed how they prepare for the aftermath of a devastating hurricane such as the one that flattened Barbuda, or Dominica, or Puerto Rico.  For a short while, we may have seriously thought about all the changes we would make in our lives to become more prepared and more self-sufficient, but they were shelved as soon as that little rhyme provided the relief of “October all over …”  Whew!  
If we are to be successful at this new self-sufficiency model being suggested, then we need to take a page from the preppers’ book.  We need to adopt a prepper’s perspective and start thinking about survival in the event of our supply lines being severed.  We can pay lip service to the concept but there will be nothing there to pass our lips if we really do nothing.  We have been warned and as the old people say, “those that do not hear will feel.”  In this case, feel hungry, feel thirsty and feel hopeless when we sit on the damp floor looking up at the stars, through an opening where our roof used to be, and praying that the ports open to allow supplies to fill the shelves and our bellies again.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinions.

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