Just in case you missed it, almost nothing is the same as it was just two years ago especially the future. So, if you’re feeling an underlying but constant sense of anxiety, welcome to the rest of the world. Because the inescapable truth is that whatever we all thought the future was going to be, has gone right out the proverbial window. And that’s unnerving whether you’re a country, a company, or one of us fragile 7.9 billion humans trying to figure out what to do next when pretty much no one has a clue what might really happen.
And it’s not just the pandemic. That was a global wake-up call to be sure. Someone somewhere caught a new virus and within just
a few months, the whole world came to a screeching halt.
Just like that.
But whatever the long-term impacts of Covid may prove to be, we all know it’s only one of a host of challenges — or threats — looming on the horizon. Like managing to feed, hydrate, shelter, and provide even a modicum of health care for those billions. All of which depends on a climate that is, to say the least, changing — fast. Droughts, fires, storms, floods, and a seemingly endless array of weather-related upheavals of historic proportions. Not to mention all the political, economic, social, and war-caused tumult that fuel our 24/7 news cycle.
So, that anxiety you’re feeling? It’s totally understandable and wholly justified. We all have good reason to be scared. And anyone who claims otherwise is either not paying attention or in some serious form of denial. But here’s the thing. There’s nothing wrong with being scared. As long as we don’t allow ourselves to be paralyzed by it. Because courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is knowing you’re afraid — and doing what you must anyway.
Because life doesn’t stop, does it? We have jobs, school, families, responsibilities — in short, all the things that were there before this added uncertainty came swooping into our heads like a bird that gets caught in the house and is too panicked to find its way out. We all need to get on with living in spite of the fear. Indeed, we all need to find some way to adapt to that fear, come to terms with it, and manage it lest it make our already complex lives so stressful that the joy and purpose of life are lost entirely. At which point we are no longer really living. We are merely existing.
So, how exactly does one do that? It’s easy to say, “Just manage your fear,” but I’d be the first to admit that it’s much easier said than done. Nobody can simply will or wish the fear away with the wave of a hand. It’s fear after all. And it’s there. All. The. Time.
Perhaps then managing that fear isn’t like flipping a switch; one instant it’s on, and the next it’s off. Maybe it’s more like a process. A simple but gradual series of steps — or shifts in our thinking — that eventually lead us to a place where we accept that the fear is still there, but it doesn’t always occupy our thoughts, or our choices, or our being. So that it no longer gets in our way. We own it instead of it owning us.
And I promise to get to some specifics about that process shortly, but I want you to really consider that last sentence for another moment, because that may be the most important and crucial shift in all of this: namely, between you and that fear, who owns who? I mean, it’s your fear after all. It lives inside of you. So, at least in theory, you should be able to control it, right? Instead of letting it control you.
Own It Like MacGyver
Or to put it another way, that’s the real MacGyver moment here, isn’t it? Angus “Mac” MacGyver was constantly facing perilous and life-threatening situations. But he never panicked. On the contrary, he thought, “What have I got at hand to overcome this? How can I use all that to escape, or defeat the bad guys, or save whoever?” In other words, “What can I do to change the story?” so that he owned the situation instead of letting the situation own him.
Granted, Mac is a fictional character and the issues we’re facing are all too real. But that doesn’t make the approach or the principle any less valid. You have a choice in how you confront that fear and the problems behind it. We all do.
Okay then, let’s assume for the moment you’ve opted to MacGyver your fear and uncertainty about what the future holds and own it, now what? What specifically could you do to prepare for unexpected weather, power or other disruptive events that might occur? For many, the first thing that comes to mind is to hunker down, batten the hatches, isolate yourself, and hope and pray whatever storm you’re trying to shelter from passes by quickly and leaves you in one piece. And, if the disruption is short and not too intense, that just might work.
Then again, maybe, like Mac, we should try thinking outside the box, and go at it in exactly the opposite way. So, instead of isolating yourself, perhaps your first move is to reach out and connect with those around you who are all facing the very same situation. Let’s face it, no one individual or household can be prepared for every contingency. There are simply too many variables and curveballs to cover them all yourself.
But expand that to a group of say, 10 to 15 people or households, that are connected in even a low-key network, and now the potential resources for responding to a crisis grow dramatically — if not exponentially. Because the fact is more than 50% of the world’s population now lives in cities, which are the most interdependent and susceptible to disruptions in the supply chain of practically everything.
But ask yourself, if you live in an apartment building, how many people in your building do you actually know — or have even met? How many even on your floor? And, if you live in the suburbs, how many people do you know in your neighborhood? Or even on your street?
Because of the continued arc of our civilization’s mobility and the technology which enables and sustains that, the need to know and depend on our neighbors has become almost irrelevant. Most of us have our own space, with power and water and local stores and the internet and Amazon: what more do we need?
Believe me, I think our technology is awesome. Never in the history of humanity has anything like what we have existed. And it’s stunning in both its reach and capabilities. Right up until the moment that it stops working. And then my friends, we are well and truly screwed. And, for the vast majority of us, woefully unprepared.
For example, say you’re driving a rental car in an unfamiliar city, comfortably following the confident voice of the GPS directions guiding you from your phone to wherever your destination might be. And then, the GPS stops working — along with your phone. And you are suddenly and utterly lost. No clue exactly where you are. No way to call for help. And you can bet there’s no folding map in the glove compartment.
Now what do you do? Pull over and wait for those systems to fix themselves? Drive around in circles hoping you might magically regain some sense of direction? Probably, not. Your best course would be to seek out a local human who could tell you where you are and then perhaps have some idea as to how to direct you towards your destination. So, what’s the moral of this little nightmare scenario? When technology fails, we are going to need each other to manage the crisis and the fear that goes with it.
Humans are a social species. We needed and relied on each other to construct this impressive civilization. And as it continues to come under more frequent assaults, be they natural or man-made, we will once again need each other to cope. And you can bet all those breakdowns, power outages, and extreme weather events are only going to become more frequent in the days ahead, not less.
During the frightening onslaught of the Covid pandemic, I would often be asked, “What do you think we should do?!” And my reply was as simple as it was constant: If you need help, ask for it! From family, friends, neighbors, or strangers if need be. And, if you don’t need help, then offer it! To whoever is in need.
Join a Local Emergency Response Network
So then, perhaps the best way to prepare for the future disruptions that await us is to form a Local Emergency Response Network or — in our culture of acronyms — a LERN. That is, a geographically close group of individuals or households who can be there for one another in the face of a crisis. I’m thinking that should be a minimum of five to seven households and, say, a maximum of 20. If there are too few of you, it may not be enough to pool or share resources in a meaningful way. And, conversely, if there are too many of you, then communication and coordination could be cumbersome.
Maybe it’s the apartments on your floor, or in your building. Maybe it’s a string of households on your block. At the very least then, if a crisis arises, you immediately know there is a group of people who you can reach out to and who can reach out to you. And believe me, that will go a long way to managing that fear — and may prove life saving for all of you.
So, how to start one of these LERNs? Well, you could print up a bunch of flyers explaining the concept (with a copy of this article if you think that’ll help) and stick them in people’s mailboxes or tape them to their doors. If someone is more concerned with their privacy than their safety, that’s of course their prerogative. But I’m guessing you shouldn’t have much trouble finding enough takers. And from there, all you need do is throw a party with all those interested to discuss the idea and how you all want to structure things. Perhaps each member of the group could focus on a different resource: medical supplies, generators, extra food, or water. Or the group could pool its resources to purchase some of those things to be stored at a central point.
Or maybe all you want to do is exchange phone numbers and emails. You can sort out the details however you want. But establishing a known community of people near you is in all likelihood the very best way to prepare for — and survive — when a crisis hits. You may also discover it’s a nice thing to have, should just you or someone else in the group have an individual crisis that might require an assist. Who knows, you could even make some new friends. Really, when you think about it, there’s not much of a downside to this and there could be a whole lot of upside.
Because, whether you care to admit it or not, we are now all in this together. If nothing else, the pandemic made that abundantly clear. And all those systems we’ve come to depend on are clearly not as robust and reliable as we once thought. So, it’s time to look to ourselves for how to deal with the unexpected — and the fear of it.
Or, as I like to put it, the world has changed … and we are all MacGyvers now.
The Ripple Effect
By Joseph Pred
JOSEPH PRED is an emergency and risk manager who specializes in public safety for events and temporary mass gatherings, including Burning Man and Maker Faire. His most recent book is The Essential Pandemic Survival Guide. mars911.info
So you’ve MacGyvered your fear and you want to build resilience through a supportive network. Are you overwhelmed with all the different ways you could potentially do that? Let me introduce you to the ripple effect model for emergency preparedness, which, along with an incremental approach, will significantly improve your disaster resilience.
You don’t have to do all the training and preparedness at once. Instead, over time, you incrementally add capacity by adding layers, or ripples, to the resources you have available. Picture a rock being thrown into a pond and the ripples that emanate from it. The center is you, and the first ripple is your household. These are the two most important preparedness domains you can have a meaningful impact on. Focus on the training and supplies that will sustain you and your family first.
But no matter how well prepared or trained you are, there will be other skills or resources you won’t have. Leverage the skills you do have with those of your next ripple, your immediate neighbors, to see who can do what. That’s the idea of a local emergency response network.
One of the best ways to get more training and experience with the next ripple out, being of service to your community, is by joining a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Not only will you be able to help others, but the skills you gain — such as fire safety, search and rescue, and disaster medical operations — will also help you with the ripples that matter most, those which are closest to home. Learn more here.
Courtesy of macgyver.com
[feature image Adobe Stock – spaxiax and Lumos sp]