There is wisdom in the 1907 Scouting motto “Be Prepared,” and over a century later we would be wise to heed its innate wisdom.
In December 2019, a new coronavirus was detected in China. By late January 2020, the World Health Organization categorized COVID-19 as a “global health emergency.” By February, it had become an “epidemic,” meaning the countries in which it appeared had lost control over its spread. On March 11th, the World Health Organization classified COVID-19 as a pandemic, indicating it had spread to levels and areas that impacted the entire planet. On March 13th, the President of the United States declared a state of national emergency.
Uncertainty has thrown world financial markets into a tailspin and prompted many to clean out supermarkets and pharmacies in preparation for possible isolation and quarantines. As we wash our hands vigorously and frequently while repeatedly reminding our children to do the same, the health care system braces for an influx of contagious patients who they are ill prepared to handle. California had issued a statewide shelter in place order. In other states across the country, schools are shut down, restaurants and bars are closed, travel bans are initiated, sporting events and festivals are canceled, social distancing has become the norm, and the largest and most influential companies in the world (along with growing numbers of small business across the country) have mandated that employees work from home. With history as our indicator, we should have been ready.
Best estimates are that between 30 to 60 percent of Europe’s population was killed by bubonic plague in the 1300s. In 1918, the influenza pandemic infected 500 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 50 million, 675,000 of those in the United States. Actions to contain what became known as the Spanish flu and mitigate its transmission are similar to the recommendations in place to combat the spread of COVID-19. Infectious diseases are not a new phenomenon and the Wuhan coronavirus will not be the last invisible killer we will face. In 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 405,000 people died from malaria. Infectious diseases such as plague, cholera, Ebola, Zika, and Chikungunyaremain responsible for approximately 10 million deaths each year. Though the United States is geographically isolated from the environments that generate many of these diseases, there is no guarantee they, or something equally as deadly, will not cross our borders.
I firmly believe that as a citizen, husband and father it is my responsibility to be prepared and ensure my family is prepared to be self-reliant in times of trouble. As Americans, being prepared is in our DNA. It was not long ago that there were no other options. We are all here today because our ancestors had no choice but to be self-reliant. We are citizens, not subjects. We don’t just survive. We prevail.
I encourage you to take notes today and over the coming weeks. Were you comfortable with your level of preparedness lastweek? Is there anything you would have done differently? What if this situation is compounded by a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane, tornados, floods, fires, or a terrorist attack? Do you have enough food, water, and medical supplies? Do you have a way to filter water? To start a fire? Are you relying on the good will of those who have not prepared to not take what you have and to do you no harm? Or, do you have a rifle, shotgun, and/or pistol at the ready, and are you and your family trained in the effective use of weapons? What’s your plan if no one is there to pick up your 9-1-1 call? If your house catches fire, does your family have a plan? Do you have fire extinguishers? Do you know where they are? Has everyone in your family practiced with one so they know how to use them? Do you know your neighbors? Will they be assets or liabilities? What can you do to help them become assets? Are the cars gassed up? Do you need extra fuel? If you or someone in your family slices themselves with a knife making dinner and the hospitals are overrun with virus patients, do you want to go in for sutures? What if cell service goes down? Do you have a way to link up with family members who might not be at home? Are you prepared to live without electricity for an extended period? These are the questions you need to address before an emergency. If you felt helpless or ill-prepared last week, remember how it felt. Keep your notes, and most importantly, take action.
Our current situation has given us the ability to test our levels of preparedness. It’s not about being paranoid. It’s about the peace of mind that comes from being ready. Most people don’t get a second chance to prepare. That opportunity has been forced upon us. Don’t squander it.
Jack Carr is an author and former Navy SEAL Sniper. He is the author of The Terminal List, True Believer, and Savage Son. Visit him at OfficialJackCarr.com and connect with him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook at @JackCarrUSA.