Do you have a plan?

This story from CNA brings something to mind, which I will get to after the article…

Jakarta, Indonesia, Jul 20, 2011 / 10:24 am (CNA).- Christian churches have moved quickly to help the more than 5,000 people who have fled the volcanic eruption of Mount Lokon on the northern Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Christian schools and church halls in Tomohon and Manado have welcomed the refugees, while other displaced persons have taken refuge in public buildings like the University of Manado.

Even as the alert level remains high, Christian volunteers are working to distribute food. Christian schools have also begun an education service to allow children to continue their lessons, Fides news agency reports.

The Diocese of Manado’s development commission has voiced concern about the large number of displaced families, who are mostly Muslims. It has appealed to all Catholic parishes and organizations so that they are “open and show solidarity, providing as much assistance as possible.”

“The local population has shown generosity and hospitality towards these brothers and sisters in need,” the diocese said.

Caritas Indonesia and the Indonesian Episcopal Conference are also assisting relief efforts.

The long-dormant volcano began rumbling on July 9. On Sunday, July 18 an eruption shot soot and debris 11,400 feet into the sky. Another two blasts took place 10 minutes apart on July 18. The larger blast sent ash as high as 2,000 feet into the air.

No injuries or damages from the Monday blasts have been reported. One person died of a heart attack during an evacuation last week.

More than 33,000 people live on the volcano’s fertile slopes, where they grow cloves and coffee. Over 10,000 were evacuated.

I saw on the news the other night that people in Minot, ND have been able to get back to their houses.  One woman said that the contents of her house looked like it has been shaken around as if by a washing-machine agitator.  And it has been underwater.

Do you have a plan for what to do for you and yours for when things go very very wrong?  Some regions have more potential natural disasters than others, but there are always and everywhere the possibility of natural disasters.  Ask people in Joplin, MO about that.

It happens to others.  It can happen to you.   Perhaps it already has.

And then there are the man made disasters which we could face down the line.  Think Weimar Republic.

Do you have a plan?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Andy Lucy says:

    Preparedness is not a topic many people like to consider, as it requires one to sit down and think about all of the horrible things that CAN happen, the things that MIGHT happen, and the things that are SURE to happen. Where I live in Western Kentucky, we look at floods, earthquakes and tornadoes as our primary risks. However, prudence demands that we also look at financial implosions (such as happened recently in Argentina), terrorist events, and nuclear accidents (as we have a nuclear facility to our north).

    Being prepared is 90% mental and 10% material. Being prepared materially means having supplies of food, water, shelter and means of protection for sheltering in place (unless you are facing encroaching nuclear fallout or hordes of mutant zombie bikers, you should not plan on trying to “bug-out.” You will be safer sheltering in place). The government suggests a 3-day supply… I feel that to be hopelessly optimistic. For any serious event, be prepared for a minimum of 7 days… aim for 30 days, but 7 should be the minimum. Depending on the gov’t to provide for you is not a good idea… the gov’t has no legal obligation to help anyone; there are numerous legal precedents to this fact. Food is usually the most expensive item. However, if done slowly, it doesn’t have to induce a financial coronary. Each trip to the store, buy a couple of extra cans of food that you normally eat. Over the course of a few months, you gradually increase your pantry and it is food you will eat anyway… not MREs or other rations that require a certain degree of severe hunger before they actaully become palatable.

    Being prepared mentally is the most important. In the preparedness world, we have a saying: you die from lack of air in 3 minutes, from lack of water in 3 days, from lack of food in 3 weeks. But lack of a positive mental attitude and preparation will kill you in 3 seconds. I learned in Army officer training to worry about everything ahead of time, as you won’t have time to worry when it hits the fan.

    And, FWIW, don’t use the TV series aired starring the likes of Bear Grylls. The chances taken by the people on these shows are entirely unnecessary and will usually end up severely injuring the average person in that situation. If one must study a TV show on preparedness/survival, the Survivorman series with Les Stroud is the best of what’s out there. As far as books on the subject, anything written by Cody Lundin and “The Modern Survival Manual: Surviving the Economic Collapse” by Fernando Aguirre. Aguirre’s book is written from the POV of a survivor of the recent Argentinian economic collapse.

  2. paglia says:

    We had a plan before Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, what we had planned for isn’t actually what happened. You can’t plan for everything. In the end, it was the Divine Mercy Chaplet that saved us.

    That said, we do have many plans for future disasters. We even purchased a tiny little house north of the coastline for dry shelter in the event of evacuation. (It would be roughing it to stay in the place at any normal time – but post-disaster it would have been/would be paradise for us.)

    Suggestion for anyone planning for disaster: water. water. water. You just don’t realize how much water you need until you have none. You cannot stock enough. And don’t forget you may not have access to all that stockpiled water when disaster actually strikes — so invest in some water purification tablets and keep them in your car, your house, in your purse, and at work.

  3. We just had a major tornado on May 24th of this year. It swept through mainly rural areas, but the wind speeds were some of the highest ever recorded. The swath and path it took was crazy. It was like a pinball machine. Five of our families in our traditional Catholic community lost their homes. One family lost two sons. The interesting thing is that none of these families lived even remotely close together. My family helped one of the families clean up their property. It really got me thinking about many things. A tornado is interesting. Some say that a fire, even though it’s very devasting is better than a tornado. A fire is cleansing in a way. Sorting through the rubble in a tornado is exhausting emotionally and physically. We found fiberglasses inserted, twisted and stuffed into so many places. I’ve seen straw sticking out of trees, into the ground, metal wrapped around fences, trees stripped bare. And the trash – the paper the mountains of stuff was such a difficult task. Some papers and photos were found 60 miles away. Since helping the families, we have now gone through boxes and boxes of old bank papers and statements and have shredded much and thrown out much. Of course, I am thinking long term here. I’m not talking about immediate survival, but I realized that if I’m not using it and it is stored in my attic or garage, I need to get rid of it.

  4. We live in north Texas, close to the Oklahoma line, and we had many tornados around us this season. In March we had a tornado shelter put in the yard and found cause to use it four times. It is scarry and I do not like being down there, but it beats being taken away.

    I have a rosary, blessed Palm and a Crucifix on a little stand that I placed down there, among other useful items to get by. I have what I call my “tornado bag” and I fill it with food, water, batteries, lights etc. My granddaughter and I pray the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet. My weather radio works down there and I can even get a cell phone signal by holding the phone up in the air vent.

    I would really hate to come out of there and find my home destroyed or just totally gone, but we would have each other and that is what matters. Our birds and dog even go down there with us.

  5. Kerry says:

    Dittos on the water preparations. Try for three versions. If one is storing water, plastic bottles that bottled water come in have very long lives. Milk jugs will work, but after three years some of ours are beginning to fail at the creases. (As they leak into the sump pump, we have no water damage issues.) If one is thinking about water purification, I haven’t yet tried it, but have read about using pool chlorine tablets. (Household chlorox works but has a short half-life.) We also have a silver impregnated ceramic filter system; for instant water, just add water. And despite being the Land of 10,000 Therapies, (where everything not prohibited is mandatory,) there really are 10,000 lakes nearby. We are also serious home canners and happily recommend this lovely website, (notice Berniece’s big smile),, and the Ball Home Food book. Pressure canning is also very easy; we have ventured into meat stews. Plus there are the rabbits in the other room, busily making more rabbits, while their other product makes compost and worms, and beets, and potatoes & etc. I will bring up firearms by saying that a .22 is a commodity every home should own. (Mr. Jefferson, “The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it.”) Light is good, candles, kerosene, propane, light sticks, batteried gear. Whole corn and wheat can be bought at feed stores. We’ll treat of whole corn with lye to make hominy, and have a hand mill for the wheat. We hope to smoke fish this fall. Am I getting carried away….Heh. “IHS”

  6. I have backup copies of my important data on CD’s and DVD’s at my sister’s house an hour away on somewhat higher ground.

  7. trad catholic mom says:

    We have some preparations made, but there is still things left to be done. I’ll be honest that if something happened to my husband I do not have the hunting, trapping and survival skills he does. Although I am quite capable of defending myself. Love my pressure canner too.

  8. Banjo pickin girl says:

    gosh everybody is so prepared, i guess i would be one of the casualties. you who are left could pray for me though. sigh…

  9. APX says:

    For me it’s not so much natural disasters that I have to worry about. I literally live in the middle of Canada no where near volcanoes, mountains (or any hills for that matter), rivers, oceans, lakes, tectonic plate fault lines, forests, or where damaging tornadoes occur. We’re the safe haven for the rest of the province whenever there’s flooding and forest fires.

    I’m terrified of hail or fallen trees destroying my car, so I have comprehensive car insurance and a couple package policies covering glass and vehicle rental. I’m up the creek without a paddle without a car. I’ll also be taking out renters insurance this year, as I don’t trust basements suites and springtime melting, or DIY electrical wiring.

  10. bookworm says:

    It isn’t just individuals that should have a disaster/emergency plan — parishes should as well, on two levels. The first plan should be for the parish and its members themselves. It could include things like where to shelter in case of a tornado warning during Mass, having an alternate site already in place for Sunday Mass if the church is destroyed, the pastor being prepared to head to an emergency command post or triage site if needed to administer last sacraments, etc.

    The second part of the plan would be coordinating with other churches and religious bodies to determine each one’s role in any response and recovery effort. A few weeks ago I read a blog post (which I will try to find the link to shortly) about the way that churches in Joplin have informally begun to “specialize” in different aspects of the recovery. For example, one church with lots of space stores donated furniture, while another is in charge of providing meals to volunteers that are assisting with debris cleanup (a task that is still going on). This way, every individual congregation doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel or do everything on its own.

    This would be a great project for community “ministerial associations” or similar organizations to undertake. They could brainstorm about how they would respond in a coordinated fashion to the most likely disasters in their area, and maybe even have tabletop exercises or drills the way government agencies do. If the unthinkable happens and the plan doesn’t work, it can always be tweaked; but simply having the plan in the first place will help.

    Having churches plan for their role in disaster response also enables us to carry out the works of mercy at a time when they are most needed, and enables those of us who believe in less government and don’t trust agencies like FEMA to put our money (and time and effort) where our mouths are, so to speak.

  11. benedetta says:

    Interesting to read the comments of people who are up on this and from those who have suffered through catastrophe.

    In the city after 9/11 there was much discussion of repeated attacks so at that time I did assemble kits and maintained things for a couple years, had a plan. Though I have to admit around the big duct tape debacle I became kind of skeptical.

    Of course the economic situation is quite sobering and some planning is in order. I agree that it is unhelpful to live in denial or be pollyanna-ish. We protect those whom we are responsible for, and, whatever persecutions may come we aim to meet them, still so much as possible, rejoicing.

  12. Penta says:

    I have nothing to add to my fellow commenters regarding personal safety, at least aside from small thoughts. I will note, however, that if you’re storing more than 3 days of food? Please please please check expiration dates and throw out things that pass their expiration dates. There are ways to extend shelf life, I know, but how many people can really pull off that kind of climate controlled storage?

    (7 days food, for two people (and to say nothing of larger families) is a lot of food – and 7 days, when you add in water and other consumable supplies…That’s not always storable.) I would dissent from Andy Lucy, in that 3 days is a good baseline for most disasters – it’s how long you need to expect to wait until the Red Cross, Southern Baptists, or whoever is doing disaster feeding in that situation is fully established. Really, the food they serve *isn’t that bad* (in most situations)! I instead recommend having three days as a bare minimum. 7 days is comfortable, but most people in most situations cannot store 7 days of disaster-necessary supplies. 30 days….If you can do that, wonderful, but I would make that a low priority thing.

    My bigger concern, in a Catholic context, is parishes as institutions and organizations. How many parishes (heck, how many *dioceses*) have emergency plans where they would be able to keep going in the event of a disaster?

    I know most dioceses basically self-insure, but I’m wondering if it would be worth the reinsurers’ time to insist on properly-done disaster planning for essential diocesan and parochial functions and records. It feels like one of those things that, for all Catholic tradition is a strength, we shoot ourselves on, in some cases because of our small-t traditions: If our dioceses and parishes were anyone else, they’d be forced to have viable disaster planning.

  13. Sid says:

    And then there are the man made disasters which we could face down the line. Think Weimar Republic.

    Very true, Father. The Weimar Republic paid off its National Debt and war reparations by just printing fiat money, leading to the Great German Inflation of 1922. Could something like this happen soon in the US of A? hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?

  14. Banjo pickin girl says:

    In the winter I store enough food for a week or two in case of a blizzard. Then during Lent I eat only the things in there with the addition of some fresh things like milk. So by Good Friday I am down to refried beans and a box of corn bread mix. But add canned tomatoes and you can make a vegetarian tamale pie!

    Anybody interested in food storage can get lots of info from the Mormons, they typically store a YEAR’S worth of food for the family. Though a three month supply is good for somebody feeling overwhelmed. They use a lot of dry pack canned stuff, there are canning centers where they have the machinery.

  15. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s awesome that the Christians in the area are showing generosity to everyone. It says over and over in scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They are doing just that.

    Besides for Muslims, God is a very harsh being, an owner of slaves and a judge. Even if at first, they think the Christians are fools because they love unconditionally, eventually if this goes on for any length of time, it will make them think, even if only subconsciously at first. Christianity is quite unlike anything else, and seeing it for real can be life-changing.

  16. Patti Day says:

    We were to have a speaker on Disaster Preparedness come to our church tomorrow, Saturday afternoon, but no one signed up.

  17. bookworm says:

    My nominee for most terrifying and at the same time, most inspiring disaster video of the year, perhaps ever:

    and the follow up:

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