What to do If the Unthinkable Happens

If the past two years of global pandemic was not stressful enough, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added a whole new layer of uncertainty to our day-to-day lives. Still, it is not too late to take control of the situation to the best of our respective abilities.

Those who live in an area where earthquakes, wildfires or storms pose a risk of natural disaster may already be familiar with emergency preparedness basics: Prepare to go a minimum of three days without food, water, phone/Internet service and electricity — and for those who live in outlying areas be prepared to go significantly longer. Keep on hand emergency cash, medications, food, water, batteries, flashlights, first aid supplies, a battery-operated AM/FM radio, blankets a list of important telephone numbers (in case it is not possible to access them digitally) and other essentials. For those who spend a lot of time away from home, take time to assemble a kit that can travel to school or work with you.

When deciding what to include in a home emergency kit, imagine what it will be like to go without basic utilities. To get an idea what that might look like, it is helpful to imagine something more familiar: camping. What would you have on hand if you were missing the amenities and comforts of home? As you imagine roughing it in the wilderness, other things will come to mind: a multi-tool/pocket knife, lantern, sleeping bag, map, lighter, camp stove, firewood and so on.

The typical emergency guide is focused on getting through the first 72 hours in the aftermath of a natural disaster. In the event of cyberattack or even a conventional act of war, however, it may take weeks to bring critical services back online. What then? Unless you are a hardcore “prepper” and/or have the ability to live off the grid in an undisclosed location safe from opportunistic criminals, this kind of scenario is one few of us care — or dare — to imagine. Indeed, it is virtually impossible for any one person to account for every possible contingency. Still there are steps each of us can take to mentally rehearse how to get through such a crisis — and, with any luck, help others around us plan for this contingency too.

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